Category Archives: Features

REVIEW: Adobe Digital Publishing Suite

The Overlay Creator

The Overlay Creator panel is the DPS component that InDesign designers will spend most of their time in. The Overlay Creator panel, a plugin that works with InDesign CS5 and later, is the interface for adding multimedia and interaction to InDesign files for inclusion in digital publications. You can add a variety of interactive features to InDesign documents, not all of which are new to InDesign:

  • Image Sequences display multiple images, which has a variety of applications including time-lapse sequences, animated clips and 360-degree views. Image Sequences can auto-play or respond to user “scrubbing.”
  • Audio & Video insert audio and video assets into InDesign documents. Thanks to the multimedia features that have been added to InDesign in the past few years, adding audio and video is easy to do and the media controls generated by InDesign are good.
  • Hyperlink overlays will add links to your digital publications that link to online content, articles within the publication and more. Quick tip: Apple provides a method to write hyperlinks that send SMS text messages. Apple has a URL Scheme Reference that explains how to build these links.
  • Like the Image Sequence, the Slideshow overlay displays a slideshow in digital publications. Think of Slideshow as a traditional slideshow, incorporating InDesign elements including text and graphics, while Image Sequence is more of a “flip book” slideshow format with only images.
  • Pan & Zoom is one of my favorites, allowing users to pinch and expand images in digital publications. The designer has to think ahead when using Pan & Zoom and insert large images in their graphic frames. These can be scaled down to the desired default view, but the digital publication will retain the full-resolution image so it can be blown up when the user enlarges it. The DPS does not enlarge images on its own.
  • Panorama will combine multiple images into a panorama. This can be tricky because the user needs to load six photographs into InDesign with the right angle and order so it can be stitched together automatically. There are also some esoteric settings in the Overlay Creator including field of view and limit vertical pan. Reading through the instructions and a little playing around with the controls will help users grasp the Panorama overlay, and there are tutorials online for shooting images to be stitched into panoramas.
  • Web Content, which used to be called “Web View,” will embed online webpages or an HTML file within digital publications. It’s really surprising and very cool to see a webpage loaded in an InDesign publication, but it works and users can even interact with the webpage. The process is actually fairly easy to implement.

Creating interactivity with the Overlay Creator does a good job of condensing extensive interaction into a panel with a few settings, but I think Adobe’s development team can make the process more intuitive, particularly with bringing multimedia onto the page. The current InDesign has a lot of panels to sift through and the Overlay Creator adds quite a bit more chrome to the package. Keeping track of all the user interface elements involved with Overlay Creator was my biggest challenge, not bugs or a lack of interactive features.

The Folio Builder

The other component of DPS that resides in InDesign is the Folio Builder panel, where users combine articles into .folio files for publication and also finalize the document’s orientation. Working with articles and folios can be a mundane task but this part of the process is where designers can see their work on a tablet for the first time through the Content Viewer, an Adobe app available on the desktop or on the Apple App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World and for webOS.

Articles can be pulled from multiple documents, so you can build a horizontal and vertical version of a publication and combine it into one app in the Folio Builder. Creating two versions of a publication is not ideal, but it’s necessary if you want a publication that changes orientation properly. Adobe seems to be at least on the right track in creating “liquid layouts” in InDesign that will re-orient themselves depending on the orientation, which would be a wonderful new feature. Here’s a demo of the technology at Adobe MAX.

Adding articles and pushing folios up to the Content Viewer is most of what the Folio Builder does, but there are also some sharing features which I think is very important in a production environment. The Folio Builder panel’s menu has a Share option which will let users share a publication with other users who have an Adobe ID. You can also append a subject and message to the share notice. This is very useful but I would also like an interface in the DPS website where you can set up groups of multiple users so you can grant rights and share folios with groups of people at once. This is what I do when developing Facebook applications. Even though you can share to multiple individuals at once in Folio Builder, groups and shared rights make collaboration easier.

99 Free Valentine’s Day Fonts

99 Ways to Type I Love You

Download fonts individually below, or download all 99 in a single 2.75MB Zip archive.

NOTE: Fonts are all TrueType format, compatible with Windows and Mac OS X. To convert them for Mac OS 9 and below, download this free utility: TTConverter15.hqx.


