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Interview with Nobrow’s Creative Director Alex Spiro

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Last month we reviewed Nobrow‘s new comic book app. The highly esteemed publishers had taken their first steps into the realm of app culture with great results. This new way of buying and viewing comics and graphic novels opens up a world of new possibilities for both the company and readers alike. Merging the beautiful imagery and modern technology was no easy task, but the most important factor to take into account, as with any new technology, is what are they are aiming to achieve?

We took some time with Nobrow’s co-founder and Creative Director Alex Spiro to discuss just what went into bringing this exciting new app to readers and its future potential. 

What was the initial idea behind the app, and what drove your move toward digital publishing?

We wanted to address the question, “how would Nobrow approach digital?” – we have been asked it enough times! But to be perfectly honest, Sam (Arthur) and I went from moving image and digital animation-based backgrounds into print, because we loved print! We were never allergic to the idea of exploring the digital reading marketplace, we just wanted to be patient and wait for the right idea to materialize. At the very least, we felt our first foray into the field should be something of significance to those who already admired our work.

How long did the app take to develop from idea to final testing?

From pre-production to launch it has taken less than a year. As visually-minded as we are, we started with UI mock-ups of how we wanted it to look and feel and then spent a lot of time considering information architecture, flow and all other matters of user experience. The beauty of digital is that we have the luxury to be able to adapt and improve the product with future updates at intervals long after the initial launch.

nobrowWhat made you think the time was right for Nobrow to develop an app now?

The decision to put the app into the works was not taken lightly, but we felt we had something genuinely new to bring to the table. We wanted to take advantage of technology and add something to the comic reading experience, rather than simply digitising a backlist which people may already be familiar with.

Were there any concerns over potential negative reactions from your fan base?

Strong narrative and thoughtfully-curated aesthetics remain central to every Nobrow comic. What’s new is that we now have a complementary platform in which to present this!

The most unique quality of the app is obviously the layering system, how did you hit upon this addition?

We know that our fans are interested not only in the content, but also in the process and our first priority is to engage our fans with exciting content they couldn’t find anywhere else. In addition, we hadn’t seen this incorporated into a comic reading experience before.

What areas of the app’s development caused you the most problems, I imagine the panel by panel reader must have been difficult due to the different sizes and shapes of panels?

We have started with a larger device as the physical size lends itself well to maintaining an experience consistent with the originals and because more and more people own tablets these days. The panel-by-panel reader was relatively straightforward once we had settled on how we wanted to present it. The biggest thing to surmount was to be able to deliver such visually-rich content in the most efficient way possible. If one of our titles ordinarily has say, 24 pages with two extra layers per page, we’re effectively delivering 3 comics at once which makes it 72 pages.

What titles are you hoping to add to the app?

We will be releasing selected backlist over the next twelve months to bring the digital library up-to-date. Each comic takes a while to process, as sourcing and optimising the layers is not so straightforward and involves the co-operation of the artists to find the old material. But we will get there and we are hoping to release at least 1 if not 2 digitally enhanced publications per month and then we will see how it all develops.

Will there be any exclusive titles to the app?

This is not totally out of the question.

Are you working on any additional tools for future updates?

There are many ideas on the drawing board for future developments of the Nobow Comics app, but we will have to see how things go first!James Wilsons

There are currently seven different volumes form six different artists on offer with more to come, you can download the app from the app store here. The app is currently for iPhone and iPad. Visit nobrow at nobrow.net and follow them on Twitter @nobrowpress.

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