Ambiguous Arts offers a wide variety of artistic services and consulting, including: 3D, animation, web design, web hosting and maintenance, print graphics, form design, copy writing and editing, 2d design and layout, game design, as well as a very large and ever-growing repository links to the best resource for these areas.
When applying for a job, people often say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well, we call BS on that.
In our industry, talent and creativity are obviously paramount. But that’s a little vague, isn’t it? What are employers in the VFX business really looking for? Production studio Saddington Baynes gives us the breakdown on just what it takes to make it in CG – from preferred career paths, to building a standout portfolio, and fitting in with office culture.
So! Here’s the inside track – how to work your way into a top digital artist position, brought to you by the people in the know at Saddington Baynes: ECD James Digby-Jones, creative director Andrew White and HR manager Poppy Boden.
Where do I start?
The majority of our artists are, generally speaking, ‘classically trained’. They’ve often got a degree or equivalent in fields ranging from:
Animation and VFX
Computer Games Modelling and Animation
We're diverse from top to bottom. The key things we look for when choosing a candidate are passion in their work, strong technical knowledge, a keen eye for detail and above all a creative mind.
What experience do I need?
An impressive CV and portfolio is great – essential, even – but in addition to relevant experience, we're looking for passion and commitment.
You need to be aware of new and emerging technologies driving creative trends and innovations.
Ultimately, we work with a massive range of brands and agencies; from healthcare to FMCG, apparel to automotive. If a specific role within our portfolio needs filling, then we’ll hunt for the candidates with the most compatible and relevant skills.
A good fit
Top compositors and brilliant lighting specialists don’t just appear when you wish for them (unfortunately!).
It also goes a long way if you have an interest in design culture, comics, films, animation and video games.
It might sound like a cliche, but there’s a constant buzz in the studio about these subjects – it’s part of our culture. When we’re recruiting, we consider how well candidates might fit with the rest of the team.
How do I build a perfect portfolio?
We like to see good ideas executed well.
Everything should come together as an aesthetically appealing whole, but it's the subtle details, the deliberate imperfections and the nuances that create authenticity and engage your audience emotionally.
A good artist follows the brief. A great artist brews up a perfect storm with their intent, concept, design and creative flair linking together perfectly.
You know it when you see it.
Strive for realism when needed
Keep an eye on those details!
Show your imagination/flair
Tailor your examples to your audience
Solve problems & come up with new ideas
Think outside the box
Use effects for the sake of it
Ignore the physics of light or perspective
Give no context to your work
Show only technical ability without imagination
Do I need to know my way around a particular software?
We use a wide (and growing) range of software in the studio and as part of our pipeline, but specific box tickers are experience in Maya, Houdini, Nuke and the Adobe suite.
Newcomers tend to arrive with experience of some, if not all, of these software packages.
But there’s always scope to improve and develop new technical skills! None of our creatives ever stop learning.
Newcomers tend to arrive with experience of some or all of the softwares described above, but there’s scope over and above that to develop further skills.
Our artists never stop learning, both on the job as well as in R&D projects and via the various online tutorials and training courses available.
Self-initiated learning is encouraged and expected here; our artists are very much in control of how fast and how far they grow and develop.
How much time will I need to commit to the job?
We start a little later to accommodate for London’s heaving transport systems – our standard hours are 9:30am to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday.
But you never know what's around the corner. We get a wide variety of work, thanks in part to the diversity of our clients, which keeps us on our toes. There’s never a dull moment.
Technology is ever changing and we are well on the way to developing a remote working platform, but right now we prefer our artists to work in-house.
It’s not just a productivity thing, it also goes a long way towards creating our buzzing atmosphere, and makes collaboration between and within teams seamless.
We love it in the studio.
Where will I fit in the studio hierarchy?
An open door management structure is important in any creative business.
At our studio, everyone is encouraged to have a view and take on responsibility for their own projects.
It’s important that team members from all levels of the business can get their heads together to successfully solve challenges.
There’s no time to stand on ceremony – everyone has a voice and is encouraged to use it to get results. Sometimes this means the best ideas come from the bottom up, which is as it should be.
Is it fun?
We don’t ask anyone to leave their personalities at the door. Our people say it’s like joining a family…but with free croissants, fruit and beer every week.
Plus, you get to play with Fidget, our handsome office dog, and enjoy our two annual staff jollies thrown in on top of our other benefits – including discounts at high street brands and restaurants. Neat.
Be courageous. Take pride. Collaborate. This is the mantra that sits behind everything we do.
It represents us at our best – we strive to deliver to an incredibly high standard every day and to challenge traditional means of image creation, so we can bring visual stories to life.
Of course, we all work hard. You don’t create great art unless you’re prepared to sweat the small stuff and take pride in what you do. So, we work hard – but we make sure everyone’s rewarded for their efforts, and we play hard too.
Saddington Baynes CEO Chris Christodoulou and senior digital artist Marc Shephard will be presenting a masterclass on 'Mass customisation of visual imagery: The challenges – and how technology can help' at Vertex, our debut event for the CG community.
Don’t miss out, book your ticket now at vertexconf.com. There are still some amazing workshops we’ve yet to announce so keep an eye on our website, where you can also find out more about the other amazing speakers, workshops, recruitment fair, networking event, expo and more.
Pursuing a career as an illustrator is the dream of plenty of creative freelancers. More often than not it's a chance to follow an artistic passion and to produce work that you're proud of. But what's life as an illustrator really like? To give you an idea, Ben the Illustrator has taken the industry's pulse with his Illustrator's Survey 2017.
Having been self-employed in the creative sector for almost 20 years, Ben the Illustrator is in the perfect position to gauge the state of the industry. He's experienced all the ups and downs that the sector has to offer, so towards the end of 2017 he decided to get feedback from as many fellow illustrators as possible to see how their results tallied.
And today he's announced that the results to the Illustrator's Survey 2017 are in. Exploring everything from how illustrators got into their line of work to how they promote themselves, the survey is a rigorous dissection of the issues surrounding creative freelancers.
Beautifully brought to life by Ben the Illustrator with his signature illustration style, the results are a mixed bag of good and bad news. Starting with the positives, it looks like the work rate in 2017 looked healthy for the most part, with most work coming from publishing, editorial, art prints/exhibitions and advertising commissions.