101HangYourHeart (90,864 bytes)


101HeartCatcher (89,400 bytes)


101HeartFramed (181,972 bytes)


101HeartStringZ (33,972 bytes)


101LoveGarden (32,668 bytes)


101LovePoP (52,912 bytes)


101SWAK (140,480 bytes)


101WalkinHeart (29,504 bytes)


4MyLover (36,072 bytes)


ALLHEART (48,992 bytes)


Angel (33,648 bytes)


Aosval_2 (16,692 bytes)


Apheart (8,436 bytes)


BeMyValentine (85,812 bytes)


CandyHeart (80,448 bytes)


CandyKiss (43,968 bytes)


CLBValentine (49,824 bytes)


CoffeeTalk1 (34,488 bytes)


CountryHearts (51,888 bytes)


CraftopiaLove (26,884 bytes)


Cupid (45,460 bytes)


Cupids (109,132 bytes)


DeepLove1 (138,688 bytes)


DJLove (42,536 bytes)


FancyHeartScript (68,436 bytes)


FiolexGirls (78,228 bytes)


FLHeartDark (100,696 bytes)


FlowerHeart (77,140 bytes)


fts12 (51,068 bytes)


GabrielsAngels (195,720 bytes)


HAfont (217,084 bytes)


hamlake (87,876 bytes)


HamLakeRegular (37,396 bytes)

Comparing the HP EliteBook 8540w and the MacBook Pro


I’m a designer so a lot of friends assume I use a Macintosh, which is true. Some also assume I’m a Mac fanatic, which I disagree with: I have used Macs in my work for several years but I started with a Dell PC and have used PCs in various workplaces. I happen to think the Mac operating system is better and Macs provide a subtly better experience for creative pros in particular.

This article is about the 15-inch Hewlett-Packard EliteBook 8540w and how it compares to my 17-inch MacBook Pro, an older model from late 2006. This won’t be a full review—there are reviews out there better than I could write, such as this one—and I won’t be making a purchase recommendation. Consider this article a look at an elite PC laptop by someone who’s only used a Mac laptop in the workplace.


The HP EliteBook 8540w is built like a truck and takes the term “hardware” seriously. The EliteBook line is the top of HP’s business laptops and I expected solid craftsmanship, but while many PC laptops I come across are slick and plastic the EliteBook is built with brushed aluminum and is very tough. HP calls it their “DuraCase.” The MacBook Pro weighs a little more (3.1kg vs. 2.9kg) but it has a larger monitor. The 15-inch MacBook Pro from the same year weighs 2.5kg. Their sizes are pretty much the same except the MacBook Pro is significantly thinner and a little wider and longer.


The EliteBook’s DuraCase looks and feels tough. The MacBook Pro is durable too but not to the EliteBook’s level.

The EliteBook looks like a hunk of iron compared to the MacBook Pro, but the EliteBook also accommodates more jacks and connectors in its body. This is an example where HP focuses on function while Apple focuses on form, which should surprise no one. The EliteBook also complies with the MIL-STD 810G military standard, which sets requirements for resistance to vibration, water, dust and temperatures for products used by the U.S. Department of Defense. The well-known Panasonic Toughbook line of laptops meets the same requirements.

Keyboard and Touchpad

One feature I really appreciate on the EliteBook is the extended keyboard with numeric keypad. Numeric entry is so much easier with a keypad, and it also has a specific creative purpose: the page layout application Adobe InDesign requires numbers from the keypad for its character/paragraph styles’ keyboard shortcuts. I have never understood why InDesign does this, but it has been this way for years. Apple won’t produce a wireless version of the extended keyboard, and it’s not on any MacBook Pro.


The EliteBook has an impressive user interface, with multiple touch and mouse inputs and a full keyboard and numeric pad. See the blue lights above and to the left of the keyboard? Those are the buttons for the quick apps (see below).

The EliteBook also provides two touch input devices, the Touchpad and also the “TouchStyck” button in the middle of the keyboard. Combined these provide seven buttons—if you count the TouchStyck—and a trackpad. Apple is notorious for limiting the number of input buttons on their hardware. My MacBook Pro has one button and a trackpad, and the newest models don’t have a button at all. They register taps on the trackpad as a button click. The EliteBook keyboard and touchpad can look a little cluttered with all the buttons and input devices, but it does make the computer more versatile and adapt to users’ preferences. However, it’s likely a user will gravitate toward the one input element they like the most.

Power Adapter and Cord

The EliteBook’s power supply/adapter and cord is not very portable or easy to use, which makes traveling with it difficult. The power supply is like a brick compared to the smaller and lightweight Apple equivalent. I’m not sure it would even fit in my laptop bag! The other thing I noticed is Apple’s power supply has its own plug so I can plug it into the wall and not use the other cord. HP’s power supply has no plug so the other cord must be used.

