May 032016
Creating a spaceship airlock

This sterile spaceship was inspired by surgical equipment

When you want to learn to draw a specific environment like an airlock from scratch, a key thing to remember is that it isn't going to be a standalone piece. It's part of a larger vehicle or environment, so this drawing tutorial shows that you need to consider not just the airlock's design, but how it fits in with your location's construction and purpose.

The airlock acts as both a passageway and a safety feature, so it needs to look like something that can be used by individuals, but also something that has a lot of visual density.

I like to focus on shapes early on in the design to convey the heaviness and bulk of the door, something that can withstand the pressure difference. Material choices are key, not just for function, but also to match your settlement or ship.

Material choices are key, not just for function, but also to match your settlement or ship

A docking station is likely to see a lot of back and forth, reflected in additional wear and tear. Whereas an outpost with a skeleton crew of scientists is going to be a lot cleaner and more sterile.

I pay special attention to readability, not just in the visuals but also in the elements in the scene. Most people aren't familiar with airlocks, so I need to convey the use of the surrounding equipment with simple and clear ideas.

Any aesthetic complexity comes from tailoring the scene to feel more technologically advanced. In this piece,
I want to create a scientific module, as part of a larger habitat – just one of many outposts in the galaxy.

01. Setting the scene

Creating a spaceship airlock

Characters were used in the thumbnail to create a sense of scale

Create thumbnails to establish design direction. Focus on big, bold shapes to establish your overall shape language. I want chose to show the airlock from the interior, to hint at its operation. Using line work will force you to resolve any design issues. Relying too much on photo reference at the sketch stage may act as a crutch for an unstable foundation.

02. Finalising the design

Creating a spaceship airlock

The equipment is built with crew members in mind

I've set up a 3D base with some minor paint and photo elements to refine as I progress. This helps me to discover and establish opportunities to improve the design. The idea here is to find a unique theme by spending a bit more time on one component. Once I'm happy with that component, I'll apply the same approach to the rest of the scene.

03. Lighting and details

Creating a spaceship airlock

The spacesuit is a clever way of establishing scale

I make another quick pass to ensure the design of each feature is clear and readable. More emphasis is placed on graphical design and user interface design – this needs to feel like a coherent, functional space. Once I'm satisfied that form follows function, I begin to work on refinement, tweaking the lighting and adding atmosphere.

This article was originally published in ImagineFX magazine issue 132.

May 032016

When pairing fonts there are no firm rules. There will always be new combinations that turn out to look great. For many however, it's helpful to stick to some basic guidelines in order to ensure a great looking typographic design. 

You will, of course, need some fonts to experiment on and play with. We've got a selection of free fonts, including handwriting fonts and graffiti fonts, and a guide to choosing web fonts to help you get started.

Here's our guide to font pairing's basics...

01. Content First

Before even considering what fonts to use make sure content is well written. Beautiful typography cannot save bad content. Good typography will put the reader's focus on the content, so make sure the content is clear and effective. 

02. Keep it simple

Today, designers have endless options when it comes to choosing type. It can easily become overwhelming. One can excel using a single font if it has a versatile font family with a good range of font weights. Using two different fonts, one for headings and one for body text, is a common and effective tactic.

03. Contrast

When using two different fonts, make sure they have plenty of contrast. An easy way to achieve this is to use sans-serif/serif or serif/sans-serif font pairings. Fonts paired together that have different weights and styles tend to contrast well together. You can also use slightly different color shades between fonts to bring visual hierarchy and balance to the design. 

Perfect font pairing

Font pairing is both and art and science. Mills Digital's Font Pair can help designers select and set contrasting Google fonts

04. Ensure readability  

This might go without saying, but its important to test the fonts before implementing them into a design. Ensure the fonts function well together. What is the context in which you are using them? Is it a readable font pair for a laptop and a mobile phone browser? Will the reader be able to distinguish between the heading and body fonts?

05. Use resources

There are tons of typographic resources on the web today that can be super helpful when trying to pair different fonts together. Sites like Typewolf  offer inspiration and updates on trends and popular fonts currently being used on the web. Using resources as guidelines can help you achieve better looking results. 

06. Explore

It's important to note that pairing fonts is a completely subjective decision that the designer must make for their particular design. It's vital to explore different pairings and test for yourself what works best. Don't be afraid to try new pairs! 

