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  1. AMD on Tuesday acknowledged several vulnerabilities that had been reported in its Ryzen and EPYC chips, and said that it would roll out PSP firmware patches in the coming week. View the full article
  2. Selecting a beautiful typeface is useless if it looks ugly on your screen. To avoid hideous – or worse – illegible text, you should always test if the font works well on the devices your visitors are using. You might be surprised; most of your visitors are probably not using the same device you use to design and develop. In fact, the vast majority of people surfing the internet are using Android and Windows machines. Worldwide operating system usage, according to StatCounter Global Stats (April 2017). Apple’s devices represent a small fraction of global usage, while Android and Windows dominate. The best way to test how a font behaves is to set a sample text in the font and try it out on all devices that you target. Bad rendering is especially noticeable on thin weights. For example, a font that renders well on macOS may appear fragile on Windows (see image below). It’s important to use real devices, because online browser-testing tools and virtual machines are often inaccurate (more on that later). Jubilat Thin on Windows 7 (left) and macOS (right). Note that on macOS the text looks ‘heavier’ than on Windows 7. If you don’t have your site’s content yet (tsk!), give Tim Brown’s Web Font Specimen a spin. It sets content at several text sizes and with different background colours. It’s no replacement for real content, but it’ll do in a pinch. Sometimes you get lucky, and the font you have chosen is designed explicitly for screens: Hoefler & Co’s ScreenSmart, Monotype’s eText, and Font Bureau’s Reading Edge are examples of collections specifically designed with screens in mind and should look beautiful everywhere. Of course, it pays to double-check the text rendering, regardless of the origins of the font. But exactly why does text look different from one browser to the next? To answer that question, we’re going to have to take a quick detour into the nitty gritty details of text rendering. Rasterizing and antialiasing The process of transforming font outlines into pixels is called rasterization. The operating system’s text-rendering engine places the outline (ie the shape) of each character at the desired font size on a pixel grid. Next, it colours all the pixels whose centre is inside the outline (see image below). From Bézier curve to pixels. On the left is the outline of the character ‘a’. In the middle that outline is superimposed on a pixel grid; any pixel whose centre is inside the outline is turned on. On the right is the resulting rasterization. In this example, a pixel is either on or off, no matter how much of the outline is present in the pixel. This approximation of mathematically perfect outlines is called aliasing; antialiasing attempts to mitigate the coarse staircase-like appearances caused by the limited resolution of screens. The idea behind antialiasing is to figure out how much of the outline is present in each pixel and represent that with a greyscale value. In other words, if the outline covers 50 per cent of a pixel, it uses 50 per cent of black to colour that pixel. If the pixel is entirely within the outline, 100 per cent black is used, and so on. This leads to an antialiased rendering that reduces the aliasing (see image below). You’ll often see the term ‘greyscale antialiasing’ used to describe this effect. Antialiasing using greyscale values to represent the outline coverage of each pixel produces better results. While antialiasing improves the quality of text rendering, it’s possible to improve the result further using subpixel antialiasing. Subpixel antialiasing makes use of the characteristics of screens to increase the resolution of rasterized text. Each pixel in a display is made up of three oblong subpixels: red, green, and blue (other configurations exist, but the same principles apply). The operating system can control these subpixels individually; subpixel antialiasing exploits that by applying the coverage calculation to each subpixel (see image below). By targeting individual subpixels, subpixel antialiasing effectively increases the resolution of rendered text. The colours the naked eye perceives (left) are the result of setting individual coverage values for each subpixel (right); the subpixels for red, green, and blue combine to form a single perceptible colour. The difference between these text-rendering options becomes evident when you start working at smaller text sizes. Without antialiasing, characters quickly lose their distinctive outlines. Greyscale antialiasing makes characters blurry but maintains their shape. Subpixel antialiasing renders sharp characters but also introduces some colour fringing around the character’s edges. Antialiasing tips You can change antialiasing settings through the non-standard -webkit-font-smoothing and -moz-osx-font-smoothing CSS properties. Unfortunately, many CSS frameworks and libraries use the antialiased and grayscale values to make the text appear lighter on macOS. However, most developers and designers don’t realise this disables subpixel antialiasing and makes text appear blurrier, thereby hurting legibility. Changing someone else’s preferred text rendering to be less legible is very inconsiderate. If you must have lighter text, use a lighter weight instead of disabling subpixel rendering. Text-rendering engines Most operating systems use their own proprietary text-rendering engine, while others use the same open-source engine (though not necessarily with the same configuration). However, all of them support antialiasing and subpixel antialiasing but differ slightly in their implementation. In many operating systems, the choice of antialiasing method is user-selectable. On Windows, for example, subpixel antialiasing is called ClearType; on macOS, it is called LCD Font Smoothing. There are currently four major text-rendering engines: the Graphics Device Interface (also known as GDI) and DirectWrite on Windows; Core Graphics on macOS and iOS; and the open-source FreeType on Linux, Chrome OS, and Android. Generally speaking, a browser will use the text-rendering engine that’s native to the operating system it is running on. Chrome, for example, uses DirectWrite on Windows, Core Graphics on macOS, and FreeType on Android. Windows is unique in that it offers two text rendering engines: GDI and the newer DirectWrite. All modern browsers use DirectWrite, so you don’t need to worry about GDI save for one exception: some browsers fall back on the inferior GDI rendering if the machine has no dedicated graphics hardware. Online browser-testing tools and virtual machines often do not have dedicated graphics hardware, so text-rendering on these tools is not accurate. Ideally, all text is rendered using subpixel antialiasing because it creates the most legible text. Unfortunately, that is not always possible – for example, subpixel antialiasing is often disabled on devices that can be rotated, such as tablets and phones. When you turn the screen of these devices, the subpixels are no longer arranged in the pattern expected by the rasterizer and will cause subpixel antialiasing to look ugly. Further reading: from selection to optimisation, the Webfont Handbook shows you how webfonts can make the web a more visually diverse, efficient, and readable environment. Browsers also disable subpixel antialiasing in similar situations, for example when text is rotated or animated. In this case, the rasterized text no longer matches the subpixel layout of the text’s original position and would need to be rasterized again. This is expensive, especially for animations, so most browsers fall back on greyscale antialiasing, which doesn’t suffer from the same problem and works in any orientation. Some browsers – Chrome on macOS, for instance – also disable subpixel antialiasing on high-resolution screens to provide a more consistent user experience. Other browsers only enable subpixel antialiasing on small text, because minor changes in text rendering are less visible at larger sizes. There are several other cases where browsers disable subpixel antialiasing. The rules browsers use to select the antialiasing method are constantly updated as new corner cases, and problems, are found. These frequent changes make it very hard to keep track of what is going on with your text rendering. What once used subpixel antialiasing may fall back to greyscale with the next browser update. The only way to know for sure how your text renders is to test on actual devices. You’re probably used to testing your site in several browsers. Testing text rendering increases the amount of testing you need to do manifold. Not only do you need to check all combinations of operating systems and browsers, but also all common text rendering settings. Some devices may be preconfigured to use greyscale antialiasing while others use a mix of greyscale and subpixel antialiasing. To make it even harder, it is not possible to use online-browser testing tools or virtual machines, because the text rendering often differs from that of real devices. When testing, always use a representative sample of your content. A pattern library is ideally suited for testing type rendering because it includes a broad sample of your content: headers, body text, labels, background colours, and animation. Having examples of your content on a single page enables you to check all combinations of styles and background colours quickly. Be on the lookout for text that is not legible or appears thin on some operating systems. If you find an issue, change to a different weight in the same font family, make the text darker, or pick a different typeface. Good luck. This article was originally published in issue 301 of net, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers. Buy issue 301 or subscribe to net. Related articles: The 40 best free web fonts 68 best free fonts for designers 50 top typography tutorials View the full article
