Jan 172018
 

When are two pieces of design more than just similar to one another? That's what people have been asking this week after it emerged that the new Formula 1 logo bears a striking similarity to a logo design on a pack of compression tights owned by industrial giant 3M.

Launched in late November 2017, the new Formula 1 logo (above) replaced the world premier racing championship's old design that had been in use since 1994. In its place was the new logo, a sleek wordmark that merged the Formula 1 name into a single element that looked to the future and put the fans first.

Speaking of coming first, it seems that this design was late off the starting line. Thanks to a keen-eyed Reddit user, we can now see that Formula 1's logo isn't so original after all. Take a look for yourself below.

Futuro logo

There's certainly more than a passing resemblance

This pack of 3M compression tights has been doing the rounds online thanks to that F logo, which is made up of two parallel bars just like the Formula 1 design. Sure, the logo might not include the number 1, but that's really where the differences end.

3M, the giant industrial company behind Post-It-Notes and Scotch Tape, filed a trademark for this logo on 20 February 2017, giving it a comfortable lead on Formula 1. Not only that, but its trademark applies to territories that will directly impact on Formula 1.

In a coldly worded statement, 3M responded to the online attention this story has been getting by saying: "3M filed a US trademark application for the Futuro logo on Feb 20 2017. Also, we have not had any discussions about the logo with the other party. We are looking into this matter further."

The whole incident is the latest piece of negative attention to be levelled at the new Formula 1 logo after the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel criticised the design.

EU authorities are in the process of deciding how to handle the situation.

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Jan 172018
 

The Royal Mail has recently been drawing fire from furious Brexit cheerleaders, incensed that there are no plans to mark the UK's planned withdrawal from the European Union with a set of stamps.

Despite encouragement from foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who urged a commemorative stamp to mark the “monumental moment in British history”, the Royal Mail has confirmed it has no plans to issue such a politically divisive stamp.

The big-hearted folks at The Poke weren't going to let this outrage stand, however, so they invited readers to come up with their own designs for Brexit stamps. And since then, the designs have just kept on coming.

Here are some of our favourites. If you feel inspired to create your own, be sure to let us know about them.

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Jan 172018
 

'Don’t let your tax return peck away at you' is the line that HMRC is running with in its latest marketing campaign to encourage people to file their tax return by midnight on 31 January. 

Quacking ducks bellow out “tax, tax” to remind people not to ignore the niggling feeling they might have as the deadline looms. If you are one of those who is still yet to tackle your tax return here are some useful tips to help you. For more advice, take a look at Contractor Calculator.

01. Check your HMRC services login

If you can't log in, you can't do anything

First things first: If you are doing your own self-assessment (SA) and have a habit of leaving things to the last minute, then make sure your login details for the HMRC SA Service work. Check on the Gov.UK site and get it sorted if not.

02. Get help from a qualified tax advisor

A professional may be worth it in the long run

Getting the SA right can be tricky, and it is easy to make small mistakes. HMRC has sophisticated systems that detect these errors, which will result in an investigation if you get things wrong. Whilst you may have nothing to fear from an investigation, they can be time consuming and costly to deal with. So it’s better to avoid one if possible. While employing a qualified tax advisor is an extra expense up-front, it may be worthwhile in the long run. 

If you name the tax advisor you used on your form there is less likelihood of you being investigated, because HMRC will assume that the professional has got things right. The fee for a tax advisor will vary depending on the complexity of your return – prices range from £50 for something simple to £400 for something more complex.

03. Gather all the information early

In order to complete a tax return, you will need to know all your figures for total earnings in the past year, plus any bank interest, rental income details, and any dividends paid to you. If you don’t already have a tax statement from your bank for any interest earned, then apply for one quickly and/or ring your bank to get the figures you need.

04. Use last year’s return for guidance

If your income structure is similar, this can be very helpful

The format of the return does not change much year to year, and if the structure of your income hasn’t changed much then this year’s return will look very similar to the year before. Dig this one out and use it as a reference for the new one.

05. Remember child benefit tax

You will owe some child benefit back if you've earned over £50k

If you have children and were paid child benefit during the year, then you will need to check whether either you or your partner earned over £50,000 in the year. If this is the case, then the money will be clawed back by the Government on a sliding scale between £50,000 and £60,000. There are questions about this on the return; make sure you get them right. A few years of getting this wrong could result in a hefty tax bill in the future.

