Oct 182017
 

In this month's roundup, we look at London through the eyes of artists old and new, with a must-see exhibition and a must-read book, both focusing on the English capital in paint. One of the all-time great comic book artists, Dave Gibbons, shows you how he does what he does. We also check out his favourite tool. And a new book takes a surreal look at a surrealism, mixing fact and fiction to dazzling effect.

01. This Is Not A Biography

A thought-provoking look at Magritte's art

Rene Magritte, the surrealist who may or may not have painted a pipe, inspired this collaboration between author Vincent Zabus and artist Thomas Campi. Charles Singular, the book's protagonist, buys a hat that once belonged to Magritte. 

"What follows," goes the blurb, "is a hallucinatory journey through Magritte’s imaginative landscape, a place where facial features mutate, the crescent moon appears in unexpected places, and answers prove frustratingly elusive." The book is a playful but thoughtful look at Magritte's art and artistic process.

02. French artists in London 

See London through the eyes of the French Impressionists

Monet, Tissot and Pissarro all feature in this new exhibition at the Tate. In the 1870s, artists fled the Franco-Prussian war by crossing the channel and setting up shop in London, and their work is said to offer "a fascinating insight into how London was perceived by the visiting French artists". 

This show maps the many connections between French and British artists, their patrons and art dealers. The exhibition begins the beginning of November and runs right through to January.

03. London in Paint

This book shows how artists have represented London over the decades

This new book by Tate offers an in-depth look at London in paint, with 100 paintings from the 17th century all the way up to present day, works by Constable, Turner and Monet, as well as lesser-known contemporary artists like David Hepher and Lisa Milroy. 

This diverse collection takes in views of  St. Paul’s, the Thames and Tower Bridge, all contextualised with anecdotes about the art and the artists. Just as interesting are the quieter moments, the street corners and residential squares. It's a fascinating look at an ever-changing city.

04. Draw like Dave Gibbons

Graphic novel tips from a comic master

Dave Gibbons teaches you scriptwriting, page layouts, lettering, cover designs – everything you need to create your own comic. You're learning from the best here: Gibbons drew Watchmen, one of the best-selling graphic novels of all time, and in 2014 became the UK's first Comics Laureate. 

The book includes scans of original artwork and work-in-progress, looks at both hand-drawn and digital techniques, and how Gibbons layers text for editing, creates effects, and prepares artwork for print and online.

05. Dave's favourite pen

A pro pen for a reasonable price tag

Dave Gibbons' pen of choice is the Mangaka Flexible Fine. Once dry, its water-based pigment ink is smudge-proof with watercolours and alcohol-based markers. The flexible, fine brush tip is smooth and fluent, so it's suitable for beginners as well as pros, and gives good clean lines whether pressed firmly or lightly. These pens are nice to hold too – has a good weight to it – plus they're priced very reasonably. Choose from fine, medium or sepia versions. 

Buy Dave's pen, draw like Dave. We're pretty sure that's how it works. 

06. Sketch Now, Think Later

A busy schedule is no reason not to get sketching

In his new book, artist and urban sketcher Mike Daikubara explains how you can find more time to draw. "Many people give up on their potential hobby (and artistic outlet)," Daikubara writes, "because they feel they just don’t have the time to lay the groundwork." The Boston-based creative says anyone, even those with limited time and no previous experience, can make sketching a part of their daily lives.

07. Daikubara's pen

This pen features a bent nib to create brushlike lines

Daikubara prefers to sketch with the Fude pen made by Japanese manufacturer Sailor. "At first glance," he writes, " the bent nib almost seems broken. It's quite surprising how this small bend allows the pen to create brushlike lines, but with more control than a regular brush." (Those who want to get really geeky about supplies may also be interested to know Daikubara uses Noodler's Lexington gray ink.)

08. The geometry of sewing

Stitching is all about geometry, really

Natalie Chanin makes their point that all stitches are based on geometric grid systems. By using grids as guides, she says, we can all learn to stitch seemingly elaborate patterns. Her books features illustrated instructions for more than 100 stitched designs, from the most basic to the most complex, photos of the right and wrong sides, and guidelines on modifying stitches once you become more advance. 

The book includes two reusable plastic stitching cards, die-cut with the grids of every stitch in the book. You practise by stitching through the cards, or use them as stencils to transfer grids to fabric.

09. Stitch Lover set

This kit is packed with stitchy loveliness

The ‘Stitch Lover’ craft box is aimed at both beginners and pros. It contains: a mini ‘Eat. Sleep. Stitch. Repeat’ cross-stitch kit, ‘Sew Happy’ ribbon, embroidery thread and fabric, novelty buttons, a set of needles, a length of blue satin button trim and other sewing room-inspired loveliness. It has been put together by Stitch Kit, a maker who is a regular contributor to craft magazines, and is hand-packed, using only quality, light-fast materials.

10. 365 Days of Art

Try out different media and techniques over the course of a year

Lorna Scobie is a London-based designer and illustrator. 365 Days of Art is a daily journal that features a range of activities – everything from calligraphy and tonal drawings, to mastering portraits and perspective. 

