Design Friday. Phaidon Design Classics, iPad Edition.

Forgive me for condensing and combining but after writing 60 in-depth Design Friday posts in the last year it’s getting harder to find the time to research and document. So this is a Design Friday post and an ebook/iPad app review rolled into one.

ebooks are a huge business that will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and with the introduction of the iPad true potential of what ebooks can be is here. One thing that I have noticed though, is a lack of well designed ebooks for the iPad. Most are a simple port of the original paper book to ebook format. So when I discovered that Phaidon was releasing Phaidon Design Classics, I got just a wee bit excited. The digital ebook edition of Design Classics is a bit pricey, coming in at $19.99 but I decided to bite the bullet and make the purchase.

If you are familiar with the original books, Phaidon Design Classics is one of those amazing sets of books that are hard to forget once you have seen them in a bookstore. Especially if you are a designer. For most people the print version of these books are too expensive to purchase. The series encompasses 3 large volumes that cost about $175.00. So the chance to get the entire set for 19 bucks was much easier to take. Now let’s get into the app itself.

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The ebook interface is really pretty intuitive. There are basically two modes for viewing, one that allows you to swipe through the pages and sections exploring the book, and another that lets the reader do a keyword search. When you are exploring the book, images move through the screen at various sizes allowing you to pick out objects. The one drawback here is a lack of speed control. It would have been nice if you could control the speed of the animation by tilting the iPad, or slowing it with your finger. Keyword searching is very straight forward, and when you make your selection the image comes up full screen with all supporting text when you touch the screen. When available the page features a side bar with additional images. In addition to the visual exploration mode, the reader can filter categories and designers. The application also supports a cover flow style of browsing which really enhances the way the ebook feels. This ebook is presented in a beautifully rendered, 3D environment, with exquisite layouts that take advantage of the large Multi-Touch screen and advanced capabilities of iPad. The objects are organized chronologically, easily accessible via a timeline at the bottom of the screen. Material contained in the application includes archival photographs, original sketches, patents, prototypes and informative text with precise information about the product, designer, manufacturer and the object’s historical context.

The design of the application works well for a book that is heavy on photography, and could work well for any other number of ebooks. What would have been really nice would have been the inclusion of interviews with the designers, VR clips of the objects, and additional content that extends the original book even further beyond the print experience.

This set of books is one of the most comprehensive collections of design classics available in both print and digital formats. Authoritative and meticulously researched, this collection charts the history of product design over the past 200 years. Phaidon took years to make this and the book was compiled via rigorous selection process by an international panel of design-world insiders, including architects, critics, curators, product designers, auctioneers, and historians.

The iPad ebook version of Phaidon Design Classics offers, access to an encyclopedic, illustrated history of 1,000 timeless design classics by not only renowned designers, such as Marcel Breuer, Achille Castiglioni, Le Corbusier, Jasper Morrison, Dieter Rams, Eero Saarinen, and Philippe Starck but also anonymously designed pieces that have stood the test of time and had a major influence on the design world.

This volume covers everything from cars to chairs, from tableware to cameras, from toys to airplanes, the application features products that are most often still in production today, largely unchanged since their creations.

I have to say that this is an essential design resource with extraordinary value for anyone who appreciates great design. Having it on the iPad and with me most of the time is great. It is my understanding that the $19.99 price point is a limited introductory price, so if you want it, get it now.