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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on August 3rd, 2011, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 12, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 12, Issue 22

Art and apps

Artistic skills aren't required when it comes to creating an app�

By SHELLY CONE

On the surface, art and computer coding don’t seem to be skills that go hand in hand. However, as software continues to evolve, programmers are learning that having an artistic side is the peanut butter to the chocolate of computer coding skills. The two seem to go together with amazing results—and that’s especially true when it comes to creating apps.


Early adopters:
Apps for younger children and toddlers, such as First Words, often feature lots of color, familiar animals, and lots of repetition.
IMAGES COURTESY FRED VENTURA

Apps, short for “applications,” are mini software programs that usually have one main function. They’re for use on devices like Smartphones or iPads. They can be helpful (directing users to nearby restaurants, for example), educational (feel like learning a new language?), or downright trivial (one app gives you a “bro-stache,” an animated mustache).

Fred Ventura of Arroyo Grande just so happens to possess creative artistic ability coupled with the coding ability of someone who spends hours in a cubicle. He’s an accomplished artist and owner of an educational systems company. And he’s got a coding background.

Though he learned a new coding language to create apps, that move was a natural evolution from the skills he uses to create the products he currently offers.


Brain power:
Mind Tweak is a more advanced app that challenges players to think in more special terms.
IMAGES COURTESY FRED VENTURA

“I’ve been designing software since the early days of Apple II,” he said. “But the app phenomenon is really interesting, because it’s a different way of distributing software and it does one thing specifically well.”

He compared the simplicity of an app function to multiple functions other software offers. He explained that, for a while, software was getting bigger and bigger and offering ever-increasing features.

Ventura produces a collection of eye-pleasing educational apps, such as Puzzle Logic, which challenges the user to find the sum of numbers in a variety of configurations, moving the numbers around so each piece in a particular configuration equals the same sum. Plexers arranges words into unusual groups, and users have to guess the meaning. For instance, the answer to a plexer that says toukeepch would be “keep in touch.” Ventura’s very first app and still his biggest seller is Alphabet Animals, made for children still learning their letters.

Ventura said he recently had the chance to watch one of his apps in action. During a 4th of July celebration, he saw a toddler sitting on his friend’s lap playing Alphabet Animals.


Count on in!
Puzzle Logic is a math game that challenges players to look at numbers in a new way.
IMAGES COURTESY FRED VENTURA

“Even with all the fireworks and everything going on around here, she was sitting there into playing with that app,” he said.

For Ventura, creating an app typically takes a couple of months before he sends it to Apple for listing approval. Most of his apps have gone through without a hitch—except for one: “iPad has a thing that if it can rotate, if it makes sense for the app to rotate, it has to rotate. So I had to go back and figure out the rotation for it.”

He said that app distribution is a lot easier than creating typical software. It used to be that software was distributed from warehouses, he explained, and a software creator would have to find the right channels for distribution. With apps, there’s no question: They all go through Apple.

Ventura does most of the graphics and coding work on his apps and the apps he’s contracted to create for others. He said most of the apps he creates for his own company tend to be education oriented for children and adults.

venturaes.com/ipadapps. - IMAGES COURTESY FRED VENTURA">
The download down low
Find Fred Ventura’s apps on iTunes or venturaes.com/ipadapps.
IMAGES COURTESY FRED VENTURA

Frank Smith, a local real estate salesperson, recently approached him to create an app based on the popular road trip game Slug Bug, Ventura said. Smith had just traveled across the country with his family and thought the app would be perfect for kids traveling in the backseat.

Smith drafted a concept and coordinated with Ventura to produce the app.

“It was pretty much your typical story of someone drawing an idea on the back of a napkin and then having it come to life,” Ventura said.

The app will feature graphics of Beetles and actual road scenes. Players can get points for spotting Beetles on the roadways. It even includes music Smith and his family created with a music-creation software program on their computer.

Ventura said the simplicity of making apps has brought the act of creating software to the general public.

“It really shows that anyone can create an app—even if they don’t know where to begin, as long as they have an idea,” Ventura said.

Arts Editor Shelly Cone is working on an app that can translate teen speak. Contact her at scone@santamariasun.com.










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