Bigstock is in Austin, Texas at the South-by-Southwest Interactive conference. This morning we watched a fascinating panel featuring one of the top creative directors in magazines, Scott Dadich of Wired. Working with Adobe, Wired recently developed a demonstration of a tablet version of their magazine. (You can see a video of the demo below.) This presentation is the best prediction we’ve seen about what tablets like the iPad will mean for graphic designers.

Is this the next big thing? The much-celebrated Apple iPad hasn’t even shipped yet. At the demonstration Monday, Dadich and Adobe senior design manager Jeremy Clark showed off the new Wired tablet app on a Dell tablet, a second tablet computer running Google’s Android OS, a Nexus One smart phone, and an iPhone 3GS.

The Wired digital issue test is basically all of the articles and images in the print edition of the magazine presented in a fluid, digital layout. Turn the tablet from vertical to horizontal and articles reformat automatically. (Yes, that means designers have to do more work. Dadich estimated that a design team needs to put in 10 to 50 percent more work to format a magazine for print and tablet.) The designs look more like a print magazine than a web site, but with different type treatments and layouts. Dadich described it as “more of a poster-style design rather than the artifact of two pages glued together.” He added, “Typography is still playing a huge role.”

This is challenging work, certainly, but the tablet format opens up new design possibilities. Monthly magazines such as Wired go through an obsessive amount of refinement and detail, from typography to photography and illustration. The same level of attention is usually not possible on a regular web site. But Dadich says a tablet-specific app for Wired will provide a similar level of quality to readers—and advertisers—as a carefully designed print product. “We care about engagement in terms of hours, not in minutes,” Dadich said.

This is surely good for designers. But it’s also not here yet—the Wired app is a test and isn’t available to the public yet. Will you be designing a layout for tablet computers in the near future? It depends on whether audiences are ready for a whole new way to read.

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