Archive for October, 2011

A Journey through the Exoplanets

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Sometimes you hit it lucky.

You find a great client, working with a great customer, commissioned to create a great product.; in the development world, the perfect triumvirate.

Journey to the Exoplanets on Apple’s iPad had the potential to be good right from the off. Along with my client Brandwidth, and their customer, Scientific American, this perfect triumvirate served to create an unusual level of expectation that, despite going unvoiced, managed to hover over our heads from the first line of code through to the final submission process.

It wasn’t perfection, I’m not even sure such a situation is possible, but it’s about as close as any project is going to get. The artwork was done with passion and intensity. The development was pushed hard by a design that in many respects went way outside the conventional app thinking. But perhaps most importantly, everyone involved, the client, the customers, the team, all saw the potential, and worked hard to realise it. People basically gave a damn, and for that to happen right across the board is rare. To get a chance to be working on such projects amongst such people is rarer still.

So it was of course a pleasure to work on. The design goals were met, and in many places exceeded. We all set out to make a great app that would blow people’s minds, and I think we did that in spades. Three months of ups and downs, trials, errors, backward steps and breakthroughs, all with a finished product to show for it.

I’d always expected there to be euphoria on releasing a product, particularly one that I’d built myself from scratch. In this case it’s actually more sadness than anything, good things have to come to an end after all. Possibly the hardest thing to reconcile is that, from now on, I’m going to have such high expectations with everything I touch. Is it really possible to hit a home run twice in succession?

As a final note, a quick thank you to the guys at Brandwidth and Scientific American. These last few months really have been an absolute pleasure, and I look forward to breaking expectations together again in the future. And of course a big shout out to Caleb Sharf ; having the assistance of the Director of Columbia University’s Astrobilogy Center really did push the Planet Builder above and beyond.

Update: some great reviews are coming through for the app, so feel free to check out the article on, as well as a great review by author Greg Bear on