Category Archives: Creative Culture

Susan Weinschenk’s 100 Things You Need to Know About People Books

Designer book cover

Three years ago, I highly rated Susan Weinschenk‘s book Neuro Web Design, which explained how to apply psychology principles to web design and build websites that are more appealing, easier to use and more memorable. Susan has written two more books that continue to apply psychology to technology and appeal to designers and presenters. Both follow a similar format: 100 Things Every ____ Needs to Know About People, with 100 ideas grounded in psychology and applicable to designers’ and presenters’ projects.

As with Neuro Web Design, both 100 Things books are well-researched. Susan has a deep knowledge of various studies and psychological findings and explains them without being too technical. The studies are also quite interesting and revealing in themselves, and I liked reading those before anything else. The book designer also did a good job building charts when needed to illustrate psychological concepts. The rest of the books’ design is colorful, incorporates useful sidebars, and provides a “takeaways” callout at the end of each section to communicate the most essential points.

Presenter book cover

Susan also does a good job connecting psychological truisms with scenarios in the design and presentation worlds. The “completeness” ratings you see on online profiles—such as a LinkedIn or Dropbox account—plays into the fact that “people are more motivated as they get closer to a goal.” “People read in a certain direction,” so be sure to stand beside your presentation so you can be the point of entry in how attendees “read” the stage. Rule 18 in the designer’s book—”People read faster with a longer line length, but prefer a shorter line length”—even explains the differences between text on a webpage and text in print, and it’s all based on recent research. These books are based on evidence and tied directly to our industries.

However, Susan doesn’t always do a good job connecting the rules specifically to the designer’s or presenter’s world and some don’t apply to our work as well as others. “People can be in a flow state” and work with focused attention, but this applies to any work—not just designers’ work. Same thing with “people can’t multitask.” I think the book for presenters is more focused on aspects of presentation than the designers’ book is focused on design. Ultimately, I think every point Susan makes is useful but some are more useful than others.

Still, both books are great material and a good value. Designers and presenters sometimes build their products by the book and don’t always think about why some approaches might work better than others. Susan’s books help you understand the “why.”

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People
100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know about People

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.
Published by New Riders
US $34.99 for Presenters, US $29.99 for Designers
Rating: 9/10
Buy Designer and Presenter from Amazon.com

Adobe Unveils Captivate 6 with HTML5 Support

Last week, Adobe announced the release of Adobe Captivate 6, which is their application for building electronic learning projects like quizzes, tests and teaching tools. HTML5 programming, HD video capture and some PowerPoint and quiz enhancements are added in the new version.


Captivate 6 box

PRESS RELEASE

SAN JOSE, Calif. — June, 15 2012 — Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced the immediate availability of Adobe® Captivate® 6, a significant upgrade to its industry-leading eLearning authoring software for rapidly creating a wide range of interactive eLearning and HTML5-based mobile Learning content. Designed with today’s mobile learners in mind, Captivate 6 enables eLearning developers, corporate trainers, educators and other business users to help deliver dynamic, SCORM- and AICC-compliant course content that is accessible anytime, anywhere.

“Today, learners expect engaging eLearning options on their iOS and Android devices – static presentations shrunk to fit mobile screens aren’t enough,” said Naresh Gupta, senior vice president, Print and Publishing, Adobe. “Captivate 6 gives subject matter experts and content creators the ability to deliver eLearning content to mobile devices that is as robust and interactive as the content delivered to desktops.”

Captivate 6 enhancements improve mobile access and boost learner’s engagement – top features include:

  • HTML5 Publishing with Pause and Resume Capabilities: Publish interactive HTML5 eLearning content that is accessible from both iOS and Android devices and leverage mobile presets to help ensure seamless mobile distribution. By publishing eLearning content as both SWF and HTML5, learners can begin a course on their desktop, pause and later resume on a different device.
  • HD Screencast: Quickly create HD-quality demos within the new “capture-as-a-video” workflow. Edit video and add transitions, smart shapes, audio and captions. Insert another video in a picture-in-picture format and publish it to YouTube – all within the same UI.
  • Attractive Out-of-the-Box Assets: Select from a wide range of preloaded actors and set them against customizable backdrops to give content a more personal touch. Include additional interactivity by inserting smart learning interactions, such as widgets, animated rollovers and more, with just a few clicks.
  • Enhanced PowerPoint Roundtripping: Import PowerPoint 2010 slides along with objects, animations and multimedia into eLearning projects with better fidelity conversation workflow. Easily update pre-existing PowerPoint content, which will be automatically synced via the dynamically linked import feature.
  • Enhanced Quizzing: Utilize pre-tests to assess the knowledge, skill level or training needs of individual learners. Based on results, direct learners to the appropriate section and use post-tests to gauge what resonates. Allow learners to revisit a relevant section after answering a quiz question incorrectly and, if necessary, discourage guesswork by penalizing for wrong answers.

