Bowyer is a new company by Vadik Marmeladov, Sergey Filippov, a man known as “The Client”, and Ilya Kolganov. In this interview we talk through their first collaborations, philosophy, process, commercial projects, and future plans.
“Craftmanship is attention to details. Luxury is attention to unnecessary details.”
Typical phone games and apps retain a certain average appearance with a target on mass-market appeal. Design is usually not a priority, and as a result, often mediocre. Unlike the fashion industry, for instance, app development is young enough that nichés have not yet developed fully. Seeing this gap in the industry, Bowyer wished to target luxury markets.
“About 2 years ago while working on a commercial website we came up with a simple app for a luxury brand,” Vadik explained. The screen would be completely black, and through in-app purchases, individual diamonds could be bought and populated on the screen. The concept would be a reflection of physical diamonds: holding no real value other than the inherent scarcity and cost of ownership.
“Later we got a job to create an app for a fashion exhibition in Moscow. We decided to go much further then just an ‘exhibition app’. We came up with an idea of creating a periodic magazine. Each issue would be a new level or a new stage in a game.”
Funware — is the use of game mechanics in non-game contexts to encourage desired user actions and generate customer loyalty. Funware typically employs game mechanics such as points, leaderboards, badges, challenges and levels.
“This was our first step in research of this phenomenon,” Vadik explained. “As of now, the project is still on hold, but we still looking forward to returning to the project, but before doing so we have to find an editor-in-chief. We need someone who will think not in spreads and articles, but by levels, scores achievements and other mechanics.”
“How do we attract, let’s say, ‘fancy’ people? How do we make them want to play?”
“So we came up with this symbolical story called Samara. Samara is the woman behind the app, the voice, the soul. She has random emotions and we even put her quotes there. The first ‘issue’ is Dreams of Samara, and OBVIOUSLY, [laughing] you solving her dreams. They are weird, but inspired by real emotions that she experienced during the exhibition. Every level is based on an actual piece, but a bit mutated,” Vadik explained.
The app begins almost entirely locked away. Only through succeeding in each of the games is the corresponding artwork finally revealed. Inspiration came from games such as the one below. In this case, porn photos would slowly reveal itself as the player progressed through the game.
“Creating these games around art provoked subliminal meanings. For example, the pictures from the designers are not THAT great, but we made people kind of fight for them. In a way it was reflective of the fashion marketing industry.”
If it is the first-ever fashion game then it should look like a first-ever game:
• Ritual, meditation
• Such a beautiful device and such an ugly content.
• Device as a Friend
“Imagine reading a magazine that connected to Apple’s GameCenter. Imagine your ‘experience’ or ‘skills’ affect the magazine itself. It becomes personal and even more fancy! The fashion world already overuses Facebook and iPhone (their primary gaming device) but still ignore games themselves because most of them are uglyyyy.”
“Visionaire was one of our top inspirations. Imagine game levels designed by top designers.. or not even a game — like Hedi Slimane designs a ‘Find My Friends’ app.”
Working with the client, Bowyer approached the app using techniques common in agile development. Each stage would be designed, presented to the client, then after several development iterations, the level would be signed off. Vadik explained, “We would be sitting together at one desk, thinking together, experimenting together. Sometimes a scene was determined before design even began, [laughs].” This was repeated for each level. With this method the client always knew how the app was progressing, and exactly what the product was looking like. He continued: “It was 2 weeks of preparation and client talks, then 2 weeks of actual building. I guess only under these conditions can you can implement soul and magic into the project.”
Sergey, the primary developer for the project explained his tools: “We used Box2D Engine for physic simulation, Cocos2D framework to deal with OpenGL and of course Cocoa frameworks for the rest. Timing was not the biggest challenge. For example, we did the Wood level for Chalayan in 2 hours. However, one challenge was to achieve symbiosis between Cocoa and OpenGL ES worlds– to make the border between them invisible.”
“Even Apple attempts to simulate ‘craftsmanship’ in their interfaces, but what we want is real craft.”
Lately Apple has caught a lot of flak over the emulation of texture in their apps. From the torn pages in Calendar, the artificial book thickness in iBooks, and now to the faux leather in Find My Friends “the result is a fake, chinese knockoff rather than a beautiful piece. Apple wants to create luxury in their apps, but without certain knowledge and traditions– it has failed.”
“We think we have the right combination of fashion, art, and cultural connection that would help us create a sense of luxury in the interaction. This could be achieved by adding attention to detail: 3d, physics, etc.” A close parallel would be the elastic effect when scrolling to the top of a page on an iPhone. It’s not a necessary action, but provides an extra level of interaction that makes the experience richer and more responsive. Originally these ideas began as part of the Road Inc. project, but were ultimately cut due to time constraints. However, after the project’s completion, Sergey and Vadik continued development.
Layouts could be designed to have physical relationships between elements. Scrolling, pulling, sliding over the surface would have ripple-like effects over the design. Or, in the case below, each element could be linked to a diagonal grid with the physical properties of a fish net.
See the interface in motion:
“It has become a general trend in our industry that mainstream digital design can’t express emotion or craftsmanship. We believe this thinking to be false. The device is also a tool, and has a direct relationship to craftsmanship, materials, skills, sources, perfect taste and even traditions in some way. Instead of hand made paper and ink, let’s create a new way of storytelling using interactive illustrations and text which interacts with your voice and device position. Instead of a high-end tourbillon lets use geo-location and augmented reality etc… It’s definitely not a replacement, but it’s a tool that brings craftsmanship to the next level. This is nothing new, just evolution, and at some point they have to start to use and understand it. I bet they want this goal, but have no idea how to execute it. Even Apple attempts to simulate ‘craftsmanship,’ but what we really want is craft.”
“The task was clear — make all of this info accessible and playful.”
For a year Vadik and Sergey worked together on the now critically acclaimed Road Inc. The app features fifty 3D “reconsitutions” of classic cars, soundtracks, fact sheets, photographs, press cuttings, sketches, etc. Pyrolia, the publisher, proclaims it as the “first digital object dedicated to the automobile.”
“First of all we have to say that client was very brave and passionate, because this is indeed enormous amount of content, all of which was held by the client and their in-house team. They personally scanned all the books, collected all the videos from the right companies, and even contacted rare car owners. On the team we had three editors as well as a car expert preparing content.”
“How do we target these guys? What are their preferences in terms of digital environment?”
Vadik explains that the current trend in digital publishing is simply the regeneration of existing web content– basically PDFs with videos thrown in. “The new direction will be the reinvention of storytelling and information curation. It is a bit tricky, content should be adapted for the ‘touch’ and ‘swipe’ rather than ‘click’– which is a big difference.”
Some beliefs behind the interface:
• No buttons — super intuitive and easy to use. There should be no tutorial or “help”
• Do not compete with cars design
• Play with user’s familiar experiences
• Easy to update
• Play with Apple UI guidelines, so you can create a totally crazy interface, but it will be familiar to people because it repeats default behaviours.
Rather than solve this problem with each client, Vadik explains Bowyer’s approach for future projects: “We want to try to implement a university approach. We research and develop a tool that clients can buy and apply to their needs (among other clients) or just license the whole thing the become an exclusive owner. This sounds easy in the electronics industry, but how can you apply it to design or art? this we going to challenge.”
What is Bowyer?
More information about Bowyer can be found at http://bowyerworldwide.com