Jun 222017

Having started life as a private label brand in 2009, watch designer BREDA has come a long way over the years and now operates out of a watch design studio in Dallas, Texas. In fact it has even made big steps forwards during the last 12 months, with its watches addressing some of the design and material flaws we pointed out in our BREDA Valor watches review.

As ever, BREDA is a brand that focuses on creating premium watch designs within an accessible price range, so it's a relief to see that the craftsmanship is finally on par with its reasonable pricing.

The watches we were given to review come from BREDA's Bresson range. While we found the Valor selection of watches a little lacking in terms of the strap material quality, this isn't the case with the bold and chunky Bresson models. Each comes with thick, genuine leather straps that look more than capable of standing up to being repeatedly fastened day in, day out.

The strap material is an improvement on BREDA's previous watches

The centrepiece of a Bresson watch is its durable case. Just like the stitchless strap, the case has a robust feel and weight to it and is comfortable to wear. And while it's chunky, you won't feel one arm weighing conspicuously more than the other while you're wearing it.

Taking its name from photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Bresson watch "captures elements from the lens of a camera." Time itself is displayed with an easy to read matte dial and a white watch face with embossed minute markers. The result is a design that has an elegant functionality that both looks good and meets the practical demands of the user.

The only issue we ran into while reviewing this range was a usability flaw with the buckle. On one model the buckle unclipped itself while the strap was being fastened, but this was easily clipped back into place and the watch continues to be worn just fine.

The stylish packaging keeps the watches nice and safe

Bresson watches come in an appropriately minimalist cardboard box and sleeve that store the timepieces flat to keep them safe. This is great as it keeps the leather strap in mint condition. Other BREDA watches are supplied in a square box that wraps the strap around internal packaging, so it's good to see that the attention to detail is carried over from the watch to how it's presented.

Retailing at $90 (or roughly £70), the Bresson watches deliver much more than other BREDA ranges at just a fractionally higher price. With these timepieces you get value for money and quality craftsmanship to boot. The Bresson range could easily suit day to day wear or be saved for special occasions, so be sure to check it out.

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Jun 212017

Pairing font is a constant challenge for designers and typographers. Putting the wrong fonts together can create a discordant look that ruins a design, while letters that share similar themes or measures can bring a project together. To help creatives match their fonts successfully, Fontjoy has turned to deep learning to make the whole process quicker than ever.

Created by designer and engineer Jack Qiao, Fontjoy builds on a similar font mapping tool released earlier this year. By extracting the feature vectors from images of nearly 2,000 fonts, Qiao was able to create a formula that can systematically sift through styles and find fonts that share key characteristics.

Users click on a letter to choose a font

On Fontjoy you can play around with font pairings by selecting styles from the options in the sidebar. Simply choose how similar or contrasting you want the fonts to be by adjusting a scale at the top of the site, then click generate to instantly find a match.

The controls take a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of Fontjoy you'll be able to lock you favourite fonts and experiment with pairings in no time.

Fontjoy saves an age-old problem for designers and typographers

For experienced designers Fontjoy might prove to be little more than a starting point for your own experimentation, but for beginners the site is a useful tool in understanding how font styles can work together or against each other. And with Qiao explaining how he created the mapping algorithm on Github, there's even some insights for those who want to start getting into machine learning.

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Jun 212017

Pearlfisher originally specialised in packaging, but over its 25 years in business the agency has shifted focus to branding, working with iconic clients such as Cadbury, Starbucks and Innocent.

Brand strategists Molly Rowan Hamilton and Kristoffer Fink Parup explain how Pearlfisher's Strategy division works, and reveal some of the tools and techniques they use to get to the heart of a brand. Here are their four golden rules for developing a brand strategy:

01. Look to the future to see the present

"The big question always is: 'What do you want your brand to become ultimately?'" argues Fink Parup. "'Where is it 10 years down the line, and why is that so?'" By asking this kind of open question, he adds, you can reveal the deeper thinking behind a brand, as well as any underlying issues or blind spots. "We might have a different opinion about what's going to be relevant, how the industry is shifting, and we can have a conversation about that."

02. Engage in informal conversations

Interacting with clients on a conversational level feels less like an interview and helps to humanise the process. "Often clients will express things they don't necessarily realise they're expressing," observes Rowan Hamilton. "Ideas and solutions can just come about, and it's our job to see them, and to extract meaning." When it comes to challenger brands in particular, she continues, it often helps to start by asking what their competitors are doing wrong.