With Captivate 6, trainers and educators can individualize eLearning modules by recording voiceovers and other sounds that automatically play back when a learner clicks on a specified object. Course designers can also ensure that eLearning content maintains a consistent look and feel using customizable, professionally designed themes. Improved LMS integration helps eLearning developers effortlessly publish content to leading learning management systems, including Moodle, Blackboard, Plateau, Saba and SumTotal.

Quotes

Dustin Tauer, vice president, Training and Development, Easel Solutions

“Many of our customers want to access eLearning content on mobile devices but getting content there has been a challenge. Now, HTML5 publishing with Captivate 6 makes it easy to extend eLearning to mobile devices without forcing the author to learn new programming code.”

Eric Fields, senior eLearning consultant, Learning and Development, Coventry Health Care Workers’ Comp Services

“Adobe Captivate 6 HD screencasting provides a seamless workflow for all my video capture and editing needs. I no longer need additional software, which means no more incompatibility breakdowns and procurement delays working with multiple software packages.”

Damien Bruyndonckx, multimedia assistant, IHECS, Haute Ecole Gallilee

“Advanced interactions and the new collection of characters in Adobe Captivate 6 streamline how I develop interactive, fun, and engaging content that humanizes eLearning, and energizes learners to improve their scores.”

Helpful Links

Pricing and Availability

Adobe Captivate 6 is immediately available through Adobe authorized resellers and the Adobe Store for an estimated street price of US$899. Captivate 5.5 and Captivate 4 users can upgrade at a discounted price of US$359 and US$539, respectively. Qualified education users can purchase Captivate 6 for US$299. For a free trial, visit www.adobe.com/go/trycaptivate.

About Adobe Systems Incorporated

Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

BOOK REVIEW: Jerod Foster’s Storytellers

Storytellers cover

There are two types of photography books: the nuts-and-bolts variety with detail on apertures, lenses and lighting setups, and the artistic variety that attempts to explain the ephemeral aspects of photography like creativity, inspiration and storytelling. Storytellers by Jerod Foster is in the second category and the book contains almost 300 pages devoted to the art of photographic storytelling.

There’s lots of beautiful photography in Storytellers and I found myself enjoying the pictures as well as the writing. The photographs are not just Jerod’s either but other photographers who are profiled and interviewed in the book. Note that Jerod and several other photographers in the book are based in Texas, so there is a noticeable emphasis on Texas photography in Storytellers.

The test with any artistic photography book is to transcend the mundane aspects of photography and describe the creative photographic process in a way that rings true. Storytellers doesn’t always pass the test—it’s a fun read and I learned some things, but some of the processes Jerod describes in the book are typical things like shot selection, composition and the use of light. These are all important topics and certainly related to storytelling, but I felt that it danced around the heart of the art of storytelling.

I studied and wrote on creativity back in my college days and I’m convinced the most illuminating writing on creativity can be applied to all creative art forms and be made to “fit” with minimal changes. Storytelling techniques apply to writing and music as well as photography. While reading Storytellers, I had a hard time applying some of its lessons to those other art forms and so the lessons appealed to photographers and not always to storytellers.

Storytellers is still a very fine book and fine art photographers will certainly enjoy it. It’s well-written and contains some very nice shots. I think the book will also help photographers understand how their craft builds stories and how to hone their storytelling craft. My main complaint is the lack of focus on storytelling and overemphasis on nuts-and-bolts photography topics that are probably covered in more detail in other books.

