miércoles, 29 de febrero de 2012

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Optimizing Textured Artwork for PNG Export
Feb 21st 2012, 16:39

Saving images out in PNG format is nothing new for web designers, but when working with textured artwork it's often tempting to simply save everything out as a PNG-24. While the output looks great, file size can be a real issue. I show you how I often make the call between PNG-24 and PNG-8 when working with textured artwork as well as a technique I use to optimize the fidelity of the design and keep file sizes at a minimum.


Optimizing Textured Artwork for PNG Export
Feb 21st 2012, 16:39

Saving images out in PNG format is nothing new for web designers, but when working with textured artwork it's often tempting to simply save everything out as a PNG-24. While the output looks great, file size can be a real issue. I show you how I often make the call between PNG-24 and PNG-8 when working with textured artwork as well as a technique I use to optimize the fidelity of the design and keep file sizes at a minimum.


Andy McMillan
Jan 16th 2012, 03:57

Let's start off getting to know you. Who are you, where are you from, and how did you get your start in design?

Well, I'm Andy. I'm from Belfast in Northern Ireland, where I run a bunch of different projects, under the name Fiction. Right now, it's responsible for Build, a week-long festival, and The Manual, a tri-annual journal, both of which have a focus around designing for the web and who we are as designers. After high school, I began studying Music Technology at university. Feeling somewhat underwhelmed with the course, but welcoming the time it afforded me, I spent my evenings building websites and learning HTML & CSS, and after two years, left the course and began freelancing as a front-end designer / developer full-time. After a few years of the standard freelance life — work, conference, repeat — I decided to start my own event. After the first year, planning and organising Build became my full-time gig, and just before the second event, I began work, along with Carolyn Wood and Jez Burrows on The Manual. We announced the first issue at the end of last year's conference, which went on to be successfully funded through Kickstarter, and the rest, as they say, is history.

When did your interest in web design begin?

I guess it goes all the way back to when I a kid, spitting out fan sites for video games from Microsoft Creative Writer 2 and throwing them up on Angelfire. (Fun fact: my first website was called "Dr. Doaks' Guide to Goldeneye," bonus points if you get the reference). As the years progressed and I grew more and more frustrated with things breaking in various WYSIWYG editors, I taught myself to write HTML and CSS by hand and continued to gain a better understanding of web standards and best practice through books, articles and tutorials in my spare time. Practically speaking, that's how I got my shit together. When I went to university, I chose to study Music Technology because I wanted to produce radio documentaries for the BBC. While I eventually grew frustrated with the course, university and pursuing a career in radio as a medium, I don't think my underlying interest in telling stories ever changed. I'm happy that I found a way to scratch that itch with my work on the web and eventually through Build and The Manual, which are both very much focused around sharing ideas, experiences, lessons, and telling stories.

Has the web as a medium satisfied your desire to tell stories and if so, how?

The web has always been about telling stories. I was only able to successfully teach myself HTML and CSS because of the vast amount of resources shared freely online. Web design is a fast-moving and complex beast, and the reason we've all been able to keep up is because we create, collaborate, and share unlike any other design discipline. As humans, we're hardwired to best share information through storytelling, and we've effectively evolved an entire industry out of telling stories. Personally, I find that utterly fascinating. Right now, I'm sharing stories through spoken word at Build and through printed word with The Manual. As someone who designed for the web for many years, I'm enjoying the more tangible nature of more traditional storytelling. Experiencing a conversation or reading a book is completely different from communicating on the web, and right now they're the right medium for both projects. I'm excited about what's happening with publishing and digital books though; it's certainly something I'd like to experiment with more in the future.

The Manual has had a fantastic start and the physical product is beautiful. Clearly you are just as passionate about the storytelling part as you are the item itself. Tell us a little about the process involved with creating each edition.

I know anytime I've talked about this before, it often surprises people just how much is going on behind the scenes at any one time. For example, right now Issue #2 has just gone on sale, the first draft articles and lessons for Issue #3 have just arrived, and we're beginning to brief our authors for Issue #4 (I'm pretty sure Carolyn Wood, the editor of The Manual, is powered by some kind of Iron Man-style fusion reactor).

Some of the process of how an issue comes together has a clear formula, but a good deal, like choosing our authors, is more organic. Carolyn and I are constantly discussing people we'd like to have involved, so we're usually a few issues ahead of ourselves with ideas for authors. Once we've invited everyone and sent out a schedule, Carolyn will work with each contributor over a number of weeks to get them to a solid first draft. While we're editing, copy-editing and proofing, Jez will begin pairing each article with the right illustrator and getting them involved in the process of producing a companion illustration. Once everything has come together, Jez will design and typeset the issue, then we'll collectively proof it before it goes to the printer, then to our distribution centre, then to your door. It's easy enough to summarize this process in a couple paragraphs, but it can't be emphasized enough just how much time, care and attention both Carolyn and Jez put into getting every element of the editorial and illustrations right. I'm extremely lucky to work with two such talented, hard-working and committed people.

Since everyone involved works remotely, how do you go about managing each piece of this process to ensure communication and production are flowing? Do you use a mixture of tools to help you all stay in sync and on track?

Oh, absolutely. Between authors and illustrators around the globe, Carolyn in Portland, Jez in San Francisco, myself in Belfast, our printer in Reykjavík, and our distribution centre in Northampton, we're not only managing a number of different people doing a number of different things, but also a number of different time-zones to boot. Fortunately, we have email and Skype to keep in touch with one another, our Basecamp account to manage incoming editorial and illustrations, and Google Docs for any real-time collaborative editing, copywriting and proofing. Carolyn will write up a calendar well in advance of each issue, so we individually understand everything we need to do to collectively stay on schedule. With so many elements involved, it sounds like a potential recipe for disaster. Fortunately, now that we're two issues deep and well into working on the third, we pretty much know what works best for everyone involved, and we're sure to build contingencies and flexibility into the process when we need to.

In addition to The Manual you have Build, which you founded and run. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for starting that, how you manage it, and how you want to grow it.

Smash cut to 2008, and I was in London with some friends for a web design conference. After the day's events, a group of us gathered for dinner, and began discussing the day's events. It was a familiar conversation by this stage — we'd all felt the same for some time — our favorite events had been getting larger, more commercialized, and, we felt, were losing their focus. We spoke of a desire for something more reflective of the community, and over the course of that evening, fueled by burgers and beer, we spoke of what such an event would look like. I left London the next day with the basic structure of Build in my head: it would be small, focused, honest, and with an emphasis on bringing people together, putting a drink in their hand, and restoring that sense of community. A few weeks later, I found myself the owner of a new domain name, with a list of prospective speakers, and a deposit paid on a small venue in Belfast. And so, Build was born.