The design language Pearlfisher created for non-alcoholic beverage Seedlip is influenced by the distillation of natural ingredients

03. Understand the brand's trajectory

Pearlfisher works with challenger and iconic brands, and everything in between: "We map brands out on their trajectory upwards towards iconic," explains Fink Parup. "Of course, once you reach iconic status, there's still competition – it's not like some kind of nirvana where nobody's going to touch you." It can still pay to have that scrappy challenger mentality to shake things up, and Fink Parup gives Virgin as a great example of that.

04. Tailor strategy to market position

Depending on where a brand is on that trajectory, the goal of the strategy is different. "For a challenger brand, you need to know what to challenge, and how," Rowan Hamilton points out. "For iconic brands, it's more about nurturing – understanding why people love you, and cherishing that to keep you as iconic as you possibly can be for as long as possible." Often, she adds, people's affection for a brand originally stems from its original challenger mentality.

Want to learn more from Pearlfisher's branding experts? You can watch our interviews with them:

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 265; buy it here!

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Jun 212017

It's a mixed bag this month. As always, we round up the best new art books: there's a love letter to the Arctic by an artist who has undertaken several expeditions to paint its wildlife, people, and places; there's a book about art and magic and advertising; and there's another that teaches you the techniques of the 'Famous Artists School’.

Fancy having a crack at Chinese brush painting? We've got that covered, too. We're exploring the art of the old American west and street art from New York City in the 1980s. Plus, we've got some nice gear to smarten up your workspace. And we've also got a cool new product from the PANTONE Living range.

01. Beginning Chinese Brush

Learn to paint birds, flowers and traditional Chinese landscapes

The new book in the 'Special Subjects' series offers everything you need to get into Chinese brush painting. Artist Monika Cilmi is your guide. She helps you to pick the right brush, learn basic techniques, brushstrokes and composition, as you practice painting birds, flowers, and traditional landscapes. 

Cilmi also shows you how incorporate these traditional methods into your own artistic approach, whatever that may be.

02. Wolf hair Chinese brushes

These top-rated Chinese brushes are an affordable option for beginners

These top-rated Chinese brushes, made of wood and wolf hair, come in three sizes. They hold a lot of water, handle ink well, and are nicely balanced. We’d recommend them as a good entry-level brush, but they are also capable of tackling more advanced projects. Plus, they’re very affordable, so you don't need to spend a ton of money to make a start in traditional Chinese writing and painting. 

03. Drawing Lessons from the Famous Artists School

This book follows the renowned Famous Artists School's course

The Famous Artists School is an art correspondence course founded in 1948 by Albert Dorne, Norman Rockwell, and other members of the New York Society of Illustrators. This book is based on the course, and takes you through the processes of these artists. Each chapter takes you through lessons and exercises in classic drawing technique. 

There's also a ton of pieces taken from Norman Rockwell Museum and the Golden Age of Illustration, but particularly interesting are the before-and-after examples of student work.

04. Keith Haring: Posters exhibition

See 100 posters from the American artist and activist's short career

This month's oh-man-I-wish-could-go-to-that exhibition takes place at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg. Keith Haring: Posters features 100 posters that show how the American artist and activist's style developed over his short career. It features work in support of human rights, tolerance, education and AIDS awareness, as well as stuff Haring sold in his New York Pop Shop. The exhibition is a cool retrospective on the work of one of the late 20th century’s most influential artists. 

05. Once Upon a Time ... The Western

The book explores the American west's impact on art, culture and society

This new book explores the facts and fictions of the American west, the 'story of nation-building, triumphs, failures and fantasies.' It features art by American west artists like Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Remington, but also works by modern artists such as Andy Warhol and Kent Monkman.

The book looks at the Western in film too, from early works by John Ford and Sergio Leone, to recent productions by Quentin Tarantino and Joel and Ethan Coen, all the while exploring the genre's impact on art, culture, and society. 

06. Holiday Art Creative Gift Box

Dip into travel journalling with this dedicated set

This new art travel set from Snapdragon has a travel diary with alternating blank and lined pages so you can keep a written and illustrated journal of your travels. The Scottish brand also includes an eraser, pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a pencil case to keep them all in, stackable watercolour paints and watercolour postcards, and lead holder and spare leads – everything you need to take your art on the road.