06. Consider future payments on account

Your return is for the tax year ending April 2017. If you plan on earning less in the current tax year, then reduce the amount you 'pay on account', otherwise you will over-pay tax. But, beware, if you reduce this too much and end up earning more, HMRC will charge you interest on the amount you should have paid when you complete your next SA tax return.

07. Pay the right amount

Your tax bill won't match exactly what you have to pay

Your tax bill will be calculated in real-time and presented to you on-screen. This will show you the entire amount due for the tax year ending April 2017. However, this won't be exactly what you need to pay: you will have already paid monies on account, and if you under-paid, a balancing figure will be required, plus some interest.

It’s good to do the submission early, then wait a few days for it to be processed. Then you can go back online and see the exact figure you need to pay. This will consist of a balancing figure for the previous year (which could be negative), and interest, and then a payment on account for the current tax year, which defaults to half the last year’s tax bill.

08. Pay early

Make sure you pay the bill before the deadline of 31 January 2018. Do this early, as HMRC’s systems get heavy use and can be known to very occasionally not work at key times. Build in some contingency.

08. File the documents

Keep your return safe

Download a digital copy of the return, and save that somewhere, along with a receipt for the payment you made. You'll be grateful when you have something to reference next year.

09. Consider investigation insurance

Tax investigation insurance can be bought for as little as £100 per year, because the chances of an investigation are very slim – especially if you have a tax advisor complete your return for you. This means if you are investigated, the cost of paying your accountant or tax advisor to defend your corner is covered. 

Despite what some people think, there is no such thing as a random inspection. If you get contacted, it'll be because an inspector thinks there is something wrong. Typically, there won’t be, or if there is it might be minor. Either way, it’s better to have cover.

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Jan 172018
 

Affinity Photo for iPad is a great photo editor, but how does Serif's app fare when it comes to creating illustrations from scratch? For this article, I've put the app through its paces while drawing and colouring a full comic page. 

Just to spice things up a little, I decided to create this page far away from my usual studio mess, using Affinity Photo on the new iPad Pro 10.5-inch with the Apple Pencil. It felt great to be truly mobile and to work whenever inspiration struck: in the back of the car on the way to the supermarket, a hospital waiting room and (of course) a couple of dive bars.

01. Set up and Undo

Take a bit of time to figure out Affinity Photo's basic functions

Let's start with finding Undo. This threw me at first because I assumed it was a two-finger tap gesture. It can be found in the bottom right, along with Redo and the Tooltip Assistant. Using the Rectangle tool I draw one square and then duplicate it to make a row of three. To duplicate something tap Commands>Duplicate. Then I duplicate that row vertically to create a 10-panel layout. 

To change the stroke width, tap Pen and change Width. You can drag the values up and down by pressing Width or tapping it and typing values numerically.

Then I tap Use Fill to remove the colour inside the rectangles. I group all panels and lock them by tapping Layer the More (the circle with three dots) and hitting Lock. You'll find Layer Opacity and Layer Blend Modes here, too. Ideally, these would be in the main Layers panel and not an additional tap away because we're going to be changing and locking layers a lot in this workshop.

02. Sketching and layout

Remember to leave space for speech bubbles

Now I pick any random brush and draw the rough layout of the comic. This is to check that the story flows correctly and that there's enough room for the speech bubbles. A newbie mistake is not to leave enough space for the bubbles; a comic pro uses them to save time. If you know a bubble will obscure a large part of the background, it means less drawing and a longer lunch!

Traditionally, comic artists draw with non-reproducing blue pencils and this has carried over into the digital realm. Choosing blue has no real function, but it makes it easier to draw over. The thinking behind page layout is a tutorial for another day, but the basic idea is to vary the camera angle. If the two characters were just placed side by side in every panel, the comic would soon feel boring.

03. Adding text and speech bubbles

Select Inner Glow in the Layer FX palette to quickly mock up areas of text within your comic panel

In order to get the job signed off by the editor I add quick speech bubbles with the full text. There's a huge range of fonts installed in Affinity Photo, but at the time of writing you can't add your own fonts, so I'll letter it properly later on in Affinity Designer using my desktop computer that's back home.