Its aim is to encourage you to try different media and techniques, whether you're a novice, hobbyist, or professional artist. Scobie says it's all about freestyling and experimenting, which is "guaranteed to stir your imagination and put a little creativity into every single day."

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Oct 182017
 

The updates keep on coming from Adobe's creative conference, MAX 2017. We've already seen how Adobe Sensei is bringing machine learning to the table to increase the data-handling capabilities across Adobe's Creative Cloud applications, plus the launch of cloud-centric photo service Lightroom CC which is set to make editing and sharing images easier.

But what about Adobe's core tools like Photoshop and Illustrator? Don't worry, they haven't been left behind.

New innovations and performance enhancements have been revealed today for Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, InDesign CC, Premiere Pro CC, and After Effects CC, along with greater integration with Adobe Stock.

With plenty of products and updates to get through, let's crack on and look at what all the enhancements have in store.

Photoshop CC

Newcomers are guided through Photoshop with a Learn Panel

The latest updates to Photoshop are geared towards making it easier for beginners to pick up the platform for the first time.

Adobe started rolling out ease-of-use improvements earlier in the year with the launch of the curvature pen tool, and now they're building on this with a new learn panel which provides interactive tutorials directly inside Photoshop, complete with tips to help you navigate each step.

Photoshop CC now also offers significantly expended photography support. By integrating Lightroom Photos into the start screen, users can save themselves time when working with mobile images they've synced via Lightroom CC.

The all-time number one request of Photoshop users - improved brush preset management - has finally been addressed as well. These improvements give users the ability to save tool options such as opacity, flow, and blend mode in a brush preset, making the whole painting experience smoother than before.

Topping off the updates to Photography CC are an even more accurate Select and Mask tool, brush stroke smoothing enhancements, and an improved integration with Adobe Stock images that lets users find images directly within the properties panel.

Illustrator CC

The new Property Panel makes tools easy to find

As Illustrator turns 30 this year, Adobe's focus has been on improving the tool's core experience so designers can easily create stunning graphics. We've seen some of these features like an Image Crop tool already, but with this latest release Adobe is looking to take things even further.

The standout feature in this upgrade is the updated Essentials workspace which includes a new Properties Panel. By showing users the controls they need, when they need them, Adobe claims that the Properties Panel is so revolutionary that you'll wonder how you lived without it.

By organising all panels into one locations so that users can access them quickly and easily, this is one update that's sure to be welcomed by designers that like working in a clutter-free environment.

For example when you use the Type Tool to insert a text frame, the Properties Panel automatically displays controls for character attributes so you can change the size, leading, or kerning there and then. What's more, if you draw a shape, the controls for the colour or stroke will be displayed by the Properties Panel.

It's hoped that the Properties Panel will improve a user's efficiency, but if it's not suited to how a person works they can always revert back to previous configurations.

InDesign CC

Find fonts based on style with the latest InDesign CC update

Adobe's efficiency drive continues with the latest updates to InDesign CC. With the new enhancements, users will be able to easily convert posters and books to digital magazines, ebooks and interactive PDFs.

Other improvements to the industry-leading page-design app include the ability to add endnotes and table annotations. Endnote numbering, formatting and layout can also be controlled, plus there's the option to directly import endnotes from Microsoft Word.

Rounding off the InDesign updates are object-style enhancements, paragraph borders, and the ability to manage text in Creative Cloud Libraries. Finally, additional enhancements make it easier to work with type. Fonts can be filtered via the Character Panel plus you can search for them based on visual similarity.

Premiere Pro CC

Create immersive environments easily with Premiere Pro CC

There's good news for video editors as the latest innovations for Premiere Pro CC include new collaborative workflows, immersive environments for editing VR/360, and Responsive Design controls for time and position when designing motion graphics.

These updates make Premiere Pro the only NLE that allows editors to work with multiple open projects at the same time while editing teams can work on a single project simultaneously over a closed or open network.

With Responsive Design functionality, users can also respond to changes in duration, aspect ratio, and frame size. These tools mean that users have the ability to preserve the integrity of keyframes (for example n intro and outro) so they are not affected by changes made to the overall clip duration.

In a similar vein to Adobe's improvements to Photoshop CC, there's also a focus on making it easier for newcomers to get on board with Premiere Pro CC. This improved usability includes new key commands for working with graphics, the ability to close gaps in a timeline with just one click, and label support for Search Bins. Coach marks are also on hand to guide users through the process of creating their first sequence.

After Effects CC

Workflows just got streamlined in After Effects CC

Improved workflow efficiency is the order of the day when it comes to the updates for After Effects CC. The latest release streamlines the ability to create data-driven graphics and delivers high-quality VR and 3D results. And thanks to GPU performance enhancements, After Effects CC does this faster than ever before.

One of the most exciting new features puts viewers into the centre of the action with either 180 storytelling to full 360 VR. A new VR Comp Editor in After Effects transforms equirectangular 360 footage into familiar, flat rectilinear images.