May 032016

As an independent creative professional, and because of the number of hours per day I work, I face the very real potential for burning out. The secret isn't luck; it's a deliberate decision to keep the fire burning.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of mind that not only effects you emotionally, but also physically. It happens when you work yourself too hard. It also happens as a result of being stressed out for long periods of time.

Burnout is a feeling of total exhaustion. It's evaporates any motivation you may have inside. It doesn't matter whether you're working from home or as the creative director of a big agency. To put it simply, burnout sucks the life out of you!

An in-depth look

Stress might very well be unavoidable. There are times when our careers and our personals lives crash in such a way that we feel stressed. For example, your boss or client is expecting the project you've been working on to be done this weekend; your sister is celebrating her 50th birthday, and the family is expecting you to not only be there, but to help organize her party. What do you do?

Maybe you're lucky. Maybe this is a rare thing. But imagine if you're faced with demanding work deadlines and demanding family responsibility all of the time. If left unchecked, this stress can lead to burnout.

But it doesn't have to be family vs. work. Work vs. work is a thing too! Dealing with tight deadlines and heavy workloads, time and time again, can lead to burnout. Taking on new responsibilities at work can be a good thing; taking on too much, can lead to burnout.

Avoiding burnout

Over the years, and after a few burnouts of my own, I've come up with some techniques to keep myself in check. So far, so good.

01. Take breaks

Weather permitting, I try to walk a least two hours a day. That may seem excessive, but I work long hours and this is a relatively small amount of time in the scheme of things. For me, those two hours (which sometimes are not always consecutive) allow me to recharge my batteries.

Are you interested in joining me on my walks? Follow me on Instagram.

02. Be social

This one seems kind of obvious, right? Humans are meant to have connections; without them, bad things have a tendency to happen. If you don't have time to be social, adjust your schedule. Build in enough free time that you can spend it with your friends and family.

03. Don't be a jerk (to yourself)

Be nice to yourself. Sometimes you can't always do as much as you need/want/think you can do in one day. It's okay. It doesn't mean you're a failure. It may, however, mean you've agreed to do to much. It can also mean that you didn't manage your time properly. If that's the case, find out how to fix that problem; don't waste your energy on beating yourself up.

04. Learn to say no

A friend and co-organizer of Indie DevStock, Angela Scott, recently told me that 'No' is complete sentence, and 'Hell no' is a full paragraph. This advice couldn't be more spot on. Limiting your responsibilities is an important part of avoiding burnout. The bottom line: don't take on more than you can handle.

You can listen to more of Angela's words of wisdom on our show, Invisible Red.

05. Be mindful of your health

Okay. I won't lie. This next one feels a bit hypocritical for me since I don't necessarily practice what I preach here; that being said, it's important to eat right, sleep right and exercise. Like a well oiled machine, the human body runs a lot better when its owner takes care of it. At least that's what my mom keeps telling me.

In conclusion

Stress, heavy workloads and daily responsibilities cannot always be avoided, but protecting yourself from burnout isn't impossible. Small changes might be all it takes to keep that fire burning.

May 032016
New Guinness logo

The new logo replaces the previous design created in 2005

Beer brands don't come more recognisable than the Guinness harp. So when it came to updating the black stuff's logo design, London firm Design Bridge had to tread a fine line between creating something new and staying true to the established look. But by moving away from the trend of flat designs they've created a contemporary logo that reflects the brand's history.

Revealed last week, the new logo is the first redesign for the golden harp in 10 years. Faced with the challenge to "breathe life back into the harp and let it sing once again," Design Bridge used the heritage of Guinness to tell the brand's story.

Guinness logos

Guinness have bucked the trend by moving away from 2005's flat design

After spending time with harp makers to ensure the design remained authentic, illustrator Gerry Barney was enlisted to bring the logo to life. Hand-drawn typography taking its cues from the first Guinness print adverts in the 1920s completes the redesign.

Craftsmanship is at the heart of this redesign and it shows in the subtle details that can be found in the harp. While the 2005 design wouldn't look out of place as an app icon, the Design Bridge creation channels the stamped lettering found in the ironwork at the Guinness Storehouse, giving it a "depth, tactility and drama."

