November 13, 2013 Last Updated 7:15 am

Origami Engine: Three new digital magazines experiment with the new publishing platform

EXD MAG, The Unlimited and LUZ showcase the experimental side of the tablet publishing platform

The new digital publishing platform Origami Engine appears to be attracting digital publishing wanting to experiment with the platform – at least if three new apps are an example of what will be produced using the platform.

Two the apps, EXD MAG and The Unlimited Magazine V2 are stand-alone apps. LUZ, on the other hand, has chosen to enter the Newsstand.

What the three apps share in common are an experimental approach to design, large file sizes and slow downloads – surely a sign that, at least on this new digital platform, not everything has been worked out just yet.

EXD-ani-iPad-lgEXD MAG is the most radical in its design concept, as it should be as the app provides a showcase for some of the exhibits to be seen at EXD’13 Biennale, an event held in Lisbon from November 1 through December 22.

“EXD MAG is a publication that provides an in-depth view of the contents of the EXD’13 Biennale,” the app description states. “It is an interactive experience that offers detailed information about the conceptual framework of the theme of the Biennale – NO BORDERS – and the specific exhibitions, open talks, conferences, urban interventions and tangent projects. Furthermore, it is an essential guide that contains a plethora of useful information, maps and profiles of the many international participants that make up the fabric of the Biennale.”

The app itself is free to access, and the file size weighs in a 262 MB. Of the three apps it is actually the smallest.

I’m not sure how successful I felt the app ended up being – is the navigation too unorthodox? With any showcase for experimental and innovative design one should expect things to be a bit different from other digital publications, so I am sure the reader who is attracted to the app will be very open to whatever approach is taken.

UnlimitedMag-screen-1-lgThe Unlimited Magazine looks and feels slightly more traditional – but only slightly. Like EXD MAG, the app is designed mostly in landscape, though text articles use portrait. The app description states that issue #5 can be downloaded free for a “limited time” but that time has passed and I was still able to access the issue free of charge.

The issue inside the app weighs in at 426 MB and downloads at about the same speed as the previous app – that is, slowly.

The app is filled with moving images, animation and the like, which accounts for its size. Navigation is also a bit different as the reader must return and again and again to the contents page in order to access the next article. This allows each article to appear as a little unit, but does prevent the reader from moving smoothly through the issue.

LUZ, the third app here, is a monster. The Newsstand app presents an interactive magazine about culture, energy, sustainability and science, according to the app description – and like the other three, can currently be downloaded for free.

One might want to set aside quite a long time to download though, as the issue weighs in at 1.138 GB, but far the largest file size I’ve encountered in a digital magazine (I’ve downloaded eBooks this size, but never a magazine).

LUZ-iPad-ani1The problem with files this size is simply that readers don’t want them staying on their tablets for long. Someone with a 16 GB iPad already has storage issues long before encountering a monster such as this new digital title.

The app was developed by Regras Do Vento for EDP, Energias de Portugal, the electricity and gas company.

The digital issue, despite its size, is at its heart the most conventional. In some ways, if one stripped out much of the animation and audio, one might think this is a fairly standard magazine.

But one can’t ignore the animation work here, it is quite a tour-de-force.

Another thing that all three new apps is a decision to go with predominantly landscape layouts. Many talented designers I have spoken to say they prefer the orientation for digital products designed specifically for the iPad. I agree, but only to a point. If one designs for the iPad and chooses landscape, is this still the right choice for the iPad mini, a tablet that feels a little more like a Kindle eReader than does the larger sized model? I don’t know. But it does present a bit of a dilemma when one decides to expand the reach of the digital publication to Google Play and Amazon.com.

For print magazine publishers who are just now moving into digital magazines, or are moving from a replica edition to an interactive one, it is hard to say if these new apps will inspire your designers, or intimidate them. But as the apps are free, they are definitely worth reviewing and studying – especially if you are considering adopting the Origami Engine as your platform of choice. One can certainly see why the company recently sent our an email to those on its list highlighting these apps.