Meanwhile a new Extract Cubemap in After Effects simplifies motion tracking and object removal in 360 video while the new VR Converter lets you switch on-the-fly between different immersive formats so you can ensure your final content will play well on any platform.

On top of this, users can design immersive motion graphics experiences, using the new Create VR Environment feature, including camera positions -with or without live-action footage.

Thanks to performance and navigation enhancements, users can render layer transforms, motion blurs and more effects on the GPU. Keyboard Shortcut Mapping allows you to quickly find, adjust, and customise keyboard shortcuts using a visual map like the one used in Premiere Pro.

And with the help of the enhanced Start screen and New Composition and New Composition from Footage buttons, creatives can get down to work that much quicker.

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Oct 182017
 

As part of Adobe MAX 2017, today Adobe has launched its all-new cloud-based photography service Lightroom CC. Like the rest of Adobe's Creative Cloud announcements, Lightroom is one of the next generation of Creative Cloud products powered by Adobe Sensei.

Building on the original Lightroom, which was launched over a decade ago and went on to become the industry’s leading desktop application for editing and organising photography, Lightroom CC is a product built with smartphones in mind.

Aimed at professionals and enthusiasts, Lightroom CC is a more accessible, cloud-based photography service that allows users to edit, organise store and share their images from wherever they are.

With a streamlined user interface, Lightroom CC gives photographers the ability to edit in full resolution across mobile, desktop and the web. Edits made on one device automatically synchronise their changes across other platforms, making it easier to keep track of updates.

Searching for images is also made easier with Lightroom CC as it automatically tags photos with searchable keywords to save users the hassle of doing it manually and sifting through thousands of assets later down the line.

Edits will be synchronised across different devices

“As the leader in digital photography, today Adobe is unveiling Lightroom CC, our next generation photography service,” said Bryan Lamkin, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Media at Adobe.

“Lightroom CC answers photographers’ demand for a deeply integrated, intelligent, cloud-based photography solution.”

Lightroom CC capabilities

Easy-to-use scales make editing a doddle

Lightroom CC is built on the same imaging technology as Photoshop and its predecessor, Lightroom. As well as new streamlined interfaces with easy-to-use sliders, presets and quick adjustment tools, Lightroom CC comes with a host of nifty capabilities for photographers to sink their teeth into. These include:

  • Back-up cloud storage - Lightroom CC has scalable storage options for safe and secure back up of full resolution photos – including raw files. You'' never have to worry about backing up assets again.
  • Built-in sharing tools - Lightroom CC makes it easy to share photos directly via social media and to create custom Lightroom web galleries that can be shared via link. Photographers can also share their work through new Adobe Portfolio integration with Lightroom CC.
  • Adobe Sensei machine learning - Adobe Sensei’s machine learning technology automatically apply searchable keywords to objects in photographs – making organisation in Lightroom CC effortless.

On top of this, Lightroom CC comes with support for mobile on iOS and Android, including built-in search functionality and keyword support. For web users, Lightroom CC also gives users the option to manage a public gallery page. Enhanced integration with Adobe Portfolio enables subscribers to easily import collections and publish their best shots to a customised Portfolio website in just a few clicks.

Speaking of subscriptions, photographers can choose from three options. The all-in-one plan offers the full benefits of Lightroom CC along with Photoshop for £16.64/month excl. VAT, but it's also available at £12.48/month excl. VAT for the first year for existing Creative Cloud Photography customers.

Alternatively, Lightroom CC has been added to the existing Creative Cloud Photography plan with an additional 20 GB of storage to help users get started on the new service. This plan remains at £8.32/month excl. VAT.

There's also the all new Lightroom CC plan which includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom for mobile and web, Adobe Spark with premium features, Adobe Portfolio, and 1 TB of cloud storage for £8.32/month excl. VAT.

Finally, there's the Lightroom Mobile plan for users that don't need a desktop solution. This is available with 100 GB for iOS (£4.49/month) and Android (£4.39/month).

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Oct 182017
 

It's a big day designers as Adobe has unveiled the next generation of updates at its creativity conference MAX 2017. Spearheading the new Creative Cloud feature updates announced today is Adobe Sensei, Adobe's artificial intelligence and machine learning platform.

By embedding Adobe Sensei across the entire system of Creative Cloud applications, creatives will be able to go from concept to completion faster than before and effectively design at the speed of thought.

Sensei-powered features also bring advanced technology and deep learning to the table to help accelerate the creative process.

Four brand new applications also make up the latest Creative Cloud update, including Adobe XD CC for experience design, Adobe Dimension CC for 2D to 3D compositing, Character Animator CC for 2D animation, and the all-new cloud-based photography service Adobe Lightroom CC.

On top of these applications, Adobe has also unveiled updates to existing products such as Photoshop CC, InDesign CC, Illustrator CC, and Premiere Pro CC. Meanwhile, the Adobe Stock service continues to be expanded.

The next generation of Creative Cloud includes mobile app and website prototyping tool Adobe XD CC

“Adobe continues to lead the creative revolution, driving modernisation and innovation that will accelerate the creative process across all platforms and devices,” said Bryan Lamkin, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Media at Adobe.