Storytellers
Jerod Foster
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 8/10
Buy on Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: The Twitter Book, 2nd Edition

The Twitter Book cover

Back in 2009, Twitter was relatively new: celebrities were picking up their first million followers, businesspeople wondered how it could make money and everyone seemed to ask why anyone would care to “tweet” their mundane activities. Tim O’Reilly—the founder of the O’Reilly publishing company and a devoted Twitter user—and Sarah Milstein—an early Twitter user and speaker—wrote The Twitter Book, one of the first comprehensive books about Twitter in 2009. I reviewed the book then and thought it was “the definitive resource for Twitter users,” though I noted a book—ink on paper—could never stay current. Be sure to read my review of the first edition, if only for the dated comments about Twitter’s “arcane technology” and “a lot of people don’t actually know what [Twitter] really is.”

Late last year, Tim and Sarah published the second edition of The Twitter Book. It looks very much like the first edition: the cover image is practically the same and you’ll find images on the verso pages and text on the recto pages, exactly like before. Since the book covers topics for beginners as well as advanced users, a lot of the early chapters haven’t changed much. They are still well-written and useful to grasping the concept of Twitter and how to use its basic features. I’ve always been impressed by Tim and Sarah’s evangelism of the Twitter platform—they are passionate about its various uses and try hard to dispel the notion that it’s a niche media for tech geeks or those glued to mobile devices. This notion was more prevalent in 2009 than it is now.

My main criticism against the first edition of The Twitter Book still stands in the second edition: the book fails to catch all the great tools being created around Twitter, and can’t cover the ones created after publication. Interestingly, when the first edition was published, desktop Twitter apps like Tweetie and Twhirl were popular; today, Twitter’s own app has supplanted those and I find more growth in online analytics services (like Twittercounter) and online apps built on the API (like fllwrs.com). Neither Twittercounter nor fllwrs.com are in The Twitter Book, and more tools will be released in the future.

One suggestion from my review that Sarah Milstein actually commented on was the number of long, full URLs in The Twitter Book. Shortened URLs make perfect sense in a book like The Twitter Book, and the first edition did not take advantage of them. In the second edition, most URLs are actually still full URLs but almost all of them are not long anyway. URLs like http://business.twitter.com/ are not hard to remember or type. There are some bit.ly’d links throughout the book, such as http://bit.ly/dooce-maytag, which show that the suggestion was indeed used for the longer URLs.

The second edition of The Twitter Book is an updated resource on Twitter and most of what I send about the first edition applies to the second. I think the book has more competition from online news sources in 2012 compared to 2009, but if you want to read about Twitter and it needs to be ink on paper, pick this book up and enjoy.

The Twitter Book, Second Edition
Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein
Published by O’Reilly
US $19.99
Rating: 10/10
Buy at Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: Design By Nature Teaches The Designs Around Us

Design by Nature cover

Most designers today create their work on a computer, but the best designs seem to have a timeless quality that appears again and again. These timeless designs often have roots in nature. Our notions of space, color and juxtaposition are informed by the world we live in and what we see around us since birth. However, designers staring at a screen all day often forget this natural inspiration.

Maggie Macnab has written a revealing book, Design By Nature: Using Universal Forms and Principles in Design, that outlines the natural principles at work around us helps us apply them to design problems in our daily work. I really appreciate a book like this in the workplace because I’ve always found nature to be a rich source of inspiration in many different ways. Maggie takes very basic concepts—pattern, shape, color, juxtaposition, symbolism and many more—and illustrates them at work in our natural world and also in our human-made, designed world. It’s very intriguing and “rings true” with what I feel in my own work.

Design By Nature is well-written and is structured appropriately—I never felt lost or thought I needed to jump ahead to get a critical concept. There are also some small “Putting It Into Practice” exercises sprinkled throughout the book that aren’t too difficult or require technical skills but make you think about your process and get in touch with the designs inherent in nature.

I also enjoyed the guest designer sections that focused on a designer’s work. A lot of them are written by the designer and talk about their process, past clients and projects, and their thoughts on design. I wish they focused more on the “design by nature” theme because many of them read like typical manifestos on design. The best ones focus on a particular project.

I also want to point out something which bothered me while reading Design By Nature: Maggie uses a lot of her own work and her students’ work to support her principles and ideas in the book. That is okay but I would prefer to see a diverse range of designs used to support the book’s teachings, and from a variety of artists and designers. The range of work in Design By Nature is sometimes just too inclusive of the author’s own inner circle.