A great way to rapidly create speech bubbles is to first type your text by pressing Text and then Frame Text. Then on a new layer draw a rough shape around the each text block. It doesn't matter what colour this is. Then open Layer FX Studio and apply Outline (black) and Colour Overlay (white fill). Now you can draw speech bubbles on your page layout.

A bonus tip is to add 'mockup text' by selecting Inner Glow. This helps you see the layout better without the hassle of typing in text.

04. Select your brushes

It's easy to create your own brushes rather than use the defaults

The 12 DAUB brushes that come installed by default are fantastic, but I prefer a much more basic brush for inking. You can create your own brush category by tapping Brush Studio, and then the hamburger icon. Press Add Category and then name your brush. Now press the hamburger again and then New Round Brush. 

Here are the settings I used. It's all pretty basic stuff. All I need really is a solid brush that tapers towards the ends. You can fine-tune your brush settings in the app to an amazing degree, including Tilt Sensitivity, Hardness by Angle and so on. I should mention at this stage that I'm using an Apple stylus. Do you really need an Apple Stylus to use Affinity Photo on the iPad? For photo editing I don't think it's essential, but for illustration I would say yes. To create lines with variable width it's all about pen pressure.

05. Brush stabiliser option

The Brush Stabiliser enables you to draw smooth curves every time

I was playing with the app for over a week before I noticed the tiny white arrow icon to the right of the sub-tool menu. And what lay hidden there really made my day. 

I thought the Brush Stabiliser tools were only currently available in the Beta of Affinity Designer 1.6. But here they are! To use the familiar phrase, this tool is a game changer. It enables you to draw smooth curves and lines in a very satisfying way. I love playing with this. So armed with my custom brush and Rope Stabiliser I get to work inking the page. 

One thing to bear in mind is that in the current version of the app (1.6.3) there's no line tool. The solution is to simply whip out your credit card and use that as an old-fashioned ruler directly on the iPad.

06. Keep your layers and folders organised

Every time you fail to name a layer, God kills a kitten

One drawback of digital freedom is that you can get lost within too many layers. I used to suffer from “fear of commitment” and keep dozens of ink layers active, which ended up slowing down the software, and my creative process. Now I've found that the best way to structure your project is to limit yourself to three ink layers. I name them as follows:

* INK 1 *
* * INK 2 * *
* * * INK 3 * * * 

Now you can easily identify them. To add these three layers to a master INK folder,  slide select or hit the checkbox on your layers and then tap the folder icon. To change the name from Unnamed, tap More (the circle with three dots) to reveal more options. This confused me initially because my folder is called Unnamed while the label says Group. Tap Group and rename your folder. You can rename individual layers the same way.

To merge multiple layers or folders into one layer just select the ones you want and tap Commands>Rasterise. 

07. Colouring the page

Once you're happy with the line art, blocking in and colouring is made easy through the use of the app's layer system

Now that the full page is inked, I'm ready to colour it. Tapping Layer>More>Multiply enables you to colour 'behind' your line art. I draw rectangle shapes behind each comic panel. This makes it possible to block out the colours and also use the rectangles as a rough 'n' ready folder to clip all the sub-layers into. When adding the colours I create a new layer and use some of the DAUB Dry Media brushes. Depending on how you prefer to work, you can set the app to create a new pixel layer automatically every time you use a brush. You can turn this feature on or off by selecting Document>Assistant. 

For large shapes such as the coffin and the Explorer character I create a vector shape with the Pen tool. This means that I'm able to clip in sub-layers easily and dynamically change the overall colours and shadows using the Gradient tool.

08. Lighting and textures

The use of real-world textures, such as this gingerbread cake, adds a nice finishing touch to my comic artwork

As a final touch I'll import a real-world texture to the character and introduce lighting to the scene. For textures you can use any photo or image, and you'll always be surprised with the results. Import images to your file by tapping Commands>Place and then choose the location: either from your Photos or Cloud storage. 

I place a gingerbread texture, resize it and then clip the image into place. To add a powerful lighting effect, tap the Filters Studio>Lighting and drag the control lines. Then have fun experimenting with the Ambient, Specular, Shininess and Diffuse settings. I could play with textures and lighting all day long! 

This article was originally published in issue 154 of ImagineFX, the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists – packed with workshops and interviews with fantasy and sci-fi artists, plus must-have kit reviews. Buy issue 154 here or subscribe to ImagineFX here.