  3. The first visual identity for the Houses of Parliament was unveiled earlier this week. As with all political matters, the news, in particular the logo design (above), has been met with a divided reaction. Created in collaboration between the House of Commons and the House of Lords with brand and digital design studio SomeOne, the new identity aims to make UK Parliament (as it's now referred to as a brand) fit for purpose on digital platforms. As part of the identity, SomeOne created a wordmark, typefaces, website guidelines, icon suites, digital guidelines and responsive templates. Logos created for digital optimisation were also included, and it's here where the project's £50,000 budget has started to bite. The new palette features high contrast shades including purples, greens, and whites At first glance, the new logos appear remarkably similar. The main differences seem to be a tidying up of an existing portcullis design, which includes the removal of a few dots and a uniform shape applied to the chain links. To onlookers eager to lay into government spending the apparently barely altered logo is a perfect target, especially when you factor in what looks like an exorbitant price tag. However this subtle smartening up was at the heart of the new identity, rather than a complete overhaul. "Clarity, Simplicity and Efficiency all drive the new design work, so that anyone can get to the information they want, when they want and how they want it," explains SomeOne co-founder Simon Manchipp on the studio's site. The new identity (on the right next to the old branding) provides long overdue uniformity Furthermore, the new identity extends well beyond the fine tuning of a logo. With more people interacting with government services digitally, it was time for Parliament to make navigation easier across these channels. This is where the new responsive iconography and palette of purples, greens and whites come into play. "Rather than repetitively stamping a single symbol on all communications, we’ve developed a more in-depth design system to accommodate any kind of application," says Cosmo Jameson, senior designer at SomeOne. And with UK Parliament's new identity hosted and managed on Cloudlines, anyone designing a new communication can access the brand's principles. New communications and icons have been made in the house style Spending public money on design frequently comes under fire, especially if the changes are as understated as they are here. Only last year another governmental hot potato, the NHS, came under scrutiny when it launched a strict new set of brandling guidelines. As far as rebrands go though, UK Parliament's is far from the most costly. We've already looked at expensive logos and what they teach us, and if we apply these lessons to the government's new identity you can see where the money went. First of all, this identity has been years in the making, with consultations held throughout the entire process. Secondly, does it work? The success of a rebrand and a logo lies in how well at works as much as how good it looks. If the consistent identity makes it easier for users to access government services, we're inclined to give it a pass. Only recently we've seen companies make minor changes to improve functionality. so why shouldn't politics follow suit? Take Ericsson, which tweaked its 'three sausages' logo ever so slightly in February so that it aligns with pixel grids better. This decision was made to promote simplicity and enhance productivity, which sounds like a manifesto pledge in itself. So is the UK Parliament identity a successful design that's worth the money? Well, we've seen politicians claim worse things on expenses. Related articles: How to price logo design services 5 logo design trends for 2018 5 fascinating stories behind unusual logo designs View the full article
  4. Dewan Chowdhury, founder of MalCrawler, talks at SAS about the risks that companies face when securing their industrial control systems and robotics. View the full article
  5. Whether you’re a freelance creative pitching for work, or an ambitious designer looking to take the next step in your career, your business cards have the power to propel you to the next level. Also read: 10 steps to go freelance this year Not only are they a key opportunity to leave a lasting impression with a prospective client, employer or collaborator, a cleverly designed and well-printed business card offers a unique opportunity to distinguish your brand from the competition. But where’s the best, easiest and fastest way to get them printed? For talented freelance illustrator James Boast, the answer was moo.com. The digital print and design company not only offers a wide range of premium paper stock and printing options for your business cards and promotional print materials (plus the opportunity to print up to 50 different designs for no extra cost) – it’s also incredibly easy to use. And you can have your new business cards delivered the next day, too. In the short video below, Boast demonstrates how easy it is to use moo.com to create stunning, tactile business cards in less than five minutes. From uploading your designs to choosing the right paper stock and special finishes, as well as how to get more from moo.com’s unique printing features, Blunt shares his pro tips and tricks for creating better business cards. 3 tips for printing better business cards As you'll see in the video above, it's incredibly easy to quickly create memorable business cards using moo.com. Here are some of our favourite tips from illustrator James Boast… 01. Choose your premium paper stock in one click moo.com gives you the choice of four high-quality paper stocks: Original (350 GSM), Cotton (298 GSM), Super (400 GSM) and Luxe (600 GSM). Selecting the option you want is as easy as clicking on your stock of choice. Then simply select the size you want from the drop-down menu, and choose whether you want square or rounded corners. If the price looks good, hit Start Making. 02. Print different designs with Printfinity For no extra cost, moo.com lets you print up to 50 different images on the back of your business cards with its exclusive Printfinity feature. It’s a bit like having your portfolio in your pocket: you can select different pieces of work for different prospective clients or employers. Alternatively, you can get creative with your designs and highlight different elements of your practice – after all, different projects require different skills. To use Printfinity, all you have to do is choose your photos, illustrations or designs, and hit Upload until your pack is full. It’s that easy. 03. Personalise with subtle design choices Before ordering your business cards, moo.com gives you the opportunity to further differentiate your cards. As well as confirming whether you want square or rounded corners, you can also choose whether you want to have a coloured seam. Matching or contrasting the seam of your business cards with your existing colour palette is a fantastic way to add extra personality to your designs. You'll find a host of fantastic tools on the MOO website for creating better business cards. Head over to moo.com to try them out for yourself. Also read: 10 steps to go freelance this year View the full article
  6. With spring on its way, we're rounding up some of the best tools to take your art outdoors. There are a load of cool new books that focus on nature drawing. We've had a look at titles that teach you how to draw birds, trees, plants and woodland animals (our pick of the bunch, however, is Tom Kidd's firey monograph on how to draw a dragon). We've also picked out our favourite posh pencils: one brand that's earned a cult following among artists and writers and another that's been called the Rolls Royce of coloured pencils. Plus, we look at the coolest pencil sharpener you've ever seen. And, to keep them all in, a smart bag for 'urban creatives'. It looks much better than it sounds. 01. Drawing birds $19.95/£12.99 A recent study found watching birds is a good way to de-stress. Andrew Forkner's new book has step-by-step guides on how to capture them in your artwork, focusing on anatomy before working all the way up to birds in flight. Chapters are split into the various families of birds. Instead of colour, Forkner uses shapes, patterns, and shading to make his work pop. 02. Paint in 30 minutes: Trees & Woodlands $19.95/£12.99 Geoff Kersey's new book is a good excuse to take your art outdoors. It offers artists – at any level – 30 exercises that teach how to paint woodlands and trees. Each exercises takes about 30 minutes and focuses on a specific subject or technique, including outline drawings on tracing paper for absolute beginner. The British watercolorist Geoff Kersey is your teacher. 