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Behind the app: Scriblist for iPhone draws on a marital muse

July 19, 2012|By Michelle Maltais

What do you do when your wife just won't use her iPhone? Why, you call up your childhood pal and build her an app, of course. Thus, Scriblist was born.

"We made the app because our wives don't want to use the iPhones as much as we do," said app designer Blade Olson in a Skype interview with The Times. Olson, in San Francisco, said that he and his best friend since age 3 in Chicago conspired through code to help their analog beloveds become more fond of the iPhone.

Scriblist for iOS started as a grocery list app. "That was one of the things that they both still use paper lists for," Olson said. So they said, "Hey, we should make something for them that they're going to want to use it."

The 99-cent app lets you snap a shot of something, like your shopping list, and sketch on it. You can either strike through items on that list, add to it or go a completely different direction.

Just as grocery shopping with or without a list can sometimes go off on a tangent, so did the direction of this app. When Olson was testing it out by sharing a picture of himself instead of a list that he drew on, the app took on a totally different life. 

Soon the app began to straddle two very disparate purposes -- grocery lists and social sharing.

The app is set up to let you snap a shot of something written -- or pull up a shot from your camera roll -- and let you sketch on it then share a photo through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or email.

"Originally, it was just to make a shopping list app," Olson said. But he and his wife often exchange visual honey-do lists with items circled.

As if offering your wife an app as a kind of digital bouquet of flowers weren't darling enough, Olsen explained that he once used it to sweetly surprise his wife with a get-well sentiment when she was sick. She's fond of pineapple, he said. While on a shopping excursion, he shot a photo of a pineapple and decorated it with hearts and sent it off to her. Awwww.

The name Scriblist has a double meaning, he said, now with the app's dual personality: a list that you can scribble out and on and the app allows you to be come a scribble artist, or scribblist.

Shortly after its launch last week, Scriblist made the top paid apps list briefly and was featured in the "New and Noteworthy" section on the iTunes App Store.

It seems Olson's plan to boost his wife's iPhone aptitude with an app seems to have actually worked. In fact, not only is she thrilled with Scriblist, he said, she's now contributing ideas for the update.

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 Follow Michelle Maltais on Google+Facebook or Twitter

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