Part of the Project
Christoph Niemann's new app for iOS is a virtual animated picture book of hand-drawn animals. Swipe at an assortment of 21 unique creatures and each one will react differently, in quirky and humorous ways so indicative of the illustrator's work. Due to popular demand after its launch at Design Indaba in Cape Town on 1 March, a special edition South African version of the app has just been launched.
On 20 March 2013 the South African edition was released in the SA iTunes store for R15.99.
After years spent creating mostly editorial illustrations, Niemann explained at Design Indaba Conference how Google Creative Lab were the first to initiate his move into animation. Commissioned to work on an ad for the Google Chrome internet browser, Niemann created the delightful animation "You and Your Browser".
That was in 2009, and upon playing with an iPhone Niemann was further inspired to extend animation into the realms of interaction. While responsiveness from mouse to screen is by nature detached, the development of touchscreens has introduced an increased engagement between the user and the screen, one that is far more personal and tangible. Niemann decided to embrace this new technology while drawing on his passion for illustration. Combining these with his irreverent sense of humour, the seed of the idea for an interactive, illustrated app was born.
But why a petting zoo? Knowing very little about video games, Niemann experimented with them as research, and found the experience daunting. Until he switched to the game's demo, which proved to be a gentler introduction to interactive games and one that doesn't require years of practice and impressive dexterity and skill.
I started thinking, “What is the real-life equivalent of a video-game demo mode?” A petting zoo! A contained environment. An unthreatening animal," says Niemann.
"You can slowly approach it, touch it, and it will do something unpredictable, but most likely something fun and adorable. I envisioned an interactive, fully animated picture book, and quickly realized that I was way out my depth for a project like that. I found great collaborators in Design Indaba (a terrific design organization in South Africa that backed the project), Markus Wormstorm (a terrific musician and sound designer), and Jon Huang (a developer and, from all I can tell, warlock)."
Niemann launched Petting Zoo at Design Indaba Conference 2013. In February, the app was made available in the international iTunes store for just $1.99.
Click here to download the international version (not available in South Africa).
In its first month the app has had almost 30 000 downloads, and has been featured in the likes of The New Yorker, Dezeen, Wired, Fast Company and Creative Review.
"Possibly the loveliest app you'll download this week/month/year." — Creative Review