Aug 212017

If you scrolled through Twitter at the weekend, you might have stumbled across the quickly escalating Twitter storm centred around a poorly worded tweet from typography legend Erik Spiekermann.  

The situation erupted after new author on the block Laura Kalbag proudly announced that after three years of hard work she'd written a book called Accessibility for Everyone. Spiekermann took issue with the wording of the message:

You could argue that Spiekermann didn't send this Tweet, he just typed the text

A bitter argument ensued, playing out in the beats we've come to expect from heated Twitter exchanges: Spiekermann explained the intentional irony behind his Tweet; Kalbag accepted his apology; strangers accused the typographer of being a misogynist; and the hate levels rose. 

JK Rowling even weighed in to give the story the status it needed to be catapulted to mainstream attention.

As is the case with these sorts of altercations, picking apart who said what, when, can be an exhausting affair. And while Spiekermann's original message is unnecessarily pedantic in its aim to highlight the valuable input of literal bookmakers, he was quick to apologise to Kalbag and to recognise the hard work of writers. 

Is Twitter still worth it?

This isn't the first time an argument like this has boiled over on Twitter. Getting a nuanced or humorous point across can be difficult given the site's 140 character limitation: misunderstandings occur often and jokes frequently fail to stick the landing.

Throw in an increasing backlash to new logo and branding projects, and the question arises: is it time for designers to leave Twitter? Is the platform still home to the conversations, communities and opportunities that creatives can be part of to stay connected and informed? 

To find out whether Twitter is still a useful way to keep up with industry news, promote work and discuss industry issues – or whether pedantic rows like this are all that's left – we, er, asked Twitter. 

While an overwhelming majority of people who responded were committed to the platform, one clear message to emerge was that it's important to think before tweeting: keep a cool head and don't post statuses in a hurry.

What's going on with Twitter?

One reason why Twitter might have become an angry echo chamber for some is because its position in the digital landscape has changed over the years. "Twitter used to be a gimmick, but it’s now become part of everyone’s life," says type and logo designer Rob Clarke. "I initially used it as a place to get in touch with other like-minded designers around the world."

"It worked for me – I even eventually met up with people after only speaking to them online. It still is a great way to network and promote recently launched projects. I’m not sure it makes us better designers but it certainly keeps me up-to-date with the industry."

The increasing amount of hate on Twitter is worrying for Clarke, though, who has seen the aggressive behaviour which used to be limited to blogs spill over to reach a wider audience. 

"I see it as similar to road rage," he explains. "Anonymous people behind their keyboards shaking their fists. Just seeing web links and animated cat GIFs is boring but I’m not sure Twitter, with it’s limited amount of characters, is the best platform for debate and discussion."

"It seems we are now living in a much more turbulent world of social networking so I think those with a large following and big reputation need to think/re-read before they press send."

Think before you Tweet

The whole situation might make Spiekermann revaluate one of the gems of wisdom from his recent Creative Bath talk, namely that designers shouldn't make excuses. 

"We are judged by our work, not our words," he stated. Maybe in the future he'll add a caveat about Tweets.

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Aug 212017

It may be the end of the summer, but there are plenty of hot new web design tools to get stuck into. One of the standout tools this month has to be Video Indexer from Microsoft, which can do some very clever things with video. There is also a handy static website builder, and a tool that will help you out when working with SVGs generated in Illustrator.

Beyond that there’s the usual roundup of new resources that make our lives that bit easier. Ready? Here we go!

01. Microsoft Video Indexer

Extract insights from inside your videos

Microsoft's Video Indexer uses artificial intelligence to search for spoken words, faces and other characteristics within videos. It can detect when a scene changes and when text appears in a video, and can produce an audio transcript. Somehow, it can even look for particular emotions. You can use it to extract useful metadata that makes it easier for people to find your videos.

02. Supernova

Supernova converts mobile designs into fully-fledged native apps

Supernova turns Sketch designs into working native iOS and Android apps in a few minutes, enabling designers to create functioning apps without any coding. It converts design layers into native components and deals with responsive layouts for you. It’s currently still in beta, and free to try.

03. Parallax SVG Animation Tools

A great way to work with SVGs in Illustrator

Hand-editing SVG code can be a pain, so someone built this post-processor for SVGs produced by Illustrator. It uses layer names to create attributes, classes and IDs so they're much easier to select in JavaScript or CSS.

04. Fontface Ninja

This free browser extension lets you dig into different sites' font info

Fontface Ninja is a browser extension that lets you play around with and buy fonts on any website. Hover on a font on any site to see its name, line height, size and other specifications – you can even try it out by typing in an overlaid box to see how it will look for the text you have in mind. If you like it, the download or purchase link is provided so you can click straight through.