This year was the third Build, now made up of a full week-long schedule of events — not just the conference, but a full workshop programme, a practical day, an evening of film, a beer festival, a pub quiz, meetups, parties and more. Although new events and ideas have effected and evolved Build over the last few years, those basic principles remain: keep it small, keep it focused, and keep the emphasis on community.

It seems like you spend the majority of your time these days directing designers rather than designing yourself. How has that experience been for you, especially when the projects are so personal?

Sharing something personal and letting someone else make their mark on something you care about can be pretty terrifying. But that trust ultimately begets great work. I've been very lucky in the past few years with the other designers I've had the pleasure to work with. Individuals who I may have approached out of respect or admiration for their ability have gone on to become more than contractors. They've become collaborators, co-conspirators, and good friends. Jez took the message of Build, the idea of what it was and what I wanted it to become, and made it into something visual. He took the ethos and motivation behind The Manual, and made it tangible. Kyle Meyer pieced together the website for Build, and again more recently as we work on The Manual, with a level of care and attention to detail I've rarely seen in another designer. I'm not just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best after briefing them and producing a spec. They're involved because they're just as interested in making it a success as I am. They put so much of themselves into what they produce, and they take pride in doing it right. I don't feel like I'm directing other designers when I work with these guys. We're designing together. They augment my ability, and in that, we produce great work.

Tell us about your work day. What are the hours & rituals you keep? What does your work environment look like? What kind of music do you listen to while working?

I see this question come up often in interviews, and the answers are almost always written through rose-tinted glasses. We all want to paint this ideal picture of being effective and disciplined, when a lot of the time, we're maybe not. Every day for me is different. Some days I'll start at 5am, some I'll start at midday. Some I'll wrap up by 6pm, some I'll work on 'til 3am. Working across so many time-zones, on so many different things, and additional wrestling with a body clock that's out to destroy me means that I usually don't keep regular hours. Over any given day I might be working from home, at a friend's office, a coffee shop, or simply from bed; I don't really have one place I work from either. Certainly, like most, I'm at my most productive parked in front of a sketchbook with a good cup of coffee and my headphones on. But sometimes I'll spend a whole morning answering email or taking calls, or I'll be awake at 4am at my desk eating toast and answering interview questions. I'm sure that one day soon, I'll wake up right as my alarm goes off, knock off at a not-indecent hour, learn to maintain regular sleeping patterns, keep a balanced diet and a healthy social life, but right now, my day is whatever it needs to be. Music is a constant. I spend every waking minute listening to music. Thanks to Rdio there's never a dull moment; whether I'm knee deep in my own collection, listening to friends playlists, or hopping around profiles to find something new. Right now I'm listening to mostly chillwave, shoegaze and surf-rock, but I also go through an unashamed amount of Hall & Oates and Phil Collins. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

Show us an image of the most inspiring thing you've seen this week.

Honestly? It was probably this photo of my friends Tim & Gwenny's newborn daughter, Spencer.

I couldn't be happier for them, and seeing these photos appear online also made me think. As designers, we seek most of our fulfillment through the things we make. Ultimately though, our greatest creations — what we'll really remember at the end of it all — will be what we create with others, such as friendships, relationships, families, shared lives and shared experiences. Sometimes it's easy to get tied up in the madness of it all and forget that. (Plus I'm a total sucker for baby photos.)

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us Andy!

My absolute pleasure, thank you! Big fan of your work.


Andy McMillan
Jan 16th 2012, 03:57

Let's start off getting to know you. Who are you, where are you from, and how did you get your start in design?

Well, I'm Andy. I'm from Belfast in Northern Ireland, where I run a bunch of different projects, under the name Fiction. Right now, it's responsible for Build, a week-long festival, and The Manual, a tri-annual journal, both of which have a focus around designing for the web and who we are as designers. After high school, I began studying Music Technology at university. Feeling somewhat underwhelmed with the course, but welcoming the time it afforded me, I spent my evenings building websites and learning HTML & CSS, and after two years, left the course and began freelancing as a front-end designer / developer full-time. After a few years of the standard freelance life — work, conference, repeat — I decided to start my own event. After the first year, planning and organising Build became my full-time gig, and just before the second event, I began work, along with Carolyn Wood and Jez Burrows on The Manual. We announced the first issue at the end of last year's conference, which went on to be successfully funded through Kickstarter, and the rest, as they say, is history.

When did your interest in web design begin?

I guess it goes all the way back to when I a kid, spitting out fan sites for video games from Microsoft Creative Writer 2 and throwing them up on Angelfire. (Fun fact: my first website was called "Dr. Doaks' Guide to Goldeneye," bonus points if you get the reference). As the years progressed and I grew more and more frustrated with things breaking in various WYSIWYG editors, I taught myself to write HTML and CSS by hand and continued to gain a better understanding of web standards and best practice through books, articles and tutorials in my spare time. Practically speaking, that's how I got my shit together. When I went to university, I chose to study Music Technology because I wanted to produce radio documentaries for the BBC. While I eventually grew frustrated with the course, university and pursuing a career in radio as a medium, I don't think my underlying interest in telling stories ever changed. I'm happy that I found a way to scratch that itch with my work on the web and eventually through Build and The Manual, which are both very much focused around sharing ideas, experiences, lessons, and telling stories.

Has the web as a medium satisfied your desire to tell stories and if so, how?

The web has always been about telling stories. I was only able to successfully teach myself HTML and CSS because of the vast amount of resources shared freely online. Web design is a fast-moving and complex beast, and the reason we've all been able to keep up is because we create, collaborate, and share unlike any other design discipline. As humans, we're hardwired to best share information through storytelling, and we've effectively evolved an entire industry out of telling stories. Personally, I find that utterly fascinating. Right now, I'm sharing stories through spoken word at Build and through printed word with The Manual. As someone who designed for the web for many years, I'm enjoying the more tangible nature of more traditional storytelling. Experiencing a conversation or reading a book is completely different from communicating on the web, and right now they're the right medium for both projects. I'm excited about what's happening with publishing and digital books though; it's certainly something I'd like to experiment with more in the future.

The Manual has had a fantastic start and the physical product is beautiful. Clearly you are just as passionate about the storytelling part as you are the item itself. Tell us a little about the process involved with creating each edition.

I know anytime I've talked about this before, it often surprises people just how much is going on behind the scenes at any one time. For example, right now Issue #2 has just gone on sale, the first draft articles and lessons for Issue #3 have just arrived, and we're beginning to brief our authors for Issue #4 (I'm pretty sure Carolyn Wood, the editor of The Manual, is powered by some kind of Iron Man-style fusion reactor).