03. How to draw woodland animals $9.95/£4.99 Woodland trees tend to be more willing subjects than woodland animals. In artist and art historian Susie Hodge's new book, step-by-step lessons teach you how to capture all kinds of creatures. She starts off explaining how to draw basic shapes, which she develops into everything from birds and rabbits to badgers and chipmunks. Good luck trying to get a chipmunk to sit for a portrait. 04. Botanical drawing $19.95/£12.99 Spring is when indoor plants come back to life too, and Penny Brown's book shows you how to master the traditional art of botanical drawing. The book starts with simple line drawings and works up to more complex compositions. It also teaches botany for beginners and the history of botanical drawing. Finally, you can learn how to immortalise your favourite monstera with its very own portrait. 05. Fantastic dragons and how to draw them £12.99 The dragon is not, strictly speaking, a traditional harbinger of spring, but nonetheless, Tom Kidd's new book is a must for fantasy artists. Kidd breaks down the basic outlines and features of dragon anatomy – scales, wings, talons, teeth – then book becomes a kind of sketchbook-journal in which you record the development of your dragon designs. 06. Leda premium sketchbook $18.94/£16.98 Leda isn't as well known as some of its competitors, but the brand stakes a good claim for making the best sketchbook around. It comes with 160 tear and bleed-resistant pages of 120-gram paper, which will work well with pencil, pen, and ink, but also pastel, charcoal, and a light watercolour wash. It's stitch-thread bound too, so it lies flat when open. 07. Palomino Blackwing Pearl pencils $22.95/£25.20 Blackwing is to pencils what Moleskine is to notebooks: they have a cult following. Famous fans include writer John Steinbeck, composer Leonard Bernstein, and Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones. They're pretty much the best pencils ever made. The pearl is most recent edition to the range (read our review here). It's all an-rounder, perfect for sketching and laying down lines, but good for writing too. 08. Blackwing long point sharpener $11/£14 You might be reluctant to drop $11 (or £14) on a pencil sharpener. But, as with all the Blackwing stuff, this isn't your average bit of stationery. It has a "two-step sharpening process" (the first sharpens the pencil's wood case, the second the graphite core) and comes with two replacement blades. It gives noticeably longer, sharper point than most sharpeners. And, this being Blackwing, it looks dead cool. 09. Caran d'Ache Swisscolour pencils $37.83/£32 One reviewer called Caran d'Ache "the Rolls Royce of pencils." They usually carry a Rolls Royce price tag too, but this range is reasonably priced. You get 40 pencils in a mental tin, and they have a smooth feel and blend well. Materials come from responsible sources and everything's made the to Swiss brand's usually high standards. 10. Bellroy slim backpack $169/£149 Bellroy makes smart, practical bags for the artists and designers. This 16-litre backpack has loads of nice features: padded laptop pocket, internal storage to keep your art supplies or gadgets safe and secure, and a two-panel construction that means there are no seams running down the sides and the rain can't damage anything inside. It can be expanded too. One of the nicest work bags around … in spite of the brand using the term "urban creative". Read more: Improve your line work with these pro drawing tips 10 ways to convey emotion in your artwork Art techniques: top tutorials for painting and drawing View the full article
  7. Your content is going nowhere unless people can search for and find it, so content should be written with an understanding of factors such as SEO and aimed at the right audience groups. The steps below will highlight how to drive more traffic to your site, building a connection between your brand and your audience. By the time you have finished reading this tutorial you will have a better understanding of how you can ultimately improve your rankings amongst the competition, boost your visibility and capitalise on the right audience through your content. 01. Get organised Google Calendar is a great place to start when looking to create an editorial plan. Creating an editorial calendar enables you to prioritise your content tasks, getting into a cadence with your blog-publishing and social activity. More importantly, it keeps your audience engaged by preventing your content from stagnating or being repetitive. Organisation is absolutely crucial for success, although your content plan won’t always be easy to stick to. Start by setting up a calendar, then brainstorm ideas: what questions can you answer? What themes are relevant? How can you inspire? Break down your content into social posts, blog posts, onsite copy, referrals, video and so on. And layer on top of this your promotion, since content rarely succeeds on its own, and plan your frequency: daily, weekly, monthly. 02. Buyer personas – understand who your audience is Personas and user stories will help with content and, in turn, SEO. The focus of your content should be aimed at the audience group that contributes to the success of your business. Content will therefore be different based upon where the user is along their journey. A first-time visitor, for example, has no loyalty to the brand; hence the focus should be on inspirational content to convert – content and metas – and brand values to nurture. Existing clients, meanwhile, have a different set of priorities and needs, so content needs to be served differently. Nurturing them, encouraging advocacy and facilitating the ability to upsell are the keys in driving both customer satisfaction and further sales. 03. Learn from the competition Look at your competition and take inspiration from it. By reviewing the top performing organic content around your targeted keywords, you can take advantage of what works and then replicate it. Understanding the competition’s focus on content and keyword terminology will also help you to close the gap between those terms you're not taking advantage of, and ultimately increase the amount of traffic coming to your own domain. 04. Make sure you follow the 70:20:10 content rule Spend some time on Quora since it will highlight how people speak in their niche communities. Google's 'hero, hub, hygiene' approach is based on three types of content and offers a useful framework for an effective content strategy. Here's how it works. 70 per cent of your content should be specific to your business vertical and services (hygiene) because your audience needs that information to convert. It’s your day-to-day, always-on messaging and includes industry news, reviews and offers. 20 per cent of your content should be inspirational (hub) so that your visitors share it. It aims to develop a shared passion between you and your audience, keeping them coming back for more. You can do that by creating unique content that exceeds your visitors’ expectations. Think of inspiring solutions, solving problems and answering the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of your business, and how it can best serve your visitors. 10 per cent of your content should be risky enough that it scares you a little (hero). It can attract enormous numbers of visitors, and you'll need to invest a lot of time and effort into it. This may be content related to the most important event or product launch of the year. 05. The content and SEO overlap There is no point in creating content if no one can find it. An easy way to ensure the success of your content marketing efforts and improve the search ranking of a particular post is to optimise the on-page elements by applying key SEO techniques. None of your content is going anywhere unless people can search for it and find it, therefore content should be written with an understanding of SEO goals. This includes a healthy solid foundation, content on the website targeting the right keywords and relevancy within the metas, such as: title tags, headers, meta descriptions, image alts and a good URL structure. With these working together you will be able to rank for the right keywords, with visitors that actively convert, since the success of each depends on the other. 06. Internal links and backlinks Link building has always been key to climbing that Google rank. Internal links help search engines identify the site’s most important content, provide context and help your audience by directing them to the most relevant pages. Make the most of anchor text within your links, with variations of your target keywords to boost rankings. The number of backlinks (incoming links, directed at your website) is another positive indicator to search, in particular websites that carry similar content (topical relevance). Start link-building both internally and externally with your best content to improve ranking. 