05. Publii

Sites created with Publii are based on static HTML files, making them very safe

This is interesting: Publii is a desktop app that makes it easy to build stylish static websites. It’s geared up for building blogs in particular, and uses Google AMP technology for speed, and also handles layout on different devices for you. Running a static site is a great choice if you’re worried about security, as it makes your website much less vulnerable to intrusion.

06. JPNG.svg

Keep your images light with this helpful tool

Combining the transparency of a PNG with the compression of a JPG, this tool uses SVG to make PNG files smaller. Plus, it works in all modern browsers.

07. Uploadcare 3.0

Uploadcare works on any device and supports files up to 5TB in size

Uploadcare is a fast file uploader that deals with storage, processing and delivery. It will optimise your files and deliver them via its super-fast CDN. Version 3.0 offers some major improvements, including face recognition, colour extraction and image enhancement features.

08. Stockio

These stock assets are free to use

Stockio is a great stock resource that offers thousands of photos, videos, vectors, icons and fonts that are free for personal and commercial use.

09. Vecteezy Editor

Customise Vecteezy content directly in your browser

Vecteezy offers free and premium vector art and now it has an editor that can be used to make changes to Vecteezy artwork or to create your own vectors from scratch. It’s quite a handy way to edit vectors in the browser, and it works in Chrome, Chromium and Opera.

10. Sketch for Designers

Supercharge your Sketch designs

Billing itself as 'A growing collection of the best Sketch resources', this site curates some of the most useful plugins and apps for Sketch so you can get the best out of the software.

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Aug 212017

The year 2017 is my 10th as an illustrator, so here I've compiled 50 pearls of wisdom to help fellow illustrators. For a while I've been thinking about what I've learned on that journey, and how I can communicate it. I'm not a writer, so like with many other things I needed to find a way of working first.

For more than half a year I jotted down my thoughts as one-liners while working on illustration jobs. I collected a list, covering a range of facts, simple observations, bold statements and hyperbole. 

In the following 50 tips, I offer seven steps of in-depth advice first, followed by 43 quickfire thoughts, tips and tricks on the next page.

As with all in life, take these – my subjective views on life as an illustrator – with a grain of salt. May they be of help on your own journey.

01. Forget style 

Avoid being compartmentalised by staying fluid

In the illustration world, especially among young illustrators, people seem obsessed with talking about style – how to find a style, whether they should have more than one style, and so on.

It has been said countless times, but I'll say it again: Just work and your 'style' will emerge (see how I can't help but use the word with inverted commas). Steadily working and observing your own drawings will help you to discover things in them that could be the seed for a whole body of work.

If you are obsessed by somebody else's work, try copying it as an exercise (do not present it as your own, though). In that process, you will notice what suits you and what does not. I found doing such an exercise so tedious that it sent me running back to my own stuff very quickly.

When working on an actual job, style is rarely a topic of conversation. I very seldom receive older images of mine as a reference for what is expected of me. My 'style' (I cringed a bit when writing that) has broadened nicely over recent years. Clients often even give me complete trust and thus freedom to choose what I think will work best.

02. Use paper

Paper can be essential in the early stages of a project

Digital methods of creation have undoubtedly become indispensable for communication and allow us to be immensely effective when finalising our work. But let's be honest: we cannot think on the screen yet.

I've noticed that with a piece of paper in front of me, my sense of composition comes more naturally than it does on a screen. My hands and eyes are interacting with the area of the paper and measuring distances constantly. When sketching on the computer, I find that placing everything correctly requires a lot more tweaking. It is harder to keep a sense of the bigger picture when working digitally. 

Similarly, I also tried writing with a fountain pen and noticed how words and sentences started to flow out, like ink, naturally onto the paper. Thoughts formed easier than when I was typing on a keyboard.

Paper is one of the oldest technologies we have. Cultural creation has been based on it for millennia. Let's not abandon it just yet, especially in the early stages of a project. 

03. Remember that digital tools aren't magical 

Ask yourself if you need that new kit or just want it

New software versions, texture packs, Photoshop brushes, Wacom tablets, iPads and Apple pencils are the tools of our trade. Even when working in analogue, it is almost impossible to steer clear of digital tools entirely. And while a tool can be motivating for a while, it is too easy to get obsessed by a constant need for the new. 

I think the problem is the way that we approach these tools as if they have magical properties. We imagine ourselves working with the tool in scenarios that are not realistic, and often do not reflect our actual way of working. For example, take the idea that if I only had that new iPad Pro, I would go out and make on-location drawings. But if I have never done an on-location drawing before in my life, the iPad will probably not get me to do it.