Some of the process of how an issue comes together has a clear formula, but a good deal, like choosing our authors, is more organic. Carolyn and I are constantly discussing people we'd like to have involved, so we're usually a few issues ahead of ourselves with ideas for authors. Once we've invited everyone and sent out a schedule, Carolyn will work with each contributor over a number of weeks to get them to a solid first draft. While we're editing, copy-editing and proofing, Jez will begin pairing each article with the right illustrator and getting them involved in the process of producing a companion illustration. Once everything has come together, Jez will design and typeset the issue, then we'll collectively proof it before it goes to the printer, then to our distribution centre, then to your door. It's easy enough to summarize this process in a couple paragraphs, but it can't be emphasized enough just how much time, care and attention both Carolyn and Jez put into getting every element of the editorial and illustrations right. I'm extremely lucky to work with two such talented, hard-working and committed people.

Since everyone involved works remotely, how do you go about managing each piece of this process to ensure communication and production are flowing? Do you use a mixture of tools to help you all stay in sync and on track?

Oh, absolutely. Between authors and illustrators around the globe, Carolyn in Portland, Jez in San Francisco, myself in Belfast, our printer in Reykjavík, and our distribution centre in Northampton, we're not only managing a number of different people doing a number of different things, but also a number of different time-zones to boot. Fortunately, we have email and Skype to keep in touch with one another, our Basecamp account to manage incoming editorial and illustrations, and Google Docs for any real-time collaborative editing, copywriting and proofing. Carolyn will write up a calendar well in advance of each issue, so we individually understand everything we need to do to collectively stay on schedule. With so many elements involved, it sounds like a potential recipe for disaster. Fortunately, now that we're two issues deep and well into working on the third, we pretty much know what works best for everyone involved, and we're sure to build contingencies and flexibility into the process when we need to.

In addition to The Manual you have Build, which you founded and run. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for starting that, how you manage it, and how you want to grow it.

Smash cut to 2008, and I was in London with some friends for a web design conference. After the day's events, a group of us gathered for dinner, and began discussing the day's events. It was a familiar conversation by this stage — we'd all felt the same for some time — our favorite events had been getting larger, more commercialized, and, we felt, were losing their focus. We spoke of a desire for something more reflective of the community, and over the course of that evening, fueled by burgers and beer, we spoke of what such an event would look like. I left London the next day with the basic structure of Build in my head: it would be small, focused, honest, and with an emphasis on bringing people together, putting a drink in their hand, and restoring that sense of community. A few weeks later, I found myself the owner of a new domain name, with a list of prospective speakers, and a deposit paid on a small venue in Belfast. And so, Build was born.

This year was the third Build, now made up of a full week-long schedule of events — not just the conference, but a full workshop programme, a practical day, an evening of film, a beer festival, a pub quiz, meetups, parties and more. Although new events and ideas have effected and evolved Build over the last few years, those basic principles remain: keep it small, keep it focused, and keep the emphasis on community.

It seems like you spend the majority of your time these days directing designers rather than designing yourself. How has that experience been for you, especially when the projects are so personal?

Sharing something personal and letting someone else make their mark on something you care about can be pretty terrifying. But that trust ultimately begets great work. I've been very lucky in the past few years with the other designers I've had the pleasure to work with. Individuals who I may have approached out of respect or admiration for their ability have gone on to become more than contractors. They've become collaborators, co-conspirators, and good friends. Jez took the message of Build, the idea of what it was and what I wanted it to become, and made it into something visual. He took the ethos and motivation behind The Manual, and made it tangible. Kyle Meyer pieced together the website for Build, and again more recently as we work on The Manual, with a level of care and attention to detail I've rarely seen in another designer. I'm not just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best after briefing them and producing a spec. They're involved because they're just as interested in making it a success as I am. They put so much of themselves into what they produce, and they take pride in doing it right. I don't feel like I'm directing other designers when I work with these guys. We're designing together. They augment my ability, and in that, we produce great work.

Tell us about your work day. What are the hours & rituals you keep? What does your work environment look like? What kind of music do you listen to while working?

I see this question come up often in interviews, and the answers are almost always written through rose-tinted glasses. We all want to paint this ideal picture of being effective and disciplined, when a lot of the time, we're maybe not. Every day for me is different. Some days I'll start at 5am, some I'll start at midday. Some I'll wrap up by 6pm, some I'll work on 'til 3am. Working across so many time-zones, on so many different things, and additional wrestling with a body clock that's out to destroy me means that I usually don't keep regular hours. Over any given day I might be working from home, at a friend's office, a coffee shop, or simply from bed; I don't really have one place I work from either. Certainly, like most, I'm at my most productive parked in front of a sketchbook with a good cup of coffee and my headphones on. But sometimes I'll spend a whole morning answering email or taking calls, or I'll be awake at 4am at my desk eating toast and answering interview questions. I'm sure that one day soon, I'll wake up right as my alarm goes off, knock off at a not-indecent hour, learn to maintain regular sleeping patterns, keep a balanced diet and a healthy social life, but right now, my day is whatever it needs to be. Music is a constant. I spend every waking minute listening to music. Thanks to Rdio there's never a dull moment; whether I'm knee deep in my own collection, listening to friends playlists, or hopping around profiles to find something new. Right now I'm listening to mostly chillwave, shoegaze and surf-rock, but I also go through an unashamed amount of Hall & Oates and Phil Collins. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

Show us an image of the most inspiring thing you've seen this week.

Honestly? It was probably this photo of my friends Tim & Gwenny's newborn daughter, Spencer.

I couldn't be happier for them, and seeing these photos appear online also made me think. As designers, we seek most of our fulfillment through the things we make. Ultimately though, our greatest creations — what we'll really remember at the end of it all — will be what we create with others, such as friendships, relationships, families, shared lives and shared experiences. Sometimes it's easy to get tied up in the madness of it all and forget that. (Plus I'm a total sucker for baby photos.)

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us Andy!

My absolute pleasure, thank you! Big fan of your work.


Exercising the Mind
Jan 9th 2012, 08:45

Recently, I've been exploring the deeper meanings behind our work and defining who we are as designers. One of the prevalent themes I've been researching is how one "designs their mindset."

Strengthening our conscience with regular and daily exercise can serve us a well-rounded and purposeful life, comparative to running a marathon and the desirable effect it has on our bodies. We have a responsibility as designers to enable ourselves and others to construct worthwhile existences as communicators of the web. As we push our industry forward, we must make our mindsets adaptable and discipline our thoughts and ideas with tenacious ways of thinking.

Read, Write, Listen

These basic senses of the human physique are critical to our understanding of the world around us as creative individuals and can put our brain in a position of constant learning. Increasing our analytical and cogent thinking of the things we consider in our everyday occurrences, will give us the qualities to become better craftsmen of our practice. Looking beyond the obvious and narrowing in on processing deeper meanings will manifest fulfilment and essence within our work as practitioners of the web.

Reading means widening our perception and encouraging new ways of shaping the way we think. By increasing our spectrum of vision, we can create our own justifications. Some creatives believe that "design inspiration" is straight-forward; and while this sometimes is all it takes to get our minds running, inspiration is a parallel that is multi-dimensional and can exist everywhere. Inquiring new material will allow our minds to look beyond the obvious, build and relate connections and meaning in our design and help us on our journey to fruition as a designer.