Despite this, I really enjoyed Design By Nature and I would recommend it for many graphic artists and designers, especially those with a fine arts or an environmental arts background. Their work is probably already based nature even if they don’t realize it, and understanding the natural process of design is vital to successful creations.

Design by Nature: Using Universal Forms and Principles in Design
Maggie Macnab
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 9/10
Buy from Amazon.com

BOOK REVIEW: 344 Questions Is A Massive Self-Help Quest

344 Questions cover

There’s a small but interesting intersection in the publishing world where self-help, creativity and design meet to produce books designed to help creative people achieve more. The Artist’s Way is one such popular line of books. Another one I particularly like is It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. Such books are often full of self-help goodness but also sometimes a bit zanier than your usual self-help offerings.

Stefan Bucher’s 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival and Artistic Fulfillment cranks the zaniness up a notch. The book is written for people looking for a catalyst for improving their creativity, and offers questions that lead you to new insights about yourself and what makes you most creative. These are the kinds of exercises that any creative person should do now and then. Not many people actually look for self-help like this until they are feeling defeated and their creativity or business is flagging, so a book like this is always timely.

The book doesn’t have any answers, just questions in elaborate hand-drawn diagrams with lots of arrows and word bubbles. This makes the book unique. The reader has to supply the answers, and there’s many blank spaces to write in this book. Stefan expects the reader to madly mark up this book with thoughts, ambitions, questions and other notes to spark insight and ideas. It’s the kind of non-linear thinking that creative people presumably enjoy, though more analytical types of people might find it meandering.

The book’s title is 344 Questions but there are actually over 1,800 questions, which gets to my main gripe against the book: it’s overwhelming and fragmented. Consider this stream of questions:

  • How do you get through tough times?
  • Can we focus on the immediate essentials?
  • What foods make you happy?
  • What TV shows distract you?
  • What music perks you up?
  • Do you have an emergency supply of all this stuff?
  • Do you have friends who will listen to you?
  • What are their phone numbers?
  • Do you have friends you’ll listen to?
  • What are their phone numbers?
  • On a scale of one to ten, how bad is [your current difficulty]?

This is all on just a half-page. This page will seem magical if it provides you an epiphany (maybe you’ll realize you don’t trust your friends enough to listen to what they say) but if not it can be tiring. “Who cares if a professional commitment is a sacred oath?” It takes a particular individual, perhaps one in search of answers and willing to provide them with a little coaching, to appreciate this book. I recommend it for such people, and for the others I would recommend something more like The Artist’s Way, which delivers a more methodical framework for building creativity in the your work.

344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival and Artistic Fulfillment
Stefan G. Bucher
Published by New Riders
US $14.99
Rating: 8/10
Buy from Amazon.com

Pantone Announces Cloud-Based PantoneLIVE Service

Last week, Pantone and X-Rite announced the new PantoneLIVE color service, a cloud-based product designed to deliver standardized color palettes across all points of production workflows and ensure consistent color throughout. The Pantone library of colors has historically provided that kind of color consistency but changes in workflow structures, printing methods and substrates have made it difficult if not impossible to be exact every time.

The PantoneLIVE webpage currently doesn’t say a whole lot—the service doesn’t go live until June 15—but designers and pressmen will find the Heinz and Chesapeake case studies, which describe some promising results across a large workflow and multiple projects. In both cases, color matching across all their printed products was the goal. Along with the cloud service, it appears that color auditing and services beyond the cloud product are an important part of PantoneLIVE. These services are also lucrative: a color audit starts at $4,500. The price points for the cloud service are pretty good—designers can buy into PantoneLIVE for $99 per year, preproduction departments for $2,000 per year and production departments for $2,650 per year.

In its press release, Pantone is promoting partnerships with three companies integral to the PantoneLIVE service:

  • Sun Chemical, the preferred ink partner
  • Esko, the supplier for PantoneLIVE’s database systems
  • Windmöller and Hölscher, which is incorporating PantoneLIVE access into its EASY COL on-press color matching

I don’t know how effective or useful PantoneLIVE will be for a company’s existing press and inks. I think the additional services, such as customized operating procedures created by Pantone and X-Rite, might be needed to perfectly marry PantoneLIVE with existing workflows and equipment.