Apply some sobriety to your kit wishlist – are the items on it actual needs or just wants? Ask yourself which of the tools that you already own have really had an impact on your work, to help you decide.

Digital tools usually develop incrementally. So it's not often that a revolutionary product or software feature comes along that improves our way of working dramatically. Therefore, don't expect wonders from a new digital tool any more than you would expect any huge transformations from a new pencil.

04. Be realistic about time

Pulling all-nighters really isn't very productive

It is easy to make unreasonable assumptions about what you can achieve in one day. For example, having the idea that: "If only I hunker down properly today, I could finish the whole project." The end of the day will inevitably roll around and crush your plans. Nobody can really work for a full eight hours every day intellectually. It is impossible to stay focused and to concentrate on pushing a project forward in a meaningful way for such a long time. 

Many novelists do not write for more than four hours a day. A recent move to a six-hour working day in some Swedish companies even showed an increase in productivity. The way you think you are working is probably not congruent with the way you are actually working (see tip 22). We are constantly frustrated by our progress, while at the same time, we are – with a little discipline – remarkably consistent in our output. Why not accept reality and use it to our advantage? Plan more realistically to be less frustrated. 

Time can also be on your side. Looking at your work again tomorrow, instead of rushing it out today, will give you a more objective look and maybe even provide the chance to make the final tweak to push a drawing from good to great.

05. Don't steal other people's ideas 

You might copy an idea by accident, but don't do it on purpose

I don't think copying ideas has a place in illustration. I pride myself on coming up with the right image, and thus the right idea for a given text. If nothing else, that is what separates me from stock art. And in times of a large, aware online public, it also seems foolish to steal ideas and not expect to be found out.

That being said, I'm convinced that you can copy an idea entirely by accident or subconsciously. For each final illustration I make, I provide two or three (hopefully) original ideas. That amounts to me generating several hundred ideas per year. The numbers are high. As illustrators, our personal and professional backgrounds are often similar, so the symbols and references we have in our minds may also be similar. I think that having the same ideas is inevitable at times, however unlikely a mere coincidence seems at first glance. So please reflect on your outrage the next time it happens.

06. Know that big clients come with big hierarchies

The bigger the client, the more pressure you'll have to face

When graphic designer Kurt Weidemann redesigned the logo of German railway Deutsche Bahn in the early '90s, there was uproar in the press because he received a record fee of 200,000DM (about £152,000 in today's money) for his design services. 

For this fee, however, Weidemann had spent endless hours explaining his work to mid-level executives, and sat in many mind-numbing corporate meetings. He also got a lot of flak from the media when the design was finally revealed.

On the surface, making an editorial drawing and one to be used in an advertising campaign is not that different. The higher fee for ad jobs is justified by the client buying a more comprehensive license. Where is the problem?

Here it is: When working on ad jobs, you are usually working opposite a team of people in various positions, who are in turn responsible to a team representing the client. The result is that you are facing a hierarchy – or even two hierarchies – who all have a say on the outcome of what you are drawing. The result is a strictly controlled environment, and that means many revisions before everybody is happy.

Like Weidemann, you are faced with a corporate machine. Unlike Weidemann, you might not have enough standing (or stamina) to protect the integrity of your work until the finish line. That is what you are compensated for.

07. Know thyself

If you want to succeed, learn to recognise your strengths and weaknesses

While you're studying illustration – either formally, or by yourself – you are exposed to great work by others. You feel jealous of your peers and in awe of the masters. You're inspired, you're confused, you try to create, and then you're frustrated by what you produce and how badly it compares. And in spite of it all, you're still driven to make something, so you try again.

Although you are dealing a lot with your emotions in that whole turbulent process, you might not have learned to observe yourself and what you are doing yet. To be successful, you need to find out a lot of things about yourself first: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? 

This is easier said than done, but start with simple things first. For example, what are your most productive working hours? Whether you work best at 6am or midnight, don't miss out on these hours, and try to plan the rest of your day around them. 

Once your needs are taken care of, you will become less anxious. You are the person you have to work with for the rest of your life, so get to know yourself. Be disciplined, of course, but also be accepting and tolerant.

Next page: Quickfire tips and tricks for illustrators

You can see more of Stolle's work on his website,

As I've been working over the last few months I've jotted down the following one-liners. They're things I've noticed about the craft of illustration as well as the business side of working in illustration, advice I've given to new illustrators and tips for staying productive.