07. The impact of a blog Blog pages are a great opportunity to create keyword-rich content. Incorporating a blog into a website can have a huge impact on the overall website’s search engine rankings. Not only does it add keyword-rich pages, but it also increases the potential for incoming links from high-quality websites, as well as advocacy from your audience as they share that content with their networks. Aim for original and high quality content, since this will go a long way towards satisfying both the needs of your audience and the search engines. And remember, given the number of distractions that your audience faces daily, strong headlines are key to encouraging their inspiration to click within a crowded marketplace. You can achieve this by understanding your audience’s pain points. Solve their problems in a way that seems tailored to them, and give them both actionable insights and inspiration. 08. Remember visual content Images and video are now a mainstay of any reputable website. Visual content – such as images, video and infographics – can be a very powerful tool for any brand looking to communicate more effectively with its readers; especially since it can have a very positive impact on your brand’s reach, engagement and sales. Start by splitting up body text with compelling imagery (include image Alts) to encourage your audience to finish reading and boost your search engine ranking. Infographics also help to collate content into compelling and easily intelligible visual displays. Your site visitors will also expect you to offer video content. Show your personality as you connect with them while providing information that meets their needs. How-to videos, demonstrations and customer testimonials are all opportunities to consider. 09. Create a promotion plan Social promotion is one way to reach audiences and engage with them. Place a promotion plan behind your best content to improve audience engagement. This includes: Paid traffic that offers immediate results: Focus on the content synergy between advertising text, landing page copy and SEO metas. This will improve placement, by improving the quality score. Social media that offers great brand awareness: Review your brand guidelines, tone of voice, targeted demographic reach and audience needs and wants. Influencers who can share your content and increase your outreach to engaged communities: Understand where your audience is and let them know you exist. 10. Measuring the success of your content is crucial Learn from your successes and failures with careful analysis. Assess both the positive and negative metrics within Google Analytics, continually evaluating your content’s appearance in search and how users ultimately interact with it. Build on the positives; learn from the negatives. This includes ‘soft’ metrics that are focused on measuring engagement, interaction and brand awareness. Look for bounce rates (high and low), time on page (high and low averages) and page views (in particular, redirection). And ‘hard’ metrics, such as lead generation, shares, the number of people added to your list and sales impact. The aim is to continuously learn from each content creation, setting and reviewing goals for each, and remaining agile. This article was originally published in issue 269 of creative web design magazine Web Designer. Buy issue 269 or subscribe to Web Designer. Related articles: Everything you need to know about SEO 5 top tools to master SEO 10 inspiring ecommerce website designs View the full article
  8. Some people just know how to get things done. If you want to be that person, you need to grab the Project Management Professional Certification Training Bundle. You can get it on sale now for 98 per cent off the retail price. Dive into the 10 in-depth courses of the Project Management Professional Certification Training Bundle. You'll quickly find everything you need to prove your skills as a project manager and to make sure you’re learning all the skills you need for this career. It will provide you with over 110 hours of knowledge about project management. This bundle is built to prepare you to manage your way to success regardless of your field, and will make sure you’re ready to prove your skills with industry-recognised certifications. The Project Management Professional Certification Training Bundle is valued at $2,990 but you can save a whopping 98 per cent off the retail price right now. That means you pay just $49 (approx. £35) for a bundle that will help you climb the ladder in the career you want, so grab it today. About Creative Bloq deals 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. Every day of the working week we feature a new offer, freebie or contest – if you miss one, you can easily find past deals posts on the Deals Staff author page or Offer tag page. Plus, you can get in touch with any feedback at:deals@creativebloq.com. Related articles: Top tips for nailing project management Best project management software The tools of the trade for project management View the full article
  9. This article was originally published in March 2017. During my time as a graphic designer, I've experienced nearly everything – short of physical violence – that working life can throw at you: recessions, legal disputes, defaulting clients, and of course, the thrill that comes with completing a successful project. But two events – both of which turned the practice of graphic design on its head – stand out as life changing. The first was the arrival of the Macintosh computer. For all practising designers at the time, computerisation necessitated an extensive rethink of the craft: no more mechanical artwork, no more paste-up, no more typesetters, no more expensive retouchers. Many of the tasks previously done by repro houses were taken over by designers sitting in front of computer screens. It was the beginning of a new age of digital self-reliance and a period of massive reorientation. The second event was the arrival of the internet. Here was a new way of thinking about, and making design. Suddenly, designers no longer had complete control over how their work was received. The inability to control browser use, screen ratios and fonts had a decisive impact and old rules such as the number of characters per line length rule became redundant. Even the users themselves could mess with the appearance in ways unthinkable to designers trained in print design, where layouts were fixed once they left the designer's hand. Is VR the future of design? These two events threatened to shrink the role of the designer, but the opposite happened. There are now more graphic designers and students than ever before. Design is a global industry embedded in, and inseparable from, business and culture. For many, graphic design is as much a lifestyle choice as a career choice. We do it because we love it. The rise of automation If design and designers can be said to have benefited from these two shocks in the long run, there are concerns that the craft and the profession might not survive quite so well. Is design about to meet its Uber moment? Is AI about to take on the role of the designer? Is the surge towards a fully automated world about to engulf design? It might seem that automating the design process is impossible. You might assume that the creative imagination is the least likely arena to be taken over by machines, that bots are for routine production, not conceptual thinking. In reality, the process is already underway. "It might seem that automating the design process is impossible... In reality, the process is already underway" Social media has usurped many of the roles previously done by designers. You can start a business with a Facebook page (or as one expert calls them "Facebook pages … the new small-business homepage"). For many, access to a Twitter or Instagram account is all the design they need. The automation of countless realms of everyday life is already at an advanced level: entire factories are operated by robots; legal contracts and stock market trading are routinely done by bots; automated warehouses, ATMs, and user operated supermarket tills mean fewer jobs in industries once regarded as high volume employers; driverless vehicles signal the end for the millions of people who drive for a living. Why should design be any different? Robots are probably going to take your job. Deal with it In the book, Inventing the Future, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams state that: "anything from 47 to 80 per cent of jobs are likely to be automatable in the next two decades." They also note that the "roboticisation of services is now gathering steam, with over 150,000 professional service robots sold in the past 15 years. Under particular threat have been routine jobs – jobs that can be codified into a series of steps." The demise of web design Surely this lets design off the hook? We can't expect machines to make the irrational, gravity-defying leaps of imagination that designers make, can we? What about the designer's ability to capitalise on accidents and unforeseen coincidences? Surely this sort of cognition is beyond the bot? Not so. We live under the dictum that anything that can be automated will be automated. And nowhere in the design world is this idea more advanced than in web design. In a post titled Why Web Design is Dead, on the website UX Magazine, designer Sergio Nouvel notes the following. "Most of the content you see on the web today is run by some framework or service – WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, you name it. Frameworks provide you a foundation and shortcuts so you spend less time struggling with the creation of a website, and more time creating content. As a consequence of the ubiquity of these frameworks, a world of free and paid templates lets