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Jan 172018
 

Behind the websites and services that you see every day, there are gears turning and keeping everything running smoothly. One of the most important programming languages that makes those incredible sites and services possible is JavaScript, and you can learn the language with the Front End JavaScript with Vue.js Bundle, on sale now for just $36 (approx. £26)!

Over the course of four in-depth courses included in the Front End JavaScript with Vue.js Bundle, you’ll learn the concepts of frontend development powered by JavaScript. The programming language is the engine powering modern browsers and you’ll learn how to build with and use it in any project you can imagine. Plus, you'll learn your way around Vue.js, one of the hottest frameworks around that helps the modern web function. It's an essential bundle for anyone interested in web development.

The Front End JavaScript with Vue.js Bundle usually retails for $353, but you can get it on sale now for just $39 (approx. £26). That’s a saving of 89% off for a collection of courses that will help you start your new career!

About 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.

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Jan 162018
 

Screen printing is a welcome alternative for artists who want to take it slow and explore handmade. Whereas digital art gives creatives the opportunity to work quickly and produce perfect images, there's something about taking the time to prepare a screen print by hand that has a unique appeal. 

Perhaps, as designer Anthony Peters suggests in this new book from Print Club London, screen printing has awoken a "dormant need to be among tactile, real objects."

Set up in 2007, the Print Club London studio was founded on a relaxed ethos where artists could experiment and make mistakes. From humble beginnings with a handful of salvaged tools, Print Club London has expanded to represent over 500 artists and runs workshops to welcome newcomers to screen printing.

The studio's hard-won wisdom is presented in its recently released book, Screenprinting: The Ultimate Studio Guide. Its 288 pages are overflowing with clearly explained screen printing tutorials, which make it useful both for beginners and old hands. If you're looking to pick up a new artistic skill in 2018, you've come to the right book.

Setting up your screen tutorial

Basic skills like making a screen are clearly explained

From the design of the book alone you can tell that Print Club London loves what it does. Sandwiched between its covers, which have been lovingly made to look like silkscreen frames, there's a playful display of paint splatters that don't get in the way of the text but keep the whole book personable.

This doesn't mean the guide is thin on the ground in terms of practical content. While the short history of screen printing section that opens the book certainly lives up to its name by managing to cover the medium's thousands year long story in a couple of pages, it's important to remember that this isn't a history book. We're here for messy artistic advice.

Before diving into tutorials, we're given a run down of the tools of the trade. Screens and emulsions are covered, along with sweets and beer, to remind you that it's a good idea to have fun while you print. After a quick introduction to the materials you'll be printing on (paper and textiles), it's time to get down to the workshops.

Screen printing tutorials

T-shirt screen printing tutorial

Who hasn't wanted to print their art on a t-shirt?

The main screen printing tutorials explore how to artwork a design, as well as covering the basics of how to print on paper and t-shirts. Each section guides you through carefully, assuming a basic level of artistic skill on the reader's part.

Accompanying photographs help to smooth out any confusion you might encounter from reading the instructions alone. These are a welcome addition, as sometimes artistic tutorials can rattle through everything too fast and appear more complicated than they need to be.

Along the way we're introduced to an array of screen printing tips and terms, but only when we need to learn them. This helps to keep the whole process understandable, and given that there's a lot to cover, it's no mean feat that the guide doesn't come across as overwhelming. The balance between precise technical advice and friendly encouragement is maintained throughout.

Stencil screen printing tutorial

Learn bonus screen printing skills from professional artists

To build on these tutorials, the book is capped off with refreshing Artist Spotlights. These see an artist covering a screen printing technique they're known for. It's a welcome change of pace compared to profiles that just give an artist the opportunity to show off. The artists here are talented, but they're not above sharing their secrets.

From these creatives we also learn how to put on a show and promote yourself online. It's a great way to round off the book. By looking forwards beyond just practical tips, you come away from this guide with a real sense that screen printing is an equally useful art to master alongside in-demand digital skills. Go grab a squeegee and get pulling.

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Jan 162018
 

The origin of miniature painting stretches far back to the medieval age, when miniature artists painted exquisite portraits in watercolour on vellum and ivory. They used fine detail and painting techniques such as stippling and hatching to create layers of colour, in paintings measuring no larger than 6 x 4.5 inches.

