This Is Not an App (iOS)

December 11th, 2012 by


Progress: More or less completed all 50 pages

An author and illustrator named Keri Smith has put out a successful series of books including Wreck This Journal and This Is Not a Book in which many of the pages are largely blank and the reader is encouraged to do different creative things on each page.  Attempting to harness the creative potential of iOS devices, Penguin Group has released app versions based on these books and we were given the opportunity to put This Is Not an App through its paces.  Does the app open up a creative wonderland on your iOS device or is it just one of the many apps out there of questionable merit?  Read on to find out if we think it really is an app in spite of its claims to the contrary.

While having a mostly blank journal to encourage people (particularly kids) to use their imaginations and draw fancy things is a fairly novel idea, I had no idea about what to expect from an app built around the same principles.  I’ll start off by describing the app in general before I get to my opinions of it.

The app presents you with 50 “different” (I’ll explain the quotation marks in a second) pages that ask you to do anything from drawing something, to cataloguing something, to taking pictures of certain things, to recording your voice… and that’s it.  You are given several different tools, but no tutorial on how to use them, so I didn’t even know you could scroll the tool bar at the bottom until I saw it in different positions in screenshots of the app.  The tools themselves are varied enough, including three different drawing tools, a text tool, a picture taking tool, a photo library tool, and copy/paste tools, but there are also ones that are mostly pointless that I didn’t even use other than to find out what they did including a smudge tool, a “make a fake crack” tool, and paint drip tool.


I had a modicum of fun with some of the pages, like the one pictured above where I included pictures from the photo library on my phone of (from left to right) a donut, a cat, a book on Identifying Wood, a sleeping beagle, and myself wearing headphones to represent the senses of taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing respectively. Or this one where I purposely misinterpreted the word “movement”:

I found probably about 30% of the pages to just be so sappy or annoying that I didn’t bother doing them, like the page below:


The reason I put quotation marks around the word “different” when I was describing This Is Not an App‘s 50 pages is that many of the pages are very similar to one another bringing the count of totally original pages in the app down closer to 40 or less.  For example: there are three pages that ask you to get someone else to draw something nondescript on the page, two pages that more or less just instruct you to email them to someone, and a single page that instructs you to do nothing to it.

You could say that the reason I didn’t enjoy the app is that I’m not creative enough (sure, I only design original websites, graphics, and write articles for a living), but I never felt terribly engaged by the app.  Where selling a mostly blank book with creative ideas on the pages is a pretty cool idea, the concept does not transfer well into the app world at all.  What you get, even if you do humour the inane requests on every single page, is a glorified drawing tool app that provides the same or less amount of enjoyment that a truly creative person could get from a free app like Paper or Sketchbook Express.  I can’t recommend this app for anyone at it’s current $4.99 price when there are an almost infinite number of cheaper or free apps that can do the same or better job of encouraging creativity.


  • This Is Not an App is hard to navigate, as no directions are given on how to use its numerous tools
  • There are small moments of fun to be had, but you could probably come up with similar things to do on your own
  • For $4.99 you get less than 50 original, mostly blank pages that most people would quickly blow through
  • Many of This Is Not an App‘s features can be better enjoyed through apps that are cheaper or free.

Rated 4.9

(out of 10.0 — see our review system outline here)

A review copy of this app was provided to us by its publisher.