08. Drawing is thinking.

09. Thinking hurts – do it anyway.

10. Hands can be as expressive as a face.

11. Craft has not gone. Being taught the craft is just harder.

12. Deadlines are sacred, but pay dates are not.

13. Don't show your bad ideas to the client – they might choose them.

14. The headline might change at any moment – do not base your idea on it.

15. Try to find inspiration and aspiration from outside the field of illustration.

16. There are sadly no shortcuts to a good drawing. Making one usually involves work.

17. In print, everything looks a bit darker than on screen.

18. Learn to be okay with being with yourself. 

19. Being organised can get in the way of being efficient.

Sketch as big as possible

20. Read the email again. Carefully.

21. Sketch as big as possible, especially when doing portraits. Small sketches amplify mistakes.

22. To achieve minimalism, it is sometimes easiest to strip things away from something that isn't minimalist at first.

23. The client publishes first.

24. A picture without a human element is hard to relate to.

25. For likeness, head shape is just as important as actual facial features.

26. If an image looks off, flipping it may reveal any flaws.

27. Don't always draw everything in the centre of the image.

28. Time is often lost while transitioning between tasks. Make a conscious effort to switch faster, or better: avoid too many switches.

29. Imagine every drawing is going to be printed big. Good drawing is not lost when scaled down.

Creators are greater than critics

30. If you have to explain the idea, it's not a good idea (unless you are working with a stupid person).

31. No one is easier to draw than a bearded man.

32. Sometimes pieces that would look good in a design portfolio will not look good on a magazine page, and vice versa.

33. Tracing is like a crutch. Sometimes you need a crutch, but who wants to walk with one all the time?

34. 2B or not to be.

35. Every line you draw in a person's face makes them older.

36. Be prepared for a format change.

37. Your feeling about what constitutes a good idea will differ from your client's.

38. Focus and concentration can be trained.

39. Creator > critic.

You're first idea might be the best

40. The first idea might be the best, but don't rely on it.

41. Progress > perfection.

42. Don't let your inbox make any *bleeping* sounds.

43. Colour Practice > Colour Theory.

44. The older you get, the better you understand time.

45. On some days, it just doesn't work.

46. The wrists and back are easy to wreck. 

47. On some people, the upper part of the legs is longer. On others, the lower part is longer. 

48. All sketches look better after scanning.

49. You can learn something from anyone's drawing.

50. Being able to edit yourself is as elusive as it is valuable.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 267. Buy it here!

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Aug 212017

WordPress powers tons of the web, from simple sites to some of the most elaborate. If you’re looking to become a web designer, mastering this popular platform is a must. Learn the skills you need with PressShack University WordPress Training. You can get lifetime access to these training tools on sale now for 96% off the full retail price!

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You can get lifetime access to PressShack University WordPress Training on sale for just $39 (approx £30). That's a huge saving of 96% off the retail price for this invaluable training. Don't miss out, grab it today!

Aug 212017

To paint a figure that looks believably wet requires you to take a number of factors into account – a key one being the type of fabric they are wearing. Start with an unclothed figure to drape the wet clothes upon. Follow these tips to find out how to draw a character who's just been caught in a downpour.

01. Start with an unclothed figure

Sketch the figure first (Click the arrows icon in the top right to enlarge the image)

Start out with an unclothed figure – this makes it easier to work out how the material will cling to the form. For this example, we're using a female figure with longish hair and flowing skirt.

It’s important to understand the character's figure, because wet clothing will cling to it more closely than dry. I sketch out a pose of what will be a young woman holding up her skirts slightly. This is done with Pencil and Paintbrush tools in SketchBook Pro.

02. Consider wet clothing

Drape the wet clothing on, thinking about how the fabric would behave (Click the arrows icon in the top right to enlarge the image)

Sketch out clothes on a new layer. Remember that the extra weight of the water will cause the fabric to hang straighter than if it was dry – wet hair will behave in much the same way.

It's important to consider what fabrics the figure is wearing – think how wet leather looks and behaves differently to wet silk or cotton. While treated leather can have a degree of stiffness and water resistance, silk quickly becomes waterlogged and clings to the forms beneath it.

03. Explore colour

Rain affects the colours of clothes, too (Click the arrows icon in the top right to enlarge the image)

On another separate layer, block in solid colours – here we picked a green for the skirt and white for the blouse. Shading helps with the volumes. Paint with browns and purples on several layers set to Multiply. 

Being wet will affect the colour of clothes and hair, so limit the spread of the highlights, where you want areas to look wettest. The figure's white blouse appears semi-transparent where it sticks to her skin.

04. Pay attention to details

Add details for realism (Click the arrows icon in the top right to enlarge the image)

You can emphasise the impression of being drenched by remembering that body posture plays a part. Wet clothes are less comfortable and heavier, so consider how this will influence the character's pose.