Guinness logos

The new logo echoes the intricacies of some earlier designs

All of this hard work and research appears to have paid off as designers seem to love the redesign. No easy feat, considering that the recently unveiled Tokyo Olympics logo came in for a rough reception.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A stunning new design for the Guinness harp <a href=""></a> <a href="">#Branding</a> <a href="">#GraphicDesign</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Logo Geek (@Logo_Geek) <a href="">April 23, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">New Guinness logo is utterly beautiful. Shame it wasn’t designed by an Irish studio though. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Johnnie Wong (@artofwong) <a href="">April 28, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">New Guinness <a href="">#logo</a> back to its craft roots <a href="">@Design_Week</a> <a href=""></a> new harp is miles better <a href="">#design</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Jili Allen (@JiliAllen) <a href="">April 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Absolutely love the newly revised Guinness logo. <a href=""></a><a href="">#designinspiration</a> <a href="">#logodesign</a></p>&mdash; Dave Montrose (@MontroseCreate) <a href="">May 2, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

Described by the team at Design Bridge as "a labour of love and a shining example of our creative philosophy," this redesign leads by example when it comes to creating a new look for an established brand.

May 032016

Lossel combines gold and graphite to create this stunning The NeverEnding Story-inspired piece

Learning how to draw with mixed media is no easy feat, but it can be hugely rewarding, not to mention fun experimenting and combining various materials for original mixed media art. And it makes a great addition to your design portfolio.

The illustrators of the Golden Age, the Symbolist painters and the Pre-Raphaelites have all passed through my imagination and influenced my art. There's a wide palette of emotions in these images tinted with lyricism and sprinkled with symbolism. I like the ornamental friezes of Heinrich Lefler, the movement of Rackham, the poetry of Dulac, the lights of Doré, the softness of Waterhouse, the strength of Böcklin and the great classical topics of Alma-Tadema.

Art influences

Art Nouveau, Art Deco and the Arts and Craft movements quickly filled up my influences, taking things into an ethical dimension, a reflection about art and crafts. All these painters and movements pushed me toward the creation of a studio in a 1900s' spirit, an old binding press facing a beautiful lectern. I grew to be a lover of old techniques, collecting books of oil paintings. My old house in Brittany provides a convenient atmosphere: ancient, lyric, relaxing.

I've been working with graphite and gold leaf for many years now, creating bright ornamentations or golden backgrounds. This approach enables me to create the illusion of depth, despite the two dimensional canvas. I like to add a natural touch, a bit of a wild world, symbolised by the petals that I fasten on paper. This combination of paper, graphite, gold and hydrangea petals pleases me and makes a lot of things possible.

This combination of paper, graphite, gold and hydrangea petals makes a lot of things possible

Every year, the Gallery 1988 organises a show that features artwork inspired by classic cult films. When I was asked to participate in this exhibition (Crazy 4 Cult, held in Los Angeles), I choose to illustrate The Neverending Story in a Golden Age spirit. I hadn't seen the movie in many years, and I was surprised how it affected me and the strength of its message.

Gold leaf will perfectly suit the Auryn pattern, and I will explore the fantastic landscapes of the book with graphite, because Falkor the Luckdragon is already becoming obvious to me. This image will demand lots of work on nuances supported by different graphite techniques, especially on landscapes because they need a specific depth. An important consideration will also be needed on this golden pattern of the Auryn, the double ourobouros that I'm keen to depict.

This symbol is at once of great interest and evocative. I have in mind to unfold it, to open it to see what it's hiding there...

01. Start sketching

How to draw with mixed media: start sketching

Producing rough sketches enables me to visualise on paper the image I've mentally built up. It's an interesting step that highlights the limits of my materials. In contrast, there are no limits in my mind: I can change shapes, colours and proportions of objects. It's now time to choose an idea and confirm that my intuition is correct.

02. A word on composition

How to draw mixed media: a word on composition

Composition is an art unto itself, a domain where you can play with shapes and guide the viewer. Everything must serve the idea. You have to give the illusion of life on a two-dimensional canvas. To check that the composition is working, I use gold paint to indicate where the gold leaf will eventually placed. This saves time – and money! – later on.

03. Prepare the paper

How to draw mixed media: prepare the paper

Because I plan to use a graphite wash technique, I need to stretch my sheet of paper to prevent it from crinkling. I soak the back of the paper, then flip it over and fasten it with strips of kraft. As it dries, the paper will shrink and take its final dimensions.

