Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Save the Outrage. And the Tibetans. Or Something Like That.
Here is the comment I posted on the great logo scandal.
Don’t know what the great logo scandal is? Check it out here.
Look, I love me some Andrew Breitbart, but Frank Gaffney has put something on Breitbart’s Big Government site that looks pretty looney to me. Don’t let the site go down the Ron Paul road to craziness.
In other words, don’t let the crazy be the enemy of the good.
There is precisely no reason to jump on this particular bandwagon. Questionable design choices do not equal plots to spread Islamic symbols to America through obscure military logos.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
24 Obama Dingbats
Which, maybe not quite what you’re expecting…
H/T to Death by Kerning. Which, if you’re a design geek, should be on your RSS reader.
None of which changes the fact that Harry Reid is an idiot. Or that the story will still be how much more intelligent, well-informed, and worldly Obama believers are in comparison to their (assumed to be) backwards, redneck, gun-toting, racist fellow citizens. No matter the facts.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Parallels, Ubuntu, and Pixelmator (And I Still Didn’t Get Where I Was Going)
Here’s the sequence of events: First, six months ago I bought the MacHeist Bundle II which included Pixelmator. A week or so ago, I bought the MacUpdate Bundle which included Parallels. A few days ago, a freelance client of mine sent a pair of .rdp files to give me access to their servers for a little work that I’m doing for them. All these things came together to create this post.
Which caused a problem.
Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Client for Mac OS X isn’t a particularly good product, as far as I’m concerned, but I couldn’t find another client that might actually open one of those .rdp files. So, last night I tried to find a way to get those things open while doing all of the work on my MacBook--and I’m sure that you geeks can see where this is going.
The MacHeist and MacUpdate bundles proved a fairly cheap way for me to try new software--and I like the idea of supporting shareware developers who put together good software. I bought the MU bundle without ever intending to use the flagship product, Parallels, because I didn’t imagine that I needed to run Windows inside my MacBook--besides which, I have no idea where my Win XP system disk is and I’m afraid it’s somewhere in a big box o’ abandoned technology in the storage unit. Which isn’t particularly helpful at 1:30 in the morning. But the more I struggled to find a Macintosh based solution, the more I started to think that there might be a Linux based solution to my problem.
Hence the quick installation of Parallels last night and a nearly as quick download of NimbleX, a tiny, fast Linux distribution that ran beautifully in Parallels after I spent a good three minutes setting up the virtual machine. What I couldn’t do was figure out how to install NimbleX (which was designed to be run from a USB device or CD) on the virtual hard drive that I had created. For that matter, it wouldn’t even recognize the existence of that virtual drive, wouldn’t save downloaded files, and was clunky to get around when it came to trying to figure out how to install and use its .mo module files in hopes of getting a terminal services client that would open the .rdp files. NimbleX, which ran quick as hell and impressed me with its small footprint, didn’t get me where I wanted to go.
On older computers, I’m betting that something like NimbleX would be appreciated, though.
A much longer download (about 700 megs to NimbleX’s 200 megs) got me the latest Ubuntu distribution. Ubuntu also required about a 3 gig virtual drive compared to the 500 megs I gave to NimbleX. Ubuntu, though, installed like a dream and gave me a much happier path to full screen virtual computing in Parallels than NimbleX had managed. Although it isn’t as polished as I had expected, it’s also much easier to get around and familiarize with than the smaller distro. Even better, it’s build-in Terminal Services Client offered to open up my .rdp files (with just a little nudge).
But it didn’t bring in the encrypted password. Damnit. So it opens with all of the details filled out (and looks, for all the world, like a really nice client), but I don’t have the super secret password to actually get in and do my work. As I said: damnit.
So in the end, I decided to write a post and take a screen cap of the entire thing running inside my Macintosh. So, hitting the command for a screen cap (Command-Shift-3), up popped Snapz Pro X (a brilliant title from one of my favorite small developers, Ambrosia Software, that came in the MacUpdate bundle) to give me a variety of options for the screen cap that I wanted to take to illustrate the post. Nifty. I set the options and took the picture. Once the picture was done, I decided that I wanted to edit out the IP address and other information from the Terminal Services Client to protect the security of my client.
I could open it in Photoshop since I have a legal copy running on this machine, but it seemed a bit much to open up the big app for such a little job. Enter Pixelmator.
Pixelmator is missing many of the features that I need as a guy who deals with preparing press files on a daily basis. It doesn’t have all of the features that I need especially in terms of its color handling. But for something like this, it loads so much faster and does have a wide variety of great tools that it’s worth having on my hard drive just for the small jobs.
All of which got me here (see below), but didn’t get me where I wanted to go.
All of which thrills me. I don’t mind paying for software, but I love having so many reasonably priced (and often free) options for some of the things that I do. Not every job requires the huge titles that sell for hundreds of dollars--and, in fact, some of them get done better with leaner, more focused tools.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Marketing Advice: On Making it Bigger
This comes up regularly in my professional life--often at the office, sometimes in the freelance work that I do on the side, but often enough that I wish people would invest a little more time in understanding their own marketing goals.
