Tag Archives: design

Did Quark Quack Its Last Quirk?

In 2002, I started working in the industry as an assistant prepress technician. Back then, we were on working Power Macintosh computers in the advanced operating system of “Classic Mac”—we couldn’t possibly trust the new OS X! We prepared files in QuarkXPress 5 and sent them to a film marker to eventually make plates and begin the printing process. Adobe was just starting to filter into prepress departments with InDesign 2, but like OS X, it was also not to be trusted.

At this time in the industry, the only software that could successfully communicate with plate setters and filmmakers was Quark. Yes, it had its quirks, but it always got the job done. Designing something in InDesign and trying to get it successfully onto a printing plate could spell disaster for my keyboard—InDesign was always the whipping boy for me!

Fast-forward to 2013, and you can clearly see that the tables have turned.  Adobe has totally taken over with CS 6, and those who refuse to make the switch only use Quark. I cringe when I get files in Quark. Just recently I received a magazine file in Quark, prepared perfectly and packaged appropriately. After doing our due diligence of loading the customer-supplied fonts and then opening the document and relinking any missing images, all seemed to be well. Our esteemed prepress technicians made print- and screen-ready PDFs, and we distributed them to the client for review.

This is the shocker: All the caption fonts were incorrect, and there was an entire image missing on one of the pages. After receiving this news from the client, I questioned our prepress technician. Much to my surprise, the response was, “I’m not surprised”—this is a known occurrence with Quark these days! Upon further investigation, we determined the fonts were there (we had to manually switch it), and so was the image. But the image was hidden—not behind something, just blank, gone! It came to our attention that a new feature called “content aware” text wrapping was used to wrap text around the image without placing a proper clipping path in Photoshop. So, the question is, why is Quark releasing features that are not totally fleshed out?

The moral to this story is: Quark, you quacked your last quirk for me! If a software provider who was a leader in the industry allows itself to be overtaken in a market it once dominated, it should cease to exist. You can’t take back market share when you are releasing versions that have so many “quirks” that it doesn’t make sense to use. So, today the only useful feature of Quark is the hidden Easter egg—the little alien that marches onto the screen to delete your object. When you get frustrated with Adobe products, open up Quark and hit this key command—it will make you feel better, and then you can quit Quark and go back to Adobe!

Tell me—do you use Quark and have a full keyboard of keys, or does it look like mine?

Author: John Mehl



How Smelly Is Your Design?

In the world of design we’re brought up to understand there are certain rules to follow when laying out a piece. Guidelines exist to help designs resonate with our intended audiences. For example, in photography the “rule of thirds” teaches us to divide our shots into a grid format and place our subjects in any of the nine sections—none of which is dead center. The phrase “form follows function” is another example that’s been around for a century. It reminds us that an object should be designed considering its function first and that this will determine its form.

A poor creative team, on the other hand, may spend hours deliberating about the appropriate message for a direct mail envelope. In reality, it’s the shape of the piece and the color of the design that humans connect with first. Content always comes later.

These rules exist because they’ve been tested over the years. Through the use of eye-tracking technology and decades of focus groups, we’re able to say with certainty where eyeballs go when they look at design.

But what if we did more than just followed the rules of design visually? What if we triggered other senses beyond sight? What about taste? What about smell? We’ve been to the grocery store enough times to know that giving away food samples is one of the most ingenious forms of marketing. From the sizzle of the frying pan and the smell that fills the aisles to the moment you take that tiny toothpick and take a bite––you’d swear you’ve never eaten such good sausages.

Well, that full-blown experience is a marketer’s dream. There isn’t a limb on an advertiser’s body that he or she wouldn’t give up to utilize scent in an ad campaign. The limbic connection between smell and memory is the perfect recipe for all things nostalgia. Freshly mowed lawns, our mother’s baking, and even the smell of Play-Doh all have the potential to elicit something deep within us.