you start with a professional-looking design in minutes. Why hire a web designer if you can achieve a fairly acceptable design for a fraction of the cost using a template?" The Grid, a San Francisco and Berlin-based startup, was the first to announce that it has created a website builder that uses artificial intelligence. It enables users to upload images and text or make use of its library of colour combinations and images, and then, using AI, it performs all the key design functions: positioning of images, placement of text, selecting colours and sculpting a unique, customised website. The Grid says it doesn't use templates, but 'layout systems', which it claims offers greater flexibility. With The Grid, if you don't like what you see, you hit the Redesign button and in seconds a different layout appears. The Grid's promotional video gives the impression of effortless, nearly instant success. It's a seductive pitch. But not everyone is impressed. Various webinars offer a less convincing glimpse into The Grid's AI approach to web design. Watching these critical takedowns, I was reminded of the early days of DTP design – gap-toothed typography and bitmapped images. But the painful DTP birthing phase didn't last long. Designers mastered the software, the software improved, and so did computing power. You wouldn't lose money betting on AI websites becoming much better in the future. A grit-free process It's easy to see why clients would be attracted to this grit-free process. There's no more time spent listening to pesky designers defending their design decisions, no more waiting around for new designs to arrive. And here's the clincher: no more redesign fees. Instead, clients inhabit a fragrant world of endless iteration and seemingly limitless choice. The Grid is not alone in its quest. In September 2016, the website Tech Crunch reported that Canva, a design platform for web and mobile, had announced a new infusion of $15 million in funding and a doubling of its valuation in 12 months. This added capital was reported to have brought Canva's valuation up to a whopping $345 million. What makes Canva so attractive to the guys with the money is the fact that it can be used by non-designers. Canva claims it only takes 23 seconds to become a proficient user of its software. 10 million people are allegedly using it to design business cards, posters, presentations, and graphics for social media. Looking at the formulaic design featured on the site, it's hard to take seriously claims that 'anyone can become a designer' with Canva. It's easy to laugh at some of the work these sites post as examples – most of it looks as if it has been designed by someone on autopilot. But will we be mocking in five years' time? When we look at what is happening in AI, it seems foolish to dismiss attempts to automate design. AI-driven design When I talk to designers about the likelihood of AI taking over the tasks of designers, I'm met with scepticism. But this strikes me as short-sighted. In a detailed account of Google's work in AI, published in the New York Times Magazine, the journalist Gideon Lewis-Kraus writes about the company's use of artificial intelligence to transform Google Translate. Anyone who has used the translation service will know that its results are hit and miss, always require correction, and are rarely idiomatically correct. All that is changing. In its new AI-driven version, Google Translate is producing astonishing results. Developed by the Google Brain team, 'artificial neural networks' (much like those in our skulls) are offering an alternative to traditional computer programming and represent a move towards self-learning machines. Using these networks, robots can then acquaint themselves with the world via trial and error in the same way that children do, giving machines "something like human flexibility." Lewis-Kraus reminds us of Alan Turing's famous test for an artificial general intelligence: "A computer that could, over the course of five minutes of text exchange, successfully deceive a real human interlocutor. Once a machine can translate fluently between two natural languages, the foundation has been laid for a machine that might one day 'understand' human language well enough to engage in plausible conversation." Google Translate has been transformed by AI If Google's new translation service is close to fulfilling Turing's criterion, then it's not much of a stretch to imagine AI tackling more sophisticated design problems than shifting elements around on a webpage. Most of the everyday design we encounter can be broken down into a simple set of principles that can be codified, and it seems highly probable that a machine can learn the rules of typography, the golden ratio and the rule of three. And it's no gamble to assume that cost-culling businesses will latch onto the money saving benefits of AI design. Adapt to survive What should designers do? AI-driven design already has the potential to remove some, or most of the production based tasks that designers do. Need 100 web banners for a global ad campaign, all with different information and numerous different languages? No problem. Robots capable of handling such routine tasks will result in fewer design production people. But will the sharp end of design be affected? Eventually, yes, and just as human beings have learned to do since the introduction of industrialisation, we must adapt. It's my belief that designers are well equipped to do this. Teaching flexibility and a willingness to learn may be the biggest challenge facing the world's design schools. In the information age, we may be looking at a world without paid work Of course, this doesn't only apply to design. In the information age, we may be looking at a world without paid work. This takes us into the political realm, and subjects that governments are avoiding. It poses questions such as adopting a basic income, and the relearning that will be needed when the post-industrial world is replaced by one of unlimited leisure. These topics are discussed in academia and future-gazing think tanks, but we all need to be thinking about them sooner rather than later. Halfway through writing this, I had a sudden, sobering glimpse into a machine-driven world. My five-year-old iMac died. The screen went black, none of the usual remedies helped and it was Christmas, so there was no chance of emergency repairs. It was a personal mini-disaster. But this is what happens to machines: they break. Perhaps their fallibility is the only thing between us and an AI future. This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 263; buy it here! Related articles: 10 skills graphic designers need to get ahead in 2018 The future of web design 10 huge graphic design trends to know for 2018 View the full article
  10. There are constantly new and unique developments in the fast-moving CG industry. With software updates arriving all the time and fresh techniques to hone, it’s important to stay on top of your game. As head of motion graphics at Escape Studios, and an independent director and motion designer, I have more than 15 years of experience working on advertising, films, TV, video games and multimedia. 7 motion graphic design trends to look out for Here, I've pulled together some top tips to offer advice on how to really hone your motion graphic skills, and take them to the next level. 01. Don't be afraid to make mistakes The creative process is all about trial and error. It’s important to brainstorm your ideas and sketch them out on paper to really work through each element. Breaking things down and perfecting your skills will enable you to really see what might need changing, ultimately speeding up the process. It will also help you save time working on it in later with the software. 02. It's not just about one set of skills This may be obvious but it’s really important: throughout your motion graphic work you will need to have a strong knowledge of graphic design and as much knowledge of filmmaking as you can get. Arming yourself with this knowledge will ensure you are ready for any challenge that may come through. 03. Become an expert in typography Blay created the title sequence templates for the final Hobbit film – in 15 different languages A motion graphics artist should have a strong understanding of typography and typography terms. Type is widely used as a form across motion graphics, and in some cases it may be that this is all that’s used to convey the product to the audience. So it’s important to understand what the audience will engage with, ensuring that the graphic stays with them. Thankfully, there are plenty of typography tutorials to help you get started. Typographic trends in motion graphics 04. Experiment with 3D As well as 2D, it is now more important than ever that artists really build their knowledge in 3D and learn how this can be used in the design process. With the industry constantly changing, it's key to offer a wide range of options and ensure you can constantly deliver new and exciting work. Why graphic designers should learn 3D 05. Inspiration is everywhere Remember to focus time on exploring new trends and techniques to draw inspiration from; know the industry and understand what game and film studios are delivering. Digest other media, books, films and TV to draw on trends in order to ensure your work stays at the top of the game. This article was originally published in 3D World magazine issue 216. Buy it here. Related articles: 5 best motion graphics plugins for After Effects Stunning motion graphics highlight global unity The 12 best graphic design podcasts View the full article
