Drawnimal may be my new favorite iPad app, despite the fact that I’m about 25 years beyond its target demographic. It’s essentially an alphabet game in which each letter pulls up an associated animal ("A" is for alligator—you know the drill). But naturally, there’s a twist.
Players are asked to place the iPad on a blank piece of paper. With a pencil in-hand, they’re instructed to draw a somewhat anonymous shape around the iPad screen (Is that a tail? Are those ears?). And only when the drawing is finished do they see an on-screen portrait to complete the drawn picture, a green cartoon face coupled with a warm, grandfatherly voice that confirms, yes, the "A" really is for alligator. (Just resist the urge to scratch the alligator’s nose. He bites.)
I asked Drawnimal’s visual designer, Lucas Zanotto, why more apps don’t use the iPad as part of a greater mixed media experience? He thinks that "developers are often focused on the device itself."
"Using touch screens as we do today is still seen as something new and advanced," Zanotto explains. "So in wanting to get the most out of the device itself, we often forget the big picture." And that big picture is precisely what Drawnimal wants kids to grasp by, quite literally, forcing them to think outside the box. Or at least the bezel.