Apple's Staff Picks are usually a good sign for app quality, but I don't need to see the label to understand the value and the potential of LetterMpress. What started as a project on KickStarter - the awesome crowd-sourcing site - has become a great iPad app for every typography lover.
In fact, the original idea was to create a fund to purchase a collection of genuine vintage cuts, something expensive and difficult to get hold of. Then, code an app including high definition scans and eventually allow users to place orders to produce authentic prints with an actual letterpress from the design created on your iPad.
LetterMPress [iTunes Link] is the result of the effort of John Bonadies and the 1,601 backers that pledged almost $40,000 to make this a reality. Following the app trend to replicate real-life objects, you are welcomed with the press table (or bed) where you place and arrange elements from the 15 typeface and 5 art collections included. There's also space for drawers to keep your virtual collections in order, allowing you to drag and drop as necessary.
The iPad screen is perfect to arrange your layouts, giving you the freedom you don't get with a mouse, for instance. The touch controls can be tricky to understand, but it's all easy once you get the wooden blocks are floating before you place them. Once you have included some furniture and locked the layout, it's time to make a first inking test and start experimenting with the results. I miss, however, some function to auto-lock everything.
The app includes a number of papers for different finishes and the results are surprisingly decent as long as you spend some time tweaking your design. I must admit that I'm not a great designer, but I found fun working on my prints while keeping my hands clean, mixing virtual inks and having the types automatically organised for me. While the UI is eminently functional, the options available can overwhelm the new user before getting familiar with everything. A tutorial or some tips could be useful to know that you can save designs or use saved prints to press them with a new layout. I wouldn't mind some preset examples to see how everything is supposed to work in the app.
Experienced designers and casual users like me will find the whole experience liberating. Needless to say that LetterMpress opens a new world for many people that wouldn't be able to afford or find a working letterpress in their area. I haven't printed any design yet, but I'm looking forward to see how it translates to the physical world.
With new updates including new typefaces and the always needed Undo and Redo buttons, LetterMpress is definitely worth recommending to any creative iPad owner with a flair for vintage and retro designs. It would be unfair for me to review the app without taking into consideration the effort that went in making this possible - there's more to it than lines of code. I wouldn't consider it an iPad essential or for everyone, but if you are just a little bit curious about it, you should give it a go.