  11. Security risk in extensible text editors enable hackers to abuse plugins and escalate privileges. View the full article
  12. Threatpost's Tom Spring sits down with Flashpoint and Akamai to discuss how the two companies worked together to address the 2016 Mirai DDoS attacks. View the full article
  13. In the web industry, things change quickly. As technologies progress and processes change, new job roles pop up. The current hot role is user experience design, but is that job title set to disappear as quickly as it emerged? Here, we look at the brand new job specialisms set to rise in popularity and shape the way we approach web design and development in the future. 01. Full-stack designer Similar to full-stack web developers who code for both front- and backend technologies, full-stack designers will have skills in multiple design disciplines. The emergence of this role is already motivated by employers needing to become more efficient with their budgets, whether it’s to be more price competitive or deal with budget cuts (as in public sector organisations). Full-stack designers will offer better value to employers. Being able to tackle several specialisms means there's no need to employ a different person for each role, which inn turn means a more efficient workflow. There's less time wasted waiting around for other team members to complete a task; a full-stack designer can simply switch between roles depending on what's required at the time. 02. Scientific designer Turning data into something understandable is a particular skill They say knowledge is power – whether that’s for PR communications, making business decisions or helping people live a healthy lifestyle. With the rise of digital technology and the internet we can now capture more data than ever before. The problem with data is that it’s just data. While some have no problem making sense of data through statistical analysis techniques, the average person can only see nonsense. This is where the role of scientific designer emerges: to turn data into knowledge through easy-to-understand visuals or infographics. 03. Intelligent content author Our devices are getting more and more intelligent The opposite of a scientific designer, an intelligent content author will produce content that either captures or reacts to data. AI is set to change the face of UX design, and intelligent authors are the ones who'll be tasked with helping content adapt itself to what it knows about users. Data will come from multiple sources, including popular digital assistant technologies such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. Design content will be hosted either independently or as part of an external platform – for example the chatbots for Facebook’s Messenger service. For more on this phenomenon, take a look at our article on UX design trends for 2018. 04. Instructional designer Instructional design is a combination of graphic and UX design, but with a primary focus on delivering content for learning. This type of design can be applied to all forms of digital media, from web pages to ebooks and apps. The obvious role for instructional designers is in supporting education organisations such as universities, who may want to create custom content for their courses. Additional demand for instructional design is likely to emerge as more businesses embrace technology – for example, with self-service supermarket checkouts – hence needing content to instruct their customers. 05. AR/VR designer Affordable headsets have brought VR into the mainstream The emergence of smartphones and the availability of affordable AR/VR headsets has opened up these technologies into the mainstream. Programmes for marketing, education and other activities have an opportunity to benefit from this medium through providing memorable experiences that engage their audiences. But a medium is only useful if content is available to grow its potential – hence the role of AR/VR design as a specific design specialism. This article was originally published in creative web design magazine Web Designer. Buy issue 270 or subscribe. Related articles: UX lessons you can learn in the toilet The best JavaScript frameworks 24 top Sketch plugins View the full article
  14. “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” It’s a quote that's often attributed to Pablo Picasso, and has famously inspired the likes of Steve Jobs. But while it’s a memorable zinger, the line touches on a prevalent issue in the design industry: where do we draw the line between a coincidence, or imitation, and outright plagiarism? Plagiarism isn’t a new problem for designers, but already this year we've seen a new spate of high profile brands become tagged as creative copycats. With even the most obscure source material being dredged up on social media, and rightfully defended if a new piece of work emerges that bears more than a passing resemblance, there's more pressure than ever for creatives and brands to play fair. Do your research More than a coincidence? One of the most notable and bizarre incidents of uncanny design similarity occurred in January, when a keen-eyed Reddit user noticed a resemblance between the new Formula 1 logo and a pack of 3M compression tights. Both feature an 'F' logo with a comparable curve, but is this an example of big brand plagiarism or something more innocent? The story spread like wildfire at the start of the year, with industry-leading names including Johnson Banks' own Michael Johnson weighing in to discuss the perils of trademarking logos. We caught up with Johnson to hear how coincidences can arise, despite a designer’s best intentions. “It’s very easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to an example like this,” says Johnson of the brouhaha between Formula 1 and 3M. “Yes, they look similar. Yes, they both use a lined ‘F’, both are italic. But, technically speaking, even though 3M filed their registration early last year, their registration itself is buried very deep in the US trademarking machinery – and is for medical clothing. It only seems to exist in one picture of some point of sale, and isn’t even on 3M’s website.” Start off trying to do something new, rather than something that seems familiar Michael Johnson “Now, Wieden + Kennedy [the independent advertising agency behind the Formula 1 rebrand] tell me that they did thorough trademark checks in all their relevant categories – but imagine for a moment the enormity of that task." "There are 45 different classes of goods and services, and 29 image classifications – and that’s just in Europe. The US system is slightly different, and in some countries registration is still done on paper and fax! So, factor all that in, and it’s easy to see how one single application for medical clothing slipped past the eyes of the checkers.” Johnson adds that a delay between registrations being applied for and granted also allows for clashes to be spotted. Research, then, is plays an important part in the design process as it prevents headaches further down the line, but where do designers start? Five-pronged approach When it comes to checking whether or not a potential piece of branding has been done before, Johnson has a five-pronged approach up his sleeve. Try to do something new, rather than something that seems familiar. Scour logo and symbol books for designs that have been done before, and try to mentally ‘log’ them (but don’t copy them). Do basic logo searches online – but bear in mind these are not definitive and only give you a broad indication. Train yourself to use trademark databases that are publicly available. (Watch out, they're tough to use). Or, employ a professional. Damage control The Tokyo 2020 logo was scrapped and redesigned Sometimes, despite a designer’s best efforts and intentions, a design can be released that appears similar, if not practically identical, to another piece of creative work. Cue a barrage of social media outrage. Practically speaking though, what options to designers and studios have? Should you lick their wounds and start all over again, or do both parties enter stalemate and wait for the other to budge? “You have to look at this from two directions,” says Johnson. “Obviously, from a creative point of view, it’s embarrassing if a design looks uncannily similar to something that already exists. But – if they genuinely hadn’t seen it – and the original wasn’t registered, we then get into muddy water.” “As far as I understand, you have a genuine copyright claim if your design has been seen and used for seven years, and then you have a degree of legal ‘claim’ if something appears that’s too similar,” Johnson adds. “But if your design has lain buried in a portfolio website, unseen really by anyone but your mum and your auntie, it gets much harder.” You have a genuine copyright claim if your design has been seen and used for seven years Michael Johnson A notable example of the difficulties two designs have run into trouble due to their similarity is the fiasco surrounding the Tokyo Olympics logo. Unveiled in 2015, the design of a stylised, seriffed letter ‘T’ was binned after a plagiarism row when Belgian designer Olivier Debie flagged up