Writing eloquently distinguishes and solidifies our internal thought process, making it easier to communicate these ideas verbally. Meagan Fisher's article on the importance of writing and publishing resonates with me on many levels. Ideas can be "heavy, noisy things" and if you don't learn how to cultivate them properly we can end up with cluttered mindsets, prohibiting us from performing our best. Jeffrey Zeldman also puts it nicely with this quote:

"Writing is fundamental. If you don't write, you don't know what you think."

Writing allows us to discover our ideas in a new light – exposed and vulnerable.

Listening to dialogue is critical for designers, and it is almost inevitable at times because it is easy to get sucked into the realm of social activities in front of our monitors. Intellectual conversation with other human beings is a way to digest information and study angles that would of been originally unconsidered. This sharing of stories and ideas between people mentally illustrates unions and associations within the design world and how it can multiply and blossom into new ideas; with something as simple and routine as conversation.

So what does this all mean and why is it important?

As designers, our job is to build meaningful communication and connections between people. Designers achieve experiences of emotional feeling that have a lasting effect; an experience full of purpose and meaning. Becoming more articulate will not only provide imperative prerequisites to an ever-changing industry, but it will transfer significance to all aspects of your life.

Exercising our minds and moulding the way we think will render substance to our work and explanations to why design is important in our careers, and our lives.

xheight and a New Year
Jan 3rd 2012, 23:00

Hello Two Thousand and Twelve!

xheight is back and this year I'll make sure it will be better than ever! Funny how often we make resolutions. It's either that, or quip about how arbitrary a "date" really is. A condescending laugh at those who endeavour, or an unwitting admittance of no ambition, I wonder?

For me at least, January does feel special. I don't care what anyone else thinks! This year will be my best yet. I have no plans, no targets, no deadlines — only the one vague ambition to out perform previous efforts. To be honest I don't think it'll be much of a challenge! Every month I feel proud of what I've achieved and yet I often look back and say "man, I wish I was as good then as I am now". Am I too hard on myself?

Sometimes I feel king of the world! Other times I feel wasted. It seems to relate directly to recent events. If I've done something productive I want to keep that ball rolling. If I've been lazy (even on a well deserved break) I feel like I've fallen behind life's schedule. So it would seem my answer is to never stay still and avoid complacency. Difficult for a guy who enjoys nothing more than being mindlessly sprawled across furniture. But then I've never done anything the easy way.

The arrival of a new year is a great time for reflection regardless of whether it's ever corresponded to events in your life. We generally subscribe to the calendar so that we can pinpoint moments, milestones, times of thought, and the beginnings of resolutions. Why not take on a fresh perspective alongside everyone else? I rarely start the year with a specific plan but I always endeavour to achieve more and that has always worked out just fine. Changes and achievements happen through an ambitious determination even when ideas are not immediately apparent. I just make note of them on memorable occasions like this. I don't set out for glory and don't see myself as anything special, I simply expect more from myself every year. Confirming to myself that I will overcome the challenges that arise and excel at whatever takes my interest is enough of a resolution for me.

As a designer I think this mindset is particularly important. Much of my talent and ability comes from experience and experimentation. They deliver serendipity and I can't go looking for that, but I can progress forward and stumble into it.

I have no idea how xheight came into being but it happened early last year! I'm eternally grateful to all those authors who joined me along the way and I look forward to meeting newcomers too. They make this blog a pleasure to host. Next week we have an article by 2011 .net award winning designer Janna Hagan — make sure to subscribe!

Now, what's your resolution? And don't say 1440×900 :)

Easier Parallel Lines in Photoshop
Dec 19th 2011, 15:28

Learn how to use the text tool in Photoshop to keep lines equally spaced, and easily adjustable. A great productivity tip for when you're designing navigation dividers, charts, and tables.


Easier Parallel Lines in Photoshop
Dec 19th 2011, 15:28

Learn how to use the text tool in Photoshop to keep lines equally spaced, and easily adjustable. A great productivity tip for when you're designing navigation dividers, charts, and tables.


Perspective Grid Tool in Illustrator
Dec 19th 2011, 15:24

Illustrator's powerful Perspective Grid tool let's you draw and manipulate shapes, text, groups, and symbols all in a configurabile true perspective environment. Save time and add dimension to your work.


Perspective Grid Tool in Illustrator
Dec 19th 2011, 15:24

Illustrator's powerful Perspective Grid tool let's you draw and manipulate shapes, text, groups, and symbols all in a configurabile true perspective environment. Save time and add dimension to your work.


Shaping Text in Photoshop
Nov 22nd 2011, 14:46

If you're sick of warping and distorting your text in Photoshop, or bringing type in from Illustrator, this might be the ticket.  I'll show you the way I use paths and vector shapes to take my text in Photoshop to new and terrifying* heights. This is a great companion piece to Adrian Taylor's video Shaping Textfields in Photoshop.

*Raptor sightings can be scary.


Shaping Text in Photoshop
Nov 22nd 2011, 14:46

If you're sick of warping and distorting your text in Photoshop, or bringing type in from Illustrator, this might be the ticket.  I'll show you the way I use paths and vector shapes to take my text in Photoshop to new and terrifying* heights. This is a great companion piece to Adrian Taylor's video Shaping Textfields in Photoshop.

*Raptor sightings can be scary.


Every Pixel Matters
Nov 14th 2011, 08:45

When you're starting to set your goals, you want to have it perfect right? So does everybody else.

The first time I decided to resign from the company I've work for and go freelance I imagined that the road would be easy and that I could design whatever I wanted. Well, it hasn't worked out completely as I originally planned. The freelancing path isn't always smooth. Many times in my first year I had to make myself available and dedicate time 24/7 to projects. This sounds pretty similar to what Caleb Ogden's describes in his article Learning to freelance.

It is always good to learn from other freelance designers who have had the experiences during their journey from the start to the top. From their experience you will be able to take advantage of what steps to follow as a starter or what to avoid when dealing with annoying clients. However, I often found it impossible to follow their footprints. It's not because I don't have what it takes. It's simply because I want it to be how I want it to be. Isn't it annoying sometimes, when you really set something on your mind only to find something that interferes with your journey? Just like how clients would want to dominate their visions on your designs, which of course you think is the best solution for them.

Then again, we often do whatever it takes to get to our goal. Just like what I did. For some freelancers, which in this case applies to me too, the first year is a horrible year to set everything in order.