04. Generate a detailed drawing

How to draw mixed media: generate a detailed drawing

My art process always involves developing an initial sketch, which will be loose, enabling me to develop the composition as I see fit without any limitations. I organise the primary elements, and this gives an impulse, a movement, to the scene. I use pencils ranging from 3H to H.

05. Establish an atmosphere

How to draw with mixed media: establish an atmosphere

I create an atmosphere using a graphite wash. This stage has two functions: it helps to get me into the topic, and it defines the lighter areas of the illustration. I prefer to retain the white of the paper in my art, in a similar manner to painting with watercolours, and so I use a special type of watercolour graphite.

06. Get into the subject

How to draw with mixed media: get into the subject

I always start the detailing stage by tackling my main subject first, which I shape slowly. I want Falkor to evolve throughout the painting process; I have the idea that he's living as I paint, growing stronger with each step. I work with pencils, graphite wash and some white gouache, which gives the graphite a light blue tone.

07. Develop the second background

How to draw with mixed media: develop the second background

Based on the appearance of Falkor, I work out the shades of grey I'll need to create the different background planes in my image. I decide that I need a second dark background to bring out Falkor. It also gives me a larger palette of nuances to help develop the final background. I work on this with my graphite wash.

08. The third background

How to draw with mixed media: the third background

I move on through the planes in my image. The final one is a little odd because it shows the Ivory Tower. I have to create the illusion of a massive construction that's far off in the distance. I use several dry pencils, ranging from 5H to 2H, and a graphite wash.

09. Create light

How to draw with mixed media: create light

For this step I use oxidised silver leaf, which has a beautiful water-green tone. I use it to give the illusion of reverse lightning. I define two little green moons, which helps me to add depth. These simple geometric shapes enhance my composition.

10. Prepare the ornamentation

How to draw with mixed media: prepare the ornamentation

I draw in the details of the ornamental figures that surround my central medallion. I'm keen to accompany the movement to create a style on its own that also matches the main subject. I like my illustrations to suit the spirit of the Golden Age of Illustration.

11. Gilding and glue

How to draw with mixed media: gliding and gluing

Now that my Arabesque decorative motifs are in place, I apply gold mixtion to one bit of the pattern at a time. There are many different kind of mixtion available, with various drying times. I mostly use the illumination mixtion manufactured by Kölner. I also use the three- and 24-hour mixtions, depending on the pattern I'm working up.

12. Lay in gold leaf

How to draw with mixed media: lay in gold leaf

When the mixtion is finally ready to receive the gold leaf, I cut it meticulously and apply it with a brush. The gold leaf is fragile, and needs to be handled with care. I use a filbert sable brush to place the gold leaf on to the glue. This brush also enables me to remove any excess gold leaf.

13. Make precision cuts

How to draw with mixed media: making precision cuts

Using a scalpel, I define the gold leaf's outlines. This stage is all about removing the last bits of excess gold leaf and refining the contours of the motif. I use a range of different sized scalpel blades, depending on where I am in the creative process. A good, sharp tool is needed, especially on this step where precision and a light touch is all you can rely on.

14. Enhance the medallion

How to draw with mixed media: enhance the medallion

Very slowly, I gild my pattern, going around my medallion. I maintain a balance in the final pattern by rubbing some parts with an agate, which creates gradations within the gold. I gild some parts of my image early in the process, so that I'm able to create these gradations. Indeed, using the graphite wash obscures my first gilding efforts.

15. Where contrasts are settled

How to draw with mixed media: where contrasts are settled

In this final step, I rely on my gilding work to adjust any visual nuances in the piece. Some parts of my image need to be darkened, while others should be enhanced. In this case, I decide I have to bring out more of Falkor. So I apply white gouache to him using an airbrush. Because the light from the gold leaf is so strong, it needs to be balanced by other areas in the image. Then I step back from the artwork and call my take on The Neverending Story finished.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX How to Paint & Draw bookazine.

May 032016

3D printing is revolutionizing the way people create. If you want to bring your creations to life in a new way, you'll want to get your hands on the M3D Printer. You can get one of your own, on sale now for 20% off the retail price!

