Graphic design alum Chris Phillips ’03 and his colleagues knew the iPad was a game-changer the moment they touched it. Here was this device that even a child could navigate with ease.

“That’s been our job, what we learned in school, to make design intuitive and approachable and easy to use,” Phillips said. “And this device did it—just like that. A 3-year-old kid knew exactly what to do.”

Three years later, the iPad has changed the lives of Phillips and his two partners at Spinlight Studio, Matt Hutton and John Turner. They morphed their Champaign-based ad agency into one of the most decorated educational app developers in the business. They pump out intuitive, high-quality and best-selling games that seamlessly fuse learning and fun.

Their best-seller to date, the math game TallyTots for iPad, is one of the top education apps in Apple’s App Store. All 10 of their apps have hit the Top 100 in their App Store category—a rare feat. They’ve also earned numerous Best App Ever titles and a Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award.

Their Geography Drive USA app has kids cross the country by answering geography questions. An in-game encyclopedia allows for research for answers so the game can continue. The app is a Top 10 education seller in the App Store, was featured on Fox News, and Spinlight’s only app to win both a Gold Parent’s Choice Award and the Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award.

“We’re not making a game for a game’s sake. We’re making games to teach children,” Turner said, a commitment made obvious by Spinlight’s sale of 15,000 apps at a discount direct to schools across the U.S.

Read more about the Spinlight crew on our STATEside blog.