Behind the App: iMagine Machine Builds Right-Brained iOS Apps


When I reviewed Faces iMake last summer, I was impressed by the app’s ability to turn digital images of everyday objects (food, office supplies, etc.) into artful, colorful collages. The app’s developer, iMagine Machine, has recently released Faces iMake ABC, which takes young users through the alphabet, emphasizing phonics. Faces iMake shares the exuberance of its predecessor, and reminds me of the clever, animated shorts that Sesame Street runs for each letter of the alphabet.

Eyal Dessou Tzafrir, iMagine Machine’s co-founder, was kind enough to share his thoughts about “slow apps,” the perils of multi-tasking, and the essential contribution of artist Hanoch Piven (author of What Presidents Are Made Of) to the Faces iMake series.

(PG): What inspired the release of Faces iMake?
(iMM): While the original Faces iMake, as an art creation tool, is an open-end game, (there is no clear goal or predefined road), in Faces iMake ABC we created a more structured experience.

(PG): You’re fond of the term “slow app.” Can you explain a bit about slow apps?
(iMM): Focus, mindfulness and concentration are the skills that all of us require. Engaging our brains fully and following through on a task over a sustained period is one of the best things we can do not only to ‘train our brains’ but to derive satisfaction from the things that we are doing. When we speak to our children we should be fully concentrating on them and we should expect their undivided attention back when they are talking to us. We should do less things well and not more things less well. We all know this – however when it comes to technology we are often doing many many things at once (ipad and watching TV, driving and talking on the phone, writing emails and listening to the radio) and many of the apps that are created for children have this frenetic, divided quality to them.

Many apps are designed to make children feel that if they don’t swipe and tap everything that they have somehow missed out on some type of reward or missed out on part of the story or game. Sometimes creating an app out of a classic story and adding a lot of ‘bells and whistles’ doesn’t enhance a story, it makes a great story distracting. As someone once said to me, ‘just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean you have to go around and smash things’. We believe strongly that we can make apps where the pace and structure of the app encourages concentration and focus. To this end we have created apps such as Faces iMake ABC where the child is in complete control and directs the activity without any interruption.

(PG): How did the success of Faces iMake lead to the release of Faces iMake ABC?
(iMM): Faces iMake is an ‘open game’ app. There is no clear path. It is a creation tool and each user takes it to another place. While we love that it is like that we are also aware that sometimes, users (specially parents looking for apps for their young children) are looking for something more directed and focused. Thus we gave ourselves a mission to create an app which would be different than Faces iMake in that aspect. Faces iMake ABC is like a little guided and fun tour through Hanoch Piven’s universe of creativity. The tour is interactive and an added bonus is that while being entertained by this creative art, the kid also familiarizes herself with the alphabet.

(PG): Was Hanoch Piven involved in Faces iMake ABC?
(iMM): Of course. The App is driven by 26 original illustrations created by Hanoch specially for the app. Hanoch was involved in every aspect of the development from Art Directing the Design to doing the voice over. The decision to have Hanoch do the voice over was due to our belief that the App should reflect Hanoch’s quirkiness, warmth and special sense of humor.

(PG): Has the Faces iMake app series been as profitable as you had hoped?
(iMM): It is profitable. What I hoped for? not exactly, but we realize that it’s a process and we are working all the time in looking into how to make a difference in the world with our apps, stick to our principles and values and make money while doing so.

(PG): Who are your favorite iOS app developers?
DuckDuckMoose for their design and unique road
TocaBoca for bringing something new to the store that has an impact on other developers
Pierre Able – the first to bring Montessori ideas to the app store
Dan Russell-Pinson for making innovative educational apps
Spinlight Studio -for making beautiful and imaginative apps

(PG): Has the release of the iPad mini presented any challenges or opportunities?
(iMM): Not really. Our apps work great on the iPad mini.

(PG): Do you have any other projects in the works that you would like to tell us about?
(iMM):  We are working on expanding the Faces iMake family of apps into more structured gameplay without loosing the freedom, a game is in the works that gears towards the older crowed in the family, more books in the Worrywoo series. Joint ventures with known brands, and the rest is not known even for us.

Now it’s time for the speed round. It’s easy, just tell me which term you prefer:

Lightning or 30-pin? lightning

Jobs or Cook? Jobs

Facebook or Twitter? Facebook

iPad or iPhone? iPad for play and experience and iPhone for day2day

Wi-Fi or cellular? cellular

Print or digital? both

Work or sleep? work

Pie or Cake? Neither – I’m vegan

Somebody get Eyal a vegan dessert, stat! Snag a copy of Faces iMake ABC while it’s on sale for just $0.99!

About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite

  • iMagine Machine™

    Thank you Emily for this great interview and for the opportunity to present what we do and what we are trying to do