Interestingly, when you add the percentages of respondents who said they have creative and non-creative full-time jobs with an illustration sideline, you see that 44 per cent of professional illustrators are doing it in their spare time – almost as many as those working full-time.
46% studied a different creative subject at university
53% use Instagram to promote their business
69% don't earn a suitable amount to live sustainably
79% feel confidence issues effect their career
47% use a personal folio site
81% work from home
However, a majority of illustrators found that they weren't earning enough to live sustainably through their creative work alone – perhaps in part due to the fact that 71 per cent of commissions were paid late last year, making cash flows tight.
Another troubling statistic turfed up by the survey is that an overwhelming 79 per cent of illustrators feel that they have anxieties or confidence issues that affect their careers.
Capping off the survey are some open questions that ask why illustrators decided to pursue their career, what they think could improve the industry as a whole, and what they think are the biggest concerns facing their business.
Take a look at some of the statistics below, and be sure to head over to Ben the Illustrator's survey page to see the full set of results, alongside his helpful suggestions and comments.
A recent Frubes animated commercial shows two characters, animated yogurts, fishing on a frozen ocean. One tries to freeze the other by sawing a hole in the ice, only to end up falling in the water and freezing himself.
Aardman Animations created the Try Me Frozen campaign to promote freezing the children’s yogurt to make ice lollies. It’s a self-contained story, complete with a twist, a joke and a punchline, told front to back in under 20 seconds. It’s charming. It’s funny. It’s silly. It’s everything Aardman does best.
“The big thing Aardman is based on is really strong characters and storytelling,” says Jess McKillop, an executive producer and head of production resources. “And that can go into any kind of production that a client would be looking for. We try and bring warmth and humour to any idea that our partners may have.
“The truth is: you can have a line drawing, stick figures. If the story’s right, then it doesn’t really matter what the method is.”
From Morph to Chicken Run
Peter Lord and David Sproxton founded Aardman Animations in 1972. Four years later, after moving to Bristol, UK, the pair created their first professional production. Its central character – a stop-motion, shape-shifting, gibberish-speaking plasticine man called Morph – would become an icon of children’s television for generations to come.
Nick Park joined in 1985. The writer, director and animator created Wallace and Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep. Over the next two decades he earned six Oscar nominations, taking home four golden statuettes.
In 1993, Park and his team completed The Wrong Trousers, Aardman’s first 30-minute story, one of the most successful animated films ever. It heralded a golden period for the studio: A Close Shave (Oscar winner), Wat’s Pig (another Oscar winner), Morph’s Files (a full TV series), Stage Fright (picked up a BAFTA), Rex The Runt (the studio’s first animated series for adults), Angry Kid (its first series released exclusively on the internet), and Flushed Away (the studio’s first CG film).
They used live action, animation, paper craft, puppeteering; 2D and 3D and CGI and virtual reality. They saw hit after hit, innovation after innovation.
But it was Chicken Run that really took things up a level. Directed by Lord and Park, and funded by DreamWorks, the studio’s first proper feature film came out in summer 2000. Reviews glowed. The box office banked over $220m.
Chicken Run became the highest-grossing stop-motion film of all time – all of the studio’s stop-motion films are among the highest-grossing stop-motion films of all time. In total, Aardman films have earned almost a $1 billion worldwide. But films are just a small part of what the studio does.
As well as films, TV shows and advertising campaigns, Aardman works on apps, games and websites. You can see Aardman characters in museums and exhibitions, in live shows and in theme parks around the world.
Fitting all the cogs together
McKillop works on projects from ideas stage to completion, overseeing all the various departments involved. “Your job,” she says, “is to make sure that every single cog in the wheels fits seamlessly together.”
A big part of McKillop's role as producer is bridging the gap between what the client wants and what the director wants: “You’ve only got a set budget. But you might have a situation where the director wants three different things, and you can only afford two of them.
“The director is more the creative and the producer the organiser. It’s not the producer’s job to tell the director what to do. It’s working as a partnership. And sometimes you have to say, ‘We haven’t got time for the monkey, the giraffe and the elephant.‘”
McKillop works on as many as 10 projects at a time. No two jobs are completely alike. But usually the studio receives a script from a client or an agency representing the client. A director joins. The director and client work out a vision between them. McKillop helps put together a schedule, a plan and a team – often freelancers support the in-house team.
They record sound first, because the team animates to dialogue. They create an animatic, a timed storyboard. Designers get to work on the characters, then rig them with a skeleton: physically in the case of puppets, digitally for everything else.
Lighting and polishes in sound and overall appearance bring the project to a close. It can take between a few weeks to several months – or years in the case of feature films.
Ben Toogood first worked for Aardman on Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. He joined the company full-time a few years later and is now head of 3D. A large part of his job is “fixing things that’ve broken... the bits no-one else wants to do, the leftovers.”
Toogood supervised the Frubes project. His team was small, six people, but it took them just four weeks to complete the commercial. Yet in contrast to commercials, Toogood says, films offer a lot more time to “get down to the nitty gritty” and make it “exactly how you and the director wants it to be.”
Commercials are more about the big picture – making sure the bones are solid – and can’t always be as slick as feature films. “You can forgive a few bits and bobs here there,” he says.
Project Everyone, from 2015, is a great example of how Aardman Animation manages to tie together its work in so many different fields.
In The Headquarters of the United Nations, each country’s representative is a furry animal. When the speaker of the house, a llama in spectacles, announces a new initiative to end extreme poverty and to tackle climate change, a huge party ensures. It’s charming and full of warmth. We immediately care about the characters and therefore we immediately care about what they have to say.
Mat Rees works as supervising senior animator. He says it’s a 50/50 split between the more recognisable Aardman productions – the stop-frame, plasticine stuff – and the CG work, such as the UN project. But even in commercial work, where clients increasingly want more for their money, with budgets smaller and deadlines tighter, Rees still manages to have fun.
Moving characters about
“In the short films, you have a reasonably small team. So you keep everyone tight. You just have the director to deal with. When you’re making commercials you’ve got the director, and the agency above them, and above them you got the clients. So there are more levels of approval.
