Georg Petschnigg: Rebranding Pen And Paper For The Digital Age [PSFK 2013]

Georg Petschnigg: Rebranding Pen And Paper For The Digital Age [PSFK 2013]

Founder of fiftythree and creator of the Paper app discusses his experiences developing Apple's 2012 App of the Year.

Betsy Mead
  • 12 april 2013

As part of the run-up to PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 in New York this April, PSFK will be publishing a series of short interviews with speakers to give a taste of what will be discussed in this meeting of creative minds. Georg Petschnigg, co-founder of FiftyThree and creator of the highly successful Paper by FiftyThree app, will be giving an update on its development and success. He chatted with PSFK about what has been achieved so far, including a collaboration with WWD, and what it feels like to have made Apple’s 2012 App of the Year.

How was the idea for Paper born?

We created our company, FiftyThree, to build tools for mobile creation. We had our first ‘Aha!’ moment in 2011. Even though we were deep technologists, we would always begin by developing ideas with pen and paper, physical pen and paper, which is strange since it was 2011.  We thought, if you want to change how people create in the digital age, you need to recognize that they are still using pen and paper. The medium had not yet been retooled for mobile creation, so that’s what we set out to do.

Paper has found huge success–it was named App of the Year by the Apple in 2012. Why do you think it has gained so much traction?

It communicates ideas digitally through sketches, illustrations, and diagrams which is incredibly powerful. This is how the vast majority of people understand information. The vast majority of people understand concepts and ideas visually. An application like Paper addresses people’s need to express things easily and beautifully.

You had a very successful collaboration with Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) during New York Fashion Week. How did this come about?

WWD initially contacted us to increase its digital profile at its annual CEO summit, and we had proposed the idea of live sketching talks from industry titans such as Mickey Drexler, Ron Johnson, Marc Jacobs and Karl Lagerfeld. Through the drawings we were able to connect with the audience in a new way.

WWD found it fascinating that you could capture the essence of an idea using a sketch and realized this approach could be applied to Fashion Week. The publication asked us to help capture the ideas behind some of the collections at NYFW. It was a return to their roots, as WWD used to feature a lot of fashion sketches, and we ended up finding a fresh, contemporary approach to depicting runway shows.

What’s next for Paper?

Paper has been downloaded over 7 million times from the App Store, and we will continue to evolve the product. We think people are their best when they create. Everyone is creative, and it’s a great tool for people to capture their ideas. But ideas have to go places to have impact. They need to come together, so we have been working on a way for people to collaborate.

We first presented at PSFK on the day we launched, so PSFK has been part of our journey from the beginning. We are very much looking forward to giving everyone an update in April.

Thanks Georg! 

FiftyThree // Paper

To learn more about PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, click here, and to watch the live stream go to, where the action will be live until 5:30pm EST.


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