Many miniature artists today are still painting in the traditional way, but now miniatures can be of any subject and in a variety of mediums – oil, watercolours and acrylics, to name but a few. Vellum is still chosen as a painting surface, but now more artists are choosing to use newer products such as ivorine, polymin, smooth card or paper, or board.

I’m going to show you how you can paint your own miniature using acrylics. These are versatile and rich in colour. Mistakes can be easily painted over, thus making them ideal for beginners. 

Painting a miniature requires a steady hand and lots of patience. It's also important that you're familiar with the consistency of the paints, so practice painting straight thin lines on the back of an old photograph before starting your work.

01. Plan your drawing

Hardboard or MDF board when primed with about five coats of white watercolour acrylic gesso, and sanded to a smooth finish, make a wonderful surface to paint on. I used a board cut down to 3 x 3.75 inches, primed with Daler Rowney Simply Acrylic Gesso.

Plan out your drawing onto the prepared board using tracing paper or drawing freehand. You can download my sketch here, or draw your own composition. Do not draw all the flowers in the foreground too soon, as they will be covered by paint and your drawing will be obscured.

02. Add sky, trees and hedges

A good brush is essential for fine detail and I prefer to use Pro Arte Connoisseur brushes, which are a blend of sable and synthetic prolene and maintain a good point. For texture, I use an old oil bristle brush – it’s ideal for stippling.

Daler Rowney System 3 Acrylic paints are wonderful for miniature painting. They have a creamy texture and do not lose their opacity when diluted for fine line detail. They dry quickly so are marvellous for glazing and dry brush techniques.

Using a no. 4 round brush, take a small amount of Titanium White acrylic and add a tiny touch of Ultramarine. Use only a small amount of water and mix the required colour to a creamy consistency. Apply to the sky area. 

In order to achieve texture in the background trees, use a dry old bristle brush. Take a little neat Sap Green and a touch of black to the tip of the brush. Stipple the colours onto a practice sheet (the back of an old photograph is ideal) without mixing until you’ve got your desired colour and texture and apply. 

To highlight, with a clean, dry brush take a little Lemon Yellow, Sap Green and a touch of white on the tip of the brush and carefully stipple to shape and highlight trees and bushes. A touch of blue or Yellow Ochre can be added to the trees if you want to vary the shades. Finish the bushes with a fine no. 000 brush to define the foliage.

03. Paint the grass

Use a half-inch flat brush and mix Lemon Yellow and a little Sap Green with water to make a thin wash for the lawn areas. For the tablecloth, use a no. 2 brush, a little water, and add a touch of black to Lemon Yellow to paint the folds in the tablecloth. 

When dry, use a no. 4 brush and glaze with a thin wash of yellow and water over the whole cloth. Use white for highlights.

04. Create underpainting

Use a no.4 brush and mix Sap Green and Mars Black with a little water to block in the dark background for the flowers in front of the table. Draw in pencil the outline of the pots and flowers on to the dark green. Use a no. 000 brush with white and a little water and carefully define the shapes of the flowers, leaves and pots. 

The dark background will cause the white paint to look dull. Paint over the areas again that you wish to lighten, leaving the darker areas untouched. This will create more contrast. Other plants and flowers in the garden can also be painted in white.

05. Enrich the colours

When the white paint is dry, use a no. 0 brush to mix washes of pure colour (adding no white) and test the consistency of colour before applying. Use Sap Green with a little water and carefully glaze colour over foliage. Add a little yellow to the green for the geranium leaves. 

Use a wash of Crimson for the roses, Cadmium Red for the geranium flowers and Burnt Sienna with a little Yellow Ochre for the pots. Repeat the glazes if needed to enrich colours. All the foliage in the back of the garden can also be painted this way. 

Shadows on the lawn can be created by using a wash of Sap Green and black using a no. 4 brush. A final glaze of yellow and green over the whole area can brighten the lawn.

06. Add details

I paint the chairs using a fine no. 000 brush in white mixed with a little water to a smooth consistency; I use a touch of black to define their shape. I outline the glasses and jug in white, leaving a little white at the bottom. Add a touch of yellow and Cadmium Red for the orange juice. 

Outline the shape of the cat in black and for its fur, add Yellow Ochre and white mixed with black. For the patio, make a thin wash using Burnt Sienna and a little black. Dab with a tissue for a mottled look.

