How to create amazing apps for iOS (an introduction)


The iPhone has been around since 2007, and since the App Store’s debut in Februrary of 2008 we’ve seen a number of exciting apps hit the App Store. If you’re looking to jump into this space, you’re not too late. In fact, I would suggest that the App Store is still in its very early stages. Don’t believe me? Check out this talk from Luke Wroblewski, he gets in to the mobile opportunity a bit as well as some general mobile design principles to keep in mind. With that said, if you consider what happened when the web was opened to the public in the 1990’s it will help you think a bit about a possible trajectory of the mobile app space. It’s still very early and that’s good news if you’re interested in getting into designing mobile applications.

Quite simply, this blog is focused on helping you design amazing apps for iPhone, whether you have never opened up a design program like Photoshop or Sketch or you’ve been doing it for a couple of years and want to get better. I started designing apps for the iPhone in 2007, shortly after the launch, back then they were just mobile optimized websites that Apple referred to as mobile apps. We thought it was pretty cool that you could save a website to your home screen (you can still do this by the way) and it made it ‘feel’ like it was a mobile app. Not really, but anyway let’s get back to how you can get started designing mobile apps.

First, there isn’t really a short cut to get started, I know lame… but there are some essentials that if well understood can dramatically increase the speed of learning. This blog is about teaching you those essentials and other tips to help you design beautiful apps for iOS. The design principles that you will learn here can also apply to different platforms like Android but the focus of this blog will be iOS.

What we’ve seen as trends in iOS app design over the years

  • Early iOS versions up to iOS6 – Design was skeumorphic design (think leather textures and glossy buttons that try to mimic real life)
  • iOS7 – Released in 2013 and has followed a more flat style
  • iOS8 and our current state – Refinements from the early flat style introduced in iOS7 but with a lot of added refinements to typography, depth and paying careful attention to every element on-screen.

What is interesting about this shift in design aesthetic for the iPhone is that over the years it has taken on a more traditional design approach. This is similar to what are commonly understood as best practices in print design.

Cues mobile has taken from print design best practices over the years

  • Dominance
  • Visual hierarchy
  • Focal points
  • Balance
  • White space
  • Typography

There’s more to these basic design best practices and I’d like to elaborate further but that will have to wait for now. Hopefully this is enough to satisfy in the short-term

Finally, as more and more mobile platforms are available, each with their own OS a fundamental understanding of the essentials for design for each platform is also important. While we be getting into some universal design principles our focus will be on iOS.

Here’s a brief overview of what iOS platforms we’ll be focusing on
• iPhone/iPad – Designing for both, universal apps and how to design beautiful applications
• Apple Watch – How to get started designing apps for the new Apple Watch


Until next time I’d like to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite designers and a major influence to Jonny Ives.

“Less but better”
– Dieter Rams