There's no shortage of things you can make with the M3D Printer. This compact desktop 3D printer is the perfect tool to kickstart your creativity, along with the included reels of filament that will get you started. You can print just about anything, from useful tools to gifts for your loved ones. It's sure to provide endless fun that is restricted only by your imagination.

The M3D Printer usually retails for $505, but you can get the M3D Printer and four reels of filament for just $399 (approx. £273). That's a 20% savings off the retail price for a tool that you'll want to have in your home.

May 032016

To be successful in advertising, the one thing you need to be is creative. Whether your campaign appears on billboards, posters, TV or online, to grab people's attention in a media-drenched world is by no means easy, and this intense challenge stretches the world's finest creative minds on a daily basis.

So whatever type of creative pro you are, there's a lot you can learn from how the world's biggest brands have stayed at the top through inventive and eye-catching advertising campaigns.

In this post, we bring together some of our favourite examples of creativity in advertising, from viral videos to powerful posters and beyond...

01. Leica

Companies with a long and rich history face a dilemma when it comes to advertising. It's tempting to make legacy the main focus of your campaign, and some brands, such as Guinness and Jack Daniels pull this off well. But 'longevity' can also be read as 'outdated', particularly in a fast-evolving technical field such as photography.

So when tasked with creating a campaign to celebrate German camera brand Leica's 100th anniversary, F/nazca Saatchi & Saatchi had a tough job. Their solution was to cleverly recreate 35 iconic photos in this visually stunning short film.

This superbly creative ad managed to square the circle, by exploiting the hipster fascination with vintage, in a way that portrays Leica as both classic and contemporary.

02. KFC

It's a well known psychological principle that people respond to smiling faces, even ones that aren't really there (clocks and watches are famously set to 10:10 because it puts a 'smile' on them).

This poster campaign for KFC by BBDO Proximity Malaysia makes use of negative space to depict happy grins in the shape of the fast food giant's products.

It's a great campaign that makes the customer look not once but at least twice, reinforcing the message and the emotional connection to the brand.

03. Soundcloud

Creativity in advertising is all about drawing out the story of a brand. And here's one element of streaming music app Soundcloud's story that people didn't know: its headquarters are situated where part of the Berlin Wall once stood.

In this highly original campaign, Grey Berlin collaborated with Soundcloud to create an "acoustic reconstruction" of the infamous wall that once separated the two Germanys. The seven minute 32 second sound file uses the wavelengths of the different sections of the 155km construction to create a 'visual image' of the wall, including its watchtowers.

An unconventional approach to advertising an unconventional company, this ad also tugs on the heartstrings by featured short memorials for the 120 people who lost their lives trying to cross the wall and reach the West.

04. Fanta

Doing something entirely new with print sounds like a tall order. But that's exactly what OgilvyOne delivered with this advertisement for Fanta... which you can actually taste.

Yes, you read that right: it's just like the edible wallpaper in the Willy Wonka movie – except, well, real.

Readers were encouraged to tear a piece off the advertisement, place it in their mouth and chew. Glutinous rice flour, water, salt, propylene glycol, FD&C colour and glycerine were used in the production process to make this print ad taste like orange Fanta.

05. Samsung

When Samsung teamed up with Argentina's government to promote road safety, it had its work cut out. Almost one person dies in a traffic accident every hour in the South American nation, and the majority of fatalities involve attempts to overtake on one-way roads,

Leo Burnett teamed up with Volvo Trucks, software company Ingematica and trailer company Helvetica to come up with a road safety campaign the like of which no one had seen before.

The centrepiece was a giant video screen on a moving truck, which transmitted live footage from cameras in the front and rear, enabling fellow drivers to see what's coming and plan safe overtaking. This attention-grabbing campaign served as a great way to promote both road safety and Samsung's persona as a global tech leader.

06. Australia Post

"If you really want to touch someone, send them a letter." That was the tagline for this campaign for Australia's postal service, and M&C Saatchi Australia interpreted it perfectly with this thoughtful design.

Railing against the dying art of letter writing in the social media age, this poster brings the arts of typography and photography together in a stunning synergy, and the emotional underpinning couldn't be clearer.

07. Coca-Cola

Thought all Coke advertising was generic? Think again. This campaign, launched in the Middle East during Ramadan, doesn't actually mention the drink at all. But it conveys the brand's values in a way that's far more memorable than a message about 'refreshing taste' could ever be.

