We spoke to Clever Twist’s Jen Gordon about their very
visual approach to iPhone app development and some of the
techniques used to actually craft such eye-catching designs
Jen Gordon on our research and experience thus far, it’s good to to 512x512. For this reason, using Illustrator or vector
Owner/creative ask yourself a few questions that are characteristics of shapes in Photoshop are preferred to ensure crisp
director, successful apps: images to tweak in the larger format.
Clever Twist, Inc.
Does your app solve a unique problem? WD: How much emphasis do you place on the
Does the app serve a specific niche? look of your apps and how they’ll appear and be
Does it make people laugh? marketed on the App Store?
Are you building a better wheel? JG: Ha! I wish I could say that 100 per cent of the
Will the app be highly interactive? reasoning for our emphasis on design was about sales
WD: Firstly, how did you first get into designing but honestly we’re design geeks. Design geeks want
iPhone apps? WD: What software tools do you use to craft the pretty stuff no matter how well it sells. What we’ve
JG: Designing iPhone apps is something I stumbled very distinctive look of your apps and are there any learnt over the past year is how to be profitable artists.
upon last fall when my freelance business began feeling constraints placed on the visuals? Spreading the pretty requires having the means to
the economic squeeze. The slowdown caused me to JG: Our primary tools are Photoshop, Illustrator and continue making the pretty!
take a step back and seek out different opportunities Wacom tablet. Constraint-wise, the iPhone screen size is That said, dialling up marketing has been easy
for my skills as an art director and designer, and iPhone 320x480 pixels, so weeding out unnecessary elements from the standpoint of having a lot of great assets to
was an obvious choice. The App Store was and still is full in the app is crucial. Only include the bare minimum it work with. Repurposing graphics from the app to pull
of ugly apps that are difficult to use! takes for the user to accomplish any given task. Think together for collateral helps us extend the app ‘brand’
Clever Twist rapidly evolved as I discovered about how you can combine tasks. across all advertising media, embedding the product
designing iPhone apps involves more than just a pretty Another consideration is the size of tapable elements in the minds of consumers. Right now the Clever Twist
interface. Each unique application is like starting a that appear on the screen and the spacing between brand takes a back seat to the product, but over time
small business. It requires expert attention and advice those tapable elements. If you make buttons too small our plan is for Clever Twist to be known as a publisher of
in every aspect of the product development process: or place them too close together, users quickly become entertaining apps with killer design!
research, design, coding, marketing and PR. irritated that they are not able performed the desired
actions easily. WD: How realistic is the perception that selling
WD: What constitutes a great idea for a successful Two icon sizes are required when submitting an app: iPhone apps can be a lucrative business and how
iPhone app and how do you get from novel concept 57x57 pixels (72 dpi) and 512x512 pixels (300 dpi). The does the payment/commission scheme work?
to something that can be developed and sold? 57x57 size is used as the icon on the handset, and the JG: Former Palm guy Elia Freedman gave a great talk on
JG: That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? There’s not larger of the two is used as the App Store icon. Typically ‘Building an iPhone Business’ last fall that drove home
a secret formula for success in the App Store, but based we begin icon design in the 57x57 format and size up the idea that building an iPhone app IS a business and
One quick tap on the Coffee Spot icon finds Entertaining and educational, Farm Friends This app has the most polished database of
the closest coffee houses to your current is a throwback to the old See ’n Say toy. Spin Yo Mama jokes available. If you’re going to
location… simple the arrow and enjoy insult Yo Mama, do it with style
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“Our plan is for Clever
Twist to be known
as a publisher of APP CONCEPTION
Jen explains a quick example of how the early design work paid dividends
entertaining apps with for Clever Twist’s beautiful Popper application...
WD: In terms of specifically app GUI design, what kind of concept or ‘prep’ work can you do to
communicate visual ideas?
quoted some great stats on who is making money
JG: Conception is huge. Having continuity across the story your app tells helps your customer understand
in the App Store. Peter Farago, of mobile analytics
what the app does and how it can help or entertain them.
firm Flurry, also has an interesting article that talks
For example, the concept for Popper plays out in a lot of fun ways. Yes it’s a simple breaker game, but
about indie developers as a formidable competitor to
the pill shaped ‘pops’ elude to the idea of ‘pill popping’. One reviewers’ subheading on his article read ’no
established gaming publishers.
prescription required’. We also use the tagline ‘highly addictive’. This sassy concept communicates to the
Succeeding in the App Store seems to be a
player that they’re dealing with an entertaining game that will be hard to put down!
combination of luck, great product/design, marketing
Prep work for us involves a lot of sketching, thumbnailing and mindmapping concepts to images etc.
and persistence. I don’t know about ‘lucrative’ but I
Typically the more time we’re able to spend in this stage the richer the overall concept and design.
think it’s fair to say that with the right combination
of the aforementioned elements, independent app
developers have a chance of making a profit. Left: “Initial explorations
The App Store takes 30 per cent of revenues and of pop shapes led us
in-app purchases. Because of currency conversions and toward a streamlined
such we use AppViz to track and visualise graphs of our pill shape to run with
sales and sales trends. You can reduce Apple’s cut to 25 the Popper theme”
per cent if you sign up for its affiliate program. Apple
offers a five per cent commission on all app sales that Bottom left: “We
are driven by your affiliate link. went with a portrait
orientation to allow
WD: Lastly, what words of advice do you have for for more variety in the
would-be app designers who are maybe coming layout of the levels”
from a web design background?
JG: Just because you’re dealing with less screen Right: “For people who
real estate doesn’t mean there’s less opportunity like Tetris or Snood,
for creatively executed design. Less is more, as they Popper is a highly
say, and if you enjoy simple solutions and creative addictive breaker game
problem solving, designing for mobile devices is a great that’s impossible to put
challenge and a lot of fun! down”
This fun image distortion app will tell
you if you have your Beer Goggles on
with one shake
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