DreamColor display

This EliteBook 8540w sports a new DreamColor display, which is designed to provide more accurate color reproduction. The DreamColor whitepaper (PDF, 3.2MB) explains all the display’s technical details but my personal impression with this DreamColor display is positive. The thing I really notice is the EliteBook puts out much more brightness than the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro is four years old though, so these can’t really be compared, but I don’t think the MacBook Pro was as bright as the EliteBook even when it was new. In terms of color, the EliteBook looks like it does a better job of capturing very strong colors including fluorescents and those on the fringes of the RGB and Lab colorspaces.

QuickLook and QuickWeb

One more thing the EliteBook can do that the MacBook Pro cannot is boot specialized applications without booting up the entire unit. This really surprised when I first learned about it, but HP has put this in its laptops before. The two apps are designed to provide timely information quickly without booting up:

  • QuickLook is an Outlook-like interface for calendar, email, contacts and task lists. It caches Outlook data while the computer is running so when it’s launched it can access some data without booting up. QuickLook cannot send mail, but the goal is to give the user information immediately and it can save changes to events, contacts and tasks and sync them with Outlook later.
  • QuickWeb launches a Linux environment and web browser for fast Internet access. This for me was the more useful of the two applications, and the user experience was good.

I should point out these apps don’t boot up instantaneously, but they do avoid the load times associated with Windows. These apps are useful but today many mobile devices and phones have instant connectivity, the same data and push/send capabilities. I wonder if the EliteBook’s apps will lose usefulness as mobile devices continue to develop.


Apple is known for its product design and also for following form over function, but Mac fans wouldn’t have it any other way. However, the EliteBook shows that Macs aren’t the only PCs that are well-designed and I would say the EliteBook was designed with its purpose in mind. It does make for a big and clunky product in some ways but I understand the benefits of this. I found the EliteBook to be a useful laptop and professionals who want an excellent machine for work should look into it.

Interview with Heavenspot’s Chevon Hicks


While at Adobe MAX in Los Angeles I had the great opportunity to interview Chevon Hicks, a creative professional who is Founder, Creative Director and President at the highly regarded digital ad agency Heavenspot. Heavenspot gained a niche producing websites for motion pictures and Adobe is now their largest client. Creative Suite users will recognize their work: Heavenspot produced the demo materials for CS4 (“Double Identity”) and CS5, and helped develop as well as Adobe’s “Brilliant” site that recently won a People’s Choice Webby.

I wanted to distill some of Chevon’s ideas and comments into tips you can easily remember and apply to your own creative work or life.

Look for the best learning experiences when starting out.

Chevon started interning at a creative agency when he was 15 years old, and he credits that experience as a big help when starting Heavenspot. Interning is not a glamourous start to a career but if it provides an awesome learning experience and lots of “learning by observation” then it can be worth it in the long run. My own first job was as an ad designer at a daily newspaper, which set me up to be a very productive designer for the rest of my career.

Be a big fish in a small pond.

Chevon said running an agency is Los Angeles is tough—there are more high-profile clients but also a lot more talent in the city. It’s a lot more easier to be an expert in a smaller market, and while that might also mean smaller and less prestigious clients Chevon says overall it is easier to be successful in the smaller markets. Even where someone gets their start is not necessarily a big factor: Chevon hails from Gary, Indiana and came to Los Angeles later.


Be creative in other ways.

Chevon is a musician, DJ and animator as well as a designer. He used to play in a band with Amanda Ghost, now president of Epic Records. Chevon’s point is that great designers and creative professionals are often creative in more than one way and can leverage that experience in different ways that make their work better.

Find a niche—and stick to it.

Chevon says success often depends on gaining a specific niche for your work or business. Heavenspot started out as a website to showcase Chevon’s artistic work but eventually the firm gained a niche for developing websites for movies. Being at the top of that niche gives them a strong brand presence. Some creative professionals—including myself—will also say that a successful designer can generalize instead of specialize if the final product is solid.

Designers are sometimes tempted to take projects that don’t quite fit their niche, and Chevon says at least a few projects should not be taken if they don’t fit. “If you don’t say no now and then, your yeses are meaningless,” he says.

Be cool and be good.

Of all the factors for success, it’s not surprising that simply producing great work that turns heads is the largest. Chevon and Heavenspot produce very striking, sometimes Flash-intensive work and it always looks cool. It would be hard to judge whether their work is the best on the Internet but it’s definitely good and the combination of good and cool is a winning one.

Adobe MAX: Notes From The Press Party

It’s great fun to be a designer, developer and also a journalist because I get invited to some of the press events such as executive Q&As (which I totally missed due to yesterday’s keynote messing up the schedule) and press parties, which I attended last night at The Yard House in L.A. Live. I arrived late due to my Ajax For Designers session running long, but was able to have some good discussion with three important Adobe insiders.