“Today, we unveiled a new generation of Creative Cloud, with a wide spectrum of capabilities—from new experience design, 2D animation and 3D rendering apps to an all-new, cloud-based photography service. These tools enable creative professionals and enthusiasts to express themselves and reach their full creative potential anytime, anywhere, on any device.”

Adobe Sensei

Adobe Sensei can anticipate your next creative move

Adobe is bringing its decades of creative knowledge to the table with the launch of Adobe Sensei. The machine learning platform is capable of harnessing trillions of content and data assets, including high-resolution images and customer clicks. This enables Adobe Sensei to image match from across millions of assets and understand the meaning of documents.

For users of Adobe tools and platforms, this means that Adobe Sensei is capable of anticipating their next move. By understanding the images that creatives are working with, Adobe Sensei can recreate elements in photos where they don't exist thanks to context provided by nearby pixels.

This greater working knowledge of assets and images also allows Adobe Sensei to re-create fonts, identify objects in images, and recognise faces.

Photos can be tagged with searchable keywords that mean users can use Adobe Sensei to quickly and easily sift through albums containing thousands of images.  And thanks to being able to recognise facial landmarks such as eyebrows and lips, expressions can be changed in just a single click.

Let Adobe Sensei analyse huge amounts of data for you

Adobe Sensei also makes it easier to work with text based documents. Capable of transforming paper into editable digital documents, Adobe Sensei automatically includes the right fonts, creates form fields and even cleans up signatures.

Marketers will also be able to benefit from Adobe Sensei as it can handle huge amounts of data and analyse the numbers you've given it to process. This could help marketers identify a new audience they should target and highlight any changes that are emerging in their market.

Adobe Sensei also helps with the legwork of targeting a new audience by creating specific messages that will resonate with potential customers.

Next generation Adobe applications

Creating web and app prototypes just got easier with Adobe XD CC

Alongside the launch of Adobe Sensei, a batch of new creative Adobe applications round off the MAX announcement.

First up is Adobe XD CC, a tool that caters to the needs of designers working on prototyping mobile apps and websites. This all-in-one cross-platform solution has been developed in partnership with the design community through a public beta to deliver the speed, precision and quality designers need to go from static comps or wireframes to fully interactive prototypes in minutes.

Thanks to the ability to switch easily from design to prototype more inside the app itself, creatives can work without interrupting their ideas. Interactions and transitions can be dropped in whenever you want, plus everything can be shared with teammates and stakeholders to test the look and feel of a design.

By giving designers the freedom to draw, reuse, and remix vector and raster artwork to create wireframes, screen layouts, interactive prototypes, and production-ready assets all in the same app, Adobe XD CC gets rid of the speedbumps that currently trouble UX designers.

Create textures on 3D assets with Adobe Dimension CC

Meanwhile, Adobe Dimension CC gives designers the power and flexibility of 3D with the ease and simplicity of working with 2D. Thanks to a range of texture tools and assets, graphic designers are able to quickly create and iterate on photorealistic 3D images to create branding and packaging in real world settings. This is sure to make the lives of product designers easier as it allows them to whip up concepts faster than before.

Bring 2D art from Photoshop and Illustrator to life with Adobe Character Animator CC

Topping off the new applications Adobe Character Animator CC. Having previously been in beta, today's launch of the 2D animation tool helps bring still image artwork from Photoshop or Illustrator to life.

The tool has already been showcased by the likes of Homer Simpson during primetime entertainment slots, but now it's available for everyone to enjoy.

With new features including pose-to-pose blending, new physics behaviours and visual puppet controls, Character Animator CC allows designers to animate their art by acting out movements through a webcam. Voices can also be recorded and lip synced with a microphone. And thanks to Adobe Sensei, facial expressions and motions can be tracked in real time.

Along with Adobe's photography service, Lightroom CC, there are also updates and enhancements to their flagship applications.

These Creative Cloud updates are now available to desktop software. Head over to Adobe's Creative Cloud price page to choose a plan that's right for you.

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Oct 182017
 

There's never a better time to get your start as a designer. Whether you want to build apps and websites just for fun or you want to turn it into your profession, the Learn to Design Bundle can teach you how to get your start. Grab it on sale right now for just $29 (approx. £22), and use the coupon code BUNDLE50 at checkout for an additional 50% off!

There is a lot going on behind the scenes of the websites and apps you use every single day. You can learn how to understand how those gears under the hood of those services all work together with the Learn to Design Bundle. Packed with more than 57 hours of lessons across nine courses, this collection can teach you everything from the fundamentals of UX and UI to the coding languages like HTML5 and CSS3 that make the web and mobile apps function.

The courses of the Learn to Design Bundle usually retail for $1,209. You can save a huge 97% off that price right now. That means you pay just $29 (approx. £22). It’s a great price to get your start as a designer, so grab it today. Make sure you use the coupon code BUNDLE50 at checkout to save an additional 50%!