07. Illusions: The Art of Magic 

This book offers a fascinating insight into the early days of art and advertising

During the ‘golden age of magic' – between the late 19th and early 20th centuries – magicians fought an advertising war. Devils, demons, skulls, skeletons, and glamorous assistants, pictured on elaborately designed posters, were used to pull in an audiences. This book contains 250 of those posters. 

Experts look at the social context in which the posters were created and the artists employed to create them. It's a fascinating look at the early days of art and advertising, and how the two overlap.

08. PANTONE water bottle

Looking for some unnecessary but cool homeware?

The new PANTONE Living range has a loads of cool lifestyle stuff that you don't really need, but you do really, really want. Made from impact-resistant material, with a stainless steel screw-top, this is a tough, long-lasting water bottle. It's good for the environment and all that, but mainly it just looks dead smart. And, obviously, the bottles come a range of colours – Black 419 being our favourite.

09. Personalised oak pen and pencil holder

Smarten up your studio with this range of oak stationery

Bespoke & Oak Co. – a British company based in the Forest of Bowland – has a new range that includes some cool stuff to smarten your studio. This handmade solid oak pen/pencil holder comes with a personalised message on the bottom. There's also ton of matching gear, so, if you’re so inclined, you can completely oak-ify your workspace with everything from oak stationery to oak iMac stands.

10. David Bellamy’s Arctic light

Cool down with this love letter to the Arctic

Coming off the back of several expeditions, this book by David Bellamy is a love letter to his 'beloved Arctic.' The artist writes beautifully about his travels in the region, sharing the challenges of painting outdoors in one of the toughest environments on Earth. It's illustrated with Bellamy's atmospheric watercolour sketches and paintings, each one showing his love for the people, places, and wildlife of the Arctic Circle.

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Jun 212017

Web design is a skill that just about anyone can have use for, whether it's to build your business or just to build a web presence for your hobby. Master the skill and the apps that experts trust with the Web Design CPD Certification Bundle, on sale now for 97% off!

Web design all starts off with the languages of HTML5 and CSS3. You can add the foundational languages to your repertoire, then learn how to make the most of them with the Web Design CPD Certification Bundle. Once you master the coding languages, you can learn how to use them with Adobe's powerful tools –
Photoshop, Flash and Dreamweaver – to take your design to the next level.

You can get the Web Design CPD Certification Bundle, which usually retails for $1,596 for all four parts of the bundle, on sale now for 97% off the retail price. That's a saving you won't find elsewhere for a bundle this useful, so grab this deal today!

Jun 212017

Great collaboration means pulling together everybody's different areas of expertise to develop great ideas, and sharing workloads to get much more done in less time. Here we talk to Alison Coward – founder of creative teamwork facilitator Bracket and author of Effective Workshops – about how to improve teamwork.

What can people do to improve communication and teamwork?
AC: Firstly, you can make a big impact by having better meetings. All teams have to meet, but often there are too many meetings, and most of them are unproductive. Each time you call a meeting, ask the question: what is the purpose? Then choose the most appropriate format for it – a quick check-in, feedback meeting, ideation session or something else – so that you can make the best use of everyone’s time.

Secondly, make time to have conversations about how your team works together. This includes the types of meetings you have, but also how people will stay up-to-date throughout a project. What tools will you use? How will you share new ideas? What do you expect from each other? Understand how and when everyone does their best work, then use this to design processes that will make for productive working.

Finally, encourage everyone to be as transparent as possible in their work so that, at any one time, everyone can see tasks and timelines and what the project status is. That way the team can identify bottlenecks and feel a shared sense of responsibility.

Coward says that meetings need focus to be effective

And what are the biggest obstacles to better teamwork?
AC: Avoiding conflict is a big one. When teams feel that they have to agree on everything to keep the peace, it leads to groupthink, which then leads to mediocre ideas. The fact is, the best teams are diverse in their ways of thinking, skills and expertise. This will naturally lead to tension, but this conflict is necessary to challenge and improve ideas. It can be uncomfortable, but if managed in the right way (like Pixar’s Braintrust), it can create a great environment for outstanding work.

