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  1. As 2019 comes to a close, many of us start thinking about our new year's resolutions. If you're looking to push yourself to the top of the job market and learn a new skill in the new year, you've come to the right place. Finesse your coding expertise and achieve your goals from the comfort of your home with The Complete Learn to Code Master Class Bundle – now just $29. With nine courses and hundreds of hands-on lessons, this beginner-friendly training bundle will keep you on track when it comes to learning new skills. Led by professional experts, each section teaches you new ways to master the ins and outs of the coding industry. Go beyond just frontend skills and take a more holistic approach to learn development with easy-to-follow tutorials. The nine courses include easy to follow instructions and cover tutorials in mastering platforms such as C++, HTML5, CSS3, Python, JavaScript, Git, and more. Learn the difference between each programming language through detailed lectures that bring you real-world examples and help ease you into everything industry related. With lifetime access, you'll become familiar with both front- and backend development techniques and be able to build and design the websites you have always wanted to create. The master class bundle gets you started with JavaScript, one of the cornerstones of the web, and teaches you how to create more interactive online content to stand out in your field. You'll explore JavaScript Core functionality like Math, Strings, literals identifiers, and more. Eliminate manual work by creating auto-generating spreadsheets with xlsxwriter in Python and learn how to scrape websites like the NYTimes and The Washington Post using seamless tools. Continue your journey with the latest improvements to C# and .Net and build powerful cross-functional apps. You'll even learn the Google Go (also known as Golang) and streamline all things code with this Google master language, plus so much more. With over 12,000 students currently enrolled, this master class bundle is quickly becoming an accessible coding go-to. Worth over $1,370 The Complete Learn to Code Master Class Bundle has been price dropped for a limited time only to $29 right now! Kick-start your programming education and learn best practices to build your coding resume once and for all. Read more: 52 web design tools to help you work smarter in 2019 13 of the best JavaScript frameworks to try Master the golden rules of incredible UI design View the full article
  2. Adobe recently released a bunch of powerfully upgraded tools and features to Photoshop 2020 in an effort to blend the gap between desktop/laptop-based Photoshopping and using the new Photoshop for iPad. Although there are plenty of new additions and refreshes that bulk Photoshop’s already stacked library of features and tools, is it enough to make that subscription cost worth it? And can Adobe’s powerful Sensei artificial intelligence learning machine work reliably save you time when working in the software? Or is your money better spent on a one-off software purchase? Read on to find out. Object Selection tool The Object selection tool is like if the Magic Wand and Quick Selection tools had a (really strong) baby The Object Selection tool is by far the best addition to the newest update. Adobe now uses Sensei’s artificial intelligence to identify objects in a scene and automatically create selections. Thank goodness, we can put down the Magic Wand tool! It’s pretty darn good, too. Obvious examples of it not working 100 per cent are busy environments that have lots of crossing over such as foliage or complex architectural backdrops. But even then, wow it’s good! Just pair it with the Select and Mask tool (right-click on the selection to get there) to refine your edge and you’re set. And for simpler selections on clear backdrops, it’s an absolute doddle. Seamless saving via the Cloud You’ll have the choice of saving directly to the Cloud or locally on your computer As Adobe gradually expands its Photoshop software across devices, it's targeting seamless integration by allowing work to be saved to Adobe's Cloud. That means you can start your work on the desktop computer in the office, then finish it off in the café with your iPad (see our Photoshop for iPad review). You can even use this new feature to work on files in Adobe Fresco too. In the unlikely event you’ve wandered back into the dark ages and don't have WiFi, you can work offline and have it automatically sync when you next connect. Just be aware of your membership level and how much Creative Cloud storage you have, you may need to jig a few files around from time to time if you’re a power-user. Overall, it’s a great addition that’ll give you a few sighs of relief when your device battery dies or the software crashes mid-work. However, use of the Cloud storage is a bit clunky – if you’re saving files to the Cloud don’t expect to be able to download them back onto your device, because you’ll have to reopen them in Photoshop to re-save locally. Transform consistently Finally, the transform controls are the right way round – though there’s a legacy mode for users who just can’t make the switch You can give your fingers a rest because consistent transform behaviour via the Shift key is a thing of the past. Hallelujah! Photoshop 2020 now performs a consistent transform from the off, that is, you can make selections bigger and smaller without squashing its width or height, all without holding down Shift. Why this wasn’t the standard since the dawn of Photoshop? We're not sure. You’ll notice the Link icon in the top of the toolbar is now automatically on. Hold down the Shift key now and you’ll see you can adjust width and height as normal. If you’re a traditionalist and prefer to leave it as it was head to: Edit > Preferences > General and tick Legacy Free Transform. Properties revamp Helpful shortcuts and some snazzy quick actions for the most commonly used functions in the properties panel are welcome improvements The Properties panel has had a well-deserved revamp to give quicker access to things like displaying the Rulers, the Grid, adjusting Guides and also includes a powerful extra tab called Quick Actions. These speedy features change depending on what you have selected in the Layers palette. Highlight no layer at all and it’ll default to the Document properties, click a raster layer and you’ll be greeted with the Pixel properties actions and highlighting a Type layer will give you some more. They’re designed to be used with a single click, instead of fiddling behind sub-menu after sub-menu and are there for all your most common requirements, although we're hoping Adobe open this up to some customising soon. Flexible Smart Object conversion A flexible way for the multi-faceted creative user, not so much for the humble photographer Merged Smart Object layers are now even more flexible with the ability to reverse the process of converting several layers to a smart object, and