Design Fashion Film

Weaving Shibusa


Weaving Shibusa looks like a fascinating documentary about the love, dedication, and obsession to denim that can be found in Japan. Watch the trailer here, and here’s a piece at Esquire about the film. There doesn’t seem to be any info on when it will be available to stream though (it premiered at a theater last month).



Sexiness OK with Apple if in 360 Degrees

Remember the problems Esquire encountered this month in releasing its latest issue on iPad? Looks like as long as your content involves topless women that you can spin around 360 degrees, then Apple is A-OK with it — as seen in the amazing new feature included in The Sun‘s iPad app. (via Grids)

Magazines Technology

Esquire Too Sexy for iTunes App Store?

Remember when there was a lot of ruckus around Apple’s decision to start refusing apps they deemed too sexy for the App Store? Well, now it’s hitting iPad editions of mainstream magazines, as it appears that the reason it’s taken so long for the latest issue of Esquire to come out on iPad — the “Sexiest Woman Alive 2010” issue — is because of said sexiness. The inclusion of this video of Minka Kelly was too hot for Apple?

The issue is now out on the App Store, but no word on what was censored or removed in order to get it approved. Certainly doesn’t make me want to get it (nevermind that I wouldn’t pick it up anyway, since I still think $5 is too much of an asking price). (via @twitsplosion)

Magazines Technology

Wired UK for iPad

We’d been waiting for it for a while, and last week finally marked the release of the first iPad edition of Wired UK. I was especially interested in seeing what the team behind the UK spinoff would come up with in terms of layout and format — just how different or similar to the US edition — using the same Adobe digital tools.

The biggest change is that the magazine has decided to embrace the portrait layout exclusively, using the landscape mode to access any multimedia features (videos, slideshows, etc.)

There are certain exceptions, like the issue’s cover, as well as all of the ads found inside, and that does in fact make sense. Even when in landscape mode, you can flip through the pages and go from media section to media section, and so you still encounter the ads. When you hit articles that don’t have any extra content, you get the message pictured above.

Continuing with a look at some of the changes, you get a much more creative masthead — I really like the use of arrows to indicate the proper “chain of command” — and a “Contributors” page that not only looks good, but is interactive in a way that is fun and works quite well with the color mix used (you touch on a contributor’s photo to have the appropriate text appear in the colored segments).

But the real genius of the magazine is that idea of using the landscape mode to show off the media content, which means that all photos and videos appear in all their full-screen glory (there’s one video that was smaller, that I can remember), instead of as a tiny box which is part of the article layout. What is especially a joy to experience are the 360 degrees images, which are just stunning in full-screen, and something that only an iPad edition of a magazine could offer — twirling around the sets of Aardman Animations’ latest film is so much more satisfying and revealing than a series of photos could ever be.

But even the basic photo slideshows are great to take in, and not only can you flip through the images of the slideshow, but when you are in landscape mode, you’ll also flip through all of the multimedia content associated with an article. Going back to portrait mode brings you back to the article, and more precisely, to the part of the article (the “screen”) that is linked to the media content.

It can get a bit out of hand though, like in the case of the audio clip that accompanies the article below (which happens to be the cover feature of the US edition this month). Having to turn to landscape mode just to then tap a small button to activate a sound file isn’t necessary (in the US iPad edition, the button of the clip is simply included in the article).

This also brings up a problem I’ve had with sound clips in general with Wired, both US and UK — the fact that you can’t continue to navigate while the clip plays. For example, I don’t really want to stare at a “screen” while listening to a music clip, I’d rather like to move on to the next article.

The other thing that I was really interested to find out with the UK edition was just how different the content would be from the US edition — this becomes especially important with the iPad app, since it gives Wired UK a worldwide audience, which means they really need to offer something different than the “mother” edition. From what I saw in this issue, I’d say that the vast majority is new content, enough to justify the purchase — I think only 4-5 articles from the US edition were used.

For those articles that did come from the US edition, it was interesting to see how they were presented differently. Some just had simple layout changes, while others, like the piece below, not only appear with a completely different look, but the context for most of the content is different (like the inclusion of a column by Clive Thompson inside the main feature).

I was also happy to finally get to read Warren‘s regular column in the form that it should be read in — in magazine form, and not on the web. The topic was also certainly apropos for being included in the first iPad edition of the magazine (“Blogging isn’t dying, it’s just that people are bored with and looking for the next thing”).

I briefly mentioned earlier that ads appear in both portrait and landscape modes, but it also needs to be said that not only does there appear to be more ads than in the US edition — I would find myself having to flip through 2-3 ads between articles — but there are also more “Wired Promotion” pieces (i.e. advertorials). I know that in recent years I would see a lot of these in the print edition of Wired US, but so far the iPad edition hasn’t had too many (I believe just one). Here, we get a few of them, like the one below, which to me is just wasted space as I never read them.

And the ads for the most part don’t do much with the medium, but I did quite like the one you see below for The TimesiPad app, which plays a visual trick on the two iPad modes.

In many of my past reviews I’ve often stated how I prefer “screen” flips over scrolling, and Wired UK pretty much sticks with what we’re used to seeing in the US edition, making an exception in two pieces. I can see why they would go that way in their “Big Ideas for 2011” feature, using a blog format similar to the front section of the iPad edition of Esquire — you can tap the sections in the sidebar to move to a new group of “ideas” — but I really don’t like that they have artificially put a space jump in the opening text of each section (as seen below) so that that “opening” screen looks nice and not cut.

They do the same in the article below, which has a fun interface — you touch on each subway stop to read what it’s about — but again they put an artificial space in the text, which just looks odd when you move or scroll the page up.

