A while back I wrote a post about how I was dealing with the stacks of artwork that my daughter is constantly creating. My suggestion was basically digitizing it all — either by scanning, photographing or filming — and collecting it all in one place (iPhoto in my case). Just after I wrote that post, DIY.org was launched, offering a dedicated app and online storage for photos of the kids’ masterpieces. I loved the sense of freedom of DIY offered and how it’s built a real community of like minded makers around the world, all sharing and congratulating each other on their work.
Artkive is a new app from a geeky dad named Jedd Gold, which performs a similar task but in a very different way. Jedd was inspired to build the app and start the Kive Company by his two daughters who, like mine, produced a “never-ending amount of artwork … and we’d feel guilty about throwing it away.” Like DIY, the app is simple to use and signing up is a painless process. Once you’re in, you add one or more children into the app and tell it what grade they’re in at school, then you’re ready to upload the art. You can snap a photo directly or use one in from your iPhone’s library. When you’re happy with the image you can assign it to a child, give it a title and add some comments. By default it will add today’s date but you can override it if you want or set it to blank. When you’re done, the app will upload the image and text to the cloud.
One aspect where Artkive differs massively from DIY is in sharing. DIY shares with the world automatically and is aimed primarily at the kids using the app directly. Artkive lets you set up ‘Sharing Circles’, where you manually add people that you want to be sent an email when there’s new art to see, and the emphasis here is very much that it’s the adult using the app, controlling who sees what. I find it a bit strange then that Artkive has gone for the ‘kid-friendly’ scribbly-crayons-and-torn-paper design style, whereas DIY is very clean and minimal. Two different approaches, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
The Artkive app displays a simple gallery of all the artwork stored in it. From here you can view each picture and edit its info. Curiously there’s no way to view the images full screen, but you can swipe between each one easily. The ‘Share’ button is visible everywhere and tapping it from the gallery page (sortable by child and grade) sends a basic email with a link to the same gallery on the Artkive website – where you can see the images in a slideshow and download them at their full resolution. This isn’t a public facing site though – only those with the link can see it.
That’s pretty much it at the moment: a simple service, nicely executed. One thing I feel the app is missing (and this goes for DIY too) is some basic image editing capabilities. It wouldn’t need much — just rotation, cropping and some levels/saturation/brightness adjustments could really improve the process of using the app. I know with iOS 5 you can do some of these directly from the built in Photos app, and there are plenty of other apps that can do it too, but to be able to do it all in one go would really speed up the process.
I think they’ll have to add something along these lines if they want their planned update to be successful. In the next release they’ll be adding a print service, similar to cafepress.com, allowing you to order your children’s masterpieces printed onto mugs, mousepads (anyone still need one of those?), T-shirts and, most importantly, books. That last one is where I can see this really taking off: being able to condense stacks of pictures of all sizes down into a standard sized hardback coffee-table book gives you the best of both worlds: your house is clear of the (hate to use this word but) clutter and you still have something tangible to hold in your hands and flick through, with the added advantage of just being able to order another one if it gets lost or worn out.
Artkive is available for free now from the Apple App Store