“But even if a character’s not my thing, I still enjoy moving it around, getting something out of it that way.”
Rees says the studio is also happy to try new technologies. He worked on Google’s Spotlight Stories – a series of 360-degree immersive videos for mobile and virtual reality. Aardman’s contribution, Special Delivery, is about a lonely janitor on Christmas Eve.
The challenge was telling the story in a non-linear manner. Special Delivery offers a number of small stories within the larger narrative, depending on where the viewer chooses to look.
“It’s only when you look at stuff in the headset,” he says, “that you realise you can do so much stuff with it... But there’s no grand plan. When something like that comes in, we just get stuck in.”
Next month, Nick Park releases his next film, a “prehistoric adventure” called Early Man. There’s also a Shaun the Sheep sequel in the pipeline.
But for Rees, the best thing about working at Aardman isn’t the big feature films. It’s something far simpler, something that encapsulates the studio’s whole ethos: Aardman allows staff to work on their own projects. More than that, they can use the studio to do it and other staff members are encouraged to help out.
“That’s one thing people are always surprised about,” Rees says. “But it’s good for your own development, and it adds to the company, too.”
This article was originally published in issue 154 ofImagineFX, 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 154here or subscribe to ImagineFXhere.
The GreenSock Animation Platform (GSAP) is, as the name suggests, aptly suited to animation on the web. But it can actually do far more than that; GSAP can vary any numeric value over time. Morphing SVGs, animating CSS variables, tweening elements across the screen, changing text and PNG sprite animations are all possible.
Team it up with some form of controller (such as the brilliant ScrollMagic) and you really do have a powerful base from which to create highly interactive and immersive experiences.
The basics of GSAP
GSAP comprises two main elements: TweenMax, which enables you to animate the properties of any object (for example the transform of a DOM element); and TimelineMax, which enables you to create sequences of tweens. Both come in Lite varieties, which contain just the bare essentials, and fewer options and plugins than what are bundled with the Max varieties.
To get started we’ll need a copy of TweenMax, but by far the simplest way is to head over to CodePen where you can ‘Quick Add’ TweenMax and start creating right away. TweenMax contains TimelineMax and most of the plugins we’ll need, other than CustomBounce (used in the last step), which is a paid-for plugin.
Get something moving
We have a scene consisting of the sky, the ground and three balls, so let’s get the balls falling to the ground. We achieve this using GSAP’s .to() method, which takes three arguments: the object (our ball DOM selector), the duration (two seconds) and a vars object.
The vars can be any property we want to alter. In our case, we wish to move each ball by 150px so that they hit the floor. Changing the y property will achieve this for us.
Let’s make things a bit more realistic. When a ball hits the ground, it should bounce. TweenMax has a whole host of easing functions built in to it, most of which are customisable.
We’ll select the conveniently named ‘Bounce’ ease to get the effect we want. This goes in as one of the properties of the vars object.
Now that we’ve got things looking a bit more realistic, we can take advantage of TweenMax’s staggerTo() method. This takes all the same arguments as the .to() method used before, along with an additional stagger value.
This creates the effect of the balls falling one after another. We have also added an infinite repeat (-1) and repeat delay so that we can watch our beautiful creation forever more.
Our animation is nearly complete, but notice how at the end of each loop the balls return to the start instantly, as if by magic – that’s not what we want. GSAP allows us to add the yoyo:true property, which will make the animation reverse back to the start.
However, with our bounce ease, this looks unnatural because the balls bounce back up from the ground to the start. Since v1.20.0 we now have access to the yoyoEase property, which tells our animation how it should reverse. This means that we can bounce on the way down, but have a more natural ease on the way up.
In this next step, we'll be using a paid plugin (more on those in a second). CustomBounce allows us to define a bounce and squash value, giving the balls a realistic feel.
First we must create the CustomBounce and specify the strength and squash values. Then we create a TimelineMax and move our repeat and delay parameters to it. We then add two separate staggerTo tweens to this timeline. The first specifies the bounce behaviour.
The second specifies how it should squash, but we set it to start at the same time as the first by adding 0 (the start) as the final parameter. Using a timeline, we lose access to the handy yoyoEase we used earlier to great effect, so we add this final step of code to our timeline:
GSAP comes with the Tween and Timeline methods to animate and sequence animations, but there is a raft of other plugins available to extend the functionality. This list is not exhaustive, but covers the most useful (see full list).
Let's start with those include in the free download:
Draggable Make any DOM element draggable and spinnable
ScrollTo Smooth scroll to any position on the page
attr Animate any attr value on a DOM element
CSS Tween any CSS value
Bezier Animate any property (including position) along a curved path
colorProps Tween any colour property, including hex, rgba and string
Not everything in GSAP is free. Some plugins are reserved for paid members, including the CustomBounce plugin we used in the last stage of our tutorial. These are some of the best paid-for GSAP plugins:
SpiltText Split text strings into words or characters – for animated titles
ScrambleText Randomise strings of text – for animating between words
CustomWriggle Provide ‘wriggles’ to create anticipation and playfulness
CustomBounce Create natural-looking bounces – including a ‘squish’ value
MorphSVG Tween any SVG object from one shape to another
DrawSVG Progressively hide or reveal sections of SVG elements
CSS versus GSAP
You may be thinking you’ve got everything you need with CSS keyframe animations and transitions, so why would you need GSAP? Don’t get me wrong, CSS transitions still have their place, and for anything extremely simple – such as button-hover effects – they are still the option I’d choose. But as soon as you need to do any form of sequencing, CSS quickly starts to struggle.
Being able to offset one part of an animation based on the end of another part of the animation, without having to calculate keyframe percentages, is enough to jump into GSAP alone.
In fact, if we take a particle-type animation as an example and animate them to create the hyperspace type effect shown above, you would see that with CSS we get a lot of mistimed animations and banding starting to occur.
With jQuery we’re getting a lot of slow down and banding, and it is clearly not up to the task. But GSAP performs admirably, even on a poorly specced machine.
Sprite animation with GSAP
One thing that I have often used GSAP for is to create a sprite animation. A sprite animation involves making a series of images appear and hide quickly.
This is achieved by transforming a sprite image past a ‘whole’ (<div> with overflow:hidden) with a stepped ease, making the image rest, then disappear instantly at the correct frame rate.
