It started with enlightened engineers writing code for touch-screen (capacitive touch) technology. They wanted to give users an immersive "lean-back" experience rather than the mouse-driven "lean-forward" browsing experience. Which they did. This empowered and inspired editors to rethink what a magazine is and can be. Which we did. Deeper? Richer? Sensual even? All yes. It was at that point that code became content.
When SI released its video demonstrating that thinking last fall, the technology press was impressed but skeptical that a sports franchise could lead the march to such enriched content. Which SI also did (go to YouTube and search "SI tablet demo"), along with TIME, the first magazine to launch on Apple's iPad, in April, with some of the bells and whistles shown off in the SI video. SI has sharpened the rest of that functionality and this week launches a memorable premier issue on the iPad—the complete print magazine shot through with the best of the Web. No brag; just fact.
The backlit liquid crystal display screen gives the photography an illumination impossible on paper, and there are twice as many pictures. The constantly updated 24/7 News Feed and Truth & Rumors, customized according to your favorite sports, are a touch away. The original video comes at you in many forms, from narrative storytelling to behind-the-scenes access to analysis from SI journalists to traditional athlete interviews (and slightly nontraditional ones; see this week's Pop Culture Grid in the SCORECARD section). Then there's The Wheel, a new digital utility that enables the sharing of SI stories and photos across social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The navigation (with visual bookmarks) is intuitive throughout; you always know exactly where you are.
It also is not random that the release of SI on the iPad coincides with the promotion of Chris Hercik to Creative Director. His wisdom and instincts lit the long nights of development that make the SI app feel smart and so easy at the same time. "Designing for the iPad is like playing 3-D checkers," says Hercik. "You have to be constantly aware of what the reader-user will experience from every direction. It's ergonomic." So none of that up-down-double-tap-reset anywhere, thank you. Rather, simple browsing with the ability to go deep in a single move, thanks also to the wizards of Time Inc.'s IT Digital & Magazine Technology Group.
From the beginning SI bought in to the obvious mantra that when it comes to innovation, "culture trumps strategy." Kicks its ass, actually. Thus the development of all this was done in close collaboration with David Link and his website development and design company with the unimprovable name, The Wonderfactory, which creates a culture of innovation wherever it goes.
To receive the digital version of the magazine, simply download the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED app from the iPad app store. You'll know what to do from there.
CREATIVE DIRECTOR HERCIK: Ergonomic design in every direction.