  • Heidi Voltmer, Group Product Marketing Manager for Creative Solutions Business. Heidi’s domain includes the Flash Platform, which made probably the most news yesterday with the announcements surrounding Flash Player 10.1, AIR 2.0 and the surprise about building native iPhone applications with the upcoming Flash Pro CS5. A lot of my conversation with Heidi revolved around the question of Flash Pro and where it resides in the growing landscape of Flash Platform. Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder (previously Flex) seem to make more news and have better-defined markets than Flash Pro, and perhaps that’s because the original Flash application started it all. But I suspected (and Heidi confirmed) that Flash Pro’s market is being fine-tuned to appeal to the creative Flash designer. It used to be that Flash was good for everything from drawing animations to developing ActionScript applications—and it still is—but Adobe has expanded the Flash Platform application family and Flash Pro CS4 and CS5 are seeing new creative advances you won’t find in Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. At the keynote, John Loiacono demoed a new text engine for Flash that will be familiar to InDesign users. I’ve always hated Flash’s type handling and Adobe is wisely improving Flash Pro’s appeal to designers like me.
  • Will Eisley, Director of Product Management for Adobe’s Creative Solutions Business Unit and also an instrumental member of InDesign’s initial product team. I was honored to meet Will because I’ve been an InDesign user since version 1.5, back when every printer and even my early mentors were telling me I absolutely had to use Quark to be relevant in the industry. I was even more honored when Will told me he already knew who I was and read my work on Designorati! That was a thrill. Anyway, Will and I talked more about Flash but how it relates to InDesign, the XFL file format and the creatives who use it. Will commented that I’m actually a rare breed who designs and also writes code, and I thought there were more designer/developer hybrids out there than he thought but we left that question unresolved. The concept that designers and developers are different groups fuels Adobe’s separation of designer and developer products, though they also strive to build tools to let designers make code-based applications without getting their hands in code. Flash Catalyst and InDesign CS4’s Flash exporting are prime examples. In the end I tweeted the designer/developer question to the Adobe MAX attendees, and one person responded that they consider themselves a “designer/developer.” I’m sure there are more of them, but maybe Adobe’s research suggests they don’t come around often.
  • Adrian Ludwig, Group Product Marketing Manager for Adobe’s Flash Platform. Our discussion was focused on the big news of the day, Flash Pro CS5 Beta’s exporting to the iPhone, and it’s exciting news but we also talked about the technical limitations that temper that excitement. There are still relatively few Flash-based iPhone apps on the market, and even though the ones out in the wild look good and perform well there are still questions about long-term performance and the viability of developing for iPhone with Flash when the iPhone doesn’t support Flash. Perhaps the greatest takeaway from all this is the fact that the Flash Platform can now be an iPhone app development tool and this gives every Flash user the possibility to be an iPhone app developer too—without needing to learn the Objective-C language.

Royalty-Free, Guarantee-Free: The Case For Warrantied Images

Experienced designers know better than to steal images from the Internet, use sample images from microstock (low-priced stock photography) Web sites without buying the full-resolution image, or use a model in a photograph without obtaining the proper release. There’s many other rules to be heeded when using creative of any kind in your work. But a new microstock provider thinks they have found one more pitfall that other stock providers don’t tell you about: the possibility that images aren’t legal before they even become available.


Vivozoom is a microstock provider based in London who sell their images at The two founders, Tom Donnelly and Lawrence Gould, are former Getty Images executives who saw a need for complete guarantees in the industry. Photographers may offer their images to a stock photography providers, and the providers may do as much due diligence as possible to ensure the image is legal, but there’s no guarantee—and many license agreements say as much.

Emphasis on warranty

Gould and Donnelly saw a business opportunity and created Vivozoom to be the first microstock Web site that warranties its images. Vivozoom launched their beta Web site at the end of May and the service has been up and running for a couple months or so, and their mission is to provide microstock photography that’s guaranteed to be free from legal complications. This means all photography has been checked and proven to be unavailable anywhere else (so a purchased photo won’t show up on another provider’s Web site) and all the proper model releases have been obtained. If a photo on Vivozoom turns out to be improperly licensed or released, they offer legal defense of their customers for damages and costs up to $25,000.

In a twist, photographers who wish to sell work on Vivozoom are accepted by invitation only and vetted by a team of editors and a creative director before acceptance. The vetting procedure’s criteria is image quality, documentation and provenance. There are only a few hundred photographers contributing to Vivozoom (in comparison, Shutterstock has 60,000).