It will also affect how they move, and even how they behave – a wet person might choose a different route through a house to avoid spoiling an expensive rug, for example. Your figure work is likely to have more character if you give them a back story.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 146. Buy it here.

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Aug 212017

Like most artists, I find inspiration in all manner of places. These are my ultimate design classics, that inspire me (and why)...

01. The Eames Lounge chair

The Eames Lounge chair and ottoman were first released in 1956 after years of development by designers Charles and Ray Eames

I first sat in this chair when I was about 10 years old. It was the first moment when I realised that everyday objects were actually designed, and that changed my life in many ways and started a life-long love affair with mid-century furniture design.

There is something incredibly beautiful about design that is both aesthetically pleasing as well as practical and comfortable. There is nothing in the Eames Lounge chair that is superfluous. Everything is thoughtful and beautifully crafted.

02. Omafiets (Dutch Grandmother bike)

The Omafiets, originally designed in 1892, is one of the most popular choices of bike in the Netherlands

Growing up in Amsterdam, these bikes were so common that I used to take the design of them for granted. It wasn't until I moved to NYC and started riding around the city that I realized just how special this bike is.

From the compliments I get on an almost daily basis, to the simple design features that make city bike riding comfortable and practical, I love it. The protective covers on the rear tire enable you to cycle comfortably in the rain, and the lowered frame makes getting on and off the bike in a skirt or long jacket a breeze. Plus the elevated steering wheel enables you to weave in and out of traffic without having to physically turn your head. 

This bike has been completely optimized for city commuting and is the single most important design piece of my daily routine.

03. NYC Subway poster from Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli designed the New York City subway map for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1972

When I was in grad school, I called Massimo Vignelli's design studio (he was in the phone book) to send me a copy of this iconic piece of design. When I didn't get a response, I spent days hunting around eBay to get an original copy of this 1972 subway map and it now hangs in my home studio.

The beauty lies in its simplicity – the lines run at 45 and 90 degree angles only, which turns the organically messy subway system into a stylised utopian plan of New York.

04. Old Northwest Airlines logo

Northwest Airlines used the above logo from 1989-2003, created by design agency Landor Associates

I'm not a logo-head by any means but when a friend of mine asked me if I could see why the (old) Northwest logo was amazing, I took a close look at it. I realised that the typography not only stylised the 'N' and the 'W', but the angle of the logotype also isolated a little arrow that actually points to the North-West.

It's one of those subliminal things you don't see right away (like the arrow in the FedEx logo) but once I discovered it, I was truly blown away. It made me want to be there in the room when they finally 'got it right'.

05. Marcel Breuer's Wassily Chair

The Wassily chair, also known as the Model B3 chair, was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925-1926

I spent months hunting down this chair on Craigslist but, since I was in grad school and didn't have much money, I wasn't able to pay the hefty price tag. After typing in keyword after keyword and getting insanely high price tags, I decided to search for 'leather and metal chair' instead. Low and behold a post came up from a woman in New Jersey who was selling two original Wassily chairs for $200 total.

I convinced my friend to drive out to the middle of New Jersey and as we were driving into the MacMansion suburb I realised the seller probably had no idea that these chairs were iconic design pieces. When I walked in, she said, "my dad had these weird uncomfortable chairs in his office in Manhattan. I am sorry they are so ugly and uncomfortable, so if you would like to take them with you now, I will give them to you for $100."

My jaw almost dropped to the floor when she showed them to me among her drab interior of Crate and Barrel furniture. I took them home right away and never did tell her the real story behind the chairs. Some people will never be wowed by them and that's okay. Beautiful design isn't always practical or for the masses.

Don't miss Anton & Irene at Generate London for their popular workshop and talk about achieving real work/life balance in the studio

Irene Pereyra is half of New York-based design studio Anton & Irene, who will be hosting a workshop at Generate London on 20 September that will teach you how to quickly come up with a solution to a client brief, and create a convincing presentation that sells your idea, within just a couple of hours.

Anton & Irene will also talk about their experience on how to establish a good work/life balance while producing creative work for both.

Reserve your spot today! If you buy a combined workshop and conference pass, you will save £95.

This article was first published on 28 January 2015.

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Aug 212017

Whether your specialism is graphic design, illustration or 3D art, chances are you'll have made a choice between working as a freelancer or getting a full-time job in a studio. It's a major decision – and there are big pros and cons to each. 

In this article, leading creative professions on both sides of the fence share their experiences to help you decide what's right for you, looking at the pros and cons of freelancing and working in a studio.

01. Freelance pro: Choose your hours

With freelancing comes the ability to choose your own clients and enjoy the finer things in life.

