I’ve been a fan of Keri Smith’s illustration work for quite some time now and so was delighted to discover that This Is Not A Book had recently been released as an iOS application, under the similarly brilliant name of This Is Not An App.
For the uninitiated, This Is Not An App and its paper counterpart are an exercise in creativity, containing a treasure trove of activities designed to free your imagination and inspire even the most artistically challenged of folk. But the question is, just how well does this popular Penguin book translate to the iOS format? Let’s find out after the jump.
Anything Can Happen
This Is Not An App launches with a note for the user explaining the basic premise of the application, along with three simple things that you will need to remember: trust in your imagination, things are not always what they seem and anything can happen.
The app itself comprises 50 activities, each of which contains an order, or assignment, that may be interpreted and fulfilled in whichever way you wish. Document your day in minute detail, intricately draw the contents of your dinner plate, record a silly song, or scribble with reckless abandon — it’s completely up to you!
Pretend You Are an Alien
When comparing This Is Not An App and This Is Not A Book side by side, it’s clear to see that the majority of activities featured within the app are identical to those possessed by book, albeit updated slightly for digital publication.
Some activities require careful consideration, such as write a list of things you’d like to try in your lifetime, and if you were to rule the world, what changes would you make? Others merely instruct you to draw a grouping of circles, or add some imagery to a black and white photograph. There’s even space for your friends and family to join in, too, with the app including a Guest Registry, and Collaboration page, encouraging the participation of your nearest and dearest.
There’s one assignment, in my opinion, that should not have been selected to appear in the app as it requires you taking This Is Not An App everywhere you go for one week, placing it in full view at all times. This would be a reasonable task for This Is Not A Book as books are cheap and easily replaceable, but carting an expensive iPad around with you on full view for a week is just asking for trouble.
Turn Back Time
Navigating from activity to activity is simple, and achievable through tapping the dog-eared page just above the toolbox. Additionally, the GoTo button will allow you to cut straight to a specific assignment by tapping its corresponding page number.
All activities in This Is Not An App can be erased and completed as many times as you’d like. There is also an undo button situated near the center of the toolbox for when you’ve made a mistake, and would like to go back a step. Unfortunately, I found myself accidentally hitting undo fairly often, deleting any new progress I had made, and as the app does not feature a redo button, I had no option but to re-draw whatever had just been deleted.
What’s in the Box?
By now, you’re probably wondering what kind of drawing utensils you’ll be working with. There are several available, all of which can be found in the toolbox, situated on the bottom left-hand side of the screen.
The first utensil in the toolbox is a pencil. Selecting the pencil and tapping the palette icon will display the option screen for that tool, allowing you to adjust the thickness and opacity of the pencil, along with the color.
While we’re on the subject of color, I should probably mention that there are 13 to choose from, which can be modified by moving the RGB slider until you have reached your desired shade.
Next up, there’s a paintbrush, which has the same basic options as the pencil, and looks pretty similar in style, but blurrier.
The app also includes a permanent marker, type tool and some sort of drip utensil that will smear color across the screen in whatever direction your iPad is facing, with the thickness tapering in towards the end. All of the mess, but none of the cleanup!
One complaint for me, however, is that the tools used to mark the page aren’t very realistic looking, with the paintbrush and permanent marker looking more like a thicker version of the pencil tool, rather than a real life marker, or paint from an actual paintbrush.
Cut and Paste
In addition to doodling and marking the screen, This is Not an App allows you to add your own photographs to your work from your photo library, as well as cutting and pasting snippets of, well, anything really. A couple of activities even require you to copy an image from one screen and paste it on another to act as an embellishment or concealment for an activity you’d like to hide.
Pasted elements can be duplicated many times over and mirrored too, which would be hard to emulate in real life without digital intervention.
This Is Not An App is an excellent way to boost your creativity, and will appeal to both fans of the original book and newcomers alike. It is well made and serves to make you “think outside the box” in a way seldom repeated in other creatively themed iPad apps.
At $4.99, This Is Not An App is not cheap, however, there are plenty of activities included which should provide many hours of entertainment.