Designing the Black Enterprise iPad App

Creative Director Terence Saulsby talks about preserving the look and feel of the B.E. brand across platforms

BE isn’t a fashion magazine but the photos really seem to pop in the iPad version.

The images look like they do when we’re laying them out on screen. My photo editor is extremely happy.  Everything is crisp and sharp, the color is how you want it to be.  On the other hand, when you print, there are a lot of considerations–quality of paper, how fast the presses run, what ads run next to what copy, etc.  Fashion magazines put a lot of effort and energy into getting those images right with those considerations, but as a small business publication, we can’t spend the same amount of resources on that as Vanity Fair.  So in the magazine there’s always a degradation of the imagery from where we want it to be.  With the iPad it’s a one-to-one deal.

The color-coded navigation in the app is identical to the magazine. Did you ever consider designing a different navigation scheme for the iPad?
We wanted to have the iPad app feel like the print version of Black Enterprise, so we took a lot of the same elements and reformatted them.  The color-coding is something we do in the magazine, but it also works well on the iPad because it’s just easy to hit the bottom nav and scroll through the color bars. It’s an eye mnemonic that just catches you, so you don’t necessarily have to read as much.  And I think that any time you can present a visual stimulant, an icon or color that goes along with wording, it just makes it easier on the viewer to actually get to the information quickly.

This app does seem more about the BE experience than the capabilities of the iPad. What would you say to folks looking for the “wow factor” in this app?
I’ve seen a number of applications that have a lot of “wow factor”.  The way they put these things together, I’m like ‘My god, this is absolutely incredible.’  It’s fun to play with, interesting to view, and highly interactive. However, after a few hours you’re like ‘Okay, I played the game. But where’s the info?’ Our mission is to get you the info.  Our viewers and our readers are generally busy people, so we try to present the information in a manner where you can get it as quickly as possible.

Now that the app is available, are you already thinking about what’s next?
I don’t think we’ve come close to exploring what things we can really blow out monthly.  The more we do, the more we see that we can change and play with. We’re–right now–working on our third version [of the app] and it’ll have a lot more screen interactivity than the July or the August versions.

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  • Anjuan Simmons

    As someone who has written about the need for black magazines to embrace digital distribution, I’m happy that BE took this approach to designing the iPad app. Simply porting the physical magazine to an electronic mobile version would have been a mistake.  I look forward to seeing more of BE’s digital and online strategy!

  • Glad to see BE is building it the right way! Way to go Mr. Saulsby….

    I hope this app is available by the time I buy my iPad later this year (waiting for OS4)