back again. Once you’ve created your Smart Object with layers you can right-click on it in the Layers palette and go to Convert to Layers to reverse the process. However, now you’ll have them in a useful Smart Object Group folder so they don’t get inter-mingled in your 200 layer monster document. This is certainly an update for the more artistic and design-oriented Photoshop users rather than photographers, but Photoshop definitely isn’t just for photographers anymore. New and improved presets There have been some great new changes to the presets end of Photoshop recently. The old presets we know and love are still there, hidden under the Legacy Presets option in the contextual panel menu, but there's now access to new gradients, shapes and patterns, which each have their own dedicated panels, making it easier to sift through thumbnails. You can even reorder and categorise your presets using simple drag and drop and place them directly onto the canvas if needed, but this feels like a universal change to take into account functionality on the iPad. That said, you now get a live preview as you cycle through presets by clicking on them to get a feel for each one on the canvas which is better than squinting at the thumbnails. More powerful Transform Warp It’s good that Adobe is updating this feature to make it more user-friendly, but is this really the tool that needed updating? Transform Warp is more powerful with the inclusion of control points and split points, which divide your image into sections (find this in the top toolbar). From here, you can make custom-sized grids, delete gridlines, put them anywhere and set your own anchor points. Adobe says you can even undo individual steps of editing a warp, but in practice you can’t do this once you’ve committed the transform by clicking the tick in the top bar or hitting Enter. This is a good update for regular warpers, but a bit of a stocking filler for those that only use this feature occasionally. System requirements macOS Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support macOS version 10.13 or higher 2GB RAM (8GB recommended) nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 or equivalent and higher Windows Intel or AMD processor with 64-bit support; 2GHz or faster Windows 7 (64-bit) or Windows 10 (64-bit) 2GB RAM (8GB recommended) nVidia GeForce GTX 1050 or equivalent and higher How good is Photoshop 2020? The new features and tools in Photoshop 2020 are definitely decent. There's a couple of powerful time-saving additions, a game-changing new tool, a few features aimed at multi-media artists and some spring cleaning for layouts. Photoshop 2020 is the industry standard for image editing and can of course do so much more, including 3D modelling and animation. It’s hard to recommend another software over Photoshop in terms of comprehensiveness, but Affinity Photo is probably a good alternative for those that only wish for photography-related functionality at a fixed price. If you’re a photographer, digital artist or experimental designer, this is definitely the software to go for – especially if you’re interdisciplinary in your workflow. Even though Photoshop 2020 has a strong animation function, if you're after a standalone motion graphics app for 3D content making, you might be better off with Cinema 4D. However, if you regularly collaborate with other designers, or use other Adobe software and need a streamlined workflow, then Photoshop 2020 is an invaluable tool. Should you buy Photoshop 2020? Yes. If the above bullet points and the rest of this review appeal, then go for it. If not, or if your work is quite specific, it may be worth investing in another piece of dedicated software. View the full article
  3. GitHub – the world's largest developer platform – is a barometer of what's happening in the world of web development. Its recently released 2019 The State of the Octoverse report offers insight into how developers are using the GitHub platform and what trends have emerged across web development over the last year. The report reveals that 10 million new developers joined the GitHub community in the last year, taking its total membership to over 40 million. Another 44 million code repositories were created on the platform, and year-on-year more contributors (who are making plenty of open source projects) are coming from outside the US. The most popular languages of the year also get a mention. Topping the charts – and number one for the sixth year in a row – is the old developer favourite, JavaScript. Getting to grips with vanilla JS is not always easy, but there are plenty of great JavaScript APIs out there that can help kickstart any project. Charging up into the second place is Python, a general purpose, high-level language for developing desktop apps, websites and web apps. This is used by a lot of big name brands such as Facebook, Instagram, Spotify and Netflix, so it's not really surprising. The report also reveals that schools are a key player in bringing on the next generation of developers and GitHub is playing its part. Thirty-one thousand teachers have used GitHub in their courses to teach real-world developer workflows, with 1.7 million students having learnt to code on GitHub – an impressive increase of 55 per cent on the previous year. This is probably driven by the free GitHub Student Developer Pack. To get more insight check out the complete report here. Learn to build better JavaScript at the generateJS conference Join us in April 2020 with our lineup of JavaScript superstars at GenerateJS – the conference helping you build better JavaScript. Book now at generateconf.com Read more: 8 cool annual report designs How many of these web dev rites of passage have you completed? 13 of the best JavaScript frameworks to try View the full article
  4. If you're stumped for Christmas gift ideas, we've got the perfect solution. Whether you're spending the festive season with the family, friends or having a quiet one at home, this Lego Gingerbread House (creator set no #10267) is this year's must-have Christmas present. Why? Well, for a start, it's Lego, and it's a well-known fact that everyone loves Lego (even if you don't realise you do – our Lego art round up will persuade you). Secondly, it's great value for money, but most importantly, it's one of the best Christmas gifts to get you and your loved ones in the festive spirit. Full of seasonal charm and a unbelievable level of detail, the two-storey house is an absolute delight to put together. A Gingerbread/sweet theme runs all the way through, with the downstairs area featuring a living room, complete with arm chair, open fire with battery operated light to get that authentic cosy feeling, and an adorable family portrait. The upper level consists of a bed and bedside table (with the most wonderful sweet-inspired lamp), and let's not forget the full-sized bath and toilet next door. The outside of the house is decorated in authentic-looking gingerbread, with icing and sweets, and snow on the window sills and oversized candy canes really bring its Christmassy feel to life. If all that wasn't charming enough for you, minifigures include a gingerbread man and woman, plus a super-cute gingerbread baby and pushchair. No matter what your interests, if this Lego set doesn't tug at your heart strings, we don't know what will. The ultimate Christmas gift, the Lego Gingerbread House is sure to put a smile on the face of whoever is lucky enough to have it wrapped under the tree. And the great news is, there's still plenty of time to grab one before the big day. Lego Gingerbread House not quite your style? Never fear, we've got lots more options in our round up of the best Lego sets for adults. Plus, we've got all the best deals on some of Lego's most popular sets below. Read more: The Knight Bus Lego review Lego has the final word on Tesla's Cybertruck Introducing Lego, as you've never seen it before View the full article