I also see teams struggle to make the switch between ideation (divergent thinking) and decision-making (convergent thinking). Ideas need enough space to breathe, incubate and develop. But then to make progress you need to select ideas and critically evaluate them. Teams get stuck when there isn’t clarity between the two. My tip is to clearly separate divergent and convergent thinking, especially in workshops.

How can workshops (rather than meetings) transform projects?
AC: People love the energy of a great workshop, and providing there is good follow-up, it creates momentum that continues after the event itself. It can give people the confidence in their creativity, and show the benefits of effective collaboration.

Workshops are dynamic, with people standing up, moving around, using the walls to display and work through ideas. A typical meeting format is more static and, without facilitation, a few voices will dominate. Workshops are better for problem solving because more than one person can get involved at the same time.

How do you help creative teams work better and more effectively?
AC: The majority, although not all, of my work takes place through workshops – either facilitated, training or a combination of both.

Sometimes I’ll work with a team on something specific – to kick off a project, brainstorm ideas or develop a strategy. This involves figuring out what they need to achieve, designing and running a workshop that achieves that, and then doing what I can to help them put it into practice. It could even be as specific as helping a client to design a workshop for a session they want to run themselves. But essentially I’m designing a process for a productive discussion, and to be an objective outsider.

Or it may be that I’ll work with a team to help them improve the way that they work. This involves a bit of training on the principles of great teams, bringing in examples and research. Then I’ll work with them to identify an aspect of their work that they’d like to improve and design a new method or habit that they can try. I love these sessions because it’s a great opportunity for a team to turn their creativity and design skills on themselves.

Different companies are developing 'team habits' to promote teamwork

Looking at companies that get teamwork right, what do they do well?
AC: I really love finding innovative examples of teamwork, and it’s great because more teams are sharing aspects of how they are trying to work better together. I like to call these 'team habits'.

For example, Asana set up No Meeting Wednesdays across the whole company, so that everyone has a day where they can get their heads down and focus. It’s not mandatory, but workers are encouraged not to have any internal meetings on that day.

I liked the way that the Nordnet Design Studio decided the best format for each of their meetings, and then set up a weekly, monthly and quarterly rhythm for when each meeting would run.

Buffer recently shared the ten agreements they’ve created for using Slack, which can easily become overwhelming. By creating these simple rules, they’ve helped their colleagues to be as productive as possible.

The thing about all these examples is that they’re ever-evolving. These teams will keep experimenting, reviewing and updating processes as they need to. It’s like they’ve developed a skill for it, and see it as a problem-solving and creative exercise.

Can you talk us through a recent project you worked on and how you’ve helped the client?
AC: I ran a series of workshops with the senior management team at a fast-growing creative company. They were starting a big recruitment drive and wanted to package up their values and systems so that they could create a good onboarding experience. When we ran the first workshop, the first thing we realised was that they were all so busy they hadn’t had the time to properly explore their strategy. They all had different ideas of the company’s potential! 

So we looked at aspects of branding, culture, competitive advantage and their business model. They told me that the workshops were a pivotal moment for them, as they led to a series of breakthroughs that really helped them to boost their growth.

Coward will share her tips for finding a good balance between creativity and productivity at Generate London

What can people expect to take away from your talk at Generate London?AC: My talk is about designing teamwork, so I’ll look at the ways teams can take a proactive approach to better collaboration. People will get practical tips about making small changes that will have a big impact, whatever their role in a team. I’ll reveal how to run great workshops, creating a good balance between creativity and productivity and building good team habits that stick.

Generate London, taking place on 21 and 22 September in the Royal Institution, will feature 15 other great presentations for web and UX designers and is preceded by a full day of workshops on 20 September. Don't miss the opportunity to learn from the likes of Steve Fisher, Leonie Watson, Anton & Irene, Zell Liew, Aaron Gustafson and many more. Reserve your spot today!

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Jun 212017

Whatever design discipline you work in, a decent knowledge and understanding of typography is one of the most important things you need to develop.

Luckily, the web is packed with free, quality resources for learning about typography – if you know where to look. Whether you’re a newbie starting from scratch, or want to build on your existing typography skills, you’re sure to find plenty to sink your teeth into with the following offerings.

01. Typography rules and terms every designer must know

Learn the basic terms and rules with this comprehensive introduction to typography

Typography is, quite simply, the art and technique of arranging type. It's central to the skills of a designer and is about much more than making the words legible. This comprehensive glossary sets out the fundamental concepts and terminology of typography in words you can understand.

