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At Work With: Danny Sturgess, Stipla
At work with

At Work With: Danny Sturgess, Stipla

Danny Sturgess is a London-based digital designer and part of the team behind independent iPad magazine Stipla, the first edition of which was published late last year. We look ahead at his week as the app receives recognition as App of the Year by the SPD at their annual awards ceremony in New York.

Where are you today?
I’m in Greenwich, South East London.

What can you see from the window?
From one aspect, the top of the Cutty Sark and a nice old clock tower. Or a small park with some nice Greenwich dogs in it.

Are you a morning or evening person?
I’m told it’s definitely evening.

What’s your favourite print magazine this morning? And your favourite magazine app?

I still really enjoy The Alpine Review. App would still be between Frieze, Letter to Jane or The Awl companion.

Congratulations on the SPD Award win – you beat some heavyweight publications. What
qualities do you think won the judges over?
Thank you. I’d like to know actually! We weren’t expecting much up against the competition (Bon Appétit, National Geographic, New York, Parade Magazine, Wired Italia). I couldn’t go to the awards because I was on holiday in Copenhagen, I proposed to my girlfriend (she said yes!) and I didn’t think about the award until the next morning when I had messages saying we had won.

I guess we took quite a different approach to the others. We don’t have a print edition to replicate, we are designing solely for tablet, so from the bottom up we can just play to the tablet’s strengths. When we were making it, in our most out there, optimistic moments we were hoping it could stand up to National Geographic and we’ve managed to.

The magazine was put together by a team with a background in film-making, who wanted to do more with the stories. I could see there was going to be lots of great photography so it was a case of making the best use of that. Really, we worked on it with a very small team, and just concentrated on trying to make it as good as we possibly could.

Did you look at many app tools before settling on Origami Engine, the software
created for the more flamboyant Katachi, to create Stipla?
The guys had already chosen Origami Design when I joined the team, so for me it was about learning what was possible as quickly as I could. InDesign just isn’t flexible enough for what we wanted. In many cases we played to the strengths and constraints of the software, you kind of have to. Even though Katachi magazine is very full on, I felt some of the simple features in Origami Design were actually very useful and underrated.

There are plenty of awful platforms and plugins out there to sift through, it can be a bit exhausting. I saw Josh Klenert recommended some alternatives to explore in the roundtable article. Ultimately, it’s about doing what’s right for the content.

You read Bob Newman’s recent iPad app roundtable discussion. The overall message was pretty negative. What did you make of it?
It felt like it was mentioning the conversations we’ve all been having. Personally, I don’t just work in iPad magazine publishing, I work across lots of things, so all these aspects feed into each other for me.

I completely subscribe to the thought that these apps should feel unique, like a collectable item that you want to return to much like the attributes any successful print magazine, or any brand even would hope for.

I think the problem is to do with constraints. There is an expectancy that the possibilities are endless with the iPad, it’s really not that simple. And even if some capabilities are there, it doesn’t mean it’s right.

The options are still in their infancy. Some of the best and most interesting apps are custom-made in xCode and I can’t see that many of the big publishers can fit that into their workflow. There are barriers to entry, I hope there will be a time where we can see a more DIY approach to digital magazines that would really help revolutionise it. This year maybe a decent iPad has been the cheapest it’s ever been.

For now, the process of purchasing needs to be as easy and seamless as possible. With the way the newsstand works, having your app (often for free) and then in-app purchases, I think it's confusing to most people. It might come across as not being transparent about prices from the start. I liked David Jacobs, Beyonce comparison too.

There is also some great design happening on the web. I’m sure decision makers will see that it’s easier to invest time making great looking web pieces, that you know are more likely to be seen and shared.

What are you most looking forward to this week?
Hopefully some more nice, sunny weather and more chats about what’s next.

What are you least looking forward to this week?

Anymore not so sunny weather.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Continuing on with some other projects and seeing what the future holds!

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