See, in advertising, logos are a little like cars: you certainly want a nice one that makes a good impression, but it shouldn’t overwhelm your marketing message. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is in believing that making the logo bigger is the main ingredient to your branding efforts. Make the logo big enough and people will remember your company and think of it whenever they want to buy whatever widget it is that you sell.
Except that’s not quite right. An oversized logo says nothing about your product, your services, the way you treat customers, or why they should buy your solution over some other company’s. You don’t want a logo to be completely unnoticeable, of course, but if logos are a little like cars then the giant logo is a little like that ultra-flash, ultra-expensive sports car with wings, ports, and vanity plates that read some variation on the “Look at Me” theme: sure, some people will like it, but everyone else will just think you’re overcompensating. If all you want is for people to notice the logo, you may as well put a giant, flaming, and slowly spinning animated GIF on the front page of your site and call it a day.
Don’t be that guy. Realize that if your logo doesn’t communicate its message at a reasonable size, it won’t communicate it at a Brobdingnagian size, either.
Instead of making the logo bigger, ensure that your identity is well-placed and strong, but expand your branding effort to include the message, the imagery, the colors, the fonts, and the tone of your marketing efforts. Come up with good graphics guidelines that define your branding efforts and remember that your branding effort starts with the message but continues all the way through the delivery of the product or service, on to how well your product fulfills its promise, and into customer service after the sale.
Apple understands this better than most companies, although it wasn’t always so. Once upon a time, Apple charged a premium for its products, but delivered them pretty much like any other company (only a little bit prettier). Now, everything about Apple’s products is designed to extend the brand--premium, fun, easy-to-use, high quality, and stylish electronics, computers, and software--throughout the product’s life. From the consistency of the ad messages, to the exquisitely designed packaging, to well architected user interfaces, to the (sometimes irritatingly minimalist) documentation that comes with their products, Apple does everything it can to make you feel good about the money that you spent on their product.
Some people think that’s all it is--a feeling--but Apple also delivers products that work well in their intended role. The reason that iPhones have seen higher satisfaction rates than any other smart phone on the market isn’t just because the branding was good, it’s because the entire user experience has been positive. Of course, this requires a commitment to a certain level of quality and a truly honest understanding of the company. If your brand makes promises that your products can’t keep, then it isn’t going to help in the long run.
Your branding efforts shouldn’t focus on the size of your logo. Your branding efforts should be something that carries consistently through every aspect of your business’s interaction with the end user. That’s how to create a successful, positive image for your company.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Mr. Answer Doesn’t Really Dig the Question. Just Sayin’.
The question (which wasn’t asked of the resident know-it-all):
I’m sticking with “no.” Until neo-fascists stop using the symbol as a sign of racial hatred and until we can manage to disassociate it with the murder of millions and one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the planet, using it in graphic design seems a bit out of bounds.
Monday, October 08, 2007
I’m all for catching bad guys, and this story from Foxnews.com could well lead to the capture of a child abuser. Which is nice. But, I have to admit, it’s the thought of what technique they are using to help identify the guy that is really intriguing to me.
See, as a designer, when I’m working on photos, I use layers, adjustment layers, and a variety of other techniques to avoid “destroying” pixels. That is, original images are made up of pixels; when a designer makes changes to those pixels, he or she can destroy the original image. That could be a problem if the changes end up being unacceptable, if the client wants to step back to a more natural look, or for a raft of other reasons. When I first start working on a picture, I’ll make a safety copy of the original and, opening the file in Photoshop, I’ll start working on a copy of the original layer just so that I ensure the integrity of some untainted copy of that first file.
Doing things like blurs and twirls are destructive--they change the pixels so much that the original mapping is gone. Which is still true, but maybe a little less true than I though.
Visiting the link, you’ll see a before and after set of pictures--one where the suspect’s face had been twirled, and one where the image specialists had reconstructed the original. While there are still significant artifacts from the image manipulation, the reconstructed image is relatively clear and, I would imagine, could quickly lead to identifying the criminal.
When the original file is twirled, the section of pixels that is changed streaks, bleeds, and bends until all that is left are stretched lines of the original colors. Un-twirling isn’t as simple as just sending the pixels back in the other direction--all that will do is cause new streaks, bleeds, and bends in the opposite direction. It won’t even come close to undoing the damage that the first manipulation caused.
Again, or so I thought. Assumptions can really kick your ass, can’t they?
Below is a set of images. The first image is the original. The second image has had a twirl of 449º applied in Photoshop. The third image has had a twirl of -449º applied to the second image.
As you can see, the image is still distorted--there are streaks and artifacts and detail has been lost--but has become recognizable again. It wouldn’t save me from a needing to step back from a mistake, but it is a much easier process than I had thought. Criminals beware.