07. Paint the patio and hollyhocks

Use a no. 000 brush with a mix of Sap Green and black to define the bricks and the grass between. Add shadows to the bricks using a no. 2 brush with a wash of Burnt Sienna and black. You can add dropped petals and little stones for more interest.

Outline the hollyhocks in white using a no. 000 brush. Mix white with a little Yellow Ochre and black for shading the petals. Carefully glaze with a thin wash of Crimson or leave white and use a dab of neat yellow for the centre of the flower. Paint the leaves carefully with a mix of green and black and highlight them with white and yellow. Finish with a green glaze to the leaves.

Paint the outline of the watering can in black and use varying tones of grey for blocking in. To complete the painting, carefully paint a few leaves in green in the foreground.

08. Varnish and frame it

Winsor & Newton Professional Satin or gloss varnish will seal and protect your work when dry. I prefer to use a spray varnish to avoid brush marks, and I hold the can about 10 inches away from the painting, carefully spraying in short bursts about four or five times to achieve an even finish. When dry, your miniature painting is ready to frame without glass.

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Jan 162018
 

Whether you're kitting out your home office or making buying decisions for a whole studio's worth of people, it's unlikely that computer keyboards will be at the top of the priority list – but that doesn't mean they're not important.

Along with a great mouse, the right keyboard can make you more productive, whether that's down to ergonomics, ease of use or built-in shortcuts. Perhaps you're suffering from carpal tunnel or RSI, the bane of many creatives' lives – the right peripheral can help with both. Or maybe it's none of the above, and you're just looking for a more stylish addition to your carefully art-directed studio space (in which case you might also be interested in the best monitors, too).

So which is the best keyboard for your needs? Should you choose a mechanical keyboard? A wireless keyboard? An ergonomic keyboard? Can you get all of these in one? What if your budget is low? 

Whatever your reasons for hunting out a new keyboard – or your specific needs – read on for our guide to eight of the best...

Logitech's pitching squarely at designers, illustrators and digital artists with this frankly excellent wireless keyboard, which if you can afford the price tag could give a tidy boost to both your creativity and your productivity.

The real game-changer with this keyboard is its multi-function dial (the 'Crown') at the top-left, which enables you to control parameters in your favourite Adobe applications – including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere Pro – as well as Microsoft Office packages.

Zoom in and out, tap to show and fine-tune tool parameters quickly and easily, and adjust everything from scale and opacity of objects to size, leading and tracking of text.

There's nothing quite like the feel of a good-quality mechanical keyboard, giving you proper crisp, tactile feedback on every keystroke by substituting the rubber domes used by cheap models for proper, functional switches – usually from the Cherry MX range.

As well as lasting longer, mechanical keyboards also enable faster, more accurate typing. Step up the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum. Ostensibly a gaming keyboard, complete with RGB backlighting, it's also a great shout for designers keen to assign macro functions to the six dedicated keys – for your most-used Adobe actions, for instance.

Thanks to its 8MB of onboard memory, these macros can be saved onto the keyboard itself, making it perfectly portable between machines once programmed (although the complex software makes this a little tricky). Like the Logitech Craft, this is certainly not a cheap option, but if you make full use of its capabilities, it's worth the hit.

All too many designers suffer from conditions such as RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome, with awkward keyboard shortcuts and repetitive keyboard actions often the culprit.

Kinesis' Advantage2 LF definitely stands out from the other great keyboards on this list for its unique aesthetics, which are designed entirely with ergonomics in mind. Concave key wells on each side of the keyboard minimise strain on your arms and fingers as you type, while the mechanical Cherry MX Red linear switches make typing as smooth and satisfying as possible.

And if keyboard shortcuts are your issue, the Advantage2 LF rather puts Corsair's K95 RGB Platinum to shame with a staggering 48 programmable macros.

Many of the keyboards on this list are wireless, but what makes the Penclic KB3 worthy of note is the way it combines attention to ergonomic detail with versatile device compatibility: it's neatly geared up to toggle between MacOS, iOS, Windows and Android devices.

A family-run Swedish company, Penclic designs computer accessories that help to reduce RSI and other desk-related ailments, with features such as light key travel, comfortable spacing, and a subtle gradient to its aluminium body. 

The black version (pictured) features stylish orange and teal highlights to identify particular functions, and it also comes in pink and gold varieties for designers keen to accessorise.

Compared to some of the eye-watering price tags on this list, Anker's Apple-inspired white offering is quite simply incredibly good value.