Vivozoom was unique in offering warrantied images, but two other providers have also begun offering warrantied images. In August, Getty Images announced a Web & Mobile image catalog that offers indemnification “so you don’t have to worry about copyright ownership.” And in September began offering warranties for all images in its catalog—the only real difference is they will cover up to $10,000 in damages instead of Vivozoom’s $25,000, and it won’t protect images that are used on items for resale.

Is it necessary?

Is such a guarantee necessary? I’ve used stock photography from a variety of sources over the years and have never had a problem—the creative is safe enough. Gould concedes that there’s a wide range of protection available for stock photography and creative professionals and companies who are “higher up the food chain” gain the most benefit from such protection. Indeed, Vivozoom’s target market is creative personnel in corporations who are sensitive to the usual terms and conditions when purchasing and need the protection of a warranty.

The fact that Vivozoom is “aware of the intellectual property” when offering stock photography for sale makes it not only more palatable for corporations but also a more reassuring deal for the photographers who vend their images online. Photographer Trinette Reed, whose work is on Vivozoom, says, “As a customer I want to see professionally edited content for my project that I know has legitimate releases. I think this is very important. If you are not working with professionals, there is always a risk of not having legitimate releases and this can lead to serious legal issues down the line.”

My experience with Vivozoom


I had the opportunity to try Vivozoom out when I purchased photography for an annual report I recently designed. It was a good experience overall but a little quirky:

  • The selection of photography was great, even though there’s only a handful of contributing photographers compared to other sources. The photography was well-shot and looked great in the final product.
  • Upon login, you are taken to Vivozoom’s homepage which has…nothing on it. Just the navigation and search functions. I like seeing some photography on the homepage of a stock photography website.
  • I needed photos of children of diverse races and age groups, and it was hard sometimes to find just the right photographs. Searches for “Hispanic teenagers” and “African American child” were ultimately successful, but I had to sort through a lot of related images before I found the most perfect matches. This is to be expected when sifting through microstock, but with Vivozoom I had to dig a little deeper.
  • Vivozoom restricts reproducing a standard image more than 250,000 times—in contrast, allows up to 500,000 impressions. Both providers allow unlimited usage when purchased with an enhanced license.
  • Unlike many providers who let you select resolution on a per image basis, Vivozoom’s pay-as-you-go plans require users to opt for print or web resolution images. Opting for print resolution does give you access to web resolution. Designers like me who design for both print and the web will have to pay for the print resolution.
  • lets you purchase images individually with credits. Vivozoom does have a pay-as-you-go plan for a single print resolution image ($45 with enhanced license only) but standard license plans begin with five print resolution images ($49) or 12 web resolution images ($49).

My overall impression is that Vivozoom is a well-stocked provider that makes you go through some browsing and purchasing hassles—subscribers probably will have the best experience, and that makes some sense because Vivozoom is targeting corporate customers who will pay for subscriptions. Designers like me who often purchase photos individually or in small groups will find the pay-as-you-go plans inflexible. But the quality of the work is great and my clients have been pleased.

The future

Gould and Donnelly hope to make Vivozoom a larger presence in the United States and international markets, and also develop into a provider of other media such as video. I think the subject of creative copyright and warranty is going to heat up in the next ten years, because the stock photography industry will most likely move toward offering warranties with images and other media—stories about violated copyrights flare up too often and no designer wants to be involved in one.

There will also be plenty of designers and unwitting users who filch material from the Internet. A lot of these people simply don’t know it’s illegal, but a lot know it is but find it too easy to pull graphics from their web browsers. Companies such as Google who strive to make books and videos available to everyone online only make the murky topic even murkier. “No one wants to halt the benefits that come with ease of use online,” Gould says. “But photographers and distributors deserve to get paid for their work while our customers deserve the peace of mind. In a culture where theft is euphemistically known as file sharing, how can these working professionals survive when perhaps the most underreported online crime is ignored?”

300+ Free Halloween Fonts

In honor of this year’s annual fright night, Designorati scoured the globe, peeking into every dark corner, every creepy closet, and under the bed for free Halloween fonts–living or dead. We found over 300 Halloween and Halloween-inspired fonts–and they’re all free!

The header and footer illustrations for this feature were created using only the text and symbol fonts from this collection.

Note: Fonts are Windows TrueType format. To convert for Mac OS X and below, download this free utility: TTConverter15.hqx.