This article originally appeared in issue 299 of net, the magazine for professional web designers and developers – offering the latest new web trends, technologies and techniques. Buy issue 299 here or subscribe to net here.
Whether you’re designing a newspaper, newsletter, magazine or digital publication, the principles of good editorial design and layout are universal. But whether it's print design or online, each project comes with unique challenges – and it can be useful to see how other designers have tackled these in their own work.
So here we bring you six stunning examples of editorial design from leading creatives, find out how they created them, and share some lessons that can be applied to all your editorial projects, large and small.
Over 10 years, the iconic German designer Otl Aicher created a poster series based on the small town of Isny im Allgäu. It was groundbreaking in eschewing the typical “colourful postcard” style in favour of a stark, reductive and monochrome approach. In a limited edition book, released this September to accompany a London exhibition of the work, dn&co delves into this groundbreaking project across 116 pages.
"When it came to the layout of the book, the team felt a real sense of responsibility,” says creative director Patrick Eley. “We kept asking ourselves ‘What would Otl do?’ – shorthand for how we could bring rationale and order to the project.
"It was a matter of ensuring the design was consistent with Aicher’s recognisable aesthetic, without being a copycat of it.”
The dn&co team opted for Univers, a typeface that was used as part of Isny’s branding, as well as for the Munich Olympics, the project Aicher is best known for.
“It’s a simple but effective structure – the editorial frames the work, which is printed on an uncoated paper to reflect the material that the Isny posters were originally printed on,” says Eley. “The surrounding narrative is reproduced on a coated stock so the photos of the town pop out.”
The pictograms only exist as physical prints, not vector artwork, so they had to photograph everything in high resolution to enable us to reproduce it as accurately as possible. And that led to some interesting dilemmas.
“We wanted to reflect Aicher’s strongly gridded approach to his work for Isny,” says Eley, “but the closer we worked with it, the more we noticed the inconsistencies. For example, nothing is actually square as it originally appears and that caused a few headaches with our own grid.”
Eley’s main tip for anyone embarking on a similar project? “Good filing is vital,” he says. “Knowing where everything is, who took what photo and whether you’ve got something at a high enough resolution to print it is absolutely key.”
Ultimately, he adds, you have to become really familiar with the book’s content. “Get close to the narrative, and remember that design and typography is a fundamental part of delivering any story.
“In this case, we were very conscious that we didn’t want to ‘out art the art’. The design of this book needed to be recessive to the content, which was the real hero. So it had to be quiet and unopinionated, while acting to frame another designer’s work and give it context. Ultimately it was a question of respect.”
This Is Me, Full Stop: The Art, Pleasures, and Playfulness of Punctuation is a book created by London design agency Here Design that harnesses beautiful design to explore “the secret life of punctuation marks”.
It’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek way to explore a niche topic, and makes great use of simplicity and whitespace to tie everything together; a trick that might look easy but is much harder to achieve in practice.
“When it came to layout,” says Here Design’s Caz Hildebrand, “our biggest decision was to make the text the formal consistent element throughout and allow the illustration and design to spread out and play as much as it wanted to, so that it could support and enhance the text’s meaning. It is always a joy to work with whitespace, though of course it is a challenge to have so much freedom.”
“The book’s text font was chosen to be reasonably friendly and approachable with the authority and strength of character to appeal to a broad audience range,” he continues. “It’s also worth noting that we created all the illustrations and designs using real-life typefaces – over 50 of them from Apple Chancery to Wedding Text; there’s a full list at the back. Championing typefaces both known and unsung was always part of the ambition.”
High production values were also central. “To find the simplest way of expressing our book’s main idea, we used white foil lettering on black substrate, creating a striking contrast between matte and gloss that helps the book stand out,” he says.
“For solidity, we had the book trimmed flush (we love seeing it in bookshops; it stacks up really nicely). And inside we used black end papers and chapter dividers to bring the reader back to the centrality of the cover.”
Hildebrand offers the following advice for a designer coming fresh to editorial design: “Think about the experience of the reader."
He continues: “Not all consciously designed things are necessarily friendly to read. So be the designer, but also be the reader – what would you expect to see? What would surprise you in a delightful way? In other words, it’s not just how it looks, it’s how it reads.
“Help the text, don’t hide it. Typography can really endorse the words you are saying. And always remember that books evolve over many pages, so they need to retain an inherent formal structure while being able to break free.”
Circular 19, the 12th edition of The Typographic Circle’s magazine, was designed by Pentagram and marks the 40th anniversary of the volunteer-run and not-for-profit organisation, which aims to bring designers with an interest in type and typography together.
“Circular, which comes out every 18 months, is an unusual publication as it does not carry any advertising and therefore is far more independent and we can do as we wish,” says designer Domenic Lippa. “It’s also important it appeals to its core audience of type enthusiasts.”
The design of the publication is most noticeable for its use of big type. “We use this to create impact and to challenge preconceptions around what type is used for,” says Lippa. “For us, it's as important as imagery and is not used purely for information.”
When it comes to the design in general, each issue is a standalone piece, he adds. “We often decide upon an approach before we start designing and this includes the typefaces, the general look and feel and the colour palette. The colours help create a thread for the whole magazine.”
Even within each issue, they aim for variety, he adds. “We want to keep challenging ourselves and stretch ourselves and not get bored, so each spread has a sense of individuality about it – we're not design fascists!”
“For me, relationships of scale between various pieces of text is the most important element of editorial design; you should not be afraid to use type confidently,” he says.
“I do believe that as designers we need to keep questioning the status quo; why are we doing it this way? Never stop learning and never stop trying things, otherwise you just dry up as a designer and as a thinker.”
Charm, Belligerence & Perversity: The Incomplete Works of GBH is a monograph written by Jason Gregory, Mark Bonner and Peter Hale, founders of GBH London. And the first thing you notice about it is its striking cover.
“We wanted to make something that supported the idea that we’d only just begun and that we weren’t finished yet,” explains Mark Bonner. “We’re fascinated by our evolution and we loved the twist on the old idea that 100 monkeys in a room, given time, could create the complete works of GBH. We only have 25 at GBH, but give us a chance.”
