8.08.2012 | by Shaun | view comments

Since we started Bluehat, we’ve been focussed on identifying and solving problems for our clients through design. We like doing that, and continue to do so. But this year we decided to also spend time on some projects of our own. We’ve been working away for a while on a number of projects, and the first has just escaped our labs.

Lendthing is an iPhone app that keeps track of who has your stuff. We’ve all had that frustrating moment where we go to use something we own, then faintly recall we’ve loaned it to someone. But who? It happens to me all the time with DVD’s. I still have no idea who has my copy of Laura. Which is a great film you should watch, by the way. I’d loan it to you if I knew where it was.

The most important thing we wanted to achieve with Lendthing was to create an app that performs a simple task in the best possible way. It took a lot of experimenting, but we think it does just that.

We wanted to make an app that was visually distinctive and felt good to use. Our designer Tom is a big fan of Scandinavian wooden furniture and toys. With that in mind, he wanted to build something that felt like an actual wooden object you hold in your hand.

To this end, we didn’t just make the app with wooden textures – we also wanted everything in the app to feel like a mechanical action. Objects don’t fade in and out, and nothing lights up unnaturally. Instead, buttons have physical up and down states. When you move around in the app, you simply move to another part of the object. Panes slide in and out to perform different actions. Scrolling objects are attached to a ribbon.

This approach took a lot of work. Usually, designers take textures and add faux-bevels and shadows in Photoshop to give the impression of depth. But we wanted to go further. To make it feel as real as possible we built the various components as 3D objects. We were then able to simulate “real” lighting, to make the whole app feel more natural. This approach presented a lot of challenges, but we think it was worth it.

Creating our own product, and being our own client, has made for a different process than our usual one – but we’ve loved it. We’ve got more apps in the pipeline we can’t wait to show off.

If you have an iPhone, you can grab Lendthing from the App Store. Let us know what you think.