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A course on interactive book design for the iPad, a topic that wouldn't have existed two years ago, is now being taught by Stacey Williams-Ng at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. Even Stacey seems surprised that her love of illustration and knowledge of graphic design have combined into a new career for her, interactive storytelling. She loves putting brush to canvas, which is how her children's books begin before they're photographed or scanned into the iPad—where she actually uses an app to create apps. Her business has blossomed into a publishing company (Little Bahalia) that's dedicated to creating interactive children's literature. We join her at her home studio in Milwaukee where she's animating her latest book, A Troop Is a Group of Monkeys, destined for the iPad. Quick quiz: What is a group of bats called? Find out during this installment of the lynda.com documentary series The Creative Spark.
So this is a storybook app about the group names--or you might call them collective nouns-- for animal groups. So we've all heard of a school of fish, and many people have heard of a pride of lions. On every page, you get the group of animals, and they'll do something, and then the child is basically reinforced on the vocabulary word. But for now, I am really just in production mode with these illustrations. I did not illustrate this app. I am really serving as art director, as publisher and production artist.
I am the everything else except the writer and the illustrator here. I am the behind- the-scenes person. So the text on this page is, "A pride of lions licks monster-size paws," and clearly what we need to happen here in terms of interactivity is someone needs to lick a paw. That's the most important thing. Because I don't like to have interactivity that's just gratuitous. I think that even though we could have lions strolling all around the Savannah and roaring and doing all kinds of wonderful things, that doesn't mean we should; it doesn't mean it's going to improve the story.
We have this gorgeous watercolor by Pamela Baron. So she's really sensitive to animation so she's provided multiple frames of everything. So we do have a lion licking a paw, the lion on the right, and then the other animals do something as well. So the lioness, she gives us a nice little blink and purrs and wags her tail a bit. This lion only purrs. And then this little lion cub tilts his head, and that's enough, because really the focus needs to be on the lick.
So I am actually building this page in Composer right now. We're looking just at a preview, so it looks like a finished app, but it's not. If I close out of here, you can actually see my workspace in here, and this is what we refer to as the workbench. All of these things have been manipulated in Photoshop first because Photoshop is going to be the best environment for cutting out these layers, for reducing the size of them and adjusting the color and all of that. That is not what Composer is for. Composer is for composing; it's for authoring all those things together.
So here on the workbench, you can see that I've got different objects. The lioness and her lion cub are one object, so I can move them around anywhere I want, and I can shrink them down just by pinching. So even thought this is kind of fun, usually professional designers want to have really precise controls. So there is an opportunity to come in here and actually change the size and the position to things that are very, very specific pixel dimensions, just by either typing those in or what have you.
I've programmed in some interactivity like this is the touch area where you would get the lion to do his lick animation, and that can be moved and adjusted as well. And if you look at my behaviors, for example, when the lion licks, I've got a series of things that happen. So what happens when the user touches that rectangle? I want of couple of things to happen. Well, I want you to play the animation, and then I want you to make an audio sound, which is lion lick number two. And there is a wait in between because the timing needed to be adjusted.
So it was a very fast and experimental process, and I could just, like, check on things and see how I like it instantly, which makes the creative process fun. (audio playing) So I can look at the bats page. Just because I was previewing lions doesn't mean I am not previewing the whole app. So, it's really fast. The important thing is to think about, how do we go from beginning to middle to end in a real story arc, but how can we also like think about the expectations that our reader has on each page? There are really fun things happening. Like okay, so the skunks here are going to make funny sounds, and they are going to walk around, and they are doing a lot, and every single one does something.
So these are silly, and they are funny, and they all do something, and then the question is, do all of these animals do something? And they do. In this case, we've got peacocks who are going to show us their plumes. So they are not in for like silly laughs like the skunks. They are going to show you how beautiful they are; they are boasting. So those are different things, but they are parallel things. So just to look at that and how that looks when we are tinkering on the workbench. So it took us back to a pride of lions, because as far as it's concerned, that's how we were looking at.
We were looking at that flow. But when I think about the order of the pages here and I am really like--I can jump back and say, you know what, this thing with the pride of lions, the way he licks his paw really, reminds me of what happens on the monkey page, which is page four. It's the way that you think about the flow and the story arc that really makes all the difference. And so this is really an ideal program for storytelling, and I can keep that flow and it's all really tight and in this little environment.
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