Whether it is to schedule my time better or looking for more clients to support my finance each month, it was all a challenge for me. A few times I got myself in the situation of trading work for "work" which I will never ever do again, and neither should you once you read Trade Work is Fools Gold. Other times I wish I had the power to say no to a client. Don't get me wrong, I love to have a new client. But when it comes to long term professional relationship, I'd prefer to have a nice client who respect my work and time. When it comes to being a freelancer, it is best to have quality clients than large quantities of client. They don't have to be a well known companies, I have several start-ups which have been growing with me for over 2 years now and we have a great long term professional relationship.

If I were to put my freelancing experience into a single bitmap picture, I'd be looking back to see every small pixel of my every decisions and steps that helped me to achieve what I have today. From freelancing to a design company, just like how I want it to be.

Everything I've experienced during my first year of freelancing is what builds me as a person, a designer, and my design company today. Those pixels are the pieces you will need to build your character as a designer and the impression that clients will see of you; as someone they can trust to provide the needed solutions for their projects.

 

Custom Vector Textures in Illustrator
Nov 7th 2011, 15:34

Learn how to create complex vector textures using Illustrator's Scatter Brush Tool, Live Trace, and some good ol' pencil and paper. Say goodbye to giant texture files and the tedium of hand-shading your illustrations.


Custom Vector Textures in Illustrator
Nov 7th 2011, 15:34

Learn how to create complex vector textures using Illustrator's Scatter Brush Tool, Live Trace, and some good ol' pencil and paper. Say goodbye to giant texture files and the tedium of hand-shading your illustrations.


Nostalgia
Oct 31st 2011, 08:45

A lot of people get nostalgic when faced with the often intrusive evolution of technology.

Partly it's down to our willingness and ability to change; our adaptiveness. New things can be overwhelming, too complex to justify upgrading from the current norm. I often find myself saying "What does this solve? I don't have a problem with the old way!". Though some advances are obviously revolutionary improvements I can understand the pining for simpler times; I'm at my most relaxed when I take a break away from technology — offline.

While occasionally technological advances lose a particular charm of what they're replacing — does an email compare to a hand written letter, even if the same emotion was involved? — I think it's more often a case of remembering the grass being greener (to butcher a phrase). But then again I'm still young. I'd imagine with a few more decades under my belt I'll be quiet contempt with the status quo.

No farewell

This all brings me neatly to the digital book and its reader, of which many brands are available but for me the Kindle is synonymous with the "e-book". (I'm an Amazon-fanboy, but let's get past that, you'll understand the mention later.)

The printed word was a revolution for the human mind. The printing presses of the 1400s through to today have had an unimaginable impact on our society and their product, the book, is something so dear to our hearts. Perhaps rightly so, should we not feel nostalgic when a seismic shift in technology begins to overthrow something so impossibly special?

I've overheard many people lament the book and its adversity. The beauty of a tactile object is said to be lost in our cold, digital future. "There's something about holding a book/turning a page…" they say. I think that's hipster bullshit. Allow me to explain:

The first three definitions of "book" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary are:

  1. a: a set of written sheets of skin or paper or tablets of wood or ivory, b: a set of written, printed, or blank sheets bound together into a volume,  c: a long written or printed literary composition [...]
  2. capitalized : BIBLE
  3. something that yields knowledge or understanding

The "hipsters" get nostalgic about the first definition but if we look further — giving #2 a wide berth — we reach the true value of a book; the knowledge, the understanding. A book is a very simple product and if we extract its core essence it exists purely of written ideas and thoughts. This is why digital books are such a seamless evolution. They do not leave behind anything that is truly valuable and only improve the experience of reading. The material things people get nostalgic about are circumstantial and when you think about it, they are actually intrusive to the true value of a book:

  • The physical book is heavy and spacious, it is a burdon to carry and to keep.
  • It deteriorates overtime and takes with it the knowledge inside.
  • The act of page-turning interrupts reading due only to inherent physical limitations.

I love the idea of digital books because they maintain what is so simple and pure about reading. Yet at the same time they throw away the contraints of the previous generation and introduce new improvements. I can hold my whole library on one device. I can access and read my book on multiple devices. I can access new books without visiting a store or waiting for a delivery.

Digital books maintain and improve access to written knowledge. There's no farewell here. Nothing to get nostalgic over — at least — nothing to be concerned about.

I can't speak for everyone when I say the "old ways" are mostly sentimental nonsense but I hope you see my point. I have fond memories of libraries and book stores; secondary experiences that younger generations won't get chance to repeat, but is that their loss? I much prefer my access to digital books in today's world. The more I remember back the more I realise those fond memories rest on the final success of finding great books to read. There were probably many more forgotten experiences of "out of stock" books, missing pages and missed return dates.

Designing memories

In the season 1 finale of the TV show Mad Men (set in a 1960s advertising agency) they play on this idea of nostalgia with similar thinking (watch on YouTube). Despite being fiction the ads message brilliantly encapsulates the true value of a product. Compare and contrast to the equally brilliant business card scene from the film American Psycho (watch on YouTube) in which the yuppies demonstrate their affection for all that is superficial and ultimately meaningless.

Whatever we are designing — be it a fictional advertisement or a real world product — we should focus on the true values that often transcend their current embodiment. A business card is not an identity, merely a limited carrier of one suitable for the moment. A website is similar though arguably a lot more suited. I see books in the same light, they're containers for human thought.

There are occasions when the design of a brand does create a product that is more than a vessel for its true value. Think of the designer's favourite: the Polaroid camera. Though outdated and inferior, its brand and associated nostalgic memories thereof have created something unique. We all know photography is better on an SLR (or maybe a digital SLR) but the Polaroid created its own identity to attached these memories. It became more than a facilitator. Sony's Walkman of the 80s and 90s is another example. For me, Amazon's Kindle is showing signs of joining the ranks, though I suspect it will be replaced by newer devices long before that point.

Good design aims to promote those features and values that are timeless. Truly great design embodies them in a way that cannot be forgotten.

JR Crosby
Oct 25th 2011, 03:11

Let's start off getting to know you. Who are you, where are you from, and how did you get your start in design?

JR Crosby | designer, maker, american and I'm from the sticks. As is the case for many, my passion for design (esp 'making') was born from sheer creative curiosity and a desire to craft tangible solutions to problems... that, and a waning interest in architecture. Although I designed for money throughout college in Iowa, my survival first depended upon it as a freelancer in Chicaaago. I moved from Chicago to Austin to help build the marketing department for an education company. Next, I made the shift from in-house creative to agency-life as designer & art director for Austin-based Föda Studio. Then I moved back in-house to head up a small creative department at a young Connecticut-based company who was reinventing granola, of all things. When that company was acquired, art director Annie Mayfield and I opened up shop as Ptarmak. Incredibly, a guy named Greg Fleishman, then VP of emerging brands at Kashi, Co., let us pitch for some business. He gave us our start.

Was it a desire of yours from the start to find and run your own studio?