  5. Levi's bold logo is one of the most instantly recognisable and iconic designs. In fact, the strength of Levi's branding is so strong, they needn't worry about experimenting with new designs, right? Maybe not. Levi's has recently revealed a new '90s-inspired logo, which is a world away from the beloved batwing design we're so used to seeing. The current sans-serif design has been replaced with a serif typeface that has a real retro feel. But it's not the new typeface that has designers up in arms, but the apostrophe. Or is it the lack thereof? Levi's use of the foot mark has not gone down well Designers are arguing that what Levi's is using in place of an apostrophe is actually a foot mark (or dumb quote) – i.e. it's straight rather than curly. Perhaps it's a deliberate design decision, but either way, designers are not happy. Some creatives have given Levi's the benefit of the doubt. Commenting on Brand New Heshaka Jayawardena says: "I'm going with foot mark by accident, mainly because I see SO many instances where people just don't know how to type a proper apostrophe." However others are struggling to see how such a huge company could make such an error, with Disqus user Jeff Halmos commenting: "Screams "in-house." No excuse. in fact, every instance of the logo I found used an apostrophe." Levi's new logo offering is a world away from its recognisable batwing design Our take? It's a complete overreaction. While using dumb/straight quote marks in this context is technically not correct (it's entry #1 in our list of typographic mistakes everyone makes), they are so common as to have become an accepted variation. You might even spot them on your favourite design website (ahem). What's more – it's a logo, so as far as we're concerned, Levi's has free reign to style it any way it wants. Levi's logos have changed over years in what some might say a much more liberal way than other fashion brands. Evolving over time the company has trusted in its brand and played, successfully we might add, with the direction of text, sizing and even colouring. But, while there's no reason to suggest this switch in logos is permanent, it seems this new design from legacy denim brand is just a step too far for some. Read more: 8 of the biggest logo redesigns of 2019 Eurovision's data-driven 2020 logo is all about unity 7 famous logos that pass the silhouette test View the full article
  6. Adobe's software might be the industry standard, but Illustrator alternatives are available. Why is Adobe's vector graphics editor so popular? Well, Illustrator was first released in 1987 and has dominated digital art, illustration and graphic design for several decades. There are many benefits of using the software, you can find out more via our download Illustrator post. However, as it's part of Adobe's Creative Cloud, to use Illustrator, you'll need a monthly subscription, either to the app itself or to the Creative Cloud suite as a whole. Get Adobe Creative Cloud now If that's a red line for you, then don't worry. There are a number of decent alternatives to Illustrator to consider instead, which are either free or available for a one-off fee. In this article, we round up six of the best, explain what the differences are, and outline which will most closely match your needs. If you're looking for more creative tools, you might want to check our best iPad apps for designers, as well as these Photoshop alternatives. 01. Affinity Designer Affinity Designer is the best all-round alternative to Adobe Illustrator Price model: One-off purchase System: Windows, Mac, iPad Pros: Feature-rich, cheap, works on iPad Cons: Not the industry standard Recommended for: Professional designers In our view, the best all-round alternative to Illustrator is Affinity Designer. First launched in 2014, this vector editor from British software company Serif has gradually grown in popularity and influence, and for good reason. Not only is it powerful and feature-rich, its one-off purchase price (£48.99, but discounts are sometimes available) is far cheaper than taking out an Illustrator subscription. Unencumbered by legacy code, the software generally runs a little bit faster than Illustrator, and if you have a relatively new Mac, a lot faster (which is largely why it won an Apple Design Award). But can it do everything that Illustrator can? Although there are some gaps, which we detail in our Affinity Designer review, the answer is: generally yes. And working with other designers using Illustrator isn’t usually a problem either, as Affinity Designer can import and export AI and PSD files. Affinity Designer can also boast a few unique features that Illustrator doesn’t have, including the ability to switch between raster and vector workspaces within the same tool, one-million plus zoom, and unlimited redos. And while Illustrator still isn’t available on iPad (although it's coming soon, and it looks very cool), you can now use the full version of Affinity Designer on iPad (for £19.99), with optimised features for the Apple Pencil. 02. Sketch Sketch is the best Illustrator alternative for UI design, although it is Mac-only Price model: One-off purchase System: Mac Pros: Great for UI and icon design Cons: Mac-only, not as comprehensive as Illustrator Recommended for: UI designers, UX designers, web designers, app designers If your need for a vector drawing program is primarily for digital design, then Sketch is probably your best alternative to Illustrator: as long as you’re using a Mac. First launched in 2010, Sketch has a strong focus on UI and icon design that quickly led it to become the industry’s go-to for app and website prototyping. It’s not a fully comprehensive drawing program, with all the features offered by Illustrator, so you wouldn’t use it to create complex illustrations or art. But by the same token, this means it has a simpler and more user-friendly interface that makes icon and UI design quick and easy. A Sketch licence costs $99 and will give you one year of free updates. Once your licence has expired you can still use the app for as long as you want, but you will need to renew if you want the latest updates. 