02. Butterick’s Practical Typography

This free online book by Matthew Butterick, author of Typography for Lawyers, is a great introduction to everything you need to know about typography. The book begins with the five key rules of typography (which should only take 10 minutes to read and digest), followed by chapters on why typography matters, type composition, text formatting, font recommendations, page layout, and sample documents. With a comprehensive appendix, there’s everything here to help raise your typography knowledge from newbie to intermediate.

03. Infographic: a designer's guide to typography and fonts

The Logo Company's stylish infographic clearly explains the alphabet of typography terms

There's a lot more to typography design than meets the eye. In fact there are a range of rules and technical terms relating to the construction and make up of fonts that most people simply don't know about. To help demystify things, The Logo Company has put together this stylish infographic that clearly explains an alphabet’s worth of typography terms.

04. Typography cheatsheet

Typewolf’s cheatsheet will help you use typographic characters properly

Typewolf is an invaluable blog for keeping up with the latest in fonts and typography. And here it's supplied a handy cheatsheet to help you use typographic characters properly, including quotes and apostrophes, dashes and hyphens, and correct grammatical usage.

05. Master the finer points of typography

Typography is an essential part of the communication process, whether it’s used in print, on screen or in any other media. It’s used to attract attention, engage the reader and convey meaning, and this article explores the aesthetic dimension of type to see how it serves and enhances design.

06. How to choose the right typeface

When it comes to picking a typeface, you can't rely on gut alone. Making the right choice depends on function, context and a whole host of other factors. These quick tips will help ensure you go about it the right way.

07. Guide to font pairing

This article explains the basics of choosing great font combinations

Picking great fonts can seem like an impossible dark art for most people. This article explains the basics of choosing great font combinations and then offers the author’s favourite combinations to try out in your own designs.

08. Four techniques for combining fonts

Building a palette is an intuitive process, and expanding a typographic duet to three, four, or even five voices can be daunting. Here, Hoefler & Co explains its approach for mixing font families, by keeping one quality consistent, and letting the others vary.

09. Expert tips to improve your kerning

Kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between letters to achieve a visually pleasing result. Some designers find it easy, others a tricky process where success is achieved more by luck than real judgement. This article brings together 10 tips to put you on the right track.

10. Guide to typography on your homepage

These top tips will help you nail the typography on your homepage

Typography can often make the difference between a good and a great website. This article brings together five tips to nail the typography of your homepage.

Next page: 10 more great resources for learning typography

11. Understanding typographic hierarchy

Typographic hierarchy is a system for organising type that establishes an order of importance within the data, allowing the reader to easily find what they are looking for and to navigate the content. This article offers a simple example and explains how you can achieve typographic hierarchy in your own designs.

12. How to achieve better typographic hierarchy in web design

If you can’t put your finger on why a web design isn’t working, the odds are good that it’s an issue with your visual or typographic hierarchy. This article offers six tips for designing online content that people will actually want to read.

13. The rules of responsive web typography

This article takes the mystery out of responsive web typography

Responsive web typography is tough – you need to have both design chops and technical know-how. This article explains all the principles and systems you need to know to take the mystery out of responsive web typography.

14. Control web typography with CSS font

The way a browser loads your fonts has a big impact on the performance of your website. This article explains the different ways to tell the browser do it, and which to use when.

15. Master accessible web typography

Readability of content is probably the main goal for almost every website. To this end, Fontsmith has worked with Mencap to research, test and design accessible typefaces for those with disabilities. In this article, we present some of their findings.

16. How accessible is your typeface?

This infographic explains how to gauge the accessibility of your typefaces

Accessible typography gets your message across smoothly, and makes it more legible for people with learning difficulties. This infographic from Fontsmith explains how designers can gauge the accessibility of their typefaces.

17. How to create your own font 

Where exactly do you begin if you want to make your own font? If you're a designer or illustrator new to this discipline, this article explains the first practical steps, the common software you can use and the early considerations to get you going.

18. The 10 commandments of typography

Learning typography is as much about what you shouldn’t do as what you should. This article looks at common type mistakes, how you can avoid them and some suggestions for further reading along the way.

19. Typography tricks every designer should know

Pro designers share their top typography tips

Want to push your typography skills further? This article shares 10 typography tips and tricks from professional designers that you can use to boost your design skills and impress friends and colleagues.