It can connect via Bluetooth to the Android, iOS, Windows or MacOS device of your choice, and the low-profile, matte-finish keys make for a surprisingly satisfying typing experience for the price.

Of course, the fact that its look and feel are so obviously influenced by Apple – albeit crafted from budget plastic, rather than aluminium – may make this keyboard look a little out-of-place for PC users, but that's a small price to pay considering, well, the small price you've paid.

This is our pick for the best keyboard for iPad Pro users. If you've already splashed out on a top-of-the-range iPad, the price tag on this high-end keyboard case – which adds the tactile satisfaction of mechanical keys to your device – won't dissuade you. 

Perfect for working on the move, you'll get almost the same performance as a full-sized mechanical keyboard, all thanks to Razer's very own ultra-low-profile mechanical switches. 

There's also adjustable backlighting, which can make a dramatic difference to the battery life if you choose to turn it down. The stable and sturdy metal kickstand is also a nice touch.

Targeting both smartphone and tablet owners, Logitech's K780 keyboard expands on its earlier iteration, the K380 – quite literally, as it's now longer, including a handy number pad.

Like its predecessor, the K780 can pair with up to three devices at once using Bluetooth or wireless, so you can toggle between them as you type on the comfortable rounded keys.

Slot your iPhone, iPad and/or Android device into the perfectly-placed slot in the keyboard's base – which can hold devices up to 11.3mm thick in an upright position – to make everything more comfortable.

Easily the most 'fun-sized' and compact keyboard on the list, Microsoft's offering is roughly the size of a pack of cards when folded in half (at just under 15cm), making it perfectly pocket-sized and ideal for travelling.

It works with Android, Windows Phone and iOS over Bluetooth, and has USB charging. While it's perfectly portable, however, you will still need a flat, stable surface to type on as you won't be able to use this on your lap very comfortably.

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Jan 162018
 

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Jan 162018
 

If you've not heard of the term user experience (UX), the clue's in the title. It's about creating a great experience for the users of your website. And that's less about making it look aesthetically pleasing and more about making it easy to use.

The secret to a good UX is not to make users have to think about what they're doing: it should come naturally to them to find what they're looking for and interact with your site. In a web design agency, user experience may be the responsibility of the team as a whole or a specific UX designer. There are even entire firms that specialise in user experience consultancy.

In this post we've grouped together the best articles, interviews and tips featured on Creative Bloq on the subject of user experience. Whatever your level of expertise, you're bound to find something to help your understanding and improve your technique. And we'll keep coming back to this post and updating it, so make sure you keep it bookmarked.

Opening illustration: Neil Stevens

Introduction to UX

01. 5 UX lessons you can learn in the toilet

Toilet

Fundamental UX advice for fundamental experiences

Bear with us for a second. If you're looking to get started in UX design, you can learn some fundamental lessons by focusing on... ahem... basic functions. In this amusing but super-useful article, Chris How runs through the UX lessons you can learn from public bathrooms.

02. Essential TED talks for UX designers

Do you know what TED stands for? Technology, education, design. As such, there have been plenty of talks exploring the intersection of technology and design over the years. Here we've rounded up the best – starting with Tom Wujec's 'Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast'.

03. The 5 biggest UX design trends for 2018

Voice-first interfaces are changing the game in UX

Technological advances and consumer trends have had a big impact on the shape of user experience. This article explores the big themes that UX designers need to focus their efforts on in 2018, from invisible interfaces to the rise of VR. You can also take a look at what went down in UX in 2017.

04. UX tips for creating a flawless website

Infographic shows 3 of the tips

This is a great infographic to pin or save for later

If you're in a hurry and are after a quick rundown of the fundamentals of user experience, look here. This infographic lays out 10 essential UX principles in a snappy fashion.

UX tips and advice

05. Unified UX

In this talk from the Generate New York 2016 conference, Cameron Moll takes on the challenge presented by the increasing numbers of devices and connected objects in the digital landscape. He offers advice for how to create an experience that flows seamlessly between different devices as the user moves from one to another.

06. Tips for better mobile UX design

Hand tapping a 'go' button

Tailor your mobile experiences to keep your users happy

It's no secret that mobile browsing is on the up. It's no good designing an experience that works perfectly on desktop but falls apart on mobile. So with that in mind, this tutorial rounds up advice for keeping your mobile users happy.