Yes and no, not exactly. As a youngster, I often dreamt of owning my own shop 'one day.' I talked about doing it. I came up with names and logos. But my plans had no plan whatsoever. I daydreamed in escape from any real opportunity. I 'paid my dues' to avoid risk. Like most twentysomething creatives, I was chock full of naiveté and wanderlust – driven by boundless energy to ferret out 'corporate' injustices, and passionate about my own theories (i.e. oversimplifications) on cures for the common client. Looking back, I realize those dreams were simply my own misappropriated desire for creative freedom. Owning and operating a business didn't interest me until I understood what it meant. Specifically, not until I saw the opportunity (or need) for a unique business structure… An operating model adapted to the specific needs of small and mid-sized creative shops. The idea seemed like a suitable experiment. Enter » the corporate collaborative… and the birth of what we affectionately refer to as Ptarmak, Uncorporated.

How has that experience differed from working in-house and agency-side?

This question calls for our good friends, "image" and "analogy". They always make complex answers seem succinct and insightful…

Owning your own business is like untangling, inspecting and hanging Christmas lights.

In-house management is like playing house as a kid: It's good, clean fun – part fantasy and part reality. It's potentially constructive but often constrictive, and there's usually more role playing than homemaking.

Agency work is like life as a teenager: A typically dramatic and confusing time, underlined by a silly and somewhat futile fight to be understood and validated… dotted with good times and bad decisions. Still, I'm not sure I'd change a thing.

Can you elaborate more on the term "corporate collaborative"?

I'm frequently asked whether Ptarmak is a corporation or a collaborative. The curt answer is yes. Both/and. PTMK is a 'corporate collaborative'… a term we tend to define as an incorporated group of innerpreneurs, united toward the common good. The basic concept is combining the best of corporate and collective business models and philosophies. The argument is that by applying the proper filter here you better accommodate the unique requirements of small to mid-size creative shops… assuming you can pull it off. So that's what we've tried to do. The concept is basic. Pulling it off is not. The most complex aspects of our structure are a lateral architecture and an orbital operating philosophy. Our most defining characteristic is a relentless orientation to the 'group'. Our model is founded on the simple notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It's not a maverick concept when it comes to managing people. But what's novel are the unique considerations and requirements for managing creative people.

As a founding member of Ptarmak, how do you keep up with the responsibilities of running a creative team and ensure the integrity of your work?

Creatives (and I am one of them) tend to be; anti-authoritarian, supra-sensitive, opinionated, proud (and over-protective) of their discoveries, quirky, self imposed insomniacs, observation junkies, caffeine addicts, frustrated musicians, etc. We are usually walking contradictions; detail-oriented folks who completely lack an attention span – and slaves to a routine we're emphatic about breaking. Running any creative team requires management of all THAT. And management of THAT requires a creativity of its own. It's much more than drafting policies, trolling for opportunities, setting business goals and evaluating efficiency. In this context, 'managing' is just business speak for focusing, empowering, refocusing and defending. The crux, as I see it, is relationship management. After all, we're service providers. Our product isn't our pretty work so much as the process, the relationship, the experience, and the results. Internal culture isn't much different. Providing an environment for creative people to work is one thing, but an environment that works to provide for creative people is altogether different. I can say from experience that one prerequisite to success in a culture like ours is full subscription and accountability from the entire team – survival is next to impossible without it. Again, it's not a new concept - but it is a difficult one to execute. We knew going in it wasn't going to be easy or efficient. It was, and remains, our belief that when it comes to creatives; easy makes it worse, difficult is more rewarding, 'efficiencies' cater mostly to the short term, 'authority' is the enemy and mutual accountability is the answer. To me, 'integrity of work' implies two things; a consistent quality and an ethical standard. We've learned that applying those values as requirements for the relationships we enter into (clients and co-workers) does a lot to maintain the integrity of our work. That said, here are 8 things that help set the stage for a consistent quality of work: (note: this list applies more to teams of designers vs. freelancers or artists) 1. Obviously, you need a standard of intent. Are you aiming for 'great' design or successful design? Work only with folks who share that viewpoint. "Both" is not a viable option as an approach. 2. Surround yourself with good people who view design as a lifestyle (vs. a career). 3. Develop a kit of briefing tools that (actually) yield valuable context and direction, and (actually) evaluate your work against it. 4. Select the right clients. You need a standard and you need to stick to it. It's ok to say no on principle OR gut… but do so graciously. 5. Establish and defend a culture of trust and validation – it's paramount for productive internal critiques and a collaborative process with your clients. 6. Stay teachable & be receptive. The idea is more important than the ideator. Ideas should be group property and everyone is qualified to contribute. 7. Decide which hill(s) you're willing to die on. If you wait to consider this until the heat of a disagreement with the client, you'll either fold or risk a rash decision. It's obviously a good idea if your client knows where your flexibility stops before you begin. 8. Don't show work that lacks integrity. And quit taking yourself so seriously.

What are your favorite aspects of the design process?

Gulp. That's like picking your favorite child, isn't it? I don't know where I'm headed here - but I'll start by stating the thing I love most about the act of designing. I'm all about the exaltation and humiliation of discovery. It's a spiritual experience for me. In the design process, I've found two things that really fertilize discovery; observation and intuition. Observation is great. It's always honest and informative. But my favorite aspect of the process is the role of intuition. Sometimes it's the lock. Sometimes it's the ignition. Usually, it's the key. The interesting thing about intuition is that, when properly filtered, it makes our discoveries hauntingly familiar, in a very personal way. It's a key informer to the process but it biases our solutions as designers. It exists prior to creation, and still it offers the highest creative reward. Fulfillment. A taste of creative freedom. I think that's beautiful. However, it's as important to challenge intuition as it is to give it air. If intuition is misappropriated for selfish gain or overindulged for personal expression it becomes a trap door to the process. Intuition can be a tyrant. But I'm not sure there's a creative force that's more critical to design. Ok, I just have to add… I also love those epiphytic moments when some incredible idea (finally) leaps forth from somewhere deep in our right lobes. It's the idea all other ideas were suffocating and it comes floating on a stream of serotonin. You know… the idea. "YEHSSS!', we shout, triumphantly… 'dude, that's IT!" Frantically, we look around for someone to share the moment with. We drop our pencils or Wacom™ pens – maybe take a victory lap around the studio. We're so excited to make it real… to give it life! Those innocent seconds are the greatest of our careers. If we're lucky, we have a few of them throughout the course of each project. I try to relish in them. They're usually followed by two panic strickening realizations that mean hard labor. What if it's been done before? What if they don't go for it? That's when the really good work begins.

Are there any areas you're interested in improving your skill-set, or learning more about?