Creative Bloq deals

This great deal comes courtesy of the Creative Bloq Deals store – a creative marketplace that's dedicated to ensuring you save money on the items that improve your design life.

We all like a special offer or two, particularly with creative tools and design assets often being eye-wateringly expensive. That's why the Creative Bloq Deals store is committed to bringing you useful deals, freebies and giveaways on design assets (logos, templates, icons, fonts, vectors and more), tutorials, e-learning, inspirational items, hardware and more.

Every day of the working week we feature a new offer, freebie or contest – if you miss one, you can easily find past deals posts on the Deals Staff author page or Offer tag page. Plus, you can get in touch with any feedback at: deals@creativebloq.com.

Oct 182017
 

This new release of Painter has many new features that will make the digital artist quiver in anticipation.

Let’s start with the Thick Paint option. This set of painting tools goes beyond the Impasto painting tools that were present in earlier versions of Painter. They accurately mimic the look and feel of traditional oil and acrylic paint. You can pile on the paint, push it around, carve into the paint, scrape the paint, and realistically blend the colours and strokes.

Selection brushes can be used to create complex selections, to help you paint interesting shapes

The default brushes have been inspired by their traditional equivalents and Corel says that the brush variants have been created by artists familiar with traditional media. One wonders how they were designed in previous versions. Still, the brushes are flexible, with new options for blending underlying brushstrokes and variable opacity. Thick Paint can be enhanced by changing the direction, intensity, colour and number of light sources that interact with the canvas.

Elsewhere, you can now paint using Texture Cover, Source Blending or the new 2.5D Texture Brushes. Texture Source Blending builds depth using textures. Texture Cover uses the colours found in the active texture, or you can choose any colour to be used while painting. Interestingly, the new 2.5D Texture brushes build subtle and dimensional textured surfaces using the active texture. With these brushes you can change, scale and transform the texture at any time while painting.

The enhanced Drip and Liquid brushes enable you to blend paint in a number of ways

Another new feature, Texture Synthesis, enables you to pick an area of a document or texture and reproduce it at a larger scale. When synthesising a new texture, the selected area of the original texture is randomised across the new document, creating something unique. You’re not limited to using textures: the brushstrokes in a document enable you to create a new texture. The resulting image can be used as any other texture or as a layer in your painting.

You can add texture to a painting or rendered 3D model using the Thick Texture brushes

There are a number of smaller, but welcome new features, too. The Enhanced Drip and Liquid brushes work on an empty layer to blend a colour with an oil paint-like transparency or paint using the colours from underlying layers. Random Grain Rotation will rotate the active paper texture with each brush stroke, giving a natural look.

Here’s an example of thick paint using the grainy Real Bristle Oils fl at variant

There’s also a redesigned Natural Brush library, and you can create your own selection brushes using any dab-based brush variant. Finally, new cloning capabilities give you the ability to adjust the size and shape of clone sources as you paint. There have also been a number of background and interface tweaks, making the program easier to use. Overall, Corel’s done well in updating Painter so that, more than ever, it brings the worlds of traditional and digital art closer together.

This article was originally published in ImagineFX 151. Buy it now.

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Oct 182017
 

If you only ever did client work, you might go a little crazy. So it’s a wise employer that lets its designers blow off a little creative steam in the form of an occasional side project.

These might not make a direct contribution to the bottom line. But getting together as a team and working on a collective passion project can generate untold benefits in the long term.

Here, we share some of the best agency side projects we’ve heard about this year. Meanwhile, if your company has a side project you think we should hear about, let us know via Twitter or Facebook.

01. Conran Design Group: May the Fourth fun

This fun campaign hit the right tongue-in-cheek note for social media

Conran Design Group is an award-winning design agency in London, UK, that’s been around for more than 60 years. It places high importance on projects that sit outside of mainstream client work, and actively seeks out competitions, pro bono work and cultural events to take part in throughout the year.

Tapping into cultural events is important to the agency, so this year it targeted Star Wars Day, an unofficial celebration that takes place across social media every May the 4th (it’s of course a pun on the line in the movie, ‘May the force be with you’).

Tapping into cultural events is important to the agency – even silly ones

More and more businesses are getting on board with this social media phenomenon. So this year Conran Design Group joined in the fun by creating six images of Star Wars characters taken from everyday items found in its new King’s Cross offices.

The campaign tied Star Wars into the agency’s workplace in a clever way

Exploiting an internet meme to push a company is a tricky thing to pull off, and runs the risk of either enraging social media users (by being too overtly commercial) or failing to promote your brand (by being too subtle). 

This clever campaign hit all the right notes, by not taking itself too seriously while subtly promoting the agency in a way that delighted rather than deterred future clients.

02. Bozboz: Events and exhibition space

Bozboz’s designers are passionate about music and culture, and some are even DJs themselves

Bozboz is an independent digital and design agency based in Brighton, UK. Founded in 2007, its designers are passionate about music and culture. So as an adjunct to its client work the company has launched its own creative space, where it hosts exhibitions from top talent in the contemporary art world.

“When we searching for a new agency building, we actively sought out interesting and creative spaces that were inspirational and evocative to be in,” explains Bozboz’s Kitty Hennessy. 