Press Release

Pantone and X-Rite Introduce PantoneLIVE;
Allows Brand Owners to Manage Color in the Cloud

Delivers color DNA based on real ink, on real substrates with
real printing processes for predictable, repeatable results

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., March 1, 2012 – X-Rite, Incorporated (NASDAQ: XRIT) and Pantone LLC, today unveiled PantoneLIVE™, a cloud-based color service that provides instant access to essential brand color standards. PantoneLIVE is the first service under the Pantone Digital Business Unit, a newly created division of X-Rite that is the byproduct of Pantone’s expertise as the world’s color authority and X-Rite’s color science and technology leadership.

From chocolates and champagne to soda and stilettos, the past year has been wrought with cases of counterfeiting, deception and consumer confusion – all tied to the ubiquitous colors that uniquely identify brands. Cadbury and Veuve Clicquot were involved in high-profile legal battles to own their brand colors, while Christian Louboutin fought to trademark its signature red soles. With color so critically tied to brand identity, inconsistent brand color can lead to a lack of consumer confidence and lost sales.

In a recent survey conducted by the Pantone Color Institute*, more than 70 percent of creatives noted that brand color definitions, accuracy and consistency in creating products or packaging are important to their business, while 42 percent indicated that color-related challenges have a negative impact on their company. “Nearly 50 years ago, Pantone brought consistency and a common language to an industry that lacked standardization. Historically an analog process, reliant on centuries’ old color alchemy, printing and production have advanced with technology in the digital age,” said Ron Potesky, senior vice president and general manager of Pantone. “PantoneLIVE digitizes the process, taking it from visual and subjective to consistent and repeatable – significantly reducing production timelines and improving the bottom line.”

“PantoneLIVE represents a transformational change in color management for brand owners across their entire supply chain,” explained Tom Vacchiano, president and CEO of X-Rite. “Our own Dr. Sonia Megert, whose vision for the digital supply chain led to the development of PantoneLIVE, will head the new Pantone Digital Business Unit.”

“Globally consistent color standards are essential to brand identity. With supply chains made up of hundreds of different facilities scattered around the world, corporations struggle to control and maintain color consistency,” said Dr. Megert. “PantoneLIVE is a dynamic ecosystem, open to all supply chain participants, which delivers consistent color across the entire packaging workflow – from design concept to retail store shelves.”

Brand color standards are the principal component of PantoneLIVE and are derived from real ink on real substrates using real printing processes. This allows brand owners to predict how corporate spot colors will reproduce on a wide variety of substrates including brown corrugated, clear film and white polypropylene. A brand’s color assets, analogous to a brand’s color DNA, are managed and maintained in a secure cloud-based data repository to ensure accurate color communication – to any supplier, around the world.

“The benefits of using PantoneLIVE are clear,” says Nigel Dickie, director of corporate and government affairs for Heinz (see Beanz Meanz Heinz and Knowing about Color case study). “The digital tools gave us unprecedented control and consistency from different print processes and materials. Across all of our packaging formats we saw a reduction in color variance of 50 percent and saved time by establishing one color target that can be applied to all our Heinz Beanz designs. The results with our Beanz packaging have been so remarkable that we plan to extend PantoneLIVE to additional product lines, including Heinz soups and Spaghetti Hoops.”

While accurate color is important to the brand identity of consumer packaged goods, protecting brand integrity in the pharmaceutical industry is crucial as counterfeit drugs put the health of consumers at risk. Chesapeake (see Accurate Brand Colors Help Stem Drug Counterfeiting case study), a global producer of consumer packaging for many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, turned to PantoneLIVE to increase consistency in its customers’ packaging. When it comes to pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications, even the slightest variation in packaging color can make a product suspect and the brand vulnerable to counterfeiting.

On one job, for example, Chesapeake was able to reduce color variation by 84 percent and improve process controls, which led to zero rejections from the print run and 100 percent client approval. PantoneLIVE is creating another positive impact on Chesapeake’s business. The company previously stocked as many as 3,000 different inks in its Leicester, U.K. plant and now stores only 537 without reducing color choices.