"What I love most about my choice as a freelancer is being able to see my two-year-old son growing up every day," says Melbourne-based concept artist and illustrator Darren Yeow. "As well as being able to offer him front-row seats to an alternative look at how career and life can intertwine. And of course, getting paid to do that."

02. Freelance con: The non-creative stuff

Yeow failed at being freelance. Twice. Moving back into studio roles, it's only over the past five years that he's successfully crafted a path for himself working from home – and he wouldn't have it any other way.

However, he's careful to emphasise what a big decision this was. "Freelancing is a serious undertaking that requires the wearing of numerous hats to pull off successfully," he explains. "As a freelancer, you're running a small business, which requires many non-art related skills that studio artists don't need to contend with."

studio vs freelance

Darren Yeow managed to paint this in his free time as well as working freelance

But exactly what skills is he referring to? "Things like client billing and chasing payment; keeping the books up-to-date; dealing with taxes; health cover; putting funds away for retirement; insurance; paying overheads and investing in skills training are just some of the things that immediately come to mind," he says. 

"These are on top of actually getting client work done."

03. Freelance pro: Greater variety (if you want it)

studio vs freelance

Jana Schirmer enjoys the diversity that comes with being able to pick your own projects

Berlin-based freelance artist and illustrator Jana Schirmer also champions the life of a freelancer. "A nice side-effect is that you get to work on a lot of different projects, instead of just working for one for years in a studio," she says. 

"I love doing concept art and I love illustration, and I'm able to do both as a freelancer."

04. Freelance con: Nightmare clients

When it comes to clients, however, taking the freelance route comes with its downfalls. Simply receiving payment can be a struggle sometimes. But, as Schirmer explains, it all comes down to the correct contracts. 

"Don't start working before you see a contract," she continues. "Once I started working for a small client when I had just started freelancing. After finishing the work, I never heard back from him. It wasn't very smart on my end."

freelance vs studio

Difficult clients pop up no matter which area you work in

But as Yeow says, you can take certain steps to ensure potential clients don't turn into a total horror show. "Nightmare clients tend to be new clients, so I begin dealing with them before they turn out to be nightmare clients," he says.

"First, the client understands that I intend to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship – not a dictatorship. I'm there to bring flesh to their vision, with their guidance. But I'm not a doormat, and in order to bring about the best outcome, we need to respect each other's skill sets and worth.

"If you communicate this part in the right way, this won't offend good clients. In fact, most will appreciate this as a mark of one professional to another – but it will bring out red flags in egotistical prima-donna types."

05. Studio con: Nightmare clients (again)

However, working within a studio doesn't necessarily mean you can escape difficult clients. "If it's clearly going nowhere I'll just step away," says Blazing Griffin lead artist Paul Scott Canavan

"Don't make a fuss. Sometimes these people are just going through some trouble and I always try not to burn bridges."

studio vs freelance

Paul Scott Canavan works at indie game studio Blazing Griffin

Having art-directed Distant Star: Revenant Fleet, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Dino Tribes and APB: Retribution, Canavan has worked on a range of projects and puts a safeguard in place. 

"I always ask for 50 per cent of the commission up front, and only deliver the final product on receipt of the second 50 per cent."

06. Studio pro: Creative collaboration

While you can't escape difficult clients either way, working in a studio does allow you to flourish in creative collaboration. Gaining constructive criticism and building friendships in a studio environment can help you to produce the best work possible.

"Freelance life is great in many ways – oh, how I miss 11am starts! – but there's nothing like working with a group of friends to inspire you and make every day exciting," continues Canavan.

Weta concept artist Christian Pearce couldn’t agree more. "I love the people and all the interesting stuff that happens here," he says. 

"Weta is different to most design studios in that there's a full workshop here – engineering, model-making, 3D, moulding and casting, sculpting, paint shop – every time you get out of your chair you bump into people doing something you don't know how to do and they're really freaking good at it."

studio vs freelance

Weta’s Christian Pearce, who painted this piece, is an advocate of working in a studio

Whether you want to get into the industry through internships and applications, or prefer to go it alone, there's an overlapping aspect to both endeavours, as Canavan concludes: "I turned down a couple of fairly large jobs because I didn't feel ready and was afraid of meeting new people," he says. 

"But the longer you spend in this industry, the more you'll learn that everyone is just like you really. Take the plunge – it's always worth doing!"

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 126.

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Aug 212017

We’ve all been there. You know exactly what kind of image you need to make your design work perfectly. But you’re not sure how to go about finding it.