20. Top-quality typography tutorials

This post brings together the web's best typography tutorials, all in one place. You'll find typography tutorials on adding colour to your type, designing text effects, making a typography poster, illustrative typography, and more.

Jun 202017

Whenever you create vector art in Illustrator, simple tasks can become a hindrance to your workflow. So instead of becoming frustrated, take a look at our list of Illustrator shortcuts right here. They're guaranteed to speed up your workflow once you get the hang of them.

Whether you want to change the size of your text, deselect a layer or merge a series of layers, we've got it covered! There are also some handy hints for brushes, saving and closing, and viewing options. Introduce the shortcuts slowly into your practice so you're not overwhelmed by the sheer amount to remember.

01. Select all items on layer

Mac: Option+Click layer
Windows: Alt+Click layer

Quickly select all the items on one particular layer – including those that are locked and not visible (to select only the visible, unlocked objects, click the select circle in the layers palette).

02. Hand Tool

Mac: Spacebar
Windows: Spacebar

Move around your artboard without disturbing the content. This shortcut can't be used while editing typography.

03. Hand Tool (Editing type)

Mac: Cmd+Spacebar
Windows: Ctrl+Spacebar

Move around your artboard without disturbing the content. This can be used while editing type, but you have to start moving the cursor around very quickly after releasing the Cmd/Ctrl key, otherwise Illustrator will start adding spaces to your text.

04. Activate Zoom In tool

Mac: Cmd+Spacebar
Windows: Ctrl+Spacebar

Zoom closer into the artboard.

05. Activate Zoom Out tool

Mac: Cmd+Option+Spacebar
Windows: Ctrl+Alt+Spacebar

Zoom out of the artboard.

06. Access Selection or Direction Selection tool

Mac: Cmd
Windows: Ctrl

Switch between the Selection or Direction Selection tool – a big time saver.

07. Move Selection 10 pts

Mac: Shift+arrow direction
Windows: Shift+arrow direction

Shift your imagery and/or typography accurately and quickly.

08. Add to a selection

Mac: Shift-click
Windows: Shift-click

Create multiple selections, with the ability to add more if needed.

09. Lock selected artwork

Mac: Cmd+2
Windows: Ctrl+2

This is a handy way to lock down those layers that keep getting in the way.

10. Unlock all artwork

Mac: Cmd+Option+2
Windows: Ctrl+Alt+2

Unlock previously locked layers all at once.

11. Duplicate

Mac: Option+drag
Windows: Alt+drag

Just drag your selection while holding Option to duplicate the file.

12. Scale proportionally with Selection tool

Mac: Shift+drag bounding box
Windows: Shift+drag bounding box

Never distort your images again: scale them proportionally with this method.

13. Sample colour

Mac: I
Windows: I

Sample colour from a vector, gradient or image with the eyedropper tool.

14. Show/hide artboards

Mac: Cmd+Shift+H
Windows: Ctrl+Shift+H

Each artboard is bound by solid lines that represent the maximum printable area, with a canvas area beyond these boundaries. This shortcut shows/hides the artboard boundaries.

15. Show/hide artboard rulers

Mac: Cmd+R
Windows: Ctrl+R

Make sure everything lines up by toggling rulers on.

16. View all artboards in window

Mac: Cmd+Option+O
Windows: Ctrl+Alt+O

Shows you multiple artboards at once.

17. Decrease/increase type size

Mac: Cmd+Shift+< or >
Windows: Ctrl+Shift+< or >

An effective way of changing your font size directly in front of your eyes.

18. Decrease/Increase leading

Mac: Option+up/down
Windows: Alt+up/down

Quickly adjust the kerning without having to keep clicking in the character tab.

19. Decrease/Increase kerning or tracking

Mac: Option+arrow L/R
Windows: Alt+arrow L/R

Adjust the space between your text in Illustrator with this handy command.

20. Align text left/centre/right

Mac: Cmd-Shift-L/C/R
Windows: Ctrl+Shift+L/C/R

A great way to experiment with the alignment of your text, this shortcut will enable you to do it quickly.

21. Save for Web and Devices

Mac: Cmd+Shift+Opt+S
Windows: Ctrl+Shift+Alt+S

If you prefer not to drag your mouse around a number of options, use this shortcut.