PantoneLIVE is connected to a large portfolio of software, containing real-world color data for hundreds of thousands of colors, and is supported by the latest color measurement technology. This is combined with professional services including workflow and color rationalization audits, and customized operating procedures from Pantone and X-Rite. Custom and bespoke spectral data, as well as metadata, are used to digitize brand colors. Digitized palettes are then expanded to create independent color standards to allow for accurate color reproduction on a variety of substrates.

Brand color data, equivalent to a digital color swatch, is stored in a secure, cloud-based portal that lets brand owners and other approved members of the supply chain manage digital rights and facilitate color communication across all materials in the production process. This centralized color communication process promotes consistency and helps achieve speed to market efficiencies from initial design to final production. The portal also provides direction to suppliers to meet brand requirements related to color quality.

Industry Support

While users of any manufacturer’s ink will be able to take advantage of PantoneLIVE, Sun Chemical (see Sun Chemical press release) is the preferred ink partner. Esko (see Esko press release), a global supplier of integrated solutions for packaging, sign and display finishing, commercial printing and professional publishing, is also a preferred partner supporting PantoneLIVE. Both companies worked closely with Pantone and X-Rite to develop PantoneLIVE. Sun Chemical’s technology and color data are the foundations for PantoneLIVE, and this technology is integrated into Esko’s solutions.

In addition, Windmöller & Hölscher, a leading supplier of flexographic central impression and rotogravure printing presses, is recognized as the PantoneLIVE technology partner, serving the flexible packaging industry. In this unique capacity, Windmöller & Hölscher will extend the capability of their EASY COL on-press color matching solution to incorporate access to the PantoneLIVE ecosystem, thereby allowing converters to reduce press set-up times and in turn assure the quality of important brand colors on press.

Pantone and X-Rite are continuing to work with leading vendors to integrate and enhance their solutions with PantoneLIVE. This approach will offer customers real value in the color management and color communications process, while leaving much of their current investments in place.

Pricing and Availability

Access to the PantoneLIVE database starts at $99 USD (£63 GBP, €76 EUR) annually for a designer, $1,150 USD (£730 GBP, €885 EUR) annually for preproduction and from $2,000 USD (£1,275 GBP, €1,540 EUR) to $2,650 USD (£1,690 GBP, €2,040 EUR) annually for production. A color audit for a brand owner starts at $4,500 USD (£2,870 GBP, €3,460 EUR). Additional fees apply depending on services and scope required. PantoneLIVE solutions will be available June 15. For more information, please see www.pantone.com/live.

About X-Rite

X-Rite, Incorporated, is the global leader in color science and technology. The company, which now includes color industry leader Pantone, develops, manufactures, markets and supports innovative color solutions through measurement systems, software, color standards and services. X-Rite’s expertise in inspiring, selecting, measuring, formulating, communicating and matching color helps users get color right the first time and every time, which translates to better quality and reduced costs. X-Rite serves a range of industries, including printing, packaging, photography, graphic design, video, automotive, paints, plastics, textiles, dental and medical. For further information, please visit www.xrite.com.

About Pantone

Pantone LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of X-Rite, Incorporated, has been the world’s color authority for nearly 50 years, providing design professionals with products and services for the colorful exploration and expression of creativity. Always a source for color inspiration, Pantone also offers paint and designer-inspired products and services for consumers. More information is available at www.pantone.com.

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.

BOOK REVIEW: Scott Berkun’s Mindfire

I’m a fan of Scott Berkun’s books—you can read my reviews of both Confessions of a Public Speaker and The Myths of Innovation—but Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds is the first that I discovered by word of mouth rather than a press release from O’Reilly, Scott’s regular publisher. This is because Mindfire is Scott’s first self-published book, which he did because “I want to publish books in the future that no publisher in its right mind would release” and so he is learning to do it himself. I can only imagine what kind of topics Scott plans to write about!

Mindfire is a compilation of short essays from Scott’s previous online work, including his blog at ScottBerkun.com. Avid readers of Scott’s website will recognize a lot of the material. The book itself looks good: I like the cover design and the interior is clean though maybe a little large on the type size. The content is also well-written, engaging and thought-provoking. Scott covers a wide range of topics, from motivation and time management (“The Cult of Busy” is a great opening chapter) to workplace dynamics and evolving your thinking and your products in the face of change. Scott structures Mindfire around his three ultimate takeaways: motivation (“gasoline”), leveraging catalysts (“sparks”) and building long-term success (“fire”).