Entitled 'Remove Labels This Ramadan', the ad shows a group of strangers meeting and chatting in pitch dark, and imagining what each other looks like – with unexpected results.

Created by FP7/DXB and Memac Ogilvy, this smart take on stereotyping was accompanied by the release of a special Coke can that tied it all together with the slogan: 'Labels are for cans, not for people'.

08. Action on Hearing Loss

When the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) renamed themselves Action on Hearing Loss, they brought in Hat-Trick Design to create a cool new visual identity for the charity.

Hat-Trick went on to create this series of hard-hitting posters to highlight the dangers of listening to loud music.

Featuring attention-grabbing black-and-white images, the designs were used on billboards, telephone boxes and cinema adverts during London's Camden Crawl music festival, and in the press, including the NME and The Daily Telegraph.

With so many charities competing for our eyeballs, Hat-Trick scored a winner with this campaign, which was graphic without being gratuitous; shocking without being exploitative.

09. Greenpeace

Don't Panic London's campaign for Greenpeace was launched in protest against Lego's relationship with Shell, due to the latter's advocacy of drilling in the Arctic.

Cleverly parodying the title song of The Lego Movie, and using Lego figures to stage a scene of environmental disaster at the North Pole, it quickly went viral.

It was a total success. Lego quickly bowed to all the public pressure that was generated, and broke off all its decades-long ties to the controversial oil giant.

10. Honey Maid

Droga5's TV campaign for wholesome cracker brand Honey Maid raised eyebrows by reflecting the rapidly changing face of the American family – spotlighting same-sex, interracial and single parents.

Although the public response to it was overwhelmingly positive, the campaign inevitably attracted a number of negative online comments. But Droga5 turned that into a plus too, in the form of an online film where each comment was printed, rolled up, and turned into an art installation, working with two artists known as Indo.

This creative response turned the tables on the bigots, and reinforced the sense of modernity the campaign had given this traditional brand.

May 032016
Tinder interview Scott Hurff

Scott Hurff is Tinder's product manager and lead designer

When it comes to looking for web design inspiration you could do a lot worse than looking to Tinder for tips. With its 'swipe right' mechanic having become a phrase outside of the app itself, Tinder is clearly built on strong UI design. To discover some of the UX secrets behind the app, we spoke to Tinder's lead designer Scott Hurff.

How do you keep an eye on how effective the UX is at Tinder?

The primary focus of the product team's mission is to make the Tinder experience as fun, productive, and endearing as possible. Putting yourself out there in a dating-like context can be really stressful.

I'm lucky to be a part of a team that includes Jonathan Badeen. He's the guy who invented the 'swipe right' (and left), and his worldview has always been to make people feel as comfortable as possible.

In your new book Designing Products People Love, you talk about "screen-lickable products". What do you mean by that?

At the time I was quoting Steve Jobs and his supposed outburst when he saw the Aqua version of OS X ( I just love that emotional reaction. Product designers all hope and wish for that moment where somebody goes, "Wow, that's exactly what I hoped for."

In the past few years, products have been devalued because consumer technology enables cheap distribution. Lots of tech companies treat products more like toys, because if something dies, it's easy to discard.

I reject the notion that everything lives or dies by a viral loop, or just because something is pretty. Products exist to alleviate people's problems, period. What's important is the experience someone has when using something you've created.

Of course, aesthetics have their place. Aesthetics can improve trust, reinforce a product's value, and demonstrate empathy.

How can designers sift out the good stuff and stay relevant?

Designers need to step up and help teach each other what they've learned. There's a phrase somebody told me recently: "Don't compare your insides to somebody else's outsides." We can only learn so much by downloading the latest apps or breaking down someone else's code.

The beauty of the internet is that it's an open place, and it was built on the backs of people who shared their ideas and experiences. That's the best way for the digital product design industry to move forward.

Tinder website

Scott believes products exist to alleviate people's problems

You've spoken about designer's exaggerated focus on the 'ideal state'. How can designers ensure they look further afield?

The ideal state is only one piece of what I call 'the UI stack'. There are four other states: partial, error, loading and blank. Really, every screen has every state caught up in it. Screens need to be designed to seamlessly move between each state.

So I challenge product designers everywhere to do the work to account for these states, for every screen and in every flow they create.

