Henk Doorten is a long-time illustrator and co-creator of the Dutch children’s book, Frederick Spin. Shortly after the release of the hardcover, Henk and his partner, Ans, decided to bring their characters to the digital world and develop their first eBook for the App Store. Created with Corona and the Kwik Photoshop plugin, Henk developed the Frederick Spin eBook in just two months. Since its release, the app has soared to the #2 eBook spot in the Dutch App Store.
We chatted with Henk about his role as a designer, experience using Corona and plans for future projects.
Please tell us about your background as a designer.
When I first started as a designer, I began working on a Mac Ed. At the time, the best combination was using Illustrator 1.x for the drawings and Pagemaker 1.x for the layout. My day job is designing logos, websites and brochures for the company I started twenty years ago.
What inspired you to write the original Frederick Spin hardcover?
My partner, Ans, spent 20 years working in education with preschoolers and wanted to write a story that children would enjoy. Frederick’s story grew out of the idea that there is a spider in nearly every house, and it’s always chased away. We wanted Frederick to be a friendly loveable character that children could sympathize with. He took a while to sketch just right; I wanted to keep the drawings simple in terms of creating foreground, middle and background with Frederick as a ball of wool with eight legs. Though I hadn’t created illustrations like that in years and had never worked on a children’s book before, it turned out to be a very nice experience. Ans was the writer and I, the illustrator. We released the book, created a website, did a bit of marketing, and found that the story really resonated with children.
With the hardcover so well received, what made you decide to go the digital route and develop a mobile version of the book?
Two reasons – one is that bookstores in Holland have a difficult time selling books, the other is that we wanted to bring Frederick to life in digital form. When you read a tangible book, you imagine all the small details and the story comes to life. We thought it would be nice to create a visual, interactive experience for Frederick. The app added another element to the story and allowed us to experiment and create new possibilities for the little spider. It was also a nice partnership, I created the illustrations and Ans worked on the narration and sounds.
How did you decide Corona was the best solution to bring Frederick to the mobile world?
I found Corona through my research, when looking for interesting ways to create a digital book. I spent a lot of time following Corona’s blog, and was surprised by how much I could create with so little code. Corona was the easiest and quickest option, allowing Frederick to develop, giving him more personality and expression, and providing him the opportunity to interact with other characters.
How did the Photoshop plugin tool, Kwik, help you in the development process?
Soon after I discovered Corona, I learned about Kwik. I didn’t have time to learn to code, so Kwik was very useful. We wanted the animations to tell the story, so we made a storyboard and created the artwork in Photoshop – that’s when everything started to come together. The Corona and Kwik combination was perfect, especially for a non-developer. I simply made something in Photoshop and Corona and Kwik did the coding part for me. Although we were completely new to the process, the book took two months from start to finish.
Based on your experience working with Corona, would you recommend the platform to other illustrators and designers?
Yes, of course. I don’t believe there is a better solution. Corona is very easy to use – especially for non-developers – and the Kwik tool really sped up the project. We were completely new to the process so we wanted to make everything as simple as possible. We also wanted a bit of interactivity, such as scrolling text, and this was very easy to do with Corona and Kwik.
How was Frederick Spin received in the App Store?
Within a week of submitting, we were #2 in eBooks on the Dutch App Store. Now the book is featured in the iTunes store. Holland is a small country, but we’re confident in the long-term potential of the eBook.
We’re looking forward to your next project! What do you have in the works?
We’re working on a Frederick series, with the next book more intricate than the first. We’d like to create more possibilities for Frederick and plan to experiment with storytelling interactivity soon. We also plan to use Corona for another eBook about critters that travel the world.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Henk!