“The space lends itself so well to alternative uses: exhibitions, launches, private parties. And it means our clients can take advantage of it too.

Although separate from the core business, the exhibition space is nonetheless available to clients

“Mike Hollingbery, our founder, already had an extensive private collection of contemporary and urban art and it felt like an awesome fit. Clients and staff alike walk through the gallery to get to the main agency premises, so it's almost a visual intro to what Bozboz is all about. 

"Recently the space has been home to Mal-One and Mau Mau, as well as Chelone Wolf, Richard Martin and Stephen Bunting, who featured in the Nu:Blood show.”

The space acts as a “visual intro” to what the agency is about

“In terms of working together, the creative space is very much a separate entity and we host independent exhibitions that are not directly connected to Bozboz,” she explains. 

“But we try very hard to only show work that upholds our values and creativity. In a society where work life and play often collide, and no-one ever really switches off, we're proud to have turned that into a pretty major plus.”

03. Carter Wong: Bespoke designer notebooks

The notebooks showcase Carter Wong’s design smarts in an original way

Carter Wong is a independent, multi-disciplinary London, UK, design agency founded in 1984. Every year, it partners with printers Boss Print to create a new and unique notebook. The idea is to show off both Carter Wong’s design smarts and Boss Print’s printing prowess to clients and partners.

The emphasis here is firmly on the quirky side of creative. So Volume 1, entitled Found Fonts, featured a selection of 3D letterforms that the Carter Wong team collected on their travels.

The first volume focused on 3D letterforms

Volume 2, A Cut Above, includes a collection of beautiful razor blade wrappers discovered in a Roman flea market in 1993. 

And Volume 3, Heidelberg Ephemera, incorporates a series of tickets, wrappers, tags and receipts that document a year that a young woman spent in Germany in the mid-1960s.

Two sneak peeks from this year’s Carter Wong notebook

We can’t actually show you the 2017 notebooks yet, as they won’t be released until November, but Carter Wong has shared the two sneak peeks above, to show you just how cool the final product promises to be...

04. Superimpose Studio: Post-truth showcase

Tonight’s show is a visual exploration of the post-truth world

Superimpose is a “next-generation creative studio” based in Shoreditch, East London. Alongside its everyday work with clients including Adidas and Hermes, it also has a small internal division called Services Unknown.

This gives the team an opportunity to take ideas that clients didn’t buy into and develop them for itself. The very latest project out of the division is Perspectives, a visual exploration into the polarity between perceived truths and factual evidence (or the ‘fake news’ controversy, as it’s known to most of us).

Opening tonight (October 18 at 7.30pm, UK time), at The 100 Room on the rooftop of London’s Ace Hotel, the showcase spans various forms of art and media, from graphics to fabrics, from animation to photography and sound.

The aim is to champion the studio’s belief in honesty and imagination as creators and contributors to the evolution of visual culture.

05. Snask: Rock band

Snask’s house band VÄG have been bringing heavy rock attitude to an often staid design scene

Snask is a Stockholm-based creative agency with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude and numerous side projects, not least its own heavy rock band, VÄG.

The quirky agency gives regular presentations to design conferences around the world, and VÄG plays an integral part in the experience. If there’s an afterparty, the band plays that too. And as anyone who experienced Snask's keynote to Bristol’s Something Good will attest, it’s quite an experience, and certainly unlike anything else you’re likely to witness at a design event.

As to the band’s origins, Snask explains on its website that: “The singer in a rock band sold his band to Snask at 04.30 at an afterparty for $3,000 with the condition that we could change the band name as well as their style of music. The day after the singer changed his mind but we had his signature in blood. But just to be fair we decided to start a record label (Snask Recordings) and sign them with the same conditions.

“We changed their name to Road and their style of music to 70’s psychedelic rockn’roll. We then contracted one of Sweden’s best producers, Johannes Berglund, who changed them into 'singing' in Swedish. So we just translated the name to Swedish, which becomes VÄG (Road). No, we never had any thought that it is short for vagina to the rest of the world.” 

So now you know.

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Oct 172017
 

First impressions matter: so much so that brands that redesign their ecommerce sites regularly report a 20-30% increase in revenue within three to six months. The industry average for year-on-year revenue growth is less than 25%, so that's quite a boost.

Design plays a crucial role in driving every business goal for online brands. Most successful online brands update their design every three to six months and iterate on that design regularly throughout, altering colours, photos, metadata and more to increase organic search ranking, sales and customer lifetime value. When is your next redesign?

A brand redesign can be the difference between success and failure in such a competitive online market, so let's look at four examples of online stores that have designed excellent user experiences that result in greater conversions.

01. NatoMounts

NatoMounts uses Amazon Pay for an easy checkout experience

NatoMounts has done what nearly everyone in the online selling industry wants to accomplish: create a seamless selling experience from homepage to checkout. The only difference between NatoMounts and everyone else is that the brand only has a homepage and a checkout.