I enjoyed Mindfire a lot and would recommend it for many readers, but the book falls a little short when compared to his other books I’ve read. Here’s my reasons:

  • No matter how much structure Scott wraps around the book, Mindfire is still a collection of self-contained essays and they don’t share a central theme. Some artforms can get away with this (“Greatest Hits” albums are often popular) but others don’t. The television “clip show” is a prime example. Scott does the best he can but Mindfire just isn’t as cohesive as I’d like it to be.
  • One thing I enjoyed in Confessions and Myths of Innovation was Scott’s knack with using anecdotes to illustrate his points. Those anecdotes were always fun to read and enlightening. Mindfire needs the same anecdotal evidence but it’s usually nowhere to be found. I think this is because these essays were designed to be short bursts of insight perfect for blog posts.
  • The “short burst” format is sometimes too short for me. I thought the best entries in Mindfire were the long ones because they had the most detail and fully-formed concepts. In contrast, a chapter like “Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts” is not much longer than a page and concludes well before it should. I’m not against short segments in books, but only if everything is said that needs to be said. Mindfire left me wanting more sometimes.
  • Books composed of online material always have to compete against their online counterpart—in this case, Scott’s blog. I always ask if the book brings something unique to the reader besides a cover and pages, and I don’t think Mindfire does that. Scott planned to include new essays in Mindfire but eventually gave up on the idea.

Mindfire is a very fine book and would be very useful for anyone working in a creative industry—designers and developers would be ideal—or anyone in business who wants to light a fire underneath themselves. The book isn’t perfect but it’s very good and the price can’t be beat.

Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds
Scott Berkun
US $14.95
Rating: 9/10
Buy from Amazon.com

REVIEW: Adobe’s Touch Apps for Android

Last month, Adobe released its line of Adobe Touch Apps for Android tablets. Adobe has been testing the mobile and tablet software markets for some time now, first with Adobe Ideas for iOS and Photoshop Express, then the Photoshop SDK and the three Photoshop-related touch apps for iPad, then with Adobe Carousel which also runs currently on iOS, and now with six apps for creative professionals on Android tablets:

  • Adobe Collage, where users can build mood boards with images, text and graphics,
  • Adobe Debut, suitable for presenting graphics and concepts to audiences,
  • Adobe Ideas, a vector application suitable for creating and marking up images,
  • Adobe Kuler, which provides an interface for picking and refining color schemes,
  • Adobe Proto, where layouts for websites can be constructed, and
  • Adobe Photoshop Touch, a tablet-based version of Adobe Photoshop.

I’ve worked with all six and I think the suite of apps are a mixed bag: some really stand out for their usefulness and ability to leverage many tools available in the Android SDK, while others are not as helpful and robust. I can’t tell whether some of the apps are hamstrung by limitations in the APIs or were designed by Adobe to focus on a very specific set of features.

The crown jewel: Photoshop Touch

PS Touch image

Photoshop Touch is probably the Adobe Touch app being promoted the most, and it got a lot of love at the Adobe MAX developer conference in October. Many Photoshop users—including myself—have been wanting “Photoshop on a tablet,” and I think Adobe delivered. Photoshop Touch has a lot of Photoshop’s tools, effects and adjustments, including some I wasn’t expecting (such as Warp). There are a few Photoshop tools that aren’t present, including some animation tools such as the Animation panel. But Photoshop Touch stands out as the most feature-rich and robust of all Adobe’s Touch apps.