It doesn’t look like Smell-O-Vision will be put to practical use anytime soon. It does seem, however, that a team out of Belgium has figured out how to express both scent and taste using stamps. The Belgian post office, known as Bpost, has produced more than 500,000 smellable/edible stamps celebrating Belgium’s world-famous chocolates and chocolatiers.

While it’ll be a bit before I see myself licking an already-licked stamp, I can’t deny how effective it might be in triggering those chocolate-driven memories stored deep inside me.

The Belgians are breaking the rules—those zany rebels! What else can we come up with to more effectively reach our consumers?

To learn about how those chocolate stamps are made, check out this video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21388234

Author: Eric Swenson

Ways To Make Graphic Designers Cringe

BuzzFeed released 17 hilarious, cringe-worthy designs that are sure to make you feel uncomfortable. Here’s a taste, but be sure to check out the entire list on BuzzFeed.

1. Kerning

7. The “I just learned Adobe Ilustrator look”

12. Way too twee

Author: Eric Swenson

How to Encourage and Harness Creativity

In my March post entitled “Only Read This If You’re Really Creative,” I attempted to push aside some of society’s preconceived notions about creativity and suggest better ways to think creatively.

I came across an interview of Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile in Fast Company that works nicely with those initial thoughts. Although this article was published eight years ago and Amabile’s research was conducted eight years before that, her findings are as relevant as ever. “The 6 Myths Of Creativity” discusses—as you might guess—six common misconceptions that we all should do our best to expunge from our thinking.

1. Creativity Only Comes From Creative Types

Everyone has creative potential. It’s important that leaders of organizations recognize that and do their best to harness ideas from those who could be most capable. This is not to suggest that everyone is necessarily good at being creative. Professor Amabile recommends that one should consider the following factors: experience, technical skills, talent, the ability to think in new ways, and intrinsic motivation. It’s this last quality that is hardest to find. Having the passion to come up with ideas is one thing, but the ability to continue to push through—even after countless rejections—is the trait one should look for in a creative type.

2. Money Is A Creative Motivator 

On a day-to-day basis, Amabile’s research found that people don’t think about their compensation. And when people were told that bonuses could come from good ideas, they were less willing to take risks. People preferred instead to work in an environment that both supported creativity and was in line with their skill sets. Leaders need to understand where their employees feel most comfortable. If the work is too simple, they’ll become bored; if the work is too hard, they’ll inevitably become frustrated. It’s important to find the right balance.

3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity

Many creative types claim that they do their best under extreme pressure when a deadline is looming. Professor Amabile, however, found the opposite to be true. Ideas are best when they have time to marinate and develop. They’re more thoughtful and robust. In the advertising and marketing worlds, account people should strive to give creatives the time they need to develop a well-rounded idea. It’ll be worth it in the end.

4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs 

If you’ve ever listened to an Adele or Alanis Morissette album, the thought probably crossed your mind “Boy, being depressed really lends itself to creating brilliant music.” While there are always exceptions, the fact is, there is a direct relationship between being happy and being creative. Interestingly, Amabile’s research found that a happy day often led to a creative mindset the following day. Stay positive!

5. Competition Beats Collaboration

There’s a belief that competition fuels great ideas. And while that may be true initially, collaboration and competition are really the best formula. When a person works autonomously, he or she often misses out on valuable information for that project. The sharing of information and the bouncing of ideas off one another is a more effective approach to building the strongest idea.

6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization

“Leaner is meaner” is very far from the truth. Amabile and her team of researchers followed 6,000 employees in a company that was going through massive layoffs. The fear and subsequent loss of morale affected creativity dramatically. Six months after the layoffs occurred, people were still shaken up. Layoffs are a fact of life, but leaders have to work extra hard to restabilize the environment.

Author: Eric Swenson

Cartoon Yourself – Easy Steps to Transform Your Photos into Cartoons

In all my life, I’ve never found the value in getting a caricature or sketch of myself drawn. And at certain points in my life, it certainly wasn’t a lack of vanity holding me back. Maybe it just boiled down to wanting to ride the Viper at Six Flags instead of getting my mug airbrushed. Whatever it was, I sort of regret missing out on the experience. That is, until I found out recently that I could do it myself.