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Jun 202017

Last month saw the release of the poster for Spider-Man: Homecoming. The design was – well – pretty crowded to say the least. Featuring Peter Parker, Tony Stark as himself, Tony Stark as Iron Man, new baddie Adrian Toomes and the Vulture twice, plus both fireworks and lasers, and the Manhattan skyline and the Washington Monument squished in for good measure.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the internet to react, with fans and critics offering a unanimously negative response. Some even took the time to mock up their own versions, arguing that there was no way to make the poster worse than it already was. And while some called it a bad Photoshop job and others branded it plain amateurish, the collage-style it evokes is nothing new.

Click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image

The likes of Drew Struzan and John Alvin became iconic for their illustrated, collage-style, ‘floating-head’ poster designs, so why is it that posters of a similar style now seem lazy and inauthentic? Is it all down to lazy Photoshop work? Or is it simply that mainstream movie posters are mimicking the apathetic movie industry – producing sequel after sequel, remake after remake – that despite what the poster looks like, the movie will sell well anyway.

Illustrator Sam Gilbey, who has produced pop culture artwork for properties including Marvel's Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Karate Kid and Flash Gordon, argues that the introduction of Photoshop may have harmed the industry by making it easier for inexperienced designers to put together collage-style posters without the design skills to back them up. 

“Obviously you think of the masters like Richard Amsel, working pre-Photoshop, and you can see how marketing departments have often thought they can now produce something similar internally,” he explains. 

“If you’re simply moving photos around though, you’re not going to get that cohesiveness that an illustration can bring you. A skilled artist can take all those disparate elements and weave them together into a beautiful composition, whilst capturing the aspirational ‘feel’ of a movie at the same time. Of course now the fantastic thing is that as an artist you can use Photoshop to aid the process. The ‘problem’ is that you don’t need to be an artist to give it a try, or to understand how good compositions and colour palettes really work.”

Out of context

It seems that colour palette and composition is where this Spider-Man poster begins to go wrong, as illustrator Graham Humphreys explains. “My first impression is an issue with colour balance and the obvious cut-outs – the images don't appear to exist in the same context,” he says. 

“Even though we are used to seeing unrealistic scale and smaller elements alongside larger ones, effects of colour and light should allow the suspension of physics and scale. In this poster, it would appear that no such consideration has been applied. It looks more like a page in a scrapbook – a concept in itself perhaps, but not one clearly intended (or relevant) here.”

This recent Transformers poster is another casualty of the scrapbook-style approach

The participants gaze in all directions without having any idea there might be someone else in the same poster

Graham Humphreys

He adds that when the poster composition needs to be of the floaty-head variety, there still needs to be a form of narrative. This is usually achieved through eyelines, emotional expressions and reactions, which can add a layer of interest and insight into the film’s storyline and characters.

“Here, the participants gaze in all directions without having any idea there might be someone else in the same poster! In addition, they are all closed-mouthed, neutral gazes – with the bizarre exception of a curiously happy young lady in the bottom right,” he continues. “The angle from which the heads are viewed are also numerous and without order. There is no narrative of threat, romance, fear, good, evil... in fact none of the theatrical tropes that are recognisable human traits and cinematic emblems. Unless boredom is the intended threat.”

Marketing casualty

Sadly, BLT – the agency that produced this poster – was unable to discuss any specifics of the poster due to the client relationship. However, this particular design is jarringly different to the posters the agency initially released, which saw Spider-Man hanging out in various NYC spots.

Initial designs feature Spider-Man hanging out in NYC

BLT is also responsible for some of the best poster designs and campaigns in recent months – its fantastic Baby Driver campaign and the brilliant rom-com Deadpool ad for example. So why such a break from form? 

“One thing that I can recognise is client intervention,” explains Humphreys. "Endless changes that will please executives, accountants and marketing needs, but changes made in ignorance of the visual cohesion that might have made a good poster. Most designers and illustrators will attest to this endless mortal combat."

Perhaps the cult of celebrity and the selfie have crushed the soul out of mainstream cinema posters

Graham Humphreys

“Mainstream posters, by and large, are marketing tools intended to appeal to a wide base that it is assumed has no interest in lasting design or creative integrity. A quick look at the work of Saul Bass will tell us that this wasn't always so. His amazing work on mainstream releases shows us that a cloud of disengaged headshots isn't the only way a poster can communicate the core of a film. 

