Design principles behind the Touchtype iPad case

The Touchtype iPad case has joined the ever increasing family of Kickstarter projects which have far surpassed their funding goal, and created quite a following whilst doing so. For good reason.

 

The Touchtype iPad case is designed for iPad owners who use an Apple Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard. Like me. It works with every iPad, in both portrait and landscape modes. It has magnets on both sides of the screen cover — so it can automatically wake and sleep your iPad whichever way you store the device. Even when propped up in writing position, the Touchtype allows you to position the iPad in portrait mode with two extra fasteners at the bottom (which are completely invisible when the iPad is secured in landscape mode). It has been designed incredibly well — even though it has a ton of features and uses, it’s gorgeous and impossibly thin.

What amazes me is that the Touchtype case holds an entire Apple Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard, but it’s barely any bigger than a standard protective case. Amazing.

You can probably tell I’m in love with this accessory.

I’ve been lucky enough to not only talk with its designer, Salman Sajid, but I’ve also received a pre-release unit and been using the case for a few days. In fact, I’m writing this article using the Touchtype case right now.

This article covers the design principles behind the Touchtype iPad case and shows how relevant they are to each design decision we make in our work. It’s platform agnostic. I’m working on a more personal review of the Touchtype iPad case which will be posted on my personal blog, Chasing Perfection. This article, however, should provide value to all designers, even if you’re not an iPad user.

It’s hard to get logo placement right — whatever it is you’re designing. This is a well known fact. It’s easy to look at Apple and herald them as masters of logo placement, but there are companies out there other than our favourite fruit company who do a good job, too. Luxury car makers, for example, tend to place the appropriate value on logo placement. A high-end car will have the manufacturer’s logo on the front and rear of the vehicle — maybe on the steering wheel — but it’s not plastered everywhere. This restraint gives the brand, company and logo increased value.

The Touchtype iPad case deals with logo placement perfectly. Salman Sajid carefully thought through where (if at all) he should place the Touchtype’s distinct mark — and settled on the part of the case which will only be seen when the user is initially setting up or adjusting the case — underneath where the iPad sits.

The Touchtype logo is only visible when the case not in use. This is both smart and tasteful. The logo itself is equally clever — comprised of the letter T, rotated through different angles, it almost represents the true nature of both the iPad and the case: whichever way you’re holding the iPad is the correct way. More iPad accessories should respect this philosophy.

Taste of exquisite

Touchtype is available in three flavours. Salman explains:

The Touchtype case comes in either a smooth gray polyurethane, a “wild espresso” leather, or a luxurious black leather. And the leather is not the tough, plasticky, “just so we can say it’s leather” type of leather. It’s the real deal made from top layer buffalo hide, with characteristic natural grains and that unmistakeable genuine leather smell.

I have the grey polyurethane flavour case (backed with my own money) and I expected it to feel… adequate — and smell… plastic-ey.

But it doesn’t.

It feels exquisite. And it smells delicious. It’s hard to emphasise just how well made and designed this accessory is. I studied Product Design (a derivative or engineering) at Bournemouth University (and worked with some extremely talented folks such as Anglepoise during my time there) — and I feel confident in saying that Salman Sajid has designed something quite remarkable here. The care and attention to detail really set this case apart.

An example of this attention to detail is the inclusion of the portrait straps. These are shown and explained on the Touchtype Kickstarter page — but they are essentially two extra fasteners for securing the iPad in place if you prefer to write with the screen in Portrait mode. I enjoy this feature.

Surpassing expectations is a great way to make your customers happy. As Marco Arment has mentioned many times in his podcast Build and Analyze, it’s not necessarily that customers notice all the little things you’re doing right in your designs — but they get an overarching feeling that your finished product, whatever it may be, is of a superior quality when it contains these small, great touches. And customers will notice if your product is doing anything wrong.

The Touchtype is full of these small details which set it apart from anything I’ve used or seen. It does a lot right.

 

Writing

Different writers prefer their screens to be at a different angle in relation to their desks. Walt Mossberg actually hailed the Logitech Keyboard Case’s 57º angle as “excellent”. He must like shallower angles than Apple — the Smart Cover holds the iPad at 73º.

The Touchtype case is halfway between these two angles, coming in at 65º. The best of both worlds. I don’t have a strong personal preference towards a specific angle of typing — but, given the option, I wouldn’t change this angle. 65º feels comfortable and natural to me.

It’s important, whether you’re designing for the digital or physical world, to take personal preference into account. Some people, for example, hate the default text size on Daring Fireball. So, John Gruber provided a way to adjust it. The Touchtype case has been designed allowing users to set their iPad up in any orientation — and store it with the home button on either side, too, thanks to the cover having two sets of magnets. It’s flexible. Just like responsive design, right?

Principle

I felt this case deserved a special mention on The Industry. Even though it’s far surpassed its funding goal on Kickstarter, it’s worth sharing quality design work with the community. The design principles behind its creation are stellar and worth noting; designers everywhere should aspire to this level of quality in their work. Salman Sajid has really designed a long-lasting accessory — I really can see myself using the Touchtype case with my iPad 6 — that is if keyboards are still around.

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