There are also strange bugs that they need to iron out — and let’s be clear, they do clearly explain in the intro that this is a test issue, and that they hope to get feedback and improve things for the upcoming issues that will start coming out in 2011. One thing I noticed was that when you have your iPad synced with your computer and you access the “File Sharing” section of iTunes, you can see the files that make up the issue — I’m sure this was not intended.

Also, since the release of the issue last week, they’ve been making updates to it, but that I can’t experience because they appear as separate issues (v.1.2, v1.3) inside the app that I need to buy. Surely this is a mistake.

Is it worth buying? I’d say yes, especially if you love the US edition. The price is the same ($4), and they have already announced that they are looking into offering subscription offers. They also promise that upcoming editions will include ways to share pages with others, which is a feature I’d love to see in the US edition as well. Give me the ability to interact with the text (copy/paste, notes, etc.) and I’ll be a pretty happy reader.

I leave you with the opening graphic to the app, which I think is much nicer than any of the ones that have appeared in the US edition.

Design Magazines Meta Music

Gym Class Magazine 7 Out Soon

The seventh issue of Steven Gregor’s excellent Gym Class Magazine is about to come out, and I’m very happy to have contributed to it in the form of a short interview with composer Shigeru Umebayashi (In the Mood for Love, House of Flying Daggers, A Single Man).

The cover feature is an interview with legendary Esquire cover art director George Lois by Andrew Losowsky (Magtastic Blogsplosion), and GCM 7’s cover — an homage/wink at a classic Esquire cover — was also Andrew’s idea.

Magazines Technology

Esquire on iPad

The latest big title launch on iPad is Esquire, with its October issue getting an iTunes App Store release just a few days ago. Although Esquire has had an iPhone version for a while now with fluctuating prices (older issues are currently being sold for $2), the first iPad version is priced at $5, although it appears that nothing is set in stone yet.

It’s currently a single app download with no in-app store, but we’ve already seen a lot of first issues come out this way, and so there’s a very good chance that from next month the app will be updated to include a store component.

The first thing you should do is go here and watch the video the publisher has put together, which showcases what to expect from the magazine. Overall, I’ll say that it’s not a bad first foray in the world of digital magazines on iPad, but it’s far from perfect. Let me also start by noting that this is one of the first major titles to stick with one layout mode only, in this case portrait — switching your iPad to landscape mode will not rotate the page. Leslie over at MagCulture had been suggesting that this would happen soon, but I didn’t think it would happen this fast. Let’s see how long it takes for others to follow suit.

One of the magazine’s strengths is the way it deals with video, especially how it gets incorporated within the pages. Opening the app, you are first greeted by the screen-filling head of actor Javier Bardem (above, in color), the feature for the issue. It may sound hokey, but it comes off looking rather nice, and it’s one of the first times — as far as I remember — that I see the use of full-screen video in portrait mode. The same technique is also used within the feature itself, this time with a black & white Bardem reciting a poem in Spanish (above) — it’s a great addition to the article, and manages to bring me closer to the subject.

Another great example of video use is pictured below, for the issue’s “2010 Esquire Car Awards” feature. Unlike most times I experience video in a magazine on iPad — where you are clearly greeted by a video box — the intro video in the article is framed as if it was just another image, but gives a nice bit of motion to the intro page, especially fitting since we’re dealing with cars.

In terms of layout, the opening section of the magazine — the “Man at His Best” bits — follows a very blog-like structure (a constant sidebar on the left lets you navigate to the different sections), but the designers have managed to dress it up in a way that doesn’t feel too web-like, with an aesthetic similar to what you get in the print edition. When it comes to the “articles” though, some issues crop up.

The first thing to note is that all of the text in the magazine is in fact selectable, but that’s all you can do. No matter how many times I tried, I was unable to get the “copy” option to pop up, and so I don’t understand what the point of HTML-ing the text is, if there’s absolutely nothing you can do with it. Even stranger, the app includes a survey — I filled it out because you run a chance of getting a 6-issue subscription — and it mentions sharing features, but there are none to be found. Something that is planned but wasn’t ready in time for the launch of this issue?

But the biggest issue I have with the text is that although it uses vertical page flipping instead of scrolling — something I generally prefer, as it’s done in Wired — the page cuts have not been clearly indicated, and so you end up with a lot of unreadable sentences that are cut in half (see below). Sure, you can hold your finger on the screen to gently move the page up or down to read it, but this is not very elegant, and these awkward cuts are found throughout — and as you see in the example below, they cut images as well.

Other than that, you get a lot of interactive features like we’re used to seeing in Wired, like the fashion page below that lets you rotate the model, with his jacket (and accompanying description) changing on the fly. One problem I encountered a few times on these pages was lag when you started touching — other pages also took some time to load, so this is not limited to the interactive features.

But the most annoying part of the magazine is how they’ve decided to handle ads. Unlike other magazines that include regular ad pages throughout, this issue of Esquire is entirely sponsored by Lexus. Now there’s nothing wrong with a magazine having just one sponsor, but it’s the execution that is annoying. Instead of being placed at regular intervals, it randomly pops up while you’re reading. And not only is it the same ad every time, but it’s an interactive ad (you’re supposed to zoom in with your fingers to see a video of a car in action) and it often takes a bit of time to load (or rather, to exit the page).

Another thing that I found slightly annoying was that I never had a good sense of where I was inside the magazine. The only table of contents that you can access opens up at the bottom of the screen, and there’s absolutely no indication of where you are in relation to the rest of the magazine.

Despite all these criticisms, it’s still an interesting first try, and from the editor’s intro, it does seem like they are looking to take in feedback and improve things for upcoming issues. Pricing is also a big problem — I’m certainly never going to buy another issue at $5 — but it does sound like they are going to be experimenting with that, just as they have with their iPhone app.