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10 months
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  • CEO: George Petschnigg
  • Software experience: Andrew Allen
  • Technology lead: Julian Walker
  • Hardware experience: Jon Harris
  • Hardware: John Ikeda

Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2012 “Justified” competition, in which an esteemed jury identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on specific metrics.


We all make stuff. But today our tools today are backwards. The top creative tools out there today focus us on how we say things when what we say is really what’s most important. We have plenty of tools that make what we do look better. Why aren’t there tools that make our ideas better? Our challenge was to build a mobile platform that would revolutionize the creative process.

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Store your ideas in customizable journals. (FiftyThree, Inc.)

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Five essential tools optimized for the creative process: Sketch, Write, Draw, Outline and Color. Start with Draw and purchase additional tools from the in-app store. (FiftyThree, Inc.)

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Purchase exactly what you need from our in-app store. You can try every tool before you buy it. (FiftyThree, Inc.)

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See all of your ideas in a highly immersive and visual view that makes use of powerful graphics with OpenGL, including realtime-rendered lighting and shadows. (FiftyThree, Inc.)




appFigures plus our own internal app analytics


With literally hundreds of drawing and note-taking apps already out there, how do we define a new space for us? How do you design a totally unique experience for productivity, built from the ground up for mobile and touch-based interaction?


Paper is where ideas begin. It’s the easiest and most beautiful way to create on the new iPad. Capture your ideas as sketches, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings and instantly share them across the web.

Retina Resolution: Built for the new iPad’s brilliant display. With a full 2048 x 1536 canvas, see stunning details in your creations you couldn’t before—like pencil texture and watercolor edge bleed.

Expressive Ink Engine: Our custom ink engine reacts to your movements to optimize each tool for the process of creation. Get a range of expressions from a single tool—without fussing with settings—for great handwriting, beautiful coloring and sketching that just works.

Rewind™: We love mistakes. Use two fingers to Rewind to any previous point in time without leaving the flow.

At Last, Mobile Creation Done Right: Paper was designed from the ground up for touch and creating on the go. It keeps you in the flow with no fussy buttons, settings or other distractions. Paper works the way you think, like a familiar notebook or journal. Have all of your ideas with you in one place.

Powerhouse Graphics: Built with the powerful OpenGL framework, Paper is the first productivity tool to match the rich, immersive world of games, with realtime 3-D and shadows—all with incredible speed.

Keep Moving Forward: Our custom gesture-based interface keeps you in the creative flow. No folders, buttons or menus. Just tap to open, and pinch to close.

Make it Yours: Choose your own images to customize journal covers.


On launch day, Paper became the number one top-selling iPad app. Within two weeks, Paper was downloaded 1.5 million times, with 7 million pages created—that’s enough paper to stretch 1,215 miles or stack up to 3,500 feet.

“Just handed in a client presentation with nothing but sketches done on the #paper app @FiftyThree #awesome”—Brian Everett

“Paper by @FiftyThree is hands down the most practical app I've ever experienced. Best app ever…”—@armanddicaire

“Rediscovered my love for art/design today. So easy a 4yr old could use it (& she just has).”—Iain McDougall

“Paper is the first app for iPad I’ve seen that makes your handwriting look like it actually came from an adult. Well done @fiftythree”—@nerddotis

“Paper by FiftyThree is one of the best free apps you could ever download for your iPad—Yes, it’s that good”—AppAdvice

“I'm not even a member of the team at @FiftyThree, yet it’s inspiring to see all the #MadeWithPaper art popping up”—Ellis Hamburger

Paul Miller, “Paper is like Instagram for drawing,” The Verge

Matthew Panzarino, “Ex-Microsoft Courier team’s drawing app Paper hits 1.5M downloads, 7M pages created in 2 weeks,” The Next Web



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