Paper by FiftyThree


Paper by FiftyThree is an app that embraces the idea that ideas begin on paper. It was designed to be the simplest and most beautiful way to create on the iPad. It enables users to express ideas as sketches, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings and instantly share them across the Web.

Paper by FiftyThree was created to inspire consumers to move away from the empty patterns of consumption and into a place that rewards them for creating things on their own. Humans have an innate need to create, invent, discover and leave the world a better place. The Paper app enables users to bring more creativity into the world, express inspiring ideas and change the course of the world in both large and small ways. From new ideas for websites and floor plans to silhouettes and creative sketches, the Paper by FiftyThree app enables users to create a wide range of creative works and be creative in ways that make sense to their unique talents.

Creating the Paper app involved a focused 10-month process in which the design team used a range of tools, including some that were familiar, like wire framing, visual designs, motion designs and prototyping. Some were not familiar and had to be created, including an in-app display for dynamically adjusting variables like gestures and lighting from within the development environment. All the key views were rendered in 3D with real lighting and shadows using Open GL ES 2 programmed with a combination of Objective-C and C++.

One major challenge was in the design of the tools. Rather than mimic realistic brushes, the design team took a different approach, with each individual focusing on a key creative activity: sketching, drawing, writing, coloring and various other creative avenues. The custom-built Expressive Ink Engine is based on a handcrafted set of algorithms that enable a range of expression from a single tool without requiring any settings.

In the creative flow, there is no concept of going back. With this inspiring idea, the team created a navigational model built entirely around gestures that allow users to seamlessly move from one view to another. It does not include any folders, buttons or menus to get lost in. The result is a game-like approach to a productivity app built entirely in the rich OpenGL environment with real-time 3D geometry, lighting and shadows.


Designed by Andrew Allen, Julian Walker, Georg Petschnigg and Jon Harris of FiftyThree Inc.

Contact: Andrew Allen -