its similarity to his logo for Theatre De Liege. As with the Formula 1 logo, the internet descended into a witch-hunt as people decided whether or not the two designs were more than just a coincidence. “Now, ask yourself,” says Johnson, “how was a designer in Japan to have known of a symbol in Belgium, that was only two years old, in a different sector, that probably wasn’t registered anyway? That would have meant doing a worldwide symbol search for every ’T’ logo ever designed, in every class and category?” “As it happens, the proposed design was withdrawn and Debie has dropped his lawsuit, doubtless realising that he was on sticky, and expensive, legal ground. He may feel that his was a moral victory though.” Keep your cool Social media shed light on these startling similarities Looking at the situation from a different angle, what’s the best course of action to take if a piece of design for, say, a huge movie franchise, is released and it looks like it’s borrowed a lot of elements from a piece of work you did years ago? That’s exactly what happened earlier this year when the typographic posters for Solo: A Star Wars Story were unveiled. Initially designers were quick to praise the posters, which were an original spin on an established franchise. It wasn’t long though until designer Hachim Bahous took to Facebook to point out the similarities between the posters and a series of album covers he created for Sony Music France in 2015. It’s an understandable course of action to take in the heat of the moment, but given that the internet makes it blindingly fast to share your outrage, you might want to think twice before posting a status update. Posting ‘your design’ into the comment string of a blog doesn’t achieve anything Michael Johnson “Be careful before you plaster your ‘original’ all over social media,” warns Johnson. “Posting ‘your design’ into the comment string of a blog doesn’t achieve anything. First of all – is your design registered and trademarked? If so, is it trademarked in the same categories? If not, this will be an issue.” “If it isn’t trademarked, you may be able to make an ‘infringement of copyright’ claim, but the design has to be either seven years old, or have been done for a world-famous company. Failing all of this, you could try to simply embarrass those you feel have ripped you off – but you will end up coming across as essentially naive and possibly a bit desperate.” When to take action Johnson Banks encountered a design that resembled their Mandagrams project One of the biggest difficulties with plagiarism is knowing when to take legal action. It’s a dilemma that affects everyone from small designers to the biggest studios, and it’s made all the worse by the blurred boundary between what’s merely similar and what’s outright theft. Even a studio like Johnson Banks can struggle to know how to proceed in the face of imitation. “When we did our ‘Mandagrams’ research project in 2009/2010, we took certain Mandarin characters and expressed their pictogrammic roots,” Johnson explains. “The work was shared online, and was part of an exhibition in Shanghai – so it was ‘seen’ but possibly not outside a design and education audience. We didn’t think to register the design – but two years later, ‘Chineasy’ launched with essentially the same idea.” “Did they know of our work? Almost certainly. Do they answer our emails/tweets? No. Is it worth us making a legal claim? Well, it would rest on us being able to prove that our idea was unique, and had been ubiquitous for years – both tricky to argue, and very expensive.” Trademark registration seems to beats copyright Michael Johnson To compound the issue, Johnson adds that there is a huge amount of disinformation around the whole topic of plagiarism. “Designers of all ages don’t really realise the issues faced in this area,” he says. “Yes, it’s annoying when something comes up that seems to have ripped you off – but take care before you start any form of legal action. I think it all comes down to the fact that, whilst ‘copyright’ does lie with whoever has created a particular logo, trademark registration seems to beats copyright.” “The two big lessons for all of us are that, one: you should start off trying to design something that hasn’t been done before – it’s much easier to protect. And two: however great you think that logo is, there’s a chance that it’s been done before.” “For our big identity projects, once we're down to our final two or three favoured designs, we’ll always recommend doing trademark searches at that stage – prior to final decisions. Yes, it might knock out a favourite. But better to know early than late, don’t you think?” Related articles: When does inspiration turn into plagiarism? Plagiarism website shames logo thieves How to fight back against image fraud View the full article
  15. We all have dreams and goals, but what’s stopping you from achieving them? Well, for many people, quite a lot actually. the mortgage. Self-doubt. Low energy. The seeming unavailability of hours in a day. The demands of children, or parents. Lack of skills or experience. Feeling that you’re too old, or too young. But while these are all genuine, real-world issues, they shouldn’t be the death knell for your creative ambitions. Here, we’ll walk you through some of the most common challenges in pursuing your dreams, suggest ways to overcome them, and hear from creatives who’ve done just that. Challenge 01: Finding the time In his book Launch It, Shane Mielke says your time isn’t as limited as you think. Let’s deal with the most common issue first: finding the time. Whenever you want to achieve something outside your main working hours, the clock always seems to be against you. Between the office, your commute and daily household life, there never seems to be a spare minute. Are things that bad, though? Shane Mielke, creative director and author of Launch It – a book of career advice for creatives – suggests your time might not be as limited as you think. “Take an honest look at your day,” he advises. “Find things you might be wasting time on that are less important than your goal, or that you could be doing more efficiently. Things like social media, video games, commuting and inefficient work habits can all suck bits of time from our lives. If you can free up 30 minutes every day, that adds up to 180 plus hours in a year. Excuses are just excuses.” In Do Fly, Gavin Strange explains that it’s all about create good habits Gavin Strange, who works at Aardman in Bristol by day and pursues multiple fascinating side projects by night, offers an example of how that might look in practice. “For me, I find a routine that I try and stick to during the weekdays,” he explains. “I finish work at 6pm and then come home, eat dinner with my wife, watch a 30-minute TV episode – anything longer eats into the night too much – and then get cracking on ‘round two’, as I call it. Sometimes, when things get really busy, I get up an hour early before work to squeeze in extra passion projects, or get cracking on my lunch hour.” That might sound like a tough regime, But Strange – whose self-published book Do Fly serves as a motivational tract for creatives – sees it more as a matter of creating good habits. “It’s about finding the right pattern for you, or adapting how you already work,” he explains. “There’s no right or wrong way to do it. The hardest part is starting, but once you’ve got a tiny bit of momentum, it gets better and better.” Challenge 02: Finding the energy Ariana DeLuca finds the energy to reach her goals from the passion that she has about her projects. But what if you do manage to eke out some extra hours, only to find you don’t have sufficient energy to use them productively? “I think the amount of energy you have – or you think you have – relates to the amount of passion you have invested in your goals,” says Ariana DeLuca, a New York-based art director. “This is why I called my side project The Passionate Project, because making it was like falling in love. I was so excited, I had great energy, I had butterflies. I was getting home from work and I was staying up till 3am. To get on the computer and create this, and know I was doing something I absolutely loved, gave me that extra shot of energy.” Carolyn Porter, a graphic designer from Minnesota, tells a similar tale. Her love of old-time handwriting propelled her to create her own font, which mimicked the script of a real-life wartime letter. Carolyn Porter, author of Marcel's Letters, advocates tenacity as a tool to find creative energy. That project subsequently spun into a book, Marcel’s Letters: A Font And The Search for One Man’s Fate, which she based on the research she’d done into the letter’s original author. “I think if you find a project that you’re passionate about, you just have to be relentless and tenacious about bringing that project to life,” says Porter. “It may not be fast, it’s not going to be easy. But it’s ultimately worth it, and you just need to be tenacious.” Challenge 03: Life getting in the way All this can be easier said than done, of course, as life has a habit of getting in the way. A child or family member gets sick. The roof starts leaking. You’re handed a huge project at work and have to work later hours than usual. The solution? Accept that life is not perfect, sure… but don’t give up, and try to find new ways to hang on to your goals. "Sometimes life or other projects are more important,” says Mielke. “In life, you have to go where the fires are at. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still play mental Tetris with, say, the logistics of a side project, in those moments of the day that don’t have your complete attention: when you’re working out, in the bathroom, on your commute. The organisation and planning of a project or goal is the foundation and support of the physical action of the idea." A motivational quote from Shane Mielke’s Launch It experience And when things get sticky, Strange stresses one key word: positivity. “Just approaching everything you do with a positive mind state can work wonders,” he enthuses. “It presents obstacles as opportunities, which helps immensely when it’s 1.30am and you’re not sure if you can succeed. You need all these little boosts to help you through all of your creative endeavours.” Challenge 04: Finding the money Sometimes, your dreams don’t just demand your time and energy; they need a bit of seed money too. You might need some cash, for example, to pay for that course, print your own book or magazine, or to get you through the first few months of going freelance. The most obvious approach is to start watching the pennies and save up a nest egg. That’s not a particularly fun prospect, but make a few lifestyle sacrifices and keep a careful eye on your budget, and it should be achievable. Plus of course, if you’re foregoing that nice bottle of wine or subscription to Sky, it’s only going to help you find that extra time you need to pursue your creative goals. But what if you’re impatient to get started right now? That shouldn’t be a problem, says Mielke, it’s just a case of which part of your plan you get started on. “Google is free, and so research and planning costs you nothing other than time,” he points out. “So switch gears to a part of your plan that might be more organisational and can be done during free time at night or on weekends. “For example, if you’re wanting to self-publish a book about your favourite design topic, there’s nothing stopping you from researching how to get your book on Amazon, or making a list of possible printers who might print your physical book.” Lisa Maltby funded her children's book via Kickstarter, but it was "quite a challenge". Of course, saving is not the only solution to money issues. Alternatively, you could visit the bank and see whether they can offer you a loan, or equity release on your home. If they say no, try another bank or building society. We’re still in an era of quantitative easing, and you might be surprised how willing financial institutions are to lend to anybody with a track record of having a regular income and good credit score. Another source of potential cash might be crowdfunding. Lisa Maltby, a Sheffield-based illustrator, used Kickstarter to finance her ‘disgustingly distinguished recipe book’ for children, The Glorious Book of Curious Cocktails. (She's also the illustrator behind this article's opening image, High Hopes.) She managed to raise £5,600, although creatives commonly ask for, and often get, larger sums. Be warned, though: even free money doesn’t come for free, and you’ll probably have to do a lot of hustling in order to meet your target. Running a Kickstarter was like having another child; it was quite a challenge. Lisa Maltby “Running a Kickstarter was like having another child; it was quite a challenge,” recalls Maltby. “I have a wide network of people I’m connected with, so I was able to push for a few things, pull a few strings." "But even then it was really tricky to get articles about the campaign published, to get people to share it on social media. You are your own campaign, so you’ve got to fully drive it all the time. I got the funding, which is amazing, but this sort of campaign is not to be taken lightly. It’s really hard work.” Challenge 05: Building a strong network Even if you consider yourself a self-starter, the success of your creative dream often lies in the hands of other people. So having a strong network of contacts will help enormously, whether you’re seeking work as a new freelancer, looking for the right partner for a collaboration, or searching for a mentor as you develop your skills in a new creative field. Building up a decent list of contacts you can rely on doesn’t just happen by accident, though. Getting out there and introducing yourself to people, both on social media and in the real world, at things like creative events and meetups, is essential. Kate Moorhouse, a graphic designer from Manchester, very quickly learned the importance of networking when she went freelance. “I heard about a meetup group based in Sheffield and Manchester called Freelance Folk and popped down to see what it was all about,” she explains. Freelance Folk branding by Kate Moorhouse “I immediately got a friendly response from everyone. It felt like we were all in the same boat: finding our way, making the same mistakes. And it was nice to chat to like-minded people from different industries. Everyone had different disciplines, but the freelance side was common to us all.” It wasn’t just a psychological boost: the group helped her find work, too, she adds. “I met the founder, Katy Carlisle, at one of her Squarespace workshops and she asked me to redesign the logo for the group. In return, she helped me with some Squarespace support. Since then, whenever I go to the group, I meet someone new who I can either work for or work with. I’ve also collaborated with other freelancers from there, and I feel it’s a really natural way for us to work together.” Shanti Sparrow advocates social media as a method of getting your work known internationally. Challenge 06: Finding collaborators If your creative dream for 2018 involves collaboration, then its success will live and die on whether you choose the right partner. Tennessee illustrator Tammy Coron, who recently teamed up with Apple game developer Chris Language to create game design resource DayOfTheIndie.com, offers some pointers. Illustrator Tammy Coron teamed up with Apple game developer Chris Language to create game design resource DayOfTheIndie.com “Finding someone you trust and being honest with each other are vital,” she says. “One of the reasons Chris and I work so well together is because we speak our minds: we’re honest and open with each other. “We also share responsibilities and understand situations where one of us needs more time to focus on something else, without guilt from the other. And the best thing about our partnership is that we encourage and push each other to reach just past our abilities, in order to level-up our skills.” Challenge 07: Promoting yourself Whether it’s launching a passion project or your services as a freelancer, promoting yourself is key. That means not just networking with other creatives, but sharing your work more widely, on platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Behance and Dribbble. This may sound obvious, but New York-based designer and lecturer Shanti Sparrow has seen the positive effects first-hand. “I’ve been a designer for nine years, but my freelancing outside of my main job has actually only kicked off in the last two,” explains Sparrow. “It was only when I started releasing my work onto social media channels that it happened. I was started to get contacted internationally, whereas before it tended to be people I knew through people I knew. But now it’s anybody who Googled a magazine and my thing came up, and they’re in China and want me to make them something.” Amy Kilner launched an Instagram channel to assist other creatives, @thedesignfix. There’s a lot of noise online, of course, and just posting stuff doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get attention, so it pays to get creative. For example, Rotherham-based designer Amy Kilner launched an Instagram feed called @thedesignfix this year, and it’s become a roaring success. “The way you get followers on Instagram is by getting your work featured on other pages,” she explains. So she essentially took the same idea and reversed it. “I launched my own page to help other creatives, and it just blew up,” she explains. “There are now around 40,000 posts on Instagram using the hashtag and I’ve got more than 18,000 followers on it. I’ve got these brand ambassadors promoting it, and it’s just growing. It’s still a work in progress but I’m doing something right.” Challenge 08: Accepting it’s not linear As the saying goes, ‘Man plans, God laughs’. In other words: whatever scheme you have to boost your career and achieve your dreams in 2018 may very well go astray. But that’s not a reason to not bother trying at all, more a realisation that you’re going to have to stay nimble, accept challenges head on and hope to enjoy as much of the ride as possible. “There’s this assumption that when you’re an adult you get everything locked down and sorted,” says Strange. “No way! I think these times are the most exciting; you’re more wise to the world and can make changes even more easily. It’s about being open and receptive to change, and eager to identify when something isn’t working for you and then making a change. It’s a never-ending process of analysis, assessment and action!” Related articles: Be a better designer in 2018 12 essential tools for graphic designers in 2018 How to start a side project: 21 pro tips View the full article