03. CorelDRAW Veteran Illustrator alternative CorelDRAW has an army of passionate fans Price model: One-off purchase or subscription System: Windows, Mac Pros: Feature-rich, strong community of users Cons: Not the industry standard, expensive Recommended for: Illustrators and artists First launched in 1989, CorelDRAW is a vector drawing program with a big following among artists and illustrators. For most of this time, it was Windows-only, but this Spring a Mac version was finally released too. There’s no easy way to say whether CorelDRAW or Illustrator is the 'better' tool. Both are packed with features and both have their passionate advocates. Because the interfaces and approaches are quite different, fans of each tool will argue, with equal vehemence, that theirs is the easiest to use, but there’s no real objective way of settling this. What is objective fact is that Illustrator is the standard software for the design and illustration industry, but that said, you can easily import and export AI and PDF files to CorelDRAW. The two tools can’t easily be separated on price, either. CorelDRAW is available for a one-off fee, but the upfront cost is relatively large: £599 at time of writing. So you’d have to use it for a number of years to make it cheaper overall than an Adobe Illustrator subscription. Alternatively, you can subscribe to CorelDRAW for £16.67 monthly, billed annually, which is only slightly cheaper than an Adobe Illustrator subscription. Essentially, then, the main reason to buy Corel Draw over Illustrator seems to be if you prefer the interface and workflow. So if you’ve never used it, you might want to take advantage of the free trial and just see how it feels in practice. 04. Gravit Designer Broswer-based tool Gravit is mounting a serious challenge to the dominance of Adobe Illustrator Price model: Freemium System: Web browser Pros: Free version, can be used online and on desktop Cons: Limitations to free version Recommended for: Chromebook and Linux users; budget-conscious designers and illustrators Gravit Designer is a tool that allows you to work on a diverse range of design tasks, including illustration, UI and screen design, printed artwork and logo design. It has a lot of similar features to Illustrator, including a freehand drawing tool that smooths the paths as you draw, the ability to create custom shapes and the equivalent of the Pen tool . Gravit Designer is available either online in your browser or on your desktop as a downloadable app for Mac OS, Windows, Linux or Chrome OS. The tool supports a number of vector and raster file formats, including AI and Sketch files. You save your work onto your computer in the .gvdesign format, and you can export it as SVG, PDV, PNG or JPEG files. Gravit Designer operates on a freemium model, so while the free version is quite capable, you need to pay for a Pro subscription (£75 a year at full price) to get unlimited cloud storage and features such as PDF export above 150dpi, CMYK colour space, version history and the ability to work offline. 05. Inkscape Inkscape is the best free alternative to Adobe Illustrator Price model: Free System: Windows, Mac, Linux Pros: Free, lightweight, runs on Linux Cons: Slow and laggy Recommended for: Linux users, cash-poor students and startups Inkscape is a free and open source vector editor using Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) as the native format. It’s lightweight, so will run on quite low-powered computers, but it’s surprisingly capable for a free tool, with a lot of useful features including layers, object grouping, drawing, shape, calligraphy, pencil and pen tools, path simplification with variable threshold, bitmap tracing and Boolean operations. Inkscape natively supports opening or importing a range of formats, including SVG, PDF, EPS, AI (Adobe Illustrator) and CDR (CorelDraw). As well as Windows and Mac, it will also run on Linux. The main downside lies in its performance: it can be quite slow and laggy at times. But for a student or beginner wanting to create digital illustrations and vector graphics for free, and not wanting to spend any money, it’s an excellent choice. 06. Vectr Vectr is a free and easy to use alternative to Illustrator Price model: Free System: Web browser Pros: Free, browser-based, simple to use Cons: Lacks sophisticated features Recommended for: Cash and time-poor beginners Vectr is a totally free, browser-based tool that offers a quick and easy way to get started with vector editing via an intuitive interface. Because it’s based in the web browser, anyone with an internet connection can use it, and that makes it quite straightforward for multiple people to collaborate on a design, too. Each image has a bespoke URL you can share with others, and you can export your finished work as an SVG, PNG or JPEG file. Overall, Vectr is super-simple, which can be viewed as a positive or a negative. In other words, it’s never going to replace the feature-rich capabilities of Illustrator, Affinity Designer or Corel Draw, but that also means a very low learning curve (there are very good tutorials featured within the app itself). So if you’re a total newbie looking to create, say, a social media graphic with the minimum of time and effort, this is an excellent option. Read more: Map illustration: A step by step guide Branding quotes: The good, the bad and the ugly Top graphic design trends for 2020 View the full article
  7. December 2019's relatively light Patch Tuesday update also fixes seven critical flaws. View the full article
  8. Microsoft is offering some major Surface Pro deals at the moment. That's right – you may have missed Black Friday and, er, Green Monday, but there's still time to pick up some tech bargains before Christmas. There's a whole load of offers on the Microsoft Store – take a look using the links below. Browse US Surface deals Browse UK Surface deals The Surface range has been the subject of plenty of strong price-drops over the festive trading period, but these offers are some of the best we've seen. The Surface Pro – Microsoft's 2-in-1 tablet/laptop – is particularly popular with designers. The Surface Pro 6 offers a beautiful display, long battery life and excellent performance (read our full Surface Pro 6 review for more info). Microsoft offered some minor improvements when it released the Surface Pro 7 in the autumn, but there's not much between the two (see our Surface Pro 6 vs Surface Pro 7 comparison for a full breakdown). Which one you go for could well depend on where the top offers are. Here's our pick of some of the strongest deals at Microsoft right now: In a different territory? Check out the best Surface Pro 7 offers in your area using the widget below. View the full article
  9. Amazon is rolling out patches for the vulnerabilities and users are urged to confirm their device is updated to firmware version 2.13.11 or later. View the full article