Brandon Chatham, founder of NatoMounts, worked with a designer to design first and foremost for mobile audiences, knowing that those on mobiles don't have the time or patience to click a bunch of small buttons.

The homepage is long; perfect for mobile scrolling. It also uses Amazon Pay at checkout to connect mobile shoppers with the industry's fastest checkout method (all customer payment data is automatically served by Amazon).

The result? Chatham has had multiple customers land on the site and purchase in 43 seconds or less. In total, NatoMounts has a 5% conversion rate for mobile audiences, and 80% of their sales come from mobile devices.

"The whole experience from landing on the site to checking-out has got to take a minute or less. Our goal is to have them order as much as possible, as quickly as possible," says Chatham.

"Our eCommerce platform, BigCommerce, has built integrations with one-click payment systems, and the platform's optimised single-page checkout helps me do just that."

02. Native Union

Native Union uses slick collections to show off its products

Native Union isn't your average online seller. The brand uses Kickstarter to launch new products, which immediately gives it a long list of interested customers. Plus, Native Union products can be seen offline as well – and in such notorious shops as Paper Source and Free People. It is innovating in the industry regularly, too, which is why its homepage redesign was so incredibly crucial.

"Our website is the window to the Native Union brand," says Arthur Maitre, ecommerce manager at Native Union. "Often times, the first touchpoint a customer will have is to see our products on shelves in retail locations.

"Although our products tell a story, being able to create an exploration experience on our website allows users to discover our brand values and product lines in a much more controlled and aesthetically pleasing way."

So, Native Union has redesigned its site to focus on collections, using a merchandising strategy to push new visitors down a path of least resistance to checkout. A clean layout and luxury images appeals to a techie audience, one which is likely wooed by Apple's own branding. 

Minimalism runs throughout

The site relaunch, however, hasn't resulted in increased conversions, but it is making the brand more money. Relying on a collections strategy allows for individual collection pages to rank incredibly well on Google – organically – and thereby save the company money in AdWords and Google PLAs.

Instead of paying for pricey ad placements, its optimised pages attract free visits from search engines. And those who do purchase are purchasing a whole lot more than they ever used to. AOV and order count are both up, 8% and 41% respectively. 

"Since the redesign, traffic has increased by 67%, orders have increased by 41%, AOV has increased by 8%, and page download speed increased by 19% ," says Maitre.

03. Soundwall

Soundwall uses images to powerful effect

Not every redesign is exclusively focused on increasing customer conversions. This is especially true if you can make more money in bulk orders from industry leaders, such as hoteliers. This is exactly what Soundwall has done.

Soundwall's redesign has increased not just B2C conversion but also improved the site's performance for large B2B customers.

"The big win stemming from this redesign was the ground swell of interest from the hospitality space, which led one of the largest distributors of goods to the hotel industry globally to pick Soundwall up as the newest featured luxury product in their line," says Adam Goodman, president of Soundwall Inc. So what is it that it ultimately changed?

First, they cut down on the number of pages needed to explain the product. Today, Soundwall uses a direct, response-inspired homepage and a visually-focused product page. Minimal clicks. Beautiful visuals. And the changes have led to results.

"Since we relaunched, average time spent on site has increased by over 200%. Average pages per session went from 1.25 to 2.5. We've seen a 60% increase in engagement from home to shop page with a 4x increase in average time on site and 50% reduction in bounce rate," says Goodman.

04. ONYCHEK

What better way to ensure customers love your site than to ask them? NPS (Net Promoter Score) – if you aren't familiar – is an industry best standard of customer satisfaction. Customers are allowed to rate your company on a scale of 0-10. Your goal is to get to a 9 or 10 for every one. However, almost no company is able to achieve that, save for ONYCHEK.

"We send NPS surveys to all of our customers, and so far we have had NPS scores of 10 and zero product returns," says Emmanuel Chekwas Nwokocha, founder of ONYCHEK. "This is because, with the minimal design, we describe our products well enough that customers know exactly what they are getting."

When you land on the ONYCHEK page you will immerse yourself in a luxury fashion experience akin to what you'd see for NYC-based brands. Except that these guys aren't from NYC – they are an African-based fashion brand and use powerful branding and visuals to draw customers in and then give back to their local community. 

Using merchandised collections, new product features, and a "buy now" footer, the site pushes users to explore additional content and products and make more purchases than most other sites.

"Our conversion rate this April increased by 138.46% compared to March, " says Nwokocha. "We put UI and UX in the forefront of our design idea to make it really easy to shop. Here is an exact quote we received: 'I love your site – it's simple and focuses mainly on your products'."

This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 296. Buy it here.

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Oct 172017
 

Sydney, Australia-based dyslexia correction organisation Sydlexia has combined typography and clever poster layouts to create a piece of design that clears up some of the confusion surrounding the learning difference.

Created in partnership with branding and communications specialists BBDO Dubai, the branding campaign aims to challenge the misconceptions associated with dyslexia. Rather than treating dyslexia as a disability, Sydlexia wants to move the conversation towards treating it as a learning difference. And with this innovative paper art it hopes to capture the attention of a diverse range of people.

