#Throwback: Little Red Wagon

In the years we've been making apps for kids, we've made a lot of good friends who are also committed to creating carefully crafted products that promote positive learning, and one of our favorites is our Portland neighbor Cat Doorman. As part of this week's Celebration Sale, we're offering our collaboration, Cat Doorman's Little Red Wagon, as part of a new Good Food bundle with two other food apps we love.

Cat Doorman's Little Red Wagon is an adventure game and musical songbook in one, where children discover hidden animations and delightful characters as they make their way to a picnic. We love how this game allows children to choose the instruments they hear: a piano, a guitar, or a full band, and follow along with the notes as they unfold. The hundreds of illustrations were hand-drawn on textured paper, creating a book-like quality on the screen. Cat Doorman's Little Red Wagon is a new take on an old fashioned experience, combining the interactive opportunities of digital animation with the timeless joy of exploring a book.

#Throwback: Big Nate: Comix by U!

For this week’s #Throwback Thursday, Brianne Baker, revisits one of the first apps that she helmed: Big Nate: Comix By U!

I started working on Big Nate Comix By U! in the summer of 2011. I think it was my 9th or 10th app, and Nat had already pitched the idea of a comic strip maker to Harper Collins, which they liked. I was given the concept and told to run with it and make it my own. It was the first time Night & Day Studios handed me a project and said I could do whatever I wanted as long as I executed the concept (and it was technically feasible of course). 

This project also came on the heels of what was (and still is I think) our craziest launch schedule ever. We submitted something like eight apps in September of 2011. Because we had such a productive summer, I was able to take my time with Big Nate that fall. I was lucky to have time to prototype and test design ideas, then actually respond to the results. It was all very exciting. 

As I recall there was one popular comic maker app in the store at the time, but nothing specifically for kids. We discussed what made our app different and good for children. Ultimately, the concept for Big Nate Comix was really one of a guided play experience, and that set us apart. We were teaching kids how to write, how to create stories, and how to tell stories with graphic elements.

Eventually, Nat and I came up with the idea to create three levels of what we called "Story Starters” to make the app accessible to a range of ages and abilities. Advanced users could start with a blank canvas ("From Scratch") while beginners and intermediates could select from a variety of strips pre-populated with visual assets and designed by the creator of Big Nate himself, Lincoln Peirce.

This was also the first time that I designed custom User Interface (UI) for the iPhone and iPad for the same app – at least it was the first time that the UI was significantly different on the two devices. It was a rewarding design challenge to execute two experiences with the same end goal. 

I learned a lot about sequential art and comic strip creation working on Big Nate: Comix by U!. I was never a huge comic fan growing up, so much of it was new to me, but I immersed myself in the world of Big Nate and read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. I had to think about the composition of a comic strip on a really fundamental level in order to break down the visual elements into categories that made sense, essentially modularizing comic strip creation.

As a designer there are always things you want to improve upon* and new features you want to add, but I was pretty happy with the way Big Nate: Comix By U! turned out. A lot of care and thought went into the design and production of this app. And, although the goal of the app was to provide a rich, entertaining and educational experience for Big Nate fans and kids in general, the app has proven to be a useful sales tool and portfolio piece both for me personally and for the company.

It's something we are all proud of at Night & Day and I hope we can build upon it someday in the near future. 

* I would love to add basic animation and the ability to print from the app and I know many users would love these features as well.

Peekaboo World Tour: Fridge

In celebration of our first book's publication, the board book version of "Peekaboo Barn", we're taking a tour through other apps in our Peekaboo series. First up: a tribute to "Peekaboo Fridge" from our own Sara Berliner.

When my son was two his favorite toy was the refrigerator. No wonder: a fridge is a sensory playground for a toddler. A huge door to muscle open, a light that pops on, a blast of cold air, and inside, a riot of colorful objects in every imaginable shape. He would pull drawers open, climb the shelves, nab the ketchup, and complain when I tried to move him on to another activity. You can't teach energy conservation to a two-year-old!

So I was delighted when Night & Day released the "Peekaboo Fridge" app. Finally, I thought, a digital substitute where it's absolutely warranted. And one much more charming than my kitchen: a 1950s cat clock, cheese with a mustache, a banana in high heels and lipstick? A dance party under a disco ball before the eggs (wearing glasses, of course) fall asleep back-to-back? The analog version can't compete. My electricity bill thanks you, Night & Day!