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running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

iPhoning It In

Saturday, 17 October 2009

A fellow lecturer at work bought an iPhone over the summer break, and is now twirling his right index finger around the 3-inch screen during his breaks. He is adamant that he can never go back; the iPhone is the beginning of the future.

And admittedly, on first look, Apple's iPhone is even more impressive than the iPod was. In fact, I was blown away when my colleague demonstrated myPantone, a clever pantone palette program he downloaded to it. Its a minor revolution in timesaving for the web designer, and a triumph of usability that Jacob Nielsen could only have dreamed of just a few years ago.

But the iPhone suffers from the same achilles heel as many previous ground-breaking gadgets - everyone wants it to do things it was never meant to do.

As an example, a recently interviewed a student for a place on Graphic Design HND, and I arranged a room with a nice big table and a fast Mac with CS4 on it. He assured me beforehand that he was brinign along his portfolio. What I didn't expect though was a dozen or so examples being shown to me on an iPhone.

What might have been a decent set of doublepage spreads was hardly likely to shine at 1/20th its normal presentation size, and any ability with type was impossible to see. And yet apparently designers are interviewing at agencies, presenting their portfolios in just this way.

The student then mentioned Adobe's stripped-down Photoshop application for the iPhone, which is only available in the US at the moment. Featuring basic tasks such as image rotation, cropping and flipping as well as adjusting exposure and saturation, the app integrates with the free 2GB Photoshop.com account. Apparently, it has already passed 1 million downloads in less than 2 weeks. Read more about it straight from Adobe themselves. They even include a link to a clever spoof announcing a full-blown CS3 version with callcenter support!

One thing is for sure - in two years' time you'll be able to project 300ppi work and touch sensitive webpages from a phone onto a white board, or even a hologram station. So for now, a 3-inch screen is just a pixellated downsample of what might be, and I can see the novelty of cropping images wearing off in no time at all.

Still, the mobility and convenience of the iPhone, coupled with its aesthetic appeal do give it a cultural gravitas that's going to attract designers. And if your prospective employer has bought into iPhone, then what he or she is looking at on it may not be as important as the act of doing it.