"With access to so much imagery and visual stimuli now (more than ever), how have we become so visually illiterate that only a roughly assembled photograph of the cast reassures us we are going to be entertained? Perhaps the cult of celebrity and the selfie have crushed the soul out of mainstream cinema posters. I hope not.”

Alternative routes

Gibley argues that it’s not all bad though. With an increase in alternative movie poster design (see the likes of Olly Moss and Mondo), studios have clocked on to the fact that this type of aesthetic can give their movie an edge (and allow them to sell a bunch of prints). Moonlight, The Lobster and Green Room are all examples of studios producing interesting, timeless pieces, giving hope that there are still decent mainstream movie posters out there. 

"It feels like overall, decent movie posters are actually becoming more common, even if they’re being done in parallel to the main campaigns,” Gibley says.

Alternative approaches stand out even more in the current market

He points out that, although it's a shame not many actual campaign posters are being assigned to individual artists and designers, it's exciting to see alternative interpretations being shared on social media or given away at IMAX screenings. On top of that, many older movies are getting new artwork when they are re-released on Blu-ray. 

"Whilst that Spider-man one stands out for being particularly terrible, hopefully the negative reaction will actually keep moving us onwards,” he adds.

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Jun 202017

This month Brad Frost unveils his guide to making a successful style guide, presentation tool LiveSlides is getting a lot of attention, and Google releases Material Components, which make it easier to implement Material Design. 

01. Style Guide Guide

Brad Frost’s advice on building great style guides

There are lots of reasons why creating a style guide will make your site easier to maintain, but lots of organisations get it wrong and the style guide turns out to be more of a hindrance than a help. Style Guide Guide is a boilerplate by Brad Frost combined with some great advice that will help you build a guide that will aid designers without restricting their creativity.

02. LiveSlides

If you make presentations, definitely give LiveSlides a look

Jazz up your presentations with LiveSlides, which enables you to embed websites in PowerPoint and Keynote slides so you can include things like YouTube videos and live Twitter feeds, as well as your own sites.

03. Mini.css

An ultra-lightweight yet capable framework

As the name suggests, file size is one of the main selling points of this framework, which weighs in at under 7MB gzipped. It’s just one CSS file, and packs more functionality into that space than you might expect, with modules that will support a fairly complex site design. The documentation is detailed, and it is designed to work well on both mobile and desktop platforms. 

04. Mirr.io

Get your Sketch prototypes up and running with ease

This handy Mac app enables you to make working prototypes out of your Sketch designs without needing to leave the program or fiddle around with exporting things to external tools. It’s a smooth process that’s quick to learn, so you can get your prototype online and ready to share without any fuss.

05. Gradient Buttons

Satisfying gradient hover effects

Here’s a large free collection of gradient buttons that have cool hover effects. You can try them out on the site and copy the CSS code to use on your own site.

06. Learn CSS Grid

Get working with CSS Grid the easy way

It’s well worth your time and effort to get to grips with Grid as it’s a much more efficient way to do layouts. This resource lays out the principles simply and clearly so you can jam them into your brain swiftly and with minimal resistance.

07. Fontjoy

Interesting font pairings for your inspiration

This tool uses machine learning to generate font pairings that adhere to various criteria that ought to make them look good. It’s a great way to brainstorm if you’re stuck as it’s sure to throw some interesting ideas your way.

08. Material Components

Pixel-perfect, modular components maintained by Google

Material Components is a set of customisable UI components for Android, iOS and the web that makes it easy for you to implement Material Design on any platform. They’re maintained by Google engineers and designed to play well with the big frameworks such as React and Angular.

09. Fuse

A UX design toolkit that improves workflow and collaboration

Fuse is a UX toolkit designed to make it much quicker and easier for you to build iOS and Android interfaces, especially for more complex applications, and to do so in a way that enables you to collaborate more efficiently with the dev team. Your Android and iOS interfaces appear side-by-side so you can adjust them together, and they’re generated from a shared codebase.

10. Ambiance colour palettes

Randomly generated colour palettes

Ambiance presents a curated collection of colour palettes for you to browse through when you’re stuck for ideas or inspiration, with fun names such as Token Movie Vixen and Nice Ice. You can save palettes to your Ambience Box for later, and copy colours' HEX, RGB and HSL information.

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