Illustrating for a Mobile World: Interview with Bard Hole Standal

bard-smallFor as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer and illustrator. In fact, I wanted to create children’s books and I wanted them to be fun, colorful, and have animals in them. That’s why I was so excited to do this interview with Bard Hole Standal, author of the interactive kids’ book Jack and Joe, which was built for the iPhone and the iPad. I was given the chance the read the book and play around with it and let me tell you, I loved it! Personally, I think this is HUGE, especially for the iPad. Interactive kids’ books aren’t exactly new, but I feel that with Bard’s style he could pave the way for many books like his. And iPads are a great size for kids to use.

Here’s a few things that really jumped out at me and made me love Jack and Joe:

  • I loved the illustrations! Bright, colorful, good movement! Very cute and great style for kids. The illustrations were really engaging and I felt the artwork went along perfectly with the story.
  • The interactions build into the book are fantastic. The hide and seek page was one of my favorite parts! There are also pages you can shake and some where you can pet Jack! In talking to Bard, I learned that in a future version of the story there will be even more interactive pages.
  • Jack and Joe very much felt like characters that could be on Disney or Nickelodeon – the voices were good too and there was a good pace to the book and the reading.

On with the Interview!

Let’s start from the beginning. Where did the idea to create an interactive children’s book for the iPad/iPhone come from?

I think all illustrators dream of publishing their own children’s book. For me, it felt like the right time to give it a go. I had focused all my time and energy in being involved in vinyl toys and endless projects with toy companies that seldom went anywhere. I was tired of both toys and spending a great deal of time on things that never came to fruition. With the iPad and the iPhone’s App Store, that would not be a problem. You are in control of what’s published, no second or third parties involved. So I talked to my brother who’s a computer engineer, and we decided to combine our talents to make this book happen. We originally intended on programming it using Adobe’s Flash CS5 iPhone module, but Apple pulled the plug on that. Plus the tech was incredibly slow, nearly useless.
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How did you begin each page? Walk us through your process of completing an illustration for the book.

I started the process by writing a simple outline. The initial idea about a boy and his best friend, his husky puppy. I thought of the fun things they could do together while keeping in mind what sort of interactive tasks would work with that. In the outline I wrote some ideas down for a story arc and how the boy would end up being jealous of the husky. The boy wanted to be a husky too because, let’s face it, there is nothing more awesome to be in the world than a husky puppy!

I never really set out to make a literary masterpiece, I wanted a sort of random character-focused story without morals or life lessons. I just wanted to make it a peek into the world of two best friends.

After the outline was written, I wrote a proper manuscript and drew a very crude storyboard of each page. Then I used Illustrator to draw up the final images, and adjusted the script and drawings as I went along. I also had to come up with what sort of interactive things we could add to the pages. I had a bunch of ideas, but we had to cut back to make it possible to produce. Coding for the iOS devices is very time consuming. Compared to technologies like Flash, this is much more demanding.
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Was creating an illustration for mobile devices different from simply creating an illustration for print or the web?

I always had to keep in mind that everything I drew would have to be cut up into smaller pieces for it to be animated or made into an interactive page. So working with vectors in Illustrator made that very easy, it’s part of my style and it’s how I like to work already. I’m an interactive art director in my fulltime job, so this is part of my everyday life. If you’re a traditional illustrator, I’m sure it would be a little harder to wrap your head around than producing things for print. Also, you have the issue of resolution differences on the devices. The iPhone 1 and the iPhone 4 have different resolutions, and the iPad even has a different format! So you end up exporting everything three times and you have to make sure that the illustrations for the iPad work even though you’re cutting the sides off to make it fit within the format. It’s easy to slip into madness with all of these things to think of 😉

What do you hope kids will take from Jack and Joe? Where do you see this book going?

My biggest wish is that kids get sucked into the world of Jack and Joe and just end up having a really FUN time. That was my goal all along, to make a super fun book kids can play with for hours. And maybe they’ll all convince their parents to get huskies! That would be cool. The world needs more huskies. I see a world in the future where everyone has a husky. I’d like that world!

I hope the book makes it up the App Store charts and that it gets some attention. It’s proven quite difficult to get it out there, there’s no automatic success by having a book in the App Store. You’ll have to tell people about it before it moves anywhere. I was hoping that wasn’t the case, that we wouldn’t need the PR machines of giant publishing corporations. We’ll see how it goes. I think we just need to tell people that it’s out there and that they should check it out. Maybe make a free preview version too.
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Who would you say has influenced your art style?

My art style is definitively influenced by a bunch of Japanese artists. I grew up with a keen interest in manga, so people like Akira Toriyama and Katsuhiro Otomo have been huge to me. In terms of vector style, Furi Furi Company, Buro Destruct and Maniackers Design were a major influence on me when I was starting out. Then of course there’s the video games of my childhood from Nintendo and Sega that were probably the reason for why I was drawn to illustration in the first place.

You say on your website that you love drawing animals. Any hope for a children’s book about pigs in the future?

Haha, yeah now that would be something! I would love to just sit down and draw pigs for a 6 month stretch. That would be a amazing!

I am actually working on a CGI short about a pig that wants to go to the north pole. It’s a side-burner project, so it’ll take a while to complete. I get my monthly dose of pigs that way though, keeps me sane and far, far away from bacon.

I eat a lot of sausages though, so technically I’m a hypocrit!

And finally… what “fuels” your illustration?

Giant exploding mega ultra death pigs! with LASER EYES!

At least the dream of one day giving such a vision a proper rendition as an illustration.
Until the day I do that, I will relentlessly be working on my skills until they can achieve such awesome awesomeness.
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Find more about Bard here:

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