Honestly, I want to improve in every aspect. More honestly, I need to. But not to skirt the question… I spend an embarrassing amount of time trying to improve in the area of improving. It's self-defeating, really. At PTMK, we recently added a motion graphics wing. I'm learning a lot there. At home, my wife and I recently added a baby boy… she did an amazing job designing the nursery, now I get to do his bedroom. I'm also building a workshop in my garage. Those are all creative outlets I love because they're a good combination of the strange and the familiar. I'm a firm believer in working with your hands. The value of creating something tangible can't be overstated. Other than that, I've always wanted to learn how to work a ranch, hold my horses, tie knots, call home, speed read, cure cancer, and answer questions.

Describe your work day (hours & rituals you keep) and your work environment (how your workstation is set up & what your office is like).

With the exception of a few offices, our studio is generally an open space with series of workspaces partitioned by parallam bookshelves. There's a two foot tall strip of amazing cork flooring that runs along two walls. It surrounds the workstations with thousands of pieces of inspirational ephemera and stuff we've designed. Oh, and there's an entire wall is made of rock salt. The finish out was more of an experiment than anything. We wanted to see what would happen if you combined an Icelandic airport with Savannah, GA.

One of the things I'm most proud of at PTMK, is our flexible scheduling. Everyone has the freedom to set their own schedule – to work when they're most creative, to recharge when they aren't. This is something I believe in to my core. As long as great work's getting done on time, I don't know why you do it any other way. I'm a morning person. Some nights, I'm in bed by 9. I tend to keep the following schedule: M: 9:30am – 6:30pm T–Th: 5am – 3pm, and again from 5 – 6pm F: 4:30am – 2:30pm Sat: 6 – 10am; 4 – 5pm Sun: 7 – 8am; 4 – 6pm Early Mornings: no question, this is about uninterrupted 'me' time. Usually, I spend these hours reading and listening to TEDtalks, writing the more difficult emails, sketching and trying to capture the wilder ideas. Mid-Mornings are for checking up on projects, ideating, and clarifying next steps with clients. Midday is for researching, designing and listening to audio books. I spend afternoons reviewing creative and working with my hands. My brain is fried by this point. I try my best to be in a position to cut out early on Friday. Saturday's time is for reviewing the week, troubleshooting issues and process, researching and gathering inspiration. Who wouldn't like to sleep-in a bit on Monday? I use Sunday's time to set that up by planning for the week ahead. I feel like I'm always on vacation.

Show us an image of the most inspiring thing you've seen this week.

JR, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for taking time out to talk with us!

Happy to! I'm curious, which one wins in a thumbwrestling match, method or craft?


JR Crosby
Oct 25th 2011, 03:11

Let's start off getting to know you. Who are you, where are you from, and how did you get your start in design?

JR Crosby | designer, maker, american and I'm from the sticks. As is the case for many, my passion for design (esp 'making') was born from sheer creative curiosity and a desire to craft tangible solutions to problems... that, and a waning interest in architecture. Although I designed for money throughout college in Iowa, my survival first depended upon it as a freelancer in Chicaaago. I moved from Chicago to Austin to help build the marketing department for an education company. Next, I made the shift from in-house creative to agency-life as designer & art director for Austin-based Föda Studio. Then I moved back in-house to head up a small creative department at a young Connecticut-based company who was reinventing granola, of all things. When that company was acquired, art director Annie Mayfield and I opened up shop as Ptarmak. Incredibly, a guy named Greg Fleishman, then VP of emerging brands at Kashi, Co., let us pitch for some business. He gave us our start.

Was it a desire of yours from the start to find and run your own studio?

Yes and no, not exactly. As a youngster, I often dreamt of owning my own shop 'one day.' I talked about doing it. I came up with names and logos. But my plans had no plan whatsoever. I daydreamed in escape from any real opportunity. I 'paid my dues' to avoid risk. Like most twentysomething creatives, I was chock full of naiveté and wanderlust – driven by boundless energy to ferret out 'corporate' injustices, and passionate about my own theories (i.e. oversimplifications) on cures for the common client. Looking back, I realize those dreams were simply my own misappropriated desire for creative freedom. Owning and operating a business didn't interest me until I understood what it meant. Specifically, not until I saw the opportunity (or need) for a unique business structure… An operating model adapted to the specific needs of small and mid-sized creative shops. The idea seemed like a suitable experiment. Enter » the corporate collaborative… and the birth of what we affectionately refer to as Ptarmak, Uncorporated.

How has that experience differed from working in-house and agency-side?

This question calls for our good friends, "image" and "analogy". They always make complex answers seem succinct and insightful…

Owning your own business is like untangling, inspecting and hanging Christmas lights.

In-house management is like playing house as a kid: It's good, clean fun – part fantasy and part reality. It's potentially constructive but often constrictive, and there's usually more role playing than homemaking.

Agency work is like life as a teenager: A typically dramatic and confusing time, underlined by a silly and somewhat futile fight to be understood and validated… dotted with good times and bad decisions. Still, I'm not sure I'd change a thing.

Can you elaborate more on the term "corporate collaborative"?

I'm frequently asked whether Ptarmak is a corporation or a collaborative. The curt answer is yes. Both/and. PTMK is a 'corporate collaborative'… a term we tend to define as an incorporated group of innerpreneurs, united toward the common good. The basic concept is combining the best of corporate and collective business models and philosophies. The argument is that by applying the proper filter here you better accommodate the unique requirements of small to mid-size creative shops… assuming you can pull it off. So that's what we've tried to do. The concept is basic. Pulling it off is not. The most complex aspects of our structure are a lateral architecture and an orbital operating philosophy. Our most defining characteristic is a relentless orientation to the 'group'. Our model is founded on the simple notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It's not a maverick concept when it comes to managing people. But what's novel are the unique considerations and requirements for managing creative people.

As a founding member of Ptarmak, how do you keep up with the responsibilities of running a creative team and ensure the integrity of your work?