At iStock by Getty Images, there are millions of exclusive, royalty-free stock files, and some sophisticated search tools to locate what you’re looking for quickly. But even here, you may sometimes come up against a brick wall.

If that’s happening to you, here are three quick tips to help you track down your perfect image, faster.

01. Use negative search terms

One of the benefits of using a stock library like iStock is that you have literally millions of images to choose from. But ironically, that amount of choice can sometimes make it tricky to narrow your search down.

So to get a more finely honed result, try adding negative search terms. In other words, tell iStock what you DON’T want, as well as what you do want.

For example, if you’re searching for images of pets with their owners, the search term “pets and owners” will bring up results like these below:

An image search for ‘Pets and owners’

But if you’re not interested in owners with dogs, try searching for ‘pets and owners NOT dogs’ instead:

The same search with dogs excluded

Other examples of negative keyword searches might include, for example: ‘car NOT road’, ‘Olympic athlete NOT swimming’, or ‘cityscape NOT London’.

As well as using negative search terms, you can also exclude results you don’t want using the various options in the left-hand side menu.

For example, you can tell the search engine to exclude images featuring people (by changing ‘Number of people’ to zero) or images you’ve seen already (by changing ‘Upload date’ to ‘Last 24 hours’).

02. Use conceptual search terms

Don’t just search for ‘business meeting’; use conceptual search terms to find images with the right vibe

Searching for the literal thing or things you want a picture to include – say ‘business meeting’ – will get you part of the way to finding your perfect image. But something that will help you get there faster is to add conceptual terms.

Conceptual terms narrow down your search to images that convey a certain feeling, emotion or concept. So, for example, rather than just search for ‘business meeting’, ask yourself what values you want that image to convey, and for people to associate with your client’s brand.

Once you’ve decided that, add keywords that relate to those qualities: for example, ‘teamwork’, ‘collaboration’, ‘success’, ‘ambition’, ‘achievement’, ‘stress’, ‘trust’ or ‘hardworking’. These additional keywords will help you find images that convey the qualities you’re looking for much more quickly.

Not sure what kind of conceptual terms to use? Then find an image you like and see which keywords the photographer has used to describe it. For example, this image of a traveller looking at a landscape has associated keywords that include ‘happiness’, ‘solitude’, ‘contemplation’,  ‘sadness’, ‘loneliness’, ‘freedom’ and ‘nostalgia’.

03. Search with images, not words

iStock now lets you search by image as well as by keywords

The saying goes that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. And sometimes it’s much easier to say “I want an image like THIS one”, than to put into words exactly what it is about the image that you like.

Which means it’s great news that you can now search iStock by Getty Images by image as well as words. Just click on the camera icon to the right of the search bar, and upload your photo. Then the search engine will deliver results that either exactly match or closely resemble the picture you’ve uploaded.

Note that your JPG or PNG image must not be larger than 4000px in width and height, and must be smaller than 5MB in file size.

Like an image in the library? Click on ‘View similar images’ to see more like it

Also, if you see an image within the iStock library that you like, but it’s not quite right, hover your mouse over the bottom right-hand corner, and an option to ‘View similar images’ will pop up. It’s another great way to find images quickly and intuitively, without even having to type anything into the search bar.

Special discount for Creative Bloq readers

Finding the right image can make or break the success of your design. So we hope you’ll make use of our three tips here to really speed up your discovery of high-quality, low-cost stock imagery.

To give you an added incentive, we’ve teamed up with iStock by Getty Images to offer Creative Bloq readers 10% off all iStock credits. Just use code ZNKPC46N today at to take advantage of this incredible offer!

Aug 182017

As any design company founder will tell you, running a successful studio takes a lot more than design prowess. You need plenty of guts, determination, and the kind of business savvy that may not always come naturally to creative people.

Buy Computer Arts issue 270 now!

With all of this in mind, the cover story in Computer Arts issue 270 sets out six of the biggest hurdles that are likely to stand in the way of your creative business’ growth, and gives you 36 gems of essential advice to help you leave them in your wake – so you don’t just survive, but thrive.

CA 270's cover story reveals how to build a thriving studio, and features 36 pro tips

For a hit of design inspiration, regular CA contributor Adrian Shaughnessy explores the eclectic world of book cover design, a field in which even the most iconic works of fiction regularly get a creative facelift – an interesting contrast, he points out, with correspondingly seminal works in music or even household-name FMCG brands.

Adrian Shaughnessy discusses the art and craft of book cover design

Many such brands feature in the shortlist for CA's fourth-annual Brand Impact Awards, and the hotly-anticipated winners will be announced next issue. 