10 Lil’ Ghosts (10,820 bytes)


101! ‘Ween (198,048 bytes)


4YEOHALL (57,560 bytes)


abaddon 25,884 bytes)


acadian 29,964 bytes)


acidic 126,492 bytes)


aftedc__ (35,292 bytes)


agatha 43,124 bytes)


ALCHEM__ (28,004 bytes)


alien 35,032 bytes)


Alien_heads (106,348 bytes)


allembert (18,956 bytes)


Ambrosia (39,068 bytes)


amphi 52,164 bytes)


anglosax (28,568 bytes)


ass 111,884 bytes)


ASTRO (47,424 bytes)


Avalon 44,360 bytes)


ba______ (13,364 bytes)


Badacid 22,528 bytes)


Bad-Seed-Bold (41,288 bytes)


barbw___ (118,916 bytes)


Bartb___ 81,312 bytes)


Barti___ 86,856 bytes)


Bartn___ 84,576 bytes)


batbats 97,980 bytes)


batman 25,924 bytes)


Beat-My-Guest-Regular (30,440 bytes)


BJREDRUM (86,748 bytes)


BJREVOLTA (63,028 bytes)


BJSKRATCH (40,392 bytes)


BJSUGAR (39,096 bytes)


Blackadd (34,004 bytes)


Blackfor (30,424 bytes)


Blades-Regular (21,124 bytes)


blasphem (75,344 bytes)


Blkchcry (56,732 bytes)


BLOBS___ 36,868 bytes)


Bloodfea (62,168 bytes)


bloodgut (46,540 bytes)


Bloodrac (50,120 bytes)


Bloody 45,264 bytes)


Bloody Stump 184,076 bytes)


bmovie (275,208 bytes)


bokonon 82,996 bytes)


BONES 76,360 bytes)


Bones2 292,780 bytes)


bos 52,172 bytes)


Bouh bouh (39,756 bytes)


Buffied 59,560 bytes)

Positive Procrastination: Getting Things Created

Hello I’m Bryan Tamayo, and I’m a Professional Procrastinator! I’ve been following David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) followings and I’ve tried many different systems in the process. I carried a hipster PDA in the beginning and now I carry a moleskin. I have found that for the everyday knowledge worker, the GTD system works well once it’s tailored to your lifestyle. My problem is that more than half of my work requires creativity. I needed more of a GTC philosophy–Getting Things Created. With that thought in mind I believe that for the creative community there is an important piece missing–Positive Procrastination!

Positive Procrastination (or PRO-crastination)

Why do we always think of procrastination as a bad thing? I agree that in most circumstances procrastination for a typical knowledge worker can be self destructive. However, for the creative community, procrastination can be an important element during the incubation period while awaiting insight.

Procrastination: is a behavior which is characterized by deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. Psychologists often cite procrastination as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision. [1] Psychology researchers also have three criteria they use to categorize procrastination. For a behavior to be classified as procrastination, it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying. (via Wikipedia)

Creativity: A mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight. An alternative conception of creativeness is that it is simply the act of making something new. (via Wikipedia)

In my workflow, procrastination is the Yin to the creativity’s Yang. I can’t have one without the other. Both are equally important in finishing my creative projects. Lets face it, procrastination is quite destructive unless you approach it in a constructive way.

Proactive Delays

Like many out there in the depths of destructive procrastination, I like to do active delays. Meaning, I will do all sorts of things that deal with the project being done, except actually doing the project. All while hoping that the lightning bolt of creativity will strike. This seems like a good example of destructive procrastination, but is it really?

When you have a creative project, instead of merely procrastinating, start the preparation of your project with small, yet pertinent tasks (thank you GTD). Thus you will create a compost from which your garden of ideas will grow.

Examples of Positive Procrastination Tasks

  1. Build a folder structure for your project
  2. Brainstorm for SOURCES of information that may benefit your project
  3. Look for & Listen to Music that will inspire your mood & thoughts of the target audience
  4. Gather previous related projects for reference
  5. Research competitors in your discovered SOURCES
  6. Create a trend research board or mood board
  7. Brush up on new software techniques (if related to project)
  8. Go trend shopping. Pretend to be your target customer. What would they buy from each store?

If you have some more Positive Procrastinations please put them in to the comments on this post.

The Wrap-Up

All of these are things you can do without actually doing physical work on the creative side of the project. In one way these tasks are simply busy work, but in another, more important way, they can be pieces of information used to construct a tight knit, complete creative solution. The more Positive Procrastination you do, the more you will keep your mind busy and off the pressure of developing a creative concept. It will till a rich soil in which your creativity may grow. Water daily, and your creativity should flourish!

