The GIF format is now public domain. As we were (and still are) in love with animated GIFs (we made a few ones with MS Paint ten years ago), we have always been wanting to use this format on the iPhone.
We quickly dismissed some ideas, even if they would become big successes like Vine and Draw Something, and eventually created Dink, an app for drawing and sharing simple animations.
The basic principle was to only provide very simple tools, basically the same as the ones we used in Paint, because we knew there would be no learning curve.
Also, we wanted to strongly restrict the number of colors. Rather than spending a lot of time drawing one single (detailed) frame, the user should spend time drawing many (simple) frames. First only black, white, blue and red were available. After a few months we added green, then yellow. And that's it!
This simplicity was intended to emulate creativity. A drawing pencil is a very simple, monochrome tool. In talented hands, it becomes a powerful tool and lead to beautiful drawings. With Dink, we had the feeling that we were creating such a tool: simple but powerful.
A few months after the release of Dink
(Dink's animation sharing social network), we had the proof that we had made the right design choices. Later, a user shared an animation
with a color that was not available in Dink. It was a breakthrough!
This user just rediscovered dithering
. By drawing a blue dot next to a black one and repeating this to cover a large area, you obtain a dark blue color. From that discovery, users were divided in two parts: the ones who knew how to use this technique and the ones who didn't. Dithering was spreading into the community, becoming more and more efficient.
We haven't earned a lot of money with Dink, but this app validated our design principles. We now have the assurance that simplicity can lead to creativity.
The obvious way would have been to include a full color picker giving access to hundred of colors even though the users have clearly taken pleasure in reinventing them by themselves.
Street of Rage