I also think Photoshop Touch has the most robust user interface, and incorporates a helpful menu bar at the top of the screen. All the Adobe Touch Apps have a top menu but most only show a few icons and don’t have submenus. Photoshop Touch needs an extensive UI like this, and even though it’s packed with features it’s not hard to use. The only criticism I can make is that some tools aren’t in the same place they are in Photoshop, and Photoshop users might find this counterintuitive. I think the Photoshop Touch development team sometimes strayed too far from the example set by Photoshop.

ps-touch

The results you can achieve with Photoshop Touch are remarkable, particularly with the Scribble Selection tool which lets you mark areas to keep and remove. The app figures out the rest with very good accuracy. This tool reminds me of Photoshop’s old Extract filter, which was removed from that product a couple years ago and still hasn’t been given a suitable replacement. Most of major features are borrowed from Photoshop—layers, brushes, text, adjustment filters and effects are all integrated into Photoshop Touch. One missing feature is the layer mask, which I think is a major oversight. Fortunately, Photoshop Touch exports its files in a new .psdx format, which Photoshop can open with a plugin, so you will be able to bring the full power of Photoshop to your Photoshop Touch projects.

PS Touch image

Photoshop Touch performs best as part of a workflow that also includes Photoshop, though you can do exceptional work without it. Creative professionals who use the Creative Suite extensively will find Photoshop Touch to be a solid extension of their Photoshop tools into the mobile space.

Impressed by Proto

The other Adobe Touch app that really impressed me is Adobe Proto, a web wireframing tool for web designers. Like Photoshop Touch, it has a robust set of tools and a UI that also includes gesture shortcuts. For example, draw a box on the canvas and an HTML div element is created. Draw a “play button” triangle and an HTML5 video element is created. The gesture UI is very easy to work with and I wish Proto was not the only Adobe Touch app that implemented it, but each app has its own development team and the Proto team happened to be the only one to weigh gestures important enough to include in the initial launch. Proto’s gesture UI makes creating website wireframes quick, easy and even fun.

Proto image

Proto projects can contain multiple pages and link between them, and there’s a lot of emphasis on basic HTML elements, form elements and navigation powered by jQuery, the ubiquitous JavaScript framework. Projects can then be pushed up to Adobe Creative Cloud—Adobe’s upcoming cloud service for creative professionals—and then brought into Dreamweaver or any other programming application. I’ve looked at the code Proto renders out and it’s fairly basic but functional, consisting of HTML5, CSS and jQuery as needed. Each page in a project gets its own CSS file, which is not usually advantageous.

Proto image

Proto is a solid wireframing app that provides a lot of tools despite its restrictions in the tablet. Developers need to apply some design work to the output and perhaps clean up some of Proto’s code, but I think Proto can provide a decent starting point for many projects.

Two new apps: Collage and Debut

Collage image

Adobe Collage is a fun tool for producing “mood boards,” which agencies and design teams sometimes use to bring images and text together to communicate a concept for development. Collage leverages the tablet interface very well, including support for multi-touch gestures that brings a tactile behavior to the mood board experience. Moving items around with your fingers is different than using a mouse and a monitor. Collage also interfaces with the tablet’s camera so you can take pictures of your environment and make it part of your mood boards instantly. There’s a small set of tools as well for markup, including a vector brush, text tool and a drop-down menu for duplicating, deleting and stacking elements. You can also include playable video into your mood boards, but they play in a new window and not on the project board itself.

Collage image

Unfortunately, there are not many more features in Collage and I find it to be lacking a few features. Why not include a microphone or allow importing video from the tablet camera? Both of these could really bump up the personal experience of creating projects in Collage. Also, Collage files are currently imported into Photoshop by converting them into a PSD file that can’t be converted back into a Collage file. The converted PSD doesn’t retain video elements either. I think there’s a few kinks to work out in the Adobe Touch Apps/Creative Suite import/export process.

Debut image

Adobe Debut is the least powerful and weakest member of the Adobe Touch Apps family. Debut is a presentation tool that imports graphics and images from various sources and lets users swipe through them. It’s the kind of feature that can be handy in a client meeting or a portfolio presentation. Debut’s best feature is the breadth of sources it can pull images from, including from the tablet’s camera, the Creative Cloud, Google and Flickr. The Creative Cloud gives access to users’ Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator files, which is a real plus for creative professionals. You can also toggle Photoshop file layers on or off when importing. A vector markup tool allows Debut presentations to be marked up on the fly, which can be handy in client meetings.

Debut image 1

However, the fact that I’ve just described the extent of Debut’s functionality goes to show how little it can really do. Collage can do pretty much anything Debut can do except present multiple slides, which is what makes me think Adobe should combine these two apps into a more powerful mood board creation and presentation app for client experiences.