Why working on something that nobody cares about? This is the nastiest though on a developer mind, perfectly justified by the amount of great apps that go absolutely unnoticed on the App Store. I have never bothered to download an alarm clock or a weather app before. I consider unnecessary clutter, often tackier than a Burberry check pattern wallpaper, contaminating your iOS device. Seriously: do you need an alternative alarm clock? Do you really need an app for that?
After years laughing about the thought of iPhone owners installing every new alarm clock app that comes out, I sunk in my prejudices as my curiosity betrayed me. Aside form the utilitarian factor of Apple's standard Clock, there is a vast room for innovation in this area. And the iOS platform simply allows great ideas come true. This is the lesson I learned from Albert Salamon, a Polish designer whose first iOS app has received the coveted FWA Mobile award. This my chat with him about his development experience, alternative clock apps and the fusion of software and art.
What type of background do you have? What interested you about the iOS platform?
In one way I am an absolute beginner in the iOS platform but in another way my education and experience lead me to this. I graduated from the Design Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw where for 10 years I taught visual communication. For 15 years I have been designing signs, ids, prints, web pages and information systems. But first of all, I am a user who grew up on the buzzing of programs being loaded to ZX Spectrum, the MIDI system on Atari ST, graphics and multimedia software from Adobe and Apple. I have used many operating systems and a huge numbers of programs – different kinds.
The iOS platform gives an opportunity to do things in new way because many real things vapourised from material reality and got reborn in digital space. Apps are products of the "Third Wave" economy (vide Alvin Toffler) and are fundamentally and permanently changing our life, culture, behaviors and time perception. I find this very interesting.
"I’ve always dreamt of designing my own clock and thanks to Apple my dream came true. This dream gave rise to an aim to create a clock which would be adequate to the time in which we live"
I imagine you did some sort of research before starting Dominus. There are plenty of "clock apps" with dubious taste. What makes Dominus plus different than others?
Yes, you’re right. I checked the AppStore and I was shocked by the sheer ugliness and repetitiveness of apps. Most of them are beautifully crafted copies of clocks of yore such as hand clocks, flip clocks or nostalgic clocks pretending to be made out of LCD matrices, - this stuff are simulakra (J. Baudilard).
I’ve always dreamt of designing my own clock and thanks to Apple my dream came true. This dream gave rise to an aim to create a clock which would be adequate to the time in which we live. The meaning (message) which can be read from the clock is the Face of Time of the 21st century which reveals a digitally mist-like (diffused) time which is making faces at us.
You market the app as a piece of the new Polish design. Is Dominus in between utility and art form? Is this an area you would like to explore?
I have read lately that Polish programmers are the 5th force of making Windows Phone apps. So maybe thanks to the pleasant experience of using Dominus, people will get interested in our country where you find many talented designers and artists.
You are right that Dominus is in-beetween utility and an art form. That’s why this app is not in the mainstream - and for me this is good because Dominus is not for everyone. I didn't plan to situate myself in that space in-between art and utility - I had to create Dominus as it is. It just happened like that.
As an iOS developer, which other applications draw inspiration to come up with the concept of Dominus?
None! Of course I like Polar Clock, 1PX Clock, Qlocktwo, Hexagon Zen Clock, but my true inspiration or rather encouragement became the tokyoflash.com website, where futuristic and original clock design concepts can be found.
The sounds play an important role here. Why did you go for this selection and what experience were you trying to communicate?
Music has always held an important place in me. I particularly like soundtracks because listening to them you can see a movie never seen before. This is like an extra space, a secret dimension of an unexplored world - limited by your imagination. 15 years ago thanks to Atari ST I discovered MIDI devices and started composing music and exploring sounds, generating them with a sequencer. So bearing that experience in mind I asked my friend Łukasz Grzejek (composer and dj) to prepare something corresponding to Dominus’ graphic simplicity.
"I would like sounds to be delicate and pleasant for everyday use and the tone to be round"
You mentioned that you designed the concept and got Concise Software to code it. How is the development time for a mobile app compared with other platforms you know and how did the App Store approval process go?
This is my first digital project (product) where I was the designer, producer, sponsor and PR agency. For me working with Concise Software was a great experience. Coding and testing Dominus resulted in many changes and improvements, which, while still in the designing phase, I did not predict. CS worked on these modifications very patiently and precisely. This work gave the integrated (iPhone and iPad) 1.2 version. Thanks to Concise Software’s professionalism Apple approval process was smooth.
You've been featured by the prestigious FWA in mobile of the day recently. How successful has the app been compared to your initial expectations? What tip would you share with any budding developer?
I didn't have any expectations at all but I was surprised when FWA asked me to submit Dominus and when later after a few days they told me that I won MOTD - I felt warmth on my cheek. It was very pleasant, one app from among 500,000 – Wow! For me the MOTD award means that FWA out to be original and good. That kind of award obliges. Have a dream and do things with love.
Thank you very much Albert for taking the time to answer these questions. I'm always intrigued about what's behind some of the apps I bump into and in this case I should admit there's a great story of passion for design and making a wish come through. I wish you the best in your future endeavors and will keep a close eye on those little known Polish designers and brilliant craftsmen. Dominus and Dominus plus are available on the App Store as an Universal app [iTunes Link].