  10. Creative coder Neal Agarwal is on a mission to make the web fun, and his latest project, The Deep Sea, is an interactive visualisation of the ocean that is not only inspirational, but educational and strangely addictive. Once we started, we simply couldn't stop scrolling. (Here's a few data visualisation tools to help create your own design, or some CSS animation examples if you want to take things to the next level.) The beauty of The Deep Sea lies in its simplicity. It's an old-school single page scroller, nothing too complicated in the design aesthetic. There's a gradient that slowly gets darker the deeper you go, floating plankton and sea debris to add a touch of realism, and overlaid images of creatures interspersed with fascinating facts. For instance, did you know that the Japanese Spider Crab is the largest known crab with a maximum leg span of 3.8m and lives around 650 metres down in what is known as the Twilight Zone? Or that the deepest part of the ocean is 11,000 metres down? That's nearly seven miles! That's a lot of ocean to cover and as you scroll further and further down The Deep Sea, the weirder the creatures get and the more you learn. As Agarwal says on his Twitter account, "Grab some popcorn, it's a long ride!" Say goodbye to sunlight once you reach The Midnight Zone So what will you learn? Sitting less than 10 metres down you'll find a couple of food favourites – the Atlantic Salmon and Atlantic Cod – accompanied by the European Pilchard and just over 50 metres down you will find the more exotic Mahi-Mahi. But as you keep scrolling, the sea begins to darken as you enter the Twilight Zone at around 200 metres. This is where the real interest starts to kick in as lesser known facts entice you to continue your journey. Here's a fact for you (at around 700m) – Coelacanths were thought to be extinct until found alive in 1938. Here's another, the Sperm Whale dives to nearly 1000 metres. Keep going, there is a lot more to learn. Touching down on the bottom of the page feels like you have been on an epic adventure of your own. We're big fans of The Deep Sea, and we love how it perfectly demonstrates how designers can combine simplicity with storytelling to create a project that engages, and teaches while having fun. Check it out yourself here. Learn more about JavaScript at GenerateJS in April 2020 Join us in April 2020 with our lineup of JavaScript superstars at GenerateJS – The conference helping you build better JavaScript. Book now at generateconf.com Read more: Eurovision's data-driven 2020 logo is all about unity Explore data visualisation with p5.js Use Chart.js to turn data into interactive diagrams View the full article
  11. If any laptop's capable of challenging the MacBook Pro's reign over the creative hardware market, it's Microsoft's Surface Book. Last year's Surface Book 2 was a fantastic all-round creative machine with plenty of features guaranteed to appeal to designers, such as a fantastic 3,000 x 2,000 267ppi PixelSense screen and brilliant drawing and sketching potential thanks to the Surface Pen, so the rumoured arrival of a Surface Book 3 should be just the thing to get many creative hearts a-flutter. And if a recent Microsoft patent filing is to believed, the Surface Book 3 could be packing an extra new feature that's certain to endear it to designers. As well as being able to draw on the screen, with the next model you should be able to flip the keyboard over to reveal an actual tablet, enabling you to draw and sketch without the usual pen display issues of never quite being able to see what you're doing because your hand's in the way. It might even make it into our best drawing tablets roundup. Don't get too excited; Microsoft's describing this as a 'writing surface' rather than a graphics tablet, and states that the user "may use a pen, finger, or other implement to draw on the writing surface". So while it may be suitable for writing and sketching, it might not have the resolution necessary to make it an effective drawing surface for professionals. In which case we're sure that the normal screen and Surface Pen will serve you perfectly well. If Microsoft can carry this off, it could be a game-changer Most likely the writing surface is designed to make it easy to write notes by hand or add annotations to documents, which is a definite bonus; any more sophisticated functionality would make it a must-have. It seems like a great idea; our main concern is how it would all actually work. Flipping the keyboard only means that the hinge – with all those essential connections – is facing downwards, so we're not sure you can actually have the display plugged in when you're using the writing surface. And if all those connections are facing down, we'd be worried about them getting damaged when you're sketching. Of course, this is a patent filing rather than an official announcement, and it's far from certain that this innovation will carry through to the finished design. If it makes it through to production then we're sure that Microsoft will have addressed these issues. The Surface Book 2 is a fantastic portable creative powerhouse Microsoft hasn't even announced the Surface Book 3 yet, but given the success of the previous model it seems like a no-brainer. And if it wants to continue its assault on Apple's creative laptops, Microsoft needs to pull out all the stops to make the Surface Book 3 an essential piece of kit for designers, so this could be a really exciting way to get people queuing up for it. As soon as we hear some concrete details about the Surface Book 3, we'll let you know. In the meantime, check out the latest Surface Book 2 deals. Related articles: Is a new dual-screen Surface device on its way? The best drawing tablet: Our pick of the best graphics tablets in 2019 The best tablets with a stylus for drawing and note-taking in 2019 View the full article
  12. Since it launched in 2004, Gmail has won over 1.4 billion of us to become the world’s most-used email provider. That's mainly thanks to its intuitive interface and convenient synchronisation with other Google products like Drive and Calendar. However, the fact that it’s always evolving and adding new tools means that it has many cool capabilities many of us have yet to discover. Here’s a guide to some of the most useful features you might not know about, and how they can make you more productive. To boost your productivity further, check out our guide to the tools every graphic designer should have. 01. Silence irrelevant conversations Not relevant to you? Mute it Perhaps you’re receiving too many interruptions. It can often happen that someone will copy you in on an email chain with several other people, all of whom start chipping in with replies that might have nothing to do with you. No problem; Gmail allows you to mute a conversation so that you won’t hear any more from it unless you want to. By selecting the email and tapping on the three-dot icon on the bar above you can silence further replies. These will be automatically archived, so that won't appear in your primary inbox but can still be found with a search if you need to drop back in at some point to check what’s been happening while you’ve been getting some peace and quiet. 