iPad Raises Questions, No Answers

Sports Illustrated and Wired are the latest magazines to demonstrate a prototype of how its online content could work on an iPad-like tablet. While dazzled by the possibilities, as someone in the communications design field, I started wondering about all kinds of practical production matters. This may seem silly but I wondered if reporters and designers would be “joined at the hip” creatively, assigned to sit side-by-side, desk-to-desk, in the editorial office and work in unison to produce “content”? It used to be that editorial and art departments were separate entities and sequential processes. And the interactive staff often was not even in the same part of the building. Now, more than ever, visual, interactive and editorial content have converged. How will that change the physical configuration of an editorial office?

Another question: Will photographers sent out to cover a story be expected to come back with a dozen great images, instead of one iconic one that would make it into print? Will this require sending out teams of photographers to cover the same story? And when the reader has the ability to enlarge or zoom in on a photo, do designers lose control over how a photograph is cropped and viewed? How will designers lay out a spread when images come alive and readers gain the ability to move elements on the “page”?

The prototypes we have seen so far follow the traditional format of ink-on-paper magazines, but is this format really the most effective use of the medium? At what point does a digital magazine cease to be a publication and become a hand-held version of “60 Minutes”? Incorporate enough video footage and sound and it is more like TV than a text-rich periodical.

Then there’s the question of whether consumers would pay to read a periodical on an iPad-like device, when they can now read most newspapers and magazines free online?

Another question: Will iPads become an information delivery vehicle for corporate communications? If so, how will this affect the thousands of design studios around the world that see corporate mar-com work as their “bread-and-butter” business? What skills set will graphic designers need in the future? So many questions, so few definitive answers.