Florence in the machine

I was all ready to write a glowing post about how much I love the Apple Design Awards that take place during WWDC week, but it turns out I have already done this, two years ago! Back then, I was looking for more from the Apple crew in terms of discoverability of the best apps out there and their update to the app store to include a great Today tab has done just that. Featuring stories, lists, behind the scenes videos and more, it’s a nice way to find new content, or learn more about apps you already use.

So with all that sorted, there’s only one thing left to talk about this year’s Design Awards, and that is Florence.

This is such an incredibly beautiful app, it’s hard to describe it in words. The pictures are so much better.

But to try and sum it up, the app guides you through the story of Florence, who breaks free from her mundane life when embarking on a new relationship, navigates the highs and lows of life with a partner, and eventually finds herself. As the reader/player, your job is simply to interact very briefly with each scene – piecing together jigsaw puzzles or shaking polaroid pictures – to move the narrative along.

I’m not usually too bothered about limited interactivity apps – where it’s not so much a game as a story that you occasionally get to prod at. Even the quite more exciting Back to the Future game series frustrated me by its limitations on occasion.

But this is something else. This is such a simple, lovely, relatable story, told well, with very intuitive actions that help to flow the tale rather than interrupt the story. The clean cello soundtrack adds to the ambience so that you’re invested in Florence and her story. It’s not a groundbreaking story (girl meets boy, mild relationship drama, girl finds happiness), but it’s a groundbreaking experience.

And it’s not by fluke. The behind the scenes story Apple posted told just how much work went into making this app the wonder that it is.

“The story of making Florence was one of discovery. For each moment in the relationship we wanted to portray, we often had to try many different images and interactions before we found the right combination that would evoke the right feeling in the player. These would range from art style tests to storyboards, to fully functional levels that for one reason or another, were cut from the final experience.”

It’s not a long story, really, so you can get through it in one or two sittings depending how long you stop and survey your surroundings, but it’s worth every moment. I’ve played it through once and even though I now know what happens, I can see myself playing it again.

Well, I’ve got to have something to do between now and next year’s Design Awards, haven’t I?