You learn something new every day.
Read the rest. And, if you think know the guy, contact the authorities and help put him in jail.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Kindly linked by the Non-Sucky Kate.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Low and No Cost Stock Photography
Professional photographers don’t like the growing trend of low and no cost stock photography available on the Internet, although this is really just a continuation of the mid-90’s move to relatively inexpensive royalty free stock photography offered in CD collections.
See, photographers who offered their works either on contract photo shoots or through rights managed sources used to see their photos being valued in the thousands of dollars; with low (often just a few dollars for print-quality files) and no cost options available, those rights managed pictures don’t look so attractive. I’m sympathetic to the plight of the photographer, but when a client asks me to source a photo and isn’t comfortable with the rights management limitations and high costs, I’m going to do what I can to make them happy. More often than not that means first perusing a handful of sites to see if there is a good quality image available cheap.
So, if you are looking for images to use in your own projects (whether it’s for your site or for press), these are a few places to look for images that might fit your needs.
The danger, of course, is that you might see “your” photo on someone else’s ad or Web site. The $1100 rights managed image I used on a recent media kit isn’t something I’m likely to run into again any time in the near future. Like every choice a designer makes, there is a balance between the key points of affordability, quality, and uniqueness. For my smaller clients, of course, it’s always affordability that takes top honors.
A few times, I’ve had people send emails asking where they can get low or no cost images, though, and this is my answer. All of these sites have been useful to me at one time; I’m betting that all of them will come in handy again in the future. Your mileage may vary.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
For Design Geeks
Sans. Coated. Grey. Nano. InDesign. Photograph. Justified. No. Deboss. CMYK. Of course, all that goes out the window when I’m working in Quark on files that a client sent for a job that cries out for a bold serif embossed on a gray, uncoated stock with an aggressive tooth backed up by an evocative illustration and a rag right text block placed just so on a playfully asymmetric layout.
And, for the record: Beatles (although I like Elvis), Mary Ann (Ginger was a bimbo), The Who (because the Rolling Stones are the ugliest band ever), and soda (because pop is too old-fashioned).
Monday, November 06, 2006
Funny Office Story of the Day
So, I have ResurrectionSong wallpaper on my Macintosh at work (because, apparently, I’m not very bright) and it’s eye-catching. In fact, it looks damned good, and that might be an understatement. My boss came into my office this morning, saw the wallpaper, and asked, “Resurrection song? Cool! Are they playing Denver soon?”
It was very cute.
Friday, October 20, 2006
A Little Graphic Complaint
So, this probably won’t interest about 95% of people who come across the front page of ResurrectionSong today, but I still need to get it off my chest.
When exporting a 52-page layout to PDF using QuarkXPress’ built-in export utility, and when that document might contain a decent number of placed images and advertisements, I have noticed one thing:
Damn, this is freakin’ slow. Like I have nothing better to do than wait for spinning beachballs to tell me that the export is complete and I can move on…
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Design Tips for Designers Who Design Stuff, Number 1
Design Tip #1: On Chemically Enhanced Design Techniques
Do not design when drunk or otherwise chemically over stimulated. The designs are uneven, attention to detail stinks, and you run a serious risk of extra chunky bits in your keyboard.
No one like chunky bits on their keyboard.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
No Great Loss
I’m not sayin’ we should break out the bubbly. I’m not sayin’ this is precisely a moment to celebrate. I am sayin’ that he won’t be much missed.
Apparently he died of natural causes; this is one of those times where more, ahem, unnatural causes might have been more appropriate.
Monday, December 12, 2005
I just wrote, and deleted, two long posts discussing logo design (and the need for simplicity) and system navigation design (and catering to the complaints of the few). I then decided that this was just mindless complaining--a couple posts that wouldn’t do anyone any good.
But damn, I’m feeling frustrated today.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Via Wheels, I found this exceptionally cool design tool. It lets you play with the various font attributes that can be set using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for Web design. Not only is it a great visual tool for comparing different fonts and attributes, but it also writes the style sheet rules for you so that you can integrate it into your designs.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Speaking of Cool (Because We Were, You Know)
This is a very cool blog site design (and a blogger after my own heart who has good taste in bad movies).
Seriously, a nice, well-conceived design with great little details that make the thing work beautifully. I love it.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Working on New T-Shirts
It’s about time to think about re-designing the site graphics and with that comes new t-shirts. I thought I’d share some of the concepts with you while I was working through them.
Here’s the first one, the second will probably be coming early next week.
Anyone who wants to belong to a very select group of people (which is to say, not too many people have bought any of these things) can still order the old ResurrectionSong t-shirts.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Mr. Answer is Clueless On This One
Okay, the problem is this:
Create a good, useful layout for the navigation on a system with these traits:
This is the task that was handed to me yesterday with the request to have the solution deployed by the end of the week.
© 2005 by the authors of ResurrectionSong. All rights reserved.
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