02. Keep things private with Confidential mode This message will self-destruct in ... In an attempt to help protect sensitive messages from unauthorised access, Gmail has introduced a feature previously available only in corporate email accounts. 'Confidential mode' lets you prevent the recipient of a message from forwarding, copying, downloading or printing its contents, and even allows you to set a timer so that the email will effectively self destruct at a chosen time. The timer is not visible to the receiver but means that he or she will longer be able to access the content of the message once the time has elapsed. Of course, there’s no way to stop a receiver from taking a photograph or screenshot of the email, but confidential mode can help prevent someone from accidentally forwarding your message and any attachment to someone else person, and the expiration feature can be useful if you want to try to prevent potential clients keeping hold of your proposals and potentially using parts of them in the event that they don’t choose to hire your services. To activate it, look for the lock icon at the bottom while composing a mail. A similarly useful feature for retrieving email is the ability to undo send. If you accidentally send a message before it was ready, with someone copied in who shouldn’t be, or, most common of all, without the intended attachment, you can retrieve the email from the receiver’s inbox. The default undo time is five seconds which requires pretty fast reflexes, but in the Settings > General, you can increase it to up to 30 seconds to give you more time to react. 03. Work out of hours and schedule your mail Send your emails at the time that’s most convenient using the schedule mail feature Need to send a follow-up email to a client at a time you know you’re going to be offline or working on something else? There’s no need to physically press send at the time you want an email to go out. Gmail allows you to decide when you want your messages to arrive in the receiver’s inbox by scheduling a date and time when you compose them. This is particularly useful if you work unusual or irregular hours or across time zones, or if you like to be organised and write messages ahead of time. It can also serve as a cheeky trick to make it look like you’re connected and working away when you’re taking a break from the screen. If you’re in a web browser, just click the arrow next to Send in the compose email view and select Schedule send. In the mobile app, click the three vertical dots in the top right. You’ll be offered three quick single-click options for scheduling, or the option to pick any date and time. Note that you can also use Gmail with no internet connectivity by enabling offline mode, allowing you to access Gmail and compose emails that will be sent as soon as you connect again. This option can be found under Settings > Offline. 04. Save time with canned responses Save yourself from typing out the same reply again and again Sometimes we end up typing out the same messages again and again, whether it’s a simple 'Ok, got it', or a more detailed reminder or response to a common enquiry. If you find you send a lot of these, there’s no need to write draft responses to cut and paste from elsewhere. Gmail’s templates feature can make sending repetitive routine messages a lot less of a hassle. First you need to enable the feature by going to Settings > Advanced and clicking the radio button to enable templates (remember to click Save Changes). From then on, whenever you’re typing a response to an email in the compose email view, you can click the three vertical dots for More options in order to save that response as a template that you can then use again in the future (give each template a clear name so you remember what they say). Once you’ve created a template, whenever you reply to an email, you can click the three vertical dots to bring it up as a quick option to save having to type a new response. You can also create filters to automatically reply to certain emails using a template. Joy! 05. Use multiple addresses Tune your email address for different projects If you use several Gmail accounts for different purposes, Gmail makes it easy as pie to toggle between them. You might not have noticed it, but you can easily flick between accounts in the Android app by simply swiping up or down on the Google icon in the top right corner. However, another useful feature of Gmail is that you can also effectively create multiple email addresses within one single account. Gmail doesn’t recognise full stops, capital letters, or the '+' symbol, so if your email is yourname@gmail.com, messages will still reach your inbox if they’re sent to yourNAME@gmail.com or your.name@gmail.com, and so on. You can add a dot or capital letter anywhere or add a '+' at the end of your name (before the @) followed by any extra characters you fancy. For example, if you work in both graphic design and illustration, you could give out your address as yourname+design@gmail.com and yourname+illustration@gmail.com respectively. Initially messages will all arrive in your inbox, but you can set up filters applying different labels to each, effectively allowing you to run multiple addresses from one inbox. To do this, just click on the gear icon top right, choose Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses > Create a new filter. Type your modified address in the To field, then click Create filter and check Apply the label to, for example, apply the label 'Design' to all emails sent to yourname+design@gmail.com. You can select Never send to spam if you’re giving the address out to potential clients and fear their communications might be blocked. To be send email from your modified addresses, you can them as aliases: go to Settings > Accounts and import > Add another email address. 06. Make sure you don't miss anything important Configure desktop notifications to make sure you don’t miss important messages Sometimes you can be so engrossed in your work that you miss an important email come in, but Gmail allows desktop notifications without using Outlook or Apple Mail. You can also choose to receive notifications only for messages that are labelled 'Important' to ensure you’re interrupted only when need be. To set up notifications, click the gear icon, go to Settings, then scroll down to Desktop Notifications. Also, if you find you sometimes miss messages that are sent to Gmail’s alternate inboxes (Social, Promotions and Updates), you can ensure they go to your primary inbox by turning off these tabs under Settings > Inbox, while if you want to ensure messages from specific senders go to Primary, you can add a filter in the Filters tab. 07. Label, label, label Keep track of priorities by labelling messages Gmail uses labels, rather than folders, to give us much more flexibility in how we organise our inbox. You can use labels to organise projects by creating a new label per project then archiving the label when the project's complete.This can help you keep track of what’s happening, while also preserving a record of your work and correspondence if you need to refer back to it later. For the ultimate in email hygiene, you can also choose to show and hide different labels to reflect current priorities. 