To whet your appetite, the team took six of the stellar BIA judging panel aside during their deliberations to discuss three hot topics in branding: the need for brands to demonstrate wit and empathy, the importance of taking creative risks, and the most exciting aesthetic and technological trends on the horizon, and how to get the most from them.

Six Brand Impact Awards judges share their branding insights in an exclusive video interview

Issue 270 of Computer Arts also kicks off a brand-new series dedicated to the practical skills that junior designers need on a daily basis. First up is colour correction, with the dark art of image manipulation coming in part two.

Part one of CA's new junior designer manual series covers colour correction

Also in Computer Arts issue 270

Inspiring work from around the world in Showcase, including DixonBaxi's rebrand of Storey

World Illustration Award winner Aart-Jan Venema shares his tips for illustrating for an event

Hansje van Halem discusses her knack for blending type with abstract patterns

Buy Issue 270 of Computer Arts today, or subscribe to Computer Arts to save up to 47%.

Aug 182017

Earlier this week, we reported that legendary musician Prince had been honoured with his own Pantone colour (a bold shade of purple, of course). But that got us thinking: what Pantone colours might other famous musicians, celebrities and icons be awarded when they pop their clogs?

So, we did it. Using some of their famous songs, nicknames, outfits or just whatever sprang to mind, really (this was not a scientific colour-matching experiment), we've come up with some new celebrity Pantone colours...

01. It ain’t easy being Pantone 2276 C

Kermit is more steady than Hulk, so he wins green

Could there be two better contenders for green than Kermit the Frog or The Incredible Hulk? Kermit won for us: we think that after everyone’s favourite amphibious felt thing retires (can a Muppet retire?) he should get his own Pantone green, as a tribute to, well, just being the coolest frog ever. We’ve matched Pantone 2276 C to his skin tone, which we think is a pretty good fit.

02. Pantone Black C Sabbath

Batman can't have black; it belongs to Sabbath

There could only be one Pantone colour to honour perhaps the greatest heavy metal band of all time. The darkest of darks, the blackest of blacks: Pantone Black C. Whether it’s Ozzy or Iommi, we reckon Pantone should get on this quicker than Mr Osbourne devours a small winged mammal.

03. Pantone 871 C Balls

Becks is our king of gold

Remember when David Beckham was called Golden Balls? Is he still called Golden Balls? Regardless, he's one of the world’s best-known footballers and style icons, and we can think of no better colour to name after him than the trusty Pantone 871 C metallic.

04. We all live in a Pantone 012 C Submarine

The Beatles have to claim yellow

John, Paul, George and Ringo’s psychedelic phase was perhaps best captured by the trippy graphics in The Beatles’ 1968 animated movie Yellow Submarine. So it’s fitting that the fab four get their own Pantone Yellow – 012 C to be precise. Or perhaps we should dedicate the colour to illustrator Heinz Edelmann, the man responsible for the hallucinogenic look of the film (who sadly died in 2009).

05. The Pantone 428 C Knight

This grey perfectly suits West's Batman outfit, so it must be his

Now that Christian Bale has hung up his boots as the caped crusader, we thought about honouring him with Pantone 419 C – one of the darkest Pantone colours you can have without actually being black. 

Alternatively, we could dedicate Pantone 428 C to the TV Batman played by Adam West, who passed away earlier this year. We’ve colour-matched this Pantone to 60s Batman's classic grey suit.

06. Pantone 2347 C Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers formed in 1983, and have practically claimed this spicy red

Anthony Kiedis, Flea et all deserve a vibrant red in honour of their rocking funk – and we can’t think of anything better than Pantone 2347 C. The American rock band has been sock-wearing for nearly 35 years now – surely for their anniversary next year Pantone can sponsor them and rename the band to Pantone 2347 C Hot Chili Peppers. C’mon, what else is its marketing team doing?

07. The Pantone 877 C Surfer

Who could take silver but The Silver Surfer?

Norrin Radd, or The Silver Surfer as he’s more commonly known, is a comic book character created by Jack Kirby back in 1966. He searches for planets for Galactus to devour. And his skin? Well, we think he was dipped in a vat of 877 C ink. In the rather terrible Rise of the Silver Surfer movie he saves earth, sacrificing himself. So come on Pantone, give Norrin what he deserves.

08. Pantone 1615 C Sugar, why do you taste so good?

We're so sorry the Stones don't get red, but they win this muscovado sugar shade of brown

OK, we’re scraping the barrel a little bit now, and Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts are probably not best associated with brown (we could have matched the Rolling Stones' famous lips logo to a red, but that’s already been taken by the Chili Peppers). It just so happens that Brown Sugar is our favourite Stones song, so we're awarding the band with Pantone 1615 C.

Thank you, and good night.

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