Bryan Tamayo is an Art Director at Fossil Inc. You can read more about him on his blog or you can follow him on Twitter

Adobe CS4 and ROI: Is Productivity The New Killer Feature?


Last fall Adobe Systems released Creative Suite 4 (CS4) to good reviews, which was good news to Adobe since CS4 represents the bulk of their creative pro software products and includes industry standards such as Photoshop, After Effects and Flash. Adobe stayed true to their traditional upgrade cycle and released all the CS4 products simultaneously, 18 months after CS3 was released.

But over the past few years, the 18-month product cycle has forced Adobe to release upgrades that haven’t had as many groundbreaking features as those in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many CS4 applications saw more improvements in efficiency and productivity as fewer new tools and cool technologies have been included. In my reviews I considered this shift detrimental, but according to third-party research commissioned by Adobe productivity may very well be the “new killer feature” that delivers tangible savings to CS4 users.

The methodology

Adobe commissioned Pfeiffer Consulting, an independent technology research institute, to benchmark the productivity capabilities of CS4 and compare them to CS3 to measure productivity gains. More than 125 benchmarks were conducted across the design, web, video and digital imaging (Photoshop and Lightroom) segments and tested a variety of large and small real-world tasks and assignments including:

Dave Burkett
Dave Burkett
Dave Burkett.

Dave Burkett, Adobe’s Vice President and General Manager for Creative Suite – Design and Web Segments, said the goal of CS4’s productivity capabilities was to improve “deep usability”—refinements of the small steps designers execute every day in their daily work. “When developing Creative Suite 4 we paid close attention to our customers’ needs and pinpointed common tasks that matter most to them. We then focused on adding features and improving upon existing features in order to make those tasks more intuitive and less repetitive. Put simply, it now takes less clicks to achieve the same results.” Andreas Pfeiffer, who conducted the research, wrote that “the cumulative effect of small productivity gains in everyday operations is almost universally underestimated.”

The benchmarks were performed by professional designers and measured by researchers. No scripting or automation was used. The research does not take into account the time and money spent in training, installation and continued learning after the initial purchase, since such investments apply to previous versions of Creative Suite and don’t affect the measurements in productivity. For more information about the benchmark methodology, visit

roi-chartPfeiffer’s benchmarks were quite thorough and takes very small time savings into account. All text and graphics ©Pfeiffer Consulting 2009.

The findings

Pfeiffer found that “CS4 increases efficiency in a vast variety of operations, including many routine, everyday production tasks.” In particular, the following CS4 features provided substantial time savings:

  • InDesign CS4’s Live Preflight,
  • Dreamweaver CS4’s Live View and Live Code,
  • Photoshop CS4’s Adjustments and Masks panels,
  • Tapeless video support in Premiere Pro CS4, and
  • CSS export from Fireworks CS4.

As an example, Illustrator CS4’s multiple artboards feature allowed designers to consolidate related projects in one file and become more efficient when experimenting with color palettes and designs. I’ve been using multiple artboards myself in my design business: handling one or two Illustrator CS4 files is a lot easier than handling one file for every illustration. I work with a lot of logos and brands, which often have several versions for size and color, and multiple artboards help me organize my clients’ branding. Burkett commented that multiple artboards, according to the research, can save designers three hours per month.

The research on InDesign CS4 shows Smart Guides and Live Preflight can save a load of production time. All text and graphics ©Pfeiffer Consulting 2009.

Other examples, such as InDesign CS4’s Live Preflight, save time and money fixing printing errors by intercepting them early—research found that Live Preflight helped designers find and fix errors twice as fast than with InDesign CS3. Live Preflight is one of my favorite CS4 features because I haven’t had to mess with preflighting at the end of a project like I used to—violations are flagged immediately and I can fix them right away. Photoshop CS4’s Adjustments panel and Dreamweaver CS4’s Live View and Live Code features were shown to offer similar speed improvements.

CS4 was also designed with multiple media content delivery in mind, and is the first Creative Suite to fully integrate Macromedia software (Flash, Dreamweaver and Fireworks) so Pfeiffer also analyzed cross-application features such as Photoshop Smart Object support in Dreamweaver CS4, Flash CS4 Professional’s abilities in handling After Effects and InDesign content, and Dynamic Link technology that integrates assets between the CS4 video applications.

