For this installment of DDIR2, we spoke to Chris Shomo, owner of Infinity Watchfaces, about designing fun and exciting animated watch faces.
How did you first get into developing watch faces?
After I got my first smartwatch in early 2016 – the Gear S2 – I quickly became bored with the watch faces available. I did some research on how to create my own and found that the Gear Watch Designer (GWD) just came out. At first, I had no plans to share my watch faces, but I decided to put a few on Galaxy Apps to test the market. I made $17 the first day on two watch faces, so I thought to myself, ‘What if I had 200 watch faces?’ Fast forward a few years and I now have around 230 watch faces on Galaxy Apps. It has been interesting to watch the growth. The first four were really simple: Gear Spin, Yin Yang Face, Heart Spin, and Clover Spin. But I developed my skills exponentially, leading to the creation of more advanced watch faces.
How do you differentiate your designs from others in the space?
You never know what to expect from Infinity Watchfaces, except that it will be fun, wild, most likely animated, and made to grab attention. Our slogan is: “Be Unique Every Hour, Minute & Second,” and this is true to our designs and how I want customers to feel when they wear the highly customizable watch faces. On one watch face, I might have dragons breathing fire behind a digital clock and then on the next watch face I’ll have unicorns tooting rainbows. Smartwatches are not like regular watches. We have gorgeous screens to display almost anything we want. So, it’s okay to be a little crazy.
What are the biggest technical/design hurdles you clear when designing a watch face?
There is a sea of watch faces now. There are thousands to compete with, and many quality designs. Trying to overcome this with marketing takes continual effort – it’s fun, but the struggle is real. Another constant challenge is consistently improving design techniques. Every watch face I publish must have a new and exciting twist to it. This includes refining my skills in design software like Photoshop to get more realistic or exciting-looking components to import into GWD. The GWD team constantly listens to feedback from designers and works hard to make improvements and enhancements to the software.
How do you go about solving everyday challenges?
You have to think outside the box when designing a watch face. Sometimes, if certain things are not available in the design tool they can be simulated, like a button that controls a style change. With some creative thinking, you can make a button (clickable area) that looks like it is changing the background style. You can also ask other designers what tools they’re using to push their designs to the next level. Most fellow designers are usually more than happy to help. Finally, I like to work collaboratively with Samsung and report any possible bugs right away after troubleshooting. Samsung has a support team that helps with all the technical issues.
What does your planning process look like?
The first part is coming up with the idea and sketching. Once a general direction is landed on, I usually start in Adobe Illustrator to make the base shapes. Then, I bring the shapes into Photoshop to add textures and make shadow layers. After the components are created, I import them into GWD to bring them to life. For animated watch faces, I’ll typically use Adobe After Effects and Premiere.
Where do you draw design inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from everywhere – the environment around me, the shape of a sign, or even a simple flower can spark an idea for a watch face. Also, customers, friends and family will always have an idea for the next design. It is fun to listen to what people want and find ways to make them a reality.
From a design perspective, what is the most important UX consideration you need to consider?
The basic components/core features on top selling faces are time (digital, analog or hybrid), date, battery level, step count and heart rate. Other additions, like moon phase, stairs and distance are nice bonuses, but the first ones I mentioned are the most important. Legibility is also a key factor, especially when designing hybrid faces with both digital clocks and watch hands. A watch face needs to stand out, offering a unique visual experience for the wearer. Technical or creative, realistic or big and bold, just be different with style.
Can you tell us about your top performing watch faces and what made them so successful?
First it was Digi-Glow, which remained a top seller for over a year. Then interestingly, the sequel: Digi-Glow SPARK became my top seller. Both are hybrid digital/analog watch faces and have really fun animations with large glowing hands and matching Always On Display (AOD). Another face that needs mentioning is Night Crusader. This one rose into the top five for months, generating thousands in sales.
Do you have any advice in terms of both marketing a watch face and monetizing it?
My best advice for marketing watch faces:
- Get involved with the watch face community. Of course, it is extremely important to create a beautiful website to showcase your designs, but make sure you join and share your work on Facebook groups and Instagram. Shouting out about your watch face company will help you gain followers.
- Create some well-designed free watch faces. This is great for brand awareness and you can advertise your paid watch faces in some of the thumbnail images on Galaxy Apps. For example, the original Digi-Glow became free a week ago. As of writing this, it is #17 in the Top Free Interactive section and climbing, with hundreds of downloads a day.
- Use the Galaxy Badge program (learn more here) and make short links to your watch faces. Using a badge/link really ups the level of professionalism and allows you to track where some of your watch face traffic is coming from.
- Contact a YouTube watch face reviewer like Andrew with Jibber Jab Reviews. He is awesome to work with and cares about watch face designers and helping them succeed.
Are there emerging technologies that you’re keeping your eye on?
I’m interested in future implementations, like the use of 3D design. I also like exploring how to implement games onto Gear in ways that haven’t been done before. The think-tank is flowing at Infinity Watchfaces and this is only the beginning in app design for wearables.
You’ve recently been approved for the Samsung Themes Designer tool. How does expanding into themes design complement your business? Is there a natural synergy between designing watch faces and designing themes?
I’m very excited about creating Themes and matching them to my watch face designs. The software is easy to use and my first Themes will be sent in for review soon. I’m looking forward to seeing how it will affect watch face downloads.
Finally, is there a feature you feel all great watch faces have in common?
The best watch faces set themselves apart through excellent design and having the base core features I mentioned earlier. The software is open to everyone, but talent is the key component for designing unique watch faces that people fall in love with. When you look at the top designers out there, each has their own unique style. They all understand the formula for creating beautiful, top-selling watch faces, from design to marketing.
Thanks to Chris for sharing his thoughts with us. Make sure to like us on Facebook so you don’t miss any of the great interviews we’ll be posting in the coming weeks. We’re excited to see how these top designers are doing it right!