iPad…meet America’s Pastime

By Joshua Mikutis

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Design wunderkind Steve Varga has struck App gold with his recent release, Pennant. Created as part of his thesis project for the MFA Design and Technology Program at Parsons the New School for Design, Pennant provides an unparalleled way of examining baseball statistics. Yes, yes, I understand that such an idea might not have instant appeal for all readers. But I beg you to read on, because even those who are not enraptured by the sheer wealth of information will fall in love with its astonishing design.

Varga has taken every MLB team’s complete history (including extinct teams, ranging from the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers to the most likely forgotten Seattle Pilots) and made it available through this prodigious App. Pennant is an inexhaustible resource that provides equal doses of information and entertainment.

You start by selecting a team. Pennant presents three different layouts—scrollable team names arranged as baseball cards, team names laid out in an elegant landscape, and team names strewn across a map of the US (the Blue Jays and Expos lounge in uncharted territory). From here, you select a team. We’ll go with my hometown Cincinnati Reds. Pennant then presents you with three ways of examining each individual season: one view provides you with the record that season, another a circular graphic about hitting and pitching statistics, and the last a table listing the same statistics. If I pick the 1995 season, I find that the Reds had an 85-59 record, 161 home runs, and 38 saves.

But Pennant’s abundance of information truly reveals itself when you tap on the individual season. Pennant provides a record of every single game played. A small bar graph at the bottom provides a visual idea of how many games were won or lost—patterns start to emerge and you can see where the Reds had particularly strong stretches and weaker ones as well. By dragging your finger along the bar graph, horizontal cards shift across the screen and show the result of each game.

Part of the astonishment experienced through Pennant is that you feel sufficiently impressed by each step, but it becomes clear that each next step has much more to offer. Tapping on an individual card brings up all the details of the game. Pennant displays a circular graph that reveals the result of each at bat, and a roster for each team. When you hold down the name of a player, their glories and failures light up in the graph.

So much of Pennant must be experience to be truly understood. I explained the App to a baseball fanatic friend who seemed unenthused; it was only after hanging up the phone that I realized that I had neglected to explain the visual details and manipulability of Pennant. Pennant’s colorful and stimulating display highlights a new way for information to be displayed—and the iPad’s versatility is the ideal medium for sifting through statistics. Varga’s work opens the possibilities.

Imagine a similar App that would exhibit Presidential elections similarly and how the electoral college would then be brought alive for high school history students. Pennant not only changes the playing field for looking at baseball statistics but also alters the possibilities for how information is presented. Varga has created something unique that ideally will challenge other developers to design similarly engrossing and edifying Apps.

Pennate is available for $4.99 in the app store.

About Joshua Mikutis
Josh is an avid reader and a mediocre musician. He appreciates the iPad's ability to make him look both productive and interesting.

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