08. Save clicks with keyboard shortcuts Turn on shortcuts to save time on common actions Like many web apps and software programmes, Gmail comes with a comprehensive range of default keyboard shortcuts that can speed up common workflows. Invest a couple of minutes in learning the most useful and you could save yourself a lot more time in the long run. Start by turning on shortcuts under Settings > General and save changes. There are a whole host of shortcuts and Google provides a full breakdown, plus you can customise shortcuts to use keys that you find more memorable by enabling the function in Settings > Advanced. To get started quickly, some of the most useful defaults to save clicks and allow you to give the mouse or touchpad a break include: Compose: c Search for messages: / Reply: r Reply all: a Forward: f Mark current messages unread: Shift + u Mark selected message as important: = Archive selected message: e Jump to next message in email thread: n Jump to previous message in email thread: p Mute a conversation: m Insert link: Command/control + k Send email: Command/control + Enter 09. Get experimental Opt in for early access to new experimental features Gmail offers a Labs feature that allows you to experiment with beta versions of potential new features before they're rolled out as standard. If these features work and become popular, they might later be incorporated into the main Gmail interface, and indeed many of the features mentioned above began life here. Of course some features may never make it and can be scrapped without notice – such was the fate of the bizarre Gmail Goggles feature designed to stop us from sending messages we might regret after a night on the town by presenting a couple of maths problems as a test of sobriety. To turn on experimental access, simply click the gear icon top right, go to Settings > General > Experimental Access, check the box and click Save Changes. Read more: 6 Christmas card designs that are so bad they're good The 10 best Christmas ads of all time 6 of 2019's best new graphic design portfolios View the full article
  13. A few months ago we announced the coming of Slides 5, then a month ago we rolled out Slides 5 for Slides 4 customers, and today we’re happy to announce the public release!View the full article
  14. Hey, look: we’re just a few weeks away from a brand new decade! Which seems like the ideal time to cast an eye over the last year’s illustration trends and get some clues about where we’re headed in 2020 and beyond. Last week we took a close look at the graphic design trends set to shape the next 12 months, and today we're focussing on illustration. Here, leading artists and designs in the industry share the trends they’ve spotted recently and their predictions on what will be popular in the year to come. Of course, no one’s saying you have to follow these trends, but it’s certainly good to know what they are. 01. Flat colour and limited palette Illustration by Bruno Mangyoku for a book extract from Lethal White in The Guardian When it comes to illustration, sometimes less is more. Or as Jamie Clarke, a freelance designer and illustrator specialising in lettering and display, puts it: “Working within a set of restrictions, be they self-imposed or from a client’s brief, is often a good way of keeping an idea focused.” That’s the thinking behind one of the year’s biggest illustration trends: flat colour and a limited palette. “Reducing the colour palette to its essentials also adds an air of sophistication to an illustration,” explains Clarke. “Stir in some light and shadows and you have a cocktail that's becoming ever more popular.” Examples of the trend can be seen in the work of Malika Favre and Bruno Mangyoku. 02. Atmospheric gradients Visual for a Barron's Magazine article concerning ESG, environmental, social and governance, by Marly Gallardo Gradients have been a big trend throughout the 2010s, but recently their use has become a lot more sophisticated, believes Jamie Clark. “Lately I’ve been seeing more and more big, seductive, gradient illustrations,” he reports. “In the right hands, this techniques can produce a variety of moods, from euphoria to brooding menace. "As in the above image, an illustration by Marly Gallardo for an article on sustainability in Barron's Magazine, there is a trend for maintaining tight control over the palette which seems to increase the image’s impact," he adds. "Another good example of the trend can be seen in Karolis Strautniekas’ illustration for Honorific London." 03. Blurring the lines between illustration and animation Social media has represented an important new market for illustrators across the 2010s. But with more and more competition for eyeballs, we’re likely to see increasing demands for that illustration work to become interactive as we enter the 2020s. “Shorter attention spans mean work by illustrators like Malika Favre and Christoph Neimann are being revisited and animated to add a level of interactivity to them,” says Charlie Smith, creative director at Charlie Smith Design. “Thanks to the GIF, the line between moving image and illustration is getting ever greyer. 2020 may well continue to see bright and bold patterns, and hypnotic loops like the works of Lucas Zanotto and Matthieu Braccini as they change our perception of the medium and what it can be used for. "Creative technologies are also enabling fantastic new ways for us engage with illustration in real-world environments," she adds. “Digital animation is playing a greater role in AR, as seen in magazine covers that come to life with sound and movement through a phone camera lens. Interactive illustrations, like this mad interactive wall art for MailChimp, have the potential to reinvent communication and education tools.” 04. 3D surrealism We’ve been seeing a lot of weird and wonderful 3D work lately, and that’s likely to continue into the 2020s, believes Ryan Teixeira, design director at Wieden+Kennedy London. "The increasing availability of advanced 3D software will continue to fuel the creation of mind-bending surrealistic imagery at an ever faster rate,” he explains. “When combined with full motion video and sound design, these sorts of thumb-stopping visuals are perfectly suited to the world of social media.” Teixeira offers some examples of what that looks like in practice. "Have you ever seen a rock seamlessly transform into a piece of silk? A VW Beetle bend and wobble like it was made of jelly? Beautiful flowers made of impossible futuristic rubber-like materials? A quick jump onto Instagram and you can. Easy access to high quality 3D scanned assets, advanced procedural systems, as well as AR and VR provide artists endless opportunities for experimentation and play. Studios leading the way with this trend include Builders Club, Man vs. Machine and Tomorrow Bureau.” That said, it’s important not to get carried away with tech for its own sake. "Just as it was with traditional illustration techniques, the goal of communicating engaging ideas and stories is still at the core of this bleeding edge style," Teixeira stresses. 