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Night And Day Studios: Three Paths to Better App Development

By Dennis Abrams

Like many other companies, the Portland, Oregon-based Night and Day Studios specializes in kid’s apps that are designed to be both entertaining and educational. But they set themselves apart from other development houses with three areas of focus.

They have excelled at partnerships and licensing with major publishers such as HarperCollins and McGraw Hill and children’s brands such as Richard Scarry, Cailou and the World of Eric Carle; at agency work producing kid’s apps for an array of clients including Nick Jr.; and by creating their own brands from scratch. Since the majority of companies focus on just one of those areas, Nat Sims, the company’s founder, CEO and Creative Director; and Erin Rackleman, Marketing Director, are convinced that their wide range of experience gives them a unique perspective on the industry.

“Through partnerships we’ve gained relationships with publishers and furthered our skill set adapting literary content and textbooks into a digital experience,” said Racklemen. “Through our licensing relationships we have gained first-hand knowledge about working with global brands, cross-promoting brands between multiple media and industries and launching apps to an international market.”

It was their own first app, Peekaboo Barn, launched in 2008, that placed them in the kid’s educational market at the very beginning. One of the first apps made for toddlers in iTunes, it was part of the industry’s initial market growth; and by being forced to continually adapt it to new operating systems and feature sets, the introduction of the iPad and other tablet devices, as well as the expansion of the Android market, Night and Day Studios has not only watched the landscape change dramatically, but has evolved with it.

And as part of that ongoing evolution, their plan for 2012 is to narrow their focus exclusively to partnerships while at the same time developing their own content and brands for a new platform they will be launching in the fall. Their aim? To draw from the lessons they’ve learned working with all sides of the industry and then put them to the best use possible within a single app.

Both Sims and Rackleman attended this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair, where both were looking to take advantage of the opportunity to meet and trade notes with their colleagues in this unusual and specific part of the market. Sims, who has a master’s degree in Communication from UC San Diego, where he studied how children learn from electronic media and how they incorporate educational software and games into their lives, spoke at the TOC Bologna conference.

Sims addressed the importance of incorporating lessons learned from developmental psychology into the educational software development process. “This is something that not enough kids’ developers are versed in,” Sims said, “and we think it’s an issue of growing concern to publishers, IP owners — as well as parents and teachers! Publishers and developers should consider not just the quality of production or the stickiness of a brand, but the effect of the digital storytelling process on players’ imaginations and cognitive development.”

For Night and Day, it’s an important consideration, one that plays into all of their decisions as their business continues to grow and change. But their goal as a company, no matter how they evolve, remains the same: to use their combined skills and experience to deliver complex content to new people in new situations.

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