The team wanted the book to do two things, he says. “We needed to explain what went into the design of each project, and we wanted to have a wider dialogue with our readers about the insecurities and bravery that entwine in us all while we are making them.
“We felt no-one had ever spoken about these uncomfortable truths. So many books on design are self-aggrandising, but we wanted to be honest and share the fact that we go through a lot of emotions in making new things.”
In any editorial design project, Bonner believes it’s important to “read the text, feel it, know it intimately before you even think about trying to lay it all out.”
And with this book especially, the typography needed to be accessible, and feel easy to read, he adds. “So we worked hard to find a typographic system that allowed the 'show and tell’ of the project stories and the psuedo-sycology to co-exist.”
To celebrate 10 years of creative collaborations, Bristol design studio Mr B & Friends produced Comfriendium, a statement piece to send to their clients. It’s an impressive publication with punchy colours and a high quality finish, including a gloss black and white foiling on the cover that adds subtlety and impact.
“Editorial permeates everything we do,” says executive creative director Steve Richardson. “From digital magazines and websites to annual reports and books, the content drives the message.
"Gone are the days when an idea could be rolled out to a template; now the reader can click-off, turn the page and move to the next thing, so our goal is to guide the eye with storytelling merging words, graphics and imagery.”
He offers the following tips for anyone working in editorial design: “Invest in the best copywriting you can afford. If the words are brilliant, the design falls out onto the printed or digital page. Work closely with the author to get into their head so you understand the nuances.
“Use wit,” he adds. Be playful with your use of highlights, illustrations, icons and imagery.
Choose typefaces that work well online and in print. Good pairings that give light and shade to all communications, so you can tailor the editorial message to the medium.”
And final tip is to add pace. “Each page and screen view should take the eye on a journey, sometimes punchy and energised, and sometimes subtle and soothing. Choose illustration and imagery to help reflect this.”
All the examples we’ve included so far are print products, but as Steve Richardson mentions above, editorial design is just as important online; in many ways more so. A good example of editorial design on the web is Photo District News, a photography magazine that was redesigned in 2018 under the art direction of Brooklyn-based designer James Johnson.
There’s an awful lot of information to be uncovered here, but the flexible, responsive layout of the site is designed with generous use of whitespace and elegant proportions that avoid ever feeling cluttered, whichever device you use it on.
“Unlike print, on the web an article is usually designed as a whole, with all of its body copy on one page, and often the designer will not have control over how it's presented,” says Johnson. “It could be a phone, it could be printed out, or something else altogether. So it's important to make the articles flexible and resilient to changing conditions.
“Keep layouts simple and embrace responsive design techniques,” he continues. “Try to get the main ideas across in each format and don't sweat the small differences between them. This is in contrast to the two-page spread of the magazine, where a designer decides exactly how the content will appear and when.
“Aside from that, keeping a page clean, with lots of whitespace and clear, readable typography, is even more important on the web than in print. Reading is hard on a screen so it's best not to distract the readers with a cluttered page.”
The biggest mistakes Johnson sees online often stem from poor typography. “Line widths that are too wide is probably the biggest issue there,” he says. “I also see a lot of sites that try to use a print typeface for body copy.”
Getting it right is partly about effective collaboration, he adds. “The designer's role is to provide a tangible form for the underlying concepts provided by the editor. This can't happen without a good relationship between the designer and editor.
"So I can't stress this enough; work with your editors and really get to know their content and editorial philosophy before attempting to design anything. This will go a long way in ensuring that people want to read the article.”
In terms of design, you have to catch the reader’s attention right away and get them interested in the article, he adds. “The title and deck are key to this. Readers should be able to glance at the page and instantly know what the article is about. Write a great title and design it to really stand out. Adding a great photo or illustration that works with the title, conceptually and visually, will really bring it home.
“Once you have their attention, great content backed by solid design will keep it. Pick a good web typeface and set the body copy large enough to be read easily. Break the article into sections and write headlines for each and use strategically placed images, pull quotes and other design elements to encourage readers to scroll.”
Designers and creatives are increasingly using the ephemeral Instagram Stories – which disappear after 24 hours – to promote their brand, show off another side of their design portfolio, expand their reach and sell their products.
There are now 300 million daily Story users, suggesting that around 60 per cent of Instagram's total users are using Stories, and people are spending more time than ever on the platform.
As one in five organic Stories from businesses lead to a direct message, it's no wonder that brands are starting to focus more time and money on this area of Instagram.
But using Stories well isn't just a case of taking the odd selfie, and the interface can be tricky to get to grips with at first. How do make the most of Stories' rich features and ensure you're adding value to your feed and your brand without annoying your followers? Read on to find out...
01. Consider sponsored vs free
Companies such as Samsung, Lego and D. Franklin all report success from sponsored Stories. And creatives like Stefan Kunz – a lettering artist with over 217,000 followers – are using paid campaigns to promote themselves and others.
Kunz found that one campaign resulted in 1,000 clicks to his website, while promoting a fellow Instagrammer won his friend an additional 2,000 followers.
But you don't necessarily need to create a paid campaign to reap the benefits of Stories. Marylou Faure – a French freelance illustrator based in London, who has over 37,000 followers – may be new to using Stories, but she's already noticed their impact.
"Usually my Stories do better than my normal posts when it comes to products I'm trying to sell," she says. "It might be that my followers are a bit more open to seeing my self-promotion in my Stories than in my posts."
02. Experiment with videos and photos
Instagram frequently adds new features to Stories, making exploration key. By using a mixture of the following features, you can add personality to your Stories and increase engagement. To create a new Story from your main newsfeed, swipe right or tap the camera icon in the top left corner. You can also click on your profile picture.
Use saved photos by clicking on them, or scroll to choose from the following options:
Live: Create a live video broadcast for up to 60 minutes
Normal: Tap to take a photo, hold the button to make a video
Boomerang: Take a burst of photos that create a looping video
Superzoom: Make a video that zooms in on one object with a dramatic sound (tap to select an area to zoom in on, then hold to record)
Rewind: Create a video that plays in reverse (hold to take a video, tap once to record hands-free)
Hands-Free: Take a video by tapping just once
Stop-motion: Make a video from a series of photos (tap to take individual photos)
With all of these options, you can use the flip icon to switch to the front or rear camera, and the face icon to add fun face filters. Swipe left to choose a filter.