So how much money does productivity save you? Pfeiffer’s analysis estimates show a substantial sum:

  • $5,753 saved with CS4 Design Premium compared to CS3 Design Premium
  • $10,563 saved with CS4 Web Premium compared to CS3 Web Premium
  • $11,404 saved with CS4 Production Premium compared to CS3 Production Premium
  • $4,020 saved with Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 2 compared to Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom 1

Burkett commented, “Ensuring that time- and cost-saving benefits were built into our Creative Suite offerings was always a priority, but is even more vital right now given the current economy. Users can now complete everyday tasks in significantly less time, allowing designers and agencies of all sizes to come in under budget, deliver ahead of deadline and maximize time spent on the creative aspects of the project.”

ps-chartsPhotoshop CS4’s OpenGL support and speed has always been one of its most promoted features, mostly because of its efficiency potential. Pfeiffer’s research supports this, but my view is that your mileage may vary. All text and graphics ©Pfeiffer Consulting 2009.

My view

I think CS4 is a major step ahead of CS3 when it comes to efficiency: it’s clear that many improvements in CS4 had efficiency improvements in mind. I’ve always thought this shift toward improving efficiency occurred because it’s become harder and harder to pack the upgrades with cool, exciting new tools when their toolsets are quite mature already. But it appears productivity might have been Adobe’s game plan all along.

As with many such objective findings in the industry, your mileage may vary. Photoshop CS4’s Adjustments panel was found to decrease the time making adjustments in half, but I actually do not like the feature: the new keyboard shortcuts are difficult and the panel is either too small to make adjustments or so large the panel strip takes up too much space. As another example, the research found Fireworks CS4 and Dreamweaver CS4 cuts down CSS creation and management time by over 80% but the CSS generated by Fireworks was not clean enough for my tastes and I still do quite a bit of coding in Dreamweaver.

fw-dw-chartsFireworks CS4 and Dreamweaver CS4 have various new improvements in CSS creation and editing that appear to save a great deal of time. However, my experience suggests not everyone will reap such productivity gains. All text and graphics ©Pfeiffer Consulting 2009.

But I am a fan of many other efficiency improvements, especially InDesign CS4’s Smart Guides and Live Preflight features and Dreamweaver CS4’s Live View feature. Flash CS4 Professional’s new object-based animation system, which was also cited as a major time-saving feature, can be difficult for experienced Flash users to get used to but does make sense in the long run. Ultimately, consumers should remember that Pfeiffer’s benchmarks were performed by experienced users of both CS3 and CS4—designers new to CS4 will have a harder time duplicating their level of efficiency—but, given training and experience, the time and cost savings could be substantial.

SIDEBAR: The Visionaire Group and Fast & Furious Show CS4’s Time Savings

Adobe is praising The Visionaire Group for leveraging the productivity benefits of CS4 in order to maximize the online campaign for the movie Fast and Furious. Universal Pictures, the studio that produced Fast and Furious, attributes the movie’s recent #1 position at the weekend box office to the online experience that sparked the enthusiasm of young car enthusiasts and hard-core moviegoers. An engaging Web site, rich-media advertisements, a downloadable desktop widget and a custom iPhone Web site were just some of the campaign’s key elements. J.P. Richards, vice president of marketing, said, “Our goal on Fast and Furious was to develop the most compelling creative content and Adobe Creative Suite 4 delivered way beyond my expectations, while doing it in half the development time.”

In an article published on Enhanced Online News, several CS4 features are called out including Flash CS4 Professional’s 3-D tools, a faster Adobe Media Encoder, Dreamweaver CS4’s Code Navigator and integrated Flash and AIR development with the Adobe Flash Platform.

Today’s economy

In the current economic climate, such findings are sure to command attention. “In today’s economy more than ever, investments in software need to be justified by clear business reasons,” said Andreas Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Consulting. Adobe certainly showed good timing in paying close attention to efficiency and time-cost savings just before the recent economic downturn. According to Burkett, productivity improvement was a primary objective of the CS4 product line and it’s the first time product teams scrutinized this objective in such detail: “We took a new approach with CS4 and decided very early on in the development cycle to better understand how real-life projects could be enhanced with productivity improvements.” Customers were consulted to help pinpoint the most effective ways to improve workflow, and during development the product teams worked to improve raw performance and reduce steps required to complete a task. In some cases, the goal was to make it so users wouldn’t have to access a single panel to execute a command, although I’ve noticed that in some applications (such as Photoshop CS4) more commands have migrated to panels.

Even though productivity improvement was a primary goal, no metrics were developed internally to measure the applications’ success; despite this, Burkett and his team were pleased with the results. “We’re happy that these benchmarking tests were performed,” said Burkett, “as they allow us to gauge just how much of an improvement CS4 is over previous versions.” For more information on Pfeiffer Consulting, visit For more information on the CS4 ROI study, including the benchmark data, visit