You wrote a blog post entitled 'How to design for thumbs in the era of huge screens'. How has this new era challenged and changed the way you work?

It's opened my eyes to the importance of ergonomics. I had always wondered why I was annoyed that the 'Done' button was at the top of
the phone, and to use it I had to contort my hand into some weird prop you'd see in Hook or something. That's what led me to think through things like thumb zones and how UI elements can be placed to be the most convenient for thumbs.

Research shows that's how most people hold their phones: with one hand and one thumb that drives. People do, of course, re-orient the phone almost without knowing it to accomplish certain tasks, but the thumb is the primary driver. I'm now researching tap target sizes, and why big buttons just feel better than tiny little ones.

This interview was originally published in net magazine issue 278.

May 022016
Boost online design sales

See your sales soar with these four useful tips

If you've been hard at work in your spare time creating stunning paper craft or impressive vintage posters, selling your merchandise online can be a quick way to make extra pennies for your efforts.

However it's not as simple as sticking it on the internet and hoping people hand over their money. In fact there's a fine art to making sure people get tempted into buying your wares. Luckily this crash course list of advice will get you ready for the fast-paced world of online design retail.

01. Get Product Photography Right

Images are really important when selling on Etsy – or anywhere else online. It's the only way your customers are able to see what you're selling, so make sure your photos are clear, well-lit and appealing. in particular, make sure your backgrounds are plain and neutral – keep the focus on your products.

02. Use Search Terms in Product Titles

On Etsy, you need to provide each listing with a title. This is a great place to add keywords and search terms that your buyers will use to find your item.

Some sellers mistake this as a place to title a work with a collection 
or item name – for example, calling a handbag 'the Julia' and leaving out important words that help search engines recognise the item, such as style, colour, material and manufacturing method. When writing your title, be sure to include descriptive words that your customers will use.

Selling designs online

An online marketplace like Etsy makes their items easy to find

03. Experiment to See What Sells

Something successful sellers do is focus on their businesses. They are constantly experimenting and figuring out what works for them. This includes trying out new products, as well as new photos and new ways to describe their items.

They also keep an eye on the results. What worked this year may not work next year, and seasonality and larger trends can play a big part in how well a shop does, so never stop experimenting.

04. Set Targets For Improvement

It's good to set small goals over the course of a week. For example, you could start by opening your shop with one item and then add another item each week. It's also worth signing up for the Etsy Success UK newsletter at, which provides tips from top sellers on the site.

This article was originally published in Computer Arts magazine issue 252.

May 022016
How to get clients to take more risks

You could be the best creative director, with all the experience and the best design portfolio in the world, but it might not make a difference to a client who likes to play it safe. As part of a YouTube series from Computer Arts, the team at London-based branding and communication studio NB provide some top advice on how to get clients to take more risks when it comes to branding strategies.

01. Involve the client early

"When you've got a new client, it's all about earning trust," says NB co-founder Alan Dye. "We like to get clients on board very early on so they're part of the creative process. You get a better result than you would just presenting a concept to them. it makes it their concept as well as your concept."

02. Problem-solve together

Throughout the project, work collaboratively through the issue, problem or question set out by the client. "We'll start with a workshop, or several workshops," says NB co-founder Nick Finney. "Whereas in the past we might have been able to sketch something and think, 'it's going to be that,' nowadays, you have to keep an open mind and work with your client towards an end goal."

03. Ask a lot of questions

"When we get a brief, we start questioning what we've been set," adds Dye. "You ask a lot of 'why' questions and generally end up re-writing the brief with the client, making it better by finding out what they really want."

04. Open communication channels

"Clients are people as well. They've got their own ambitions for their role and what they want to achieve," points out brand strategist Tom Moloney. "Build up your relationship so that they can say, 'Oh, I'm having trouble with X from this department.' Keep those channels open. It works both ways, because you can then show half-formed thoughts and have discussions. You can have a much more open and honest conversation."

05. Know when to walk away

"For Tom and I, the most difficult part of our job is saying, 'Maybe we shouldn't be working with this client. Maybe we shouldn’t get into a relationship with them,'" reflects Moloney's fellow brand strategist Dan Radley. "We're best when we're working with people who are really enlightened and have a bit of courage themselves."

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 252.