Creatives (and I am one of them) tend to be; anti-authoritarian, supra-sensitive, opinionated, proud (and over-protective) of their discoveries, quirky, self imposed insomniacs, observation junkies, caffeine addicts, frustrated musicians, etc. We are usually walking contradictions; detail-oriented folks who completely lack an attention span – and slaves to a routine we're emphatic about breaking. Running any creative team requires management of all THAT. And management of THAT requires a creativity of its own. It's much more than drafting policies, trolling for opportunities, setting business goals and evaluating efficiency. In this context, 'managing' is just business speak for focusing, empowering, refocusing and defending. The crux, as I see it, is relationship management. After all, we're service providers. Our product isn't our pretty work so much as the process, the relationship, the experience, and the results. Internal culture isn't much different. Providing an environment for creative people to work is one thing, but an environment that works to provide for creative people is altogether different. I can say from experience that one prerequisite to success in a culture like ours is full subscription and accountability from the entire team – survival is next to impossible without it. Again, it's not a new concept - but it is a difficult one to execute. We knew going in it wasn't going to be easy or efficient. It was, and remains, our belief that when it comes to creatives; easy makes it worse, difficult is more rewarding, 'efficiencies' cater mostly to the short term, 'authority' is the enemy and mutual accountability is the answer. To me, 'integrity of work' implies two things; a consistent quality and an ethical standard. We've learned that applying those values as requirements for the relationships we enter into (clients and co-workers) does a lot to maintain the integrity of our work. That said, here are 8 things that help set the stage for a consistent quality of work: (note: this list applies more to teams of designers vs. freelancers or artists) 1. Obviously, you need a standard of intent. Are you aiming for 'great' design or successful design? Work only with folks who share that viewpoint. "Both" is not a viable option as an approach. 2. Surround yourself with good people who view design as a lifestyle (vs. a career). 3. Develop a kit of briefing tools that (actually) yield valuable context and direction, and (actually) evaluate your work against it. 4. Select the right clients. You need a standard and you need to stick to it. It's ok to say no on principle OR gut… but do so graciously. 5. Establish and defend a culture of trust and validation – it's paramount for productive internal critiques and a collaborative process with your clients. 6. Stay teachable & be receptive. The idea is more important than the ideator. Ideas should be group property and everyone is qualified to contribute. 7. Decide which hill(s) you're willing to die on. If you wait to consider this until the heat of a disagreement with the client, you'll either fold or risk a rash decision. It's obviously a good idea if your client knows where your flexibility stops before you begin. 8. Don't show work that lacks integrity. And quit taking yourself so seriously.

What are your favorite aspects of the design process?

Gulp. That's like picking your favorite child, isn't it? I don't know where I'm headed here - but I'll start by stating the thing I love most about the act of designing. I'm all about the exaltation and humiliation of discovery. It's a spiritual experience for me. In the design process, I've found two things that really fertilize discovery; observation and intuition. Observation is great. It's always honest and informative. But my favorite aspect of the process is the role of intuition. Sometimes it's the lock. Sometimes it's the ignition. Usually, it's the key. The interesting thing about intuition is that, when properly filtered, it makes our discoveries hauntingly familiar, in a very personal way. It's a key informer to the process but it biases our solutions as designers. It exists prior to creation, and still it offers the highest creative reward. Fulfillment. A taste of creative freedom. I think that's beautiful. However, it's as important to challenge intuition as it is to give it air. If intuition is misappropriated for selfish gain or overindulged for personal expression it becomes a trap door to the process. Intuition can be a tyrant. But I'm not sure there's a creative force that's more critical to design. Ok, I just have to add… I also love those epiphytic moments when some incredible idea (finally) leaps forth from somewhere deep in our right lobes. It's the idea all other ideas were suffocating and it comes floating on a stream of serotonin. You know… the idea. "YEHSSS!', we shout, triumphantly… 'dude, that's IT!" Frantically, we look around for someone to share the moment with. We drop our pencils or Wacom™ pens – maybe take a victory lap around the studio. We're so excited to make it real… to give it life! Those innocent seconds are the greatest of our careers. If we're lucky, we have a few of them throughout the course of each project. I try to relish in them. They're usually followed by two panic strickening realizations that mean hard labor. What if it's been done before? What if they don't go for it? That's when the really good work begins.

Are there any areas you're interested in improving your skill-set, or learning more about?

Honestly, I want to improve in every aspect. More honestly, I need to. But not to skirt the question… I spend an embarrassing amount of time trying to improve in the area of improving. It's self-defeating, really. At PTMK, we recently added a motion graphics wing. I'm learning a lot there. At home, my wife and I recently added a baby boy… she did an amazing job designing the nursery, now I get to do his bedroom. I'm also building a workshop in my garage. Those are all creative outlets I love because they're a good combination of the strange and the familiar. I'm a firm believer in working with your hands. The value of creating something tangible can't be overstated. Other than that, I've always wanted to learn how to work a ranch, hold my horses, tie knots, call home, speed read, cure cancer, and answer questions.

Describe your work day (hours & rituals you keep) and your work environment (how your workstation is set up & what your office is like).

With the exception of a few offices, our studio is generally an open space with series of workspaces partitioned by parallam bookshelves. There's a two foot tall strip of amazing cork flooring that runs along two walls. It surrounds the workstations with thousands of pieces of inspirational ephemera and stuff we've designed. Oh, and there's an entire wall is made of rock salt. The finish out was more of an experiment than anything. We wanted to see what would happen if you combined an Icelandic airport with Savannah, GA.

One of the things I'm most proud of at PTMK, is our flexible scheduling. Everyone has the freedom to set their own schedule – to work when they're most creative, to recharge when they aren't. This is something I believe in to my core. As long as great work's getting done on time, I don't know why you do it any other way. I'm a morning person. Some nights, I'm in bed by 9. I tend to keep the following schedule: M: 9:30am – 6:30pm T–Th: 5am – 3pm, and again from 5 – 6pm F: 4:30am – 2:30pm Sat: 6 – 10am; 4 – 5pm Sun: 7 – 8am; 4 – 6pm Early Mornings: no question, this is about uninterrupted 'me' time. Usually, I spend these hours reading and listening to TEDtalks, writing the more difficult emails, sketching and trying to capture the wilder ideas. Mid-Mornings are for checking up on projects, ideating, and clarifying next steps with clients. Midday is for researching, designing and listening to audio books. I spend afternoons reviewing creative and working with my hands. My brain is fried by this point. I try my best to be in a position to cut out early on Friday. Saturday's time is for reviewing the week, troubleshooting issues and process, researching and gathering inspiration. Who wouldn't like to sleep-in a bit on Monday? I use Sunday's time to set that up by planning for the week ahead. I feel like I'm always on vacation.

Show us an image of the most inspiring thing you've seen this week.

JR, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for taking time out to talk with us!

Happy to! I'm curious, which one wins in a thumbwrestling match, method or craft?


Pixel Hinting Vectors in Photoshop
Oct 24th 2011, 13:50

Working with vectors in Photoshop provides extreme flexibility, but challenges can arise when anti-aliasing kicks in, particularly when your documents are at 72dpi. Learning how to utilize the pixel grid and becoming comfortable working at high zoom levels in your documents is a requirement if you want to make sure your vector elements are a maximum crispness. I walk through taking a logo from Illustrator into Photoshop and my process for cleaning up the logo's edges. This is Photoshop geekiness at it's finest!


Pixel Hinting Vectors in Photoshop
Oct 24th 2011, 13:50

Working with vectors in Photoshop provides extreme flexibility, but challenges can arise when anti-aliasing kicks in, particularly when your documents are at 72dpi. Learning how to utilize the pixel grid and becoming comfortable working at high zoom levels in your documents is a requirement if you want to make sure your vector elements are a maximum crispness. I walk through taking a logo from Illustrator into Photoshop and my process for cleaning up the logo's edges. This is Photoshop geekiness at it's finest!


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