05. Printmaking Thicket by Clare Curtis, which is available to buy as a print from Bircham Gallery While digital illustrations can sometimes feel a little cold and impersonal, a counter-trend can be seen in the increasing call for physical and traditional techniques. “The warm, tactile quality achieved from lino, silk screen, letterpress or from a skilfully applied digital texture is still in high demand,” says Jamie Clarke. “I suspect there will always be a premium placed on imagery produced by manual means.” Examples of the trend can be seen in the work of Clare Curtis and Tom Frost. 06. Body positivity Poster illustration for lostfoundmarket.com by Alva Skog The 2010s have seen a big movement away from ‘body shaming’ and towards celebrating our physical appearance, whatever we may look like, and the profession is increasingly following suit. “Illustrators are continuing to express how we and our bodies are seen and perceived in wacky and wonderful ways,” says Charlie Smith. “Imperfect brush strokes and wobbly lines are being used to create playful caricatures that explore ideals of proportions and anatomic ratios. See work by Amber Vittoria, Lucas Wakamatsu, Kevin Sabo and others.” 07. Illustrative lettering Book covers by Martina Flor for Penguin Random House and Andersen Press (Monsters, centre) Hand-lettering, custom lettering, illustrative lettering... whatever you call it, it’s thriving right now, says Jamie Clarke, and for good reason. “No matter how large the range of available typefaces becomes, sometimes lettering is the only way to magically blend a particular illustration style into an image,” he explains. Great examples to follow include the book cover designs of Martina Flor and Karl James Mountford. 08. The return of detail Tom Lane’s bottle detail for the Brisbane Distillery Company Although minimalism has dominated throughout the 2010s, we’re now seeing a lot more realism and detail creeping back into illustration, says Alex Halfpenny, design director at Elmwood. He argues that the previous trend for reductive design was driven largely by the need to improve visibility on mobile devices; but improvements in technology are now pushing things in the opposite direction. “The reality of a high definition screen in everyones’ pockets can lend itself to more detail, more richness, more interest, more sensorial experience and ultimately more engagement,” he explains. “As software and hardware improve, the line between digital illustration and hand-drawn will likely become more blurred, as a human touch continues to be desired over clean, digital graphics." Jamie Clarke agrees. “We’re seeing small, wonderfully crafted illustrations lift a product to a new height of luxury,” he notes. “They can be seen adorning all sorts of media including packaging, books and branding. The intricate linework and attention to detail often tell a story about the brand’s heritage and aspirations. Examples of the trend can be seen in Anthony Millard’s illustrations for Johnnie Walker’s new limited edition Black label series and Tom Lane’s bottle detail for the Brisbane Distillery Company.” 09. Geometric patterns This studio-led tea packaging by Jamie Clarke Type uses a grid to constrain a floral pattern Geometric patterns can be seen everywhere in illustration right now, says Jamie Clarke. ”Whether wrapped in soft organic forms or revealed in their mathematical glory, patterns, grids and geometric shapes are in,” he says. “Not confined to the domain of graphic designers grids and patterns are increasingly used to divide and decorate illustration work. Examples of the trend can be seen the work of RETOKA and Dana Tanamachi.” 10. Illustration eclipses photography for big brands Turner Duckworth’s new visual identity for McDonald’s is heavily focused around illustration Perhaps more important than any individual visual trend is how the business of illustration is evolving in general. Marie Therese Cassidy, executive creative director of FutureBrand, gives her take on the issue. “One of the biggest trends emerging this year, and one which I believe is here to stay, is the move towards a more artful aesthetic which leaves traditional category codes behind,” she says. “This trend was initially led by boutique independent brands in categories such as chocolate (the MAST brothers) and alcohol (the craft beer movement and localised gin brands) as a way of distinguishing themselves from the larger corporations. “Not surprisingly, the bigger brands have cottoned on to this to be more appealing and to stay relevant to their consumers. It's expressed in different ways but we're seeing illustration play a much bigger role than photography right now, as it helps brands bring their story to life in a more human way. A great example is McDonalds. Their new visual identity aims to make every brand interaction a feel-good moment and they have adopted a more playful, pared-down design to bring this to life and honour the company's feelgood roots.” Of course, not every company has the deep pockets of a brand like McDonalds, and so Roly Grant, co-founder and creative director of Without, points to a countertrend: “The ubiquity of vector-based stock illustration skewing client perceptions of how quickly and cheaply quality illustration can be produced.” It’s not that Grant is against stock illustrations per se: “On an editorial level, using stock is a necessary and viable option, where headlines can be tweaked and tailored to match visuals,” he says. “However, for branding, where we look to tell specific, original and, crucially, ownable stories, illustration needs to be created from scratch.” Explaining this process and value to clients is becoming more important, he believes. “When markets become saturated with familiar material, styles and voices, the best brands find a way to break out. Illustration for the best clients may therefore get a lot weirder in 2020.” And if that need does arise, then happily there’ll be an increasingly larger and more diverse pool of illustrators to meet it, believes self-taught art director and concept artist Skeeva. “More and more people are becoming illustrators thanks to a huge number of courses and incentives," he reports. "Everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or the country in which he or she lives, can easily become an original, self-taught illustrator, bringing fresh, new and unique trends to art.” Read more: The best pencils for colouring, drawing and sketching The best Apple Pencil deals in 2019 Our pick of the best graphics tablets in 2019 View the full article
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