On Monday afternoon, June 4, Apple handed out its annual Apple Design Awards onstage at its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose. The awards, now in their 21st year, are meant to highlight those apps that set a benchmark for high-quality design, taking into consideration things like the user interface and user experience, originality and other factors that represent those types of applications that Apple would like to see more of in its App Store.
Other app developers often look to the list of design award winners to get a sense of the type of apps and designs that Apple values.
This year, the award winners were an international crowd — only one winner comes from the U.S., despite the U.S. being one of Apple’s largest markets.
The American award winner was also a bit unusual — instead of being a consumer-facing app or game, it’s one built for the medical industry.
Several others showcase quality game development featuring beautiful artwork and music.
And others, still, rethink in interesting ways our standard utilities like note-taking apps, language translators and calculators.
The full list of the winners is below:
Agenda is a minimalist note-taking app for Mac and iOS that takes a unique approach of organizing notes into a timeline, giving it the ability to track the past, present and future of tasks at once. The app also includes beautifully styled notes and typography, along with well-thought-through navigational design elements, search and support for iCloud sync and Handoff.
What’s also interesting about Agenda is that its website highlights the standalone Mac app download. The Mac App Store download link is buried at the bottom of the page.
Bandimal is an adorably designed music composer for kids where animals are used in place of instruments. Kids can swipe through animals to change instruments, set up drum loops and compose melodies without knowing about notes, chords and scores.
Calzy 3 (India)
Calzy 3 is a smart, modern calculator app that adds a unique bookmarking features for saving calculations for future reference. It also integrates a host of Apple technologies in thoughtful ways, including Drag & Drop for sharing results in other apps, iMessage integration, Spotlight search for finding bookmarks, iCloud sync and Handoff.
iTranslate Converse (Austria)
While Google Translate is the best known among real-time translator apps, iTranslate Converse, downloaded some 80 million times, offers an app with a simpler design and the ability to automatically detect the correct language, even in noisy rooms. The app supports 38 languages, works offline, uses 3D Touch and works on both iPhone and Apple Watch.
On Apple Watch Series 3, you can use the app without your iPhone.
Triton Sponge (USA)
Triton Sponge, by Gauss Surgical, is an app dedicated to a very specific task — use in medical operating rooms to track blood loss, as estimated by what’s collected on surgical sponges and suction canisters. While not a consumer-facing app, Triton Sponge has a very critical and even life-saving task to manage. And it does so with the use of iOS technologies including Core Image, camera Depth Map to detect the sponges, Core ML and machine learning to perform blood loss calculations. The app also is capable of detecting duplicate sponges, even if they’re held up in front of the camera in a different orientation. Triton Sponge is FDA approved and HIPAA compliant.
Florence is an interactive graphic novel from Monument Valley designer Ken Wong of Mountains, which is sort of a half game/half comic that tells a story of love and relationships. Players/readers follow along as Florence and Krish meet, date, fall in love and move in together. It showcases hand-drawn art and original music, while it shows you what it’s like to go through life as Florence as she experiences her first love.
Playdead’s INSIDE (Denmark)
This multi-award winning puzzle-adventure platformer from the team behind Limbo includes gorgeous art and animation, but with a darker and even frightening tone. You play as an unnamed boy exploring a monochromatic, scary world, solving puzzles along the way. The (creepy) sound design also stands out, and works well to immerse players in the world when wearing their headphones. The app works across iPhone, iPad and Apple TV and has 10,000 5-star reviews on the App Store.
Alto’s Odyssey (Canada)
Alto’s Odyssey, the follow-up to the popular Alto’s Adventure, brings a similar magic, but instead has players on an endless sandboarding journey instead of skiing. The game takes advantage of 3D Touch and haptics, as well as Metal optimized artwork and design, and other immersive soundtrack, like its predecessor.
This free-form puzzle game has players drawing paths to guide the flocking spirits to their home planets. It’s both beautiful and — thanks to its soundtrack — calming. Frost uses Metal technology to create its smooth animations, and takes advantage of other technologies like multi-touch. This is the second win for the team, which previously won for their game Blek.
Oddmar, four years in the making, is a hand-drawn Viking-themed side-scroller that looks almost like it could be a film instead of game. The story focuses on Oddmar, the main character, trying to redeem himself and be worthy of a place in Valhalla. The game is optimized for touch controls, supports game controllers, takes advantage of Metal and includes a soundtrack influenced by traditional Swedish music that was actually recorded in small studio in Sweden.
All the winners receive a solid aluminum trophy (pictured above) that lights up and a treasure trove of Apple swag, including a tricked out iMac Pro, iPad Pro, iPhone X, AirPods, MacBook Pro 15″ and exposure on the Apple iOS App Store.
You can watch a replay of the winners here.