Wing-Ki Lo, a fellow Vanguardian and friend of mine, recently gave a presentation that demonstrated how simple it is to cartoonify oneself using Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. In 20 minutes, she took an adorable photo of her son and transformed it into a cute, lovable cartoon—the perfect recipe for a one-year-old’s first birthday invitation.

Over the years, “Kiki” has drawn many special-occasion cards for employees here at the shop. From retirement cards to baby showers, she’s become our in-house designer for all of the fun events that make our company and its culture unique.

Take a look at some of her samples, along with a step-by-step video that shows how, with a few pen tools and layers, one can transform photos into comic book caricatures.

Your author, Eric Swenson

Art and Technology: The Balance of Innovation and Harmony Throughout the Ages

The relationship between art and technology—wide-ranging, polarizing, and constantly fluctuating—is among the most influential factors throughout the course of human history. Certain periods of time witnessed art in a position of prominence; others featured technological advancement. Art and technology have always had a complementary and complicated relationship, but in 2012, this relationship has reached a pinnacle of complexity. In order to interpret the present or predict the future of these intertwined fields, however, one must first look to the past.

By the year 1492—which marks the European discovery of the Americas—Leonardo da Vinci had entered the twilight of his life, but more than 500 years later he is still considered by many to be the single most influential historical figure the world has seen. The reason for such a legacy can be found in the aforementioned relationship between art and technology: to this day he is considered the embodiment of their dualistic role for man. The European Renaissance—ranging (roughly) from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries—is the period of time credited with man’s emergence from the Dark Ages; more importantly to the topic at hand, however, the Renaissance represents the first climax in the relationship between art and technology.

Man’s approach to technology (i.e., science and mathematics) prior to the Renaissance can be encapsulated by one inherent characteristic of the human race: fear of the unknown. In the sixteenth century, Nicolaus Copernicus provided the first proof of the heliocentric astronomical model, which proposed a solar system that revolves around the sun (rather than the earth); this radical concept was met with tremendous resistance, and the majority of the opposition originated from the Catholic Church. The Church was arguably the most powerful entity in the world at this time, and it strictly opposed any source of knowledge or truth outside its walls. The recently introduced and rapidly spreading scientific discipline, therefore, was considered an enemy of the Church. So while the Renaissance sparked the rise of technology, the prominence of art would continue for several more centuries.

Graphic design only became a profession in recent decades, but it nonetheless evokes the art/technology relationship from the time of Copernicus and da Vinci. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a field in which art and technology are better united. Graphic designers are artists, but they would not exist without modern technology.

Modern technological advancement—beginning in the twentieth century and exponentially increasing ever since—is unprecedented in both its rapidity and complexity. Cutting-edge technology is only cutting-edge for mere days or weeks, whereas in the past, a single advancement could define an entire generation or represent an evolutionary milestone (see: fire, wheel). The only constant today, it seems, has been mankind’s emphasis upon—and, in recent years, fetishism of—technology, to which art is a distant second. Maybe the Age of Technology will continue for centuries and art will be considered a luxury. We can’t know now, but we can be certain that the dynamics between art and technology, with mankind as the backdrop, will forever remain fluid and mysterious.

Art is no more important to man than technology, or vice versa. Creativity is neither better nor worse than logic. And a time period with more artistic innovation than technological is not inferior to its opposite. Developments in both fields, however, will prove to be infinitely relevant to the business world.

Is a marketing/communication company’s creative department involved in technology as much, if not more, than art? What does the future hold for the industry? What’s the next billion-dollar idea? Because of the way he was able to balance his interests in art and technology and thus excel at both, Leonardo da Vinci was able to theorize on concentrated solar power centuries before the invention of electricity and conceptualize a helicopter long before the steam engine was created. The potential is limitless for an individual, entity, or business that achieves such balance, harmony, and innovation between art and technology.

Author: Ryan O’Connell