Skate Innovator Shifts Design Savvy to App Arena

LOS ANGELES—A design innovator with decades of experience doing everything from engineering to branding in the action sports market has shifted his talents from the tangible realm of skateboards and streetwear to the virtual arena of mobile entertainment apps.

Donald Cassel, the inventor of the Grind King skateboard truck, which set new standards for ingenuity and quality in the skate world, has launched or co-launched a flurry of hot brands, including big names like Von Dutch, Termite, Dogtown licensed products, and Haz-mat. His latest project: a mobile app development house that combines technical innovation with zeitgeist savvy to develop iPhone apps with an underground ethos and mass appeal.

Cassel explains that it’s not as big a stretch as it sounds. “We’re taking our skills developing brands in streetwear and action sports, where it’s all about novelty, humor, and style, and we’re going digital. It’s faster, cleaner, and just as much fun.”

Cassel’s fledgling company, Venus Fly Apps, has just released a new entry in the iTunes store. “MUGSHOT MAKER” lets users take a walk on the wild side or poke fun at their friends’ foibles after a notorious night on the town, turning any snapshot into a sordid police booking photo that looks ripped-from-the-headlines of a newspaper or celebrity scandal website.

Not only does the app add a police-station background and a gritty black-and-white look to users’ photos, it also includes an official-looking title card for the alleged crime (either a customized offense or one chosen from a random list of 19, including everything from “Skateboarding” to “Public Intoxication” or the unforgivable “Farting in a Restaurant.”)

Mugshot Maker also features a fairly sophisticated interface for an entertainment app. Users can erase the background from their original photos using an “offset cursor” that keeps fingers from obscuring the touchscreen. And like many of the entertainment apps fueled by buzz and novelty, Mugshot Maker takes advantage of social networking, letting users instantly share their jailbird photos, either around the barstool or on their Facebook wall.

Venus Fly Apps is counting on the viral buzz factor to build sales, letting users download the app from the iTunes store and try it at half price for the first few days. “Everyone’s got at least one photo that deserves the Mugshots treatment. So we’re letting folks try it and share their mugshots with the world at a discounted price,” says Cassel.

Early adopters already include notorious skateboarding badboy Jay Adams, who posted his mugshot to his Facebook fanpage. His crime? “Being Sober.”

Venus Fly Apps launch their next app in April, promising to keep the rowdy rebel vibe going with a sexy interactive app called “SKIRT.”

Mugshot Maker iTunes download:
Mugshot Maker walkthrough video:
Mugshot Maker tutorial:

Additional information about Venus Fly can be found at

Articles/Interviews on Donald Cassel include:

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