Most creatives quickly find some features suit them and their work more than others: "Stop-motion is my latest favourite feature," says Kunz. "It's perfect for an unpacking or for a short story. It will look great because it has that flip-book effect but is not so smooth."
Mat Roff, an illustrator with 2,000 followers, has recently been experimenting with Instagram Live.
"I love doing a weekly Live Stream from Instagram, where I ink a sci-fi character live in my sketchbook and talk to my followers," he explains. Roff also found Stories a "helpful test run" for his eventual move to Twitch.
03. Use Stickers to add interest
Once you've taken your video or photo, add to it using the icons on the top right. The first is Stickers – here you can include hashtags and your location to increase the likelihood of others finding your Story, or choose from a range of other Stickers, such as emojis, a selfie or days of the week.
When you've chosen your Sticker, drag it to adjust its position and use two fingers to rotate and resize. Tap and hold your Sticker and then tap Pin to stick it to a fixed place in a video.
The Met Office has found that the poll Sticker is popular with its 24,000 followers: "We get great interaction with polls," says Ross Middleham, content lead of the Met Office's in-house design team. "We often tie them in with similar polls on Facebook or Twitter. Who doesn't love a quick poll?"
Middleham also loves the ability to add a link to your Story by swiping up – a feature available on verified accounts only. "Swipe up is a great way to drive people to other content. It's often absolutely crucial if we want people to stay up-to-date with weather warnings, for example. It's a direct call-to-action," he says.
Faure agrees. "I like the swipe-up option as it's a quick and easy way to share a link I want my followers to visit," she explains.
04. Annotate your Story
To draw on your Story, click the pen and then experiment with pen sizes, effects and colours. By holding down a colour, you get access to the entire colour wheel; tap the Dropper icon or hover over your image to use a colour from within your Story.
To fill the screen with one colour, click on a colour and then tap and hold on your Story. Use the eraser to reveal the layer below your fill colour.
Press the 'Aa' icon to write on your Story. You can add tappable hashtags as well as links to other accounts using the @ symbol, such as @computerartsmag. Move the slider on the left to adjust text size; select text colour and move your text as you did for Stickers.
As well as experimenting with different tools, Verònica Fuerte, founder of Barcelona-Based design studio Hey, says that you need to consider the style of your work when choosing Story features. "We use Instagram features that reflect the style of our work," she explains.
"We love standard pictures and videos. Boomerangs are a fantastic way to do both at the same time: you get the simplicity of an image with the impact that movement adds."
Fuerte also mentions another of her current favourites – the rainbow feature. This is where you make your text appear in rainbow colours by selecting it, choosing a colour and then swiping left with one finger on the text and one on the colour spectrum. "Everyone loves rainbows!" she enthuses.
"My advice would be to just be yourself!" Fuerte sums up. "Experiment, have fun and don't be afraid to make mistakes because those are the best ways to achieve something interesting that reflects who you are."
However, if you do make a mistake you'd rather forget, use the Undo button, or delete an element from your Story by dragging it down the screen and dropping it into the trash can.
When you're satisfied, click Your Story, or Send to – where you have the option of sharing with everyone or with individuals or groups of followers. To add more than one image or video to your Story, simply post each one to Your Story, then go back into Stories to add more.
05. Don't treat Stories like your feed
Stories may be part of Instagram, but they are a different beast to the main feed, and therefore require a different approach. Middleham believes that you should consider Stories and your feed as separate, but also think about how they link together.
"It's a big challenge to tie up the content on your feed with Stories," he says. "We try to be quite defined with the sort of thing you'll find on each. Beautiful, amazing, unusual photos on the main feed, and supporting explainers, did-you-knows, general interest stuff on Stories."
Roff also thinks that Stories have a unique role: "I use Stories to clearly separate my everyday updates from my more important work updates. Fans can get more behind-the-scenes footage if they wish, as well as general updates on my day-to-day life as an illustrator," he says.
You can use that separation between feed and Stories to your advantage, says Kunz. "Your feed is kind of your portfolio. Everything is more meticulously planned and created," he explains. But in Stories, you can share behind the scenes or mention a new post. There's a lot you can do."
Fuerte agrees. "For me Stories is more about your everyday life, it's not your shop window where you display what you have done," she says. "Instead it is more like stepping inside the studio itself and getting to know us more as people. You can show more of your personality."
Fuerte uses Stories to create a connection with the studio's 201,000 followers. "When people get to know you better and understand you more, then there is more of a connection and that is always positive," she explains. "Nowadays your brand isn't just your graphics, it's you as well."
06. Consider the length of your Instagram Stories
To find out how your followers are engaging with your Stories, switch to a business account, where you can see your posts' reach, number of views, taps and crucially, swipes away. Many find that the length of their posts has an impact on these figures.
"I'm really happy with 15 seconds," says Kunz. "I feel people should learn to be more concise and say more with less." He also admits that he tends to swipe away from long Stories, or those he feels don't bring him any value. "It's important to respect people's time," he insists.
However, he still thinks it's worth playing around with the length of your Stories. "Try new things, see if they work," he advises. "If people respond... that's how you learn."
Middleham is also put off by long Stories, and agrees that considered experimentation is key. "Thinking about your story before creating it is really important," he explains. "A bit of storyboarding, especially if you mix types of content into one story, goes a long way."
One way to ensure your Stories reach your followers is by continually adding to them. "We are starting to add to stories so that they become 'rolling'," says Middleham. "By adding stuff throughout the day, it brings the story back to the front in people's feeds."
Roff, meanwhile, is a fan of longer content, but stresses you need to use the time wisely. "I tend to use the full 16 seconds," he says. "I'll even do a few posts if I'm talking about a subject directly to camera, or showing a technique. I think when you do this you just need to keep it to no more than two or three videos – because people will start to trail off. Nothing turns me off more than seeing loads of little bars of content at the top."
Faure agrees that the ideal Story length depends on what you are trying to achieve. "If it's just to show a visual or a new illustration, just two to three seconds is enough. However if you're at an event or an exhibition or are showing some work in progress, it can be a bit longer," she explains.
