The Leo Collection

I was wrong about stickers.

Sitting in a hotel room, watching the WWDC keynote address with some friends this past June, Curtis Herbert commented that “Stickers will be huge” no matter how much developers make fun of the whole concept. I remember thinking, of course they would be. It didn’t even occur to me to make fun of the concept. There was no question stickers would be immensely popular. But there was no way I was going to use them.

I’m the guy who doesn’t even use emoji. What chance was there that I’d want to do the sticker thing?

Shortly after the announcement, I started drawing some guitars and basses in Illustrator. I’ve always enjoyed drawing musical instruments, and guitars in particular. They are beautiful objects, and they are relatively easy to draw, if you are comfortable with a bezier tool.

Olympic White J Bass. Part of the Leo Collection

Olympic White J Bass. Part of the Leo Collection

Once I got a few made, I thought, heck, why not do a whole set and release them as a sticker pack? I still wasn’t going to use them, but I’m sure other people would like to.

After all, stickers are one type of app where I have a serious advantage over most of my developer friends. While I may not be nearly as crafty with code, I can draw in Illustrator.

So I spent some spare time throughout the summer building out various guitar models.[1] It was a blast. I figured I could get a set done by late summer when iOS 10 would be released. I didn’t even bother opening Xcode, as I had watched the presentation on setting up a sticker pack, and I knew that part would be a one-day project, at most. Even if I chose to add some interaction elements.

And indeed it was. Creating an iMessage app could not be easier from a developer’s perspective. Of course, you need original artwork. So that’s where I spent the bulk of my time.

Sunburst paint jobs took some time to master

Sunburst paint jobs took some time to master

All the while, I kept thinking these stickers would be cool for others, but that I’d probably never use them myself.

Then a short while back I got a message from John Voorhees over at MacStories. He had been paying attention to my progress on the sticker pack and wanted to know if there were a beta available on TestFlight.[2] Beta? That hadn’t even occurred to me.

When a journalist asks to give your next product a test drive, you say YES. So I finished up the sticker images, watched the demo again from WWDC to review how custom interactions were done, (because I wanted to add the option to make the instruments left-handed) then built the iMessage extension in a few hours. I tossed a build up on TestFlight and invited some people to join.

The response was great. A lot of people seemed interested in trying out the stickers. Great. I fired up my phone and started playing around with the stickers myself. As I sent them to myself and to the people on my beta, something clicked. This was pretty cool. I could actually see myself using stickers in my iMessages.

Holy crap. I actually understand the appeal of something popular.

I can’t wait to see some of the other packs of stickers people have built. I have a feeling I will become a collector. And I want to make more stickers soon. I’ve done a set for Curtis’ Slopes app, and I hope to do a lot more for clients.

Image from the Slopes sticker pack

Image from the Slopes sticker pack

Contact me if you are interested in getting a set made. The fact that sticker packs send links to people when they don’t have your pack installed is bound to make stickers an incredible catalyst for word-of-mouth downloads.

Meanwhile, The Leo Collection is available to buy now. I encourage you to check it out.


  1. Though the drawings are all inspired by specific makes and models of real-world guitars, I’m very careful not to try to associate my drawings with the manufacturer of those instruments. These are simply a collection of drawings. Not an official pack, or an endorsement of any kind.  ↩

  2. ProTip: always be marketing. While I was drawing guitars, I’d occasionally share one or two via Twitter. Part of it was I was proud of my little drawings and wanted to show them to my musician friends. But part of it was about gauging interest in a potential new product. If I hadn’t been talking about this process publicly long before I even had a product to sell, I likely would not have gotten the attention of someone in the press.  ↩