07. The UX of typography explained

Screenshot of a calendar app

Good typography has a big impact on UX

Getting your typography right can have a big impact on the usability of your website or app. In this short article, Sam Kapila takes a look at the principles you need to follow to ensure your type doesn't frustrate users, and presents some best practice examples.

08. Building device-agnostic UX systems

Users increasingly switch between different devices to complete the same task, depending on what's convenient for them at the time. This means our UX strategy now has to transcend devices – offering a consistent experience no matter where the user is coming from. This Generate talk from Anna Dahlström will help you get started.

09. Four tenets of UX strategy

In this in-depth long read, Jaime Levy breaks down four key elements you need to understand in order to develop a cohesive and effective UX strategy. The extract is taken from Levy's book UX Strategy, which focuses on advice for how to devise innovative digital products that people want. You can read more of the book on her website, where you'll also find useful links to her talks.

10. The theory of UX

This long-read takes a closer look at the scientific theory behind user experience. It explores the type of data you can collect and how to find the right meaning in this data to inform the user experiences you design.

11. Designing for a crisis

Nobody wants to think about the worst-case scenario, but it's in cases like these that the right design can have the most impact. In this moving talk from Generate London, Eric Meyer draws on personal experience to make a case for building extreme use cases into your UX design. You can also read the article on Medium here.

12. Conflict is the key to great UX

Many people would argue that good UX is about creating smooth, snag-free experiences, but in his Generate talk, Steve Fisher presents the idea that conflict is an essential ingredient.

Next page: The role of UX and case studies

The role of UX

13. Why UX designers have the best job in the world

The job of UX designer may seem a little woolly. This article by Yael Levy explores exactly what the role entails and what makes a great UX designer. If you're thinking of getting involved, here's a good place to see what UX is all about.

14. UX tools to try this year

Chart of things to consider, eg competitive analysis, user stories, accessibility

This UX project checklist contains essential advice

As part of a general boom in design tools, we've also seen plenty of new UX tools surfacing in recent months. This post gathers together the best ones to explore, and explains what each one of them does so you can pick what suits your needs.

15. The UX designer's survival guide

In this Generate talk, Media Temple's Lissa Aguilar presents a survival guide for current or prospective UI designers. It includes how to set up your compass, get a lay of the land, and the Swiss Army Knife of tools you'll need.

16. Essential tools for freelance UX designers

These tools will help if you're thinking of going freelance

If you're thinking of going it alone as a freelance UX designer, take a look at this list of essential tools. There are tools dedicated to analytics and user testing, but also ones to help you with your business, including accounting and proposal tools.

17. Why web design needs UX experts

Many people would argue that ensuring a good user experience is everyone's responsibility. This article by Andy Budd asks if that is the case, do we really need UX experts? The answer, he argues, is a resounding yes.

18. UX portfolios done right

Title says 'Hello my name is Erica and I'm a UX designer'

Advice for showing off your UX skills

Every type of designer needs a cracking portfolio to promote themselves... but UX design doesn't lend itself too well to traditional portfolio approaches. This article explores how to best showcase your work, and presents a selection of great UX portfolio sites to look through.

Case studies

19. Discover Google's UX design secrets

Headshot of Rachel Inman

Rachel Inman helps shape Google's user experince

UX design lead Rachel Inman works at Google. In this interview from net magazine, she explains her personal approach to UX design, and how that scales to a search giant like Google.

20. How Jaime Levy became a UX strategy guru

Jaime Levy's book on UX Strategy has been published in six different languages, and is regarded as one of the definitive works on UX. In this interview, the American author, university professor, interface designer and UX strategist shares the journey to becoming one of the world's foremost UX experts.

21. How UX strategy can change the world

In this talk from the Generate London conference, Jaime Levy explains how she put together a UX strategy for a futuristic international transportation system called Hyperloop. The scheme used a unified network of digital touchpoints where shared big data and app interfaces are seamlessly connected across various different transport systems (such as bikes, tuk-tuks and buses).

22. The best UX/UI Instagram accounts to follow

An app design being sketched in pen

Instragram users such as Jürgen Leckie have plenty to teach you about UX

Instagram is a great social media platform to use to integrate UX inspiration and tips into your daily life. In this post we run down the best accounts to follow, to spark ideas and perhaps even some collaborations.

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