Fuerte agrees: "I think it shouldn't be about length but about content and how you are using it to explain something. Obviously, you are competing for attention with a lot of other things, so a shorter story is better, but if it isn't saying what you want to say, then it doesn't really matter how long or short it is."
07. Vary your Stories
The fleeting nature of Stories and the frequent addition of new features means they are perfect for trying out new things. "Mix it up bit," advises Roff. "Don't just do photos, videos, or selfies – do a bit of everything. Use Stories to promote yourself, but also other people as well. You can build a good community that way too."
Kunz also thinks Stories provide opportunities for experimentation: "Make it something that people will look forward to seeing every day. It could be a promotional code that you have to find, clues you are sharing for a game, or like another great Instagrammer @jessedriftwood, a daily vlog. Stories are amazing, there are so many possibilities!"
But with all these possibilities, achieving the right balance can be tricky, as Middleham attests: "In our eyes, stories need to have the right balance between polished and rough around the edges, and we're constantly trying new things to achieve this," he says.
Some things should remain off-limits, however: "Nasty colours, too much tilt on your text and/or busy Stories are Story killers," explains Middleham. "You can very easily make a Story look bad if you don't give it a bit of hierarchy and visual consistency."
08. Use Story Highlights
At the end of 2017, Instagram announced a new feature that enables users to automatically save their Stories to a private Stories Archive and immortalise their favourites on their profile as Stories Highlights.
Named collections of Highlights appear in a horizontal bar at the top of the user's profile. As they are a relatively new feature, creatives are still discovering the best way to use them.
Kunz, for one, is just starting to "figure out" the feature, and says it will be perfect for things that last for more than a few hours. "I am planning a trip to the US, and looking for opportunities to speak and/or do workshops. If I have a tab for Travelling, than people can easily reach out. Or one tab for my iPad brushes, or shop items, where by swiping up you'd get a direct link. I can also see myself doing a welcome video, like many do on a YouTube landing page."
Faure also sees the benefit in longevity: "Highlights are useful if there's something happening with my work for a long period of time, because then I can just have a main Story that covers the topic and I don't need to push it as much with a new Story every day," she says.
Others see an opportunity to promote content without a sell-by date. "We're beginning to use them as holding spots for timeless or evergreen content," says Middleham. "We are also planning on repurposing content from our Learn About Weather YouTube channel to make it work for Stories."
Some, like Fuerte, haven't started using Story Highlights yet, but plan to do so in the future: "In the end, Stories are only 24 hours and there are always special things that you want to keep for longer for different reasons," she reasons. "I haven't thought too much how it will be used but I guess, like everything else on Instagram, how it is used will just evolve naturally over time."
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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.
Today sees the launch of The Guardian's redesign across print and digital formats. The newspaper's new look sees both The Guardian and The Observer switching from a Berliner to a tabloid size in print, complete with a redesigned typographic masthead that will also appear on the titles' updated digital platforms.
Created by a team led by The Guardian's creative director Alex Breuer and senior editors and designers, the paper hopes that the redesigned look will appeal to its global readership online and generate millions in savings by switching to tabloid printing.
The Guardian's editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said that the guiding principles behind the redesign have been the "hopeful themes of clarity and imagination". These principles are summed up in the newspaper's new typographic masthead, which introduces the new font called Guardian Headline.
Guardian Headline was created in collaboration with Commercial Type, the design experts behind the paper's former blue and white masthead and the accompanying font, Guardian Egyptian. The new font is designed to be easier to read, while also appearing confident and impactful.
The new monochrome wordmark doesn't mean that the newspaper is waving goodbye to its vibrant character, though. "We’re using a range of energetic colours, and the much-loved Guardian visual wit and style remain at the heart of the look," explains Viner.
Speaking on The Guardian's site, Alex Breuer adds that: “With a more flexible page layout in print and online and enhanced use of photographic journalism and graphics, our new design is simple, confident and stylish – providing readers with the best possible experience across all our platforms.”
With The Guardian's focus on arts and culture, it's no surprise that it's a favourite with creatives. Earlier this year the paper even featured in the works of Turner Prize 2017 winner Lubaina Himid.
So how has the redesign been received by designers? Jack Davey, creative director at Studio Bolt, thinks that the change of paper format is a reflection of the times we live in. "It entirely makes sense to ditch the more expensive (though admittedly a bit special) format, when the majority of its readership accesses the paper online," he says.
"I’ll be fascinated to see how the new look, particularly the new typeface (and an apparent restrictive use of colour) roll out across the Guardian’s other publications and formats," Davey adds. "The old look and feel – built around the Guardian Egyptian typeface, really sings with the bold punchy colours used across the Guardian’s supplements, and colour really helps drive navigation on the site – so I can’t imagine it will be going too monotone."
"I, like a lot of the Guardian's readership, usually access the paper’s content through the app or a browser, so the change in physical printed format ultimately shouldn’t directly impact me, unless the paper’s journalism evolves to match its new tabloid format – which thankfully seems unlikely!
"Like a lot of people in the creative industries, I have a soft spot for the Guardian and its understanding and embracing of design culture, so I'm excited to see where this new direction takes the paper."
The new tabloid format and digital platforms are available to read and explore now.
The best rigs are the ones that are intuitive and simple to use. When building them you must remember that it’s possible it will be used by a whole team of animators, all of which will have their preferred approach to bringing things to life.
Overload a rig with too many controls and you’re not only making it more complicated to use, but you’re adding to the amount of time it takes an animator to create the simplest of sequences.
How could it be fixed?
One element of rigging that can help is to build in the ability to pick-walk through the hierarchy. This allows the animator to quickly navigate the rig by using the arrow keys, rather than selecting controls or digging through the Outliner.
As an example, if you have the hand control selected you can quickly move up the chain to the elbow control, and then the shoulder control and so on. Whereas on a normal rig, pressing an arrow key likely selects a constraint node or some other area of the rig that shouldn’t be touched.
The problem is there hasn’t been a good solution to this inside Maya, not without the help of external scripts or tools. Personally, when building rigs for clients I don’t like to add external plugins. It can cause problems down the line when a whole studio then needs to make sure they have the same plugins installed, updated and working just so they can animate.