Before they're folded, the type on the posters is pretty unintelligible. Origami folds transform them into words

The campaign comes from the idea that people with dyslexia often report that they find written words to appear broken up and rearranged. BBDO runs with this angle by translating it into a visual design for posters based around fractured typography.

Words such as 'dog' or 'fox' are deliberately sliced up and jumbled to communicate how people with dyslexia see letters on the page. When looking at the posters, most people would struggle to piece together the words, but once they're folded together in a certain way into origami objects, the words become completely clear. Watch how the clever design takes shape in the video below.

The posters, which are being used as newspaper adverts and displayed on billboards, as well as online, double up as interactive learning tools. "Once folded correctly they help forge the connection of the word to the object it represents in the dyslexic mind," says BBDO Dubai.

Instructions for folding the paper is on the Sydlexia website

With 1 in 10 people worldwide diagnosed with dyslexia, this campaign goes some way towards challenging preconceptions about the learning difference.

Topping off the campaign is an optimistic logo that ties together the name of Sydlexia and the scattered lettering present throughout the identity: linking together the d and s in Sydlexia is a smile icon that puts a positive face to dyslexia.

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Oct 172017
 

So you’re kicking off your first year at design college. Congratulations, this could be the start of a flourishing creative career – if you play your cards right. Design education in the UK is facing a crisis, with a drop of about 14,000 applicants for art and design courses between 2016 and 2017, according to UCAS.

But there are still tens of thousands of design students competing against you for attention, so it really does pay to put the effort in to ensure you stand out and start creating a design portfolio you can be proud of. At the end of it, you may even be named as one of the best graduates of your year.

Here are nine sure-fire ways to stay ahead of the curve from day one.

01. Build a studio bookshelf

University of Huddersfield graduate Andrew Fish created an impressive series of publications for his final-year project, inspired by dementia

No doubt your course will provide a reading list to help you grasp the fundamentals of good design. This kind of theory is crucial, but it’s not everything.

Take the time to build your own studio bookshelf to dip into for reference and inspiration: this list of 5 must-read books for design students includes some great insights into the design process.

02. Explore some new skills

Entitled Look At Me, Evelina Sara Stasyte's final-year project at the University of Westminster explored borderline personality disorder through illustration

Design studios are increasingly looking for multi-disciplinary, versatile creatives to hire. Don’t rely on your course to give you all the skills you need: be proactive, experiment, and give yourself an edge.

Codecademy is a great starting point for learning to code, for instance, and there are some great free Udemy courses for designers on the basics of animation, 3D, WordPress and more.

03. Get smart with money

Chelsea College of Art graduate Yeong Eun Yoo created her final-year project Regather Hangul to encourage unity and resolution between North and South Korea

Whether you plan to make a living as a freelancer, work your way through the ranks of an agency or even start your own studio, you’ll need to get your head round the financial side of things.

Take advantage of every opportunity you have to hone your budget management skills, whether through organising the weekly food shop or getting involved with a student society, and you’ll be on the front foot.

04. Fill your sketchbook

Sure, you’ll need to show your working for your course projects as they develop. But a good sketchbook should be about more than that: use it as a place to record and evolve all manner of ideas as they occur to you.

Get into the habit of thinking conceptually, and turning random sources of inspiration into something more constructive. Who knows, that quick thumbnail sketch could be perfect for a brief further down the line.

05. Maintain your portfolio

Medicine For Modern Times was University Centre Southend graduate Mark Nevard's final project, which explores 'functional psychopathy'

For many third-year students, the last few months leading up to the final degree show and graduation is a chaotic frenzy, pulling together the best portfolio possible in the time available.

Once you’re in the world of work, maintaining your folio will be just one more item on a never-ending to-do list. So use any spare time you have available while studying to craft, develop and maintain it as you go.

06. Start a passion project

One of the best ways to bulk out that portfolio with the work you really want to do, as well as creating a distinctive calling card, is to set your own briefs.

Many creative pros indulge their passions and develop their style through personal experiments and creative side projects alongside client work, and as a student there really is no better time to get into the habit. Perhaps it could spark off a fruitful collaboration with a fellow student who you end up founding a studio with down the line.

07. Build up your contacts

Plymouth College of Art graduate Penny Chan amassed an impressive portfolio while studying, including her own zine: GIRLHOOD

They say it’s who you know, not what you know. While a lucky few might have a contacts book started already thanks to friends and family, when it comes to setting up those all-important placements and internships, it pays if you’ve been proactive during your design school years.

Go to design events, festivals and talks, ask questions, get yourself out there early and you never know where it could lead.

08. Freelance while studying

Ruth Gardiner's Londependence project while at Kingston University explored what an independent state of London would look like

Once you’ve found a style, developed a fledgling portfolio packed with passion projects to supplement your coursework, honed your skills and built up your contacts book, it’s time to start thinking commercially. 

Don’t be afraid to pitch your skills before you graduate: you may get some knock-backs, but as with all of the above, start early and reap the benefits.

Main illustration: Camelia Pham for Computer Arts.

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