Luckily this all changed with Maya 2017 (and Maya 2018).
How do we create custom rig controls in Maya?
With last year’s release came new controller options giving you the ability to indicate which elements in the scene are controls. With them tagged you can then dictate the pick-walk parent or child regardless of where they lie in the hierarchy.
That’s not all these controller tags do. Once specified that they are part of a rig, Maya will take advantage of any extra CPU or GPU power you have through parallel evaluation, dramatically improving the performance of the scene as it plays back or is interacted with, something you can test for yourself with the Profiler tool.
What’s more, the controller tags are very simple to set up.
Define your controllers
To get started all you need to do is tag your icons as actual Controllers, so Maya knows what they are. To do this simply go to the Control menu under the Rigging menu set. Here you will find two options at the top, Tag As Controller and Parent Controller.
Start by selecting all your controls and clicking Tag As Controller.
The controller node
What this will do is add a new 'tag' node to the controller. This is where all the information is stored and it offers a few extra options for you when it comes to dictating how your pick-walking works. You will also notice that there currently isn’t a parent defined for each node, so nothing will happen yet.
Dictate the hierarchy
With the controllers defined you can now dictate the hierarchy so Maya knows where to go when you use the arrow keys. If we use an arm as an example, first select the hand control and then the elbow and click Parent Controller. Now select the elbow control and then the shoulder and click it again.
You can now use the up and down arrow keys to quickly navigate the arm controls.
Automatically adjust visibility
If you’re lucky enough to have Maya 2018 you will also have the ability to change a control's visibility based on the location of the mouse pointer. This can seem strange to begin with as when loaded, the character will appear to have no controls.
To activate this feature simply go to the tag node and select Show On Mouse Proximity from the Visibility drop-down box.
More from Ant Ward at Vertex
Ant Ward will be atVertexanswering your questions, as part of our 'Ask an Artist' section. These sessions are a fantastic opportunity to get one to one with a veteran artist, who can help you overcome a roadblock in your work, or to talk through a problem area.
Ant is an artist with huge experience in many areas of CG. He has been a regular on the pages of 3D World for many years and has written numerous tutorials, as well as being a part of our expert Q and A team.
To book a ticket for Vertex 2018 head over to theVertex site, where you will find information on all the day's activities, from keynote talks to the panel discussion and recruitment fair.
You may have captured the most beautiful, unique or thought-provoking footage of a lifetime, but taking it home or to your studio with inadequate hardware can lead to enormous frustration. So choosing one of our picks of the best computers for video editing will ensure that you have the ideal tool to make your footage sing.
Assuming you've got a permanent base for your editing, going for a desktop computer instead of one of our best laptops for video editing means that you get the benefit of better specifications for less money. And being able to work on a broader display allows you to pick out minute detail better and see what your film will look like on a bigger screen.
As well as our overall top choices of the very best Windows PC and Mac hardware on the shelves, we've also got you sorted if you're on a budget. And if you aren't sure which program to use once the computer's sorted, then you can check out our favourite video editing software, too.
Sometimes, if you want the best results, you just have to save up your pennies and go for the best tools. We know it's expensive (really, really expensive), but Apple's brand new iMac Pro is the new daddy of computers for designers.
So what do you get for the eye-watering price tag? For a start there's the included 27-inch 5K resolution, which is 43 per cent brighter than standard Apple Retina monitors and delivers up to an astonishing one billion colours. There aren't too many screens around that will flatter your footage more.
Starting with an 8-core Intel Xeon processor, the least expensive option is already immensely powerful, with an outrageous 18-core option for those who can afford it. From 1TB to 4TB of SSD internal storage means that you'll be able to store tonnes of 4K footage before you need to think about additional external drives. And it's not short on ports, either, with four Thunderbolt 3.0 ports and a 10GB ethernet port.
Plus, of course you get the benefit of the platform's formidable Final Cut Pro X editing software as well.
Don't let the name fool you, the HP Z2 Mini G3 may look diminutive on the outside, but this Windows PC's specifications make it an absolute behemoth on the inside.
Thanks to its available Quadro GPU and Xeon CPU, the G3 can power up to four 4K monitors via its DisplayPorts. This enables you to drive 8K worth of pixels – head to our pick of the best 4K monitors to pick one/some out. And it still manages to squeeze in 1TB of onboard storage. Remarkable, considering the machine's dimensions.
Because the Mini G3 is such a pint-sized PC, it will fit seemlessly into your home office or studio. Whether stood up or lying flat, it offers a compact alternative to those traditionally massive workstations.
We know that this is another PC that will stretch the budget, but hear us out. This astonishing all-in-one from Dell comes with a mighty 27-inch 4K Ultra HD touchscreen display and an ear-busting set of six speakers. That makes for the ideal platform from which to view – and hear – what you've shot and get the best from it in post-production.
The Dell XPS 27 performs admirably against industry-standard graphics-based benchmarks, no doubt thanks to the pacey 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700 processor under the casing. And this premium machine also gets premium peripheries in the form of a sleek and stylish wireless mouse and keyboard.
Once you go Mac, it's hard to go back. If you're used to cutting and chopping on an Apple machine and want an all-in-one setup for your desktop then the iMac with 4K Retina display is an absolute beaut – and it's a fraction of the price of the iMac Pro.
In fact, the price is pretty spectacular when you consider that a stunning 21.5-inch 4K retina screen is included. It features a wider range of colours than some competitors' monitors thanks to its DCI P3 colour space. Put simply, images can appear more life-like with accurate colours and a greater vibrancy. The kind of little touch that can really add value to your project.
Complete with monitor, mouse and keyboard, it's not easy to find exceptional quality computing for under a grand. But this Lenovo PC is an adequate option if you're on a tight budget. It comes with a 23-inch Full HD monitor and packs in up to a 2TB hard drive and 7th-generation Intel processor.
If you're somebody requiring a heavyweight machine for professional video editing all day everyday, this machine probably isn't going to quite cut the mustard. But for keen amateurs and dabblers, the sub £1,000/$1,000 spend on this Lenovo all-in-one should be just fine.
It's worth noting that you can buy an even cheaper AMD-based version, but it will be less powerful and you get a smaller monitor.