Pro iPad – We weren’t quite there yet

iPad Adobe Comp CC

iPad running Adobe Comp CC

I am a professional graphic and web designer and I utterly love my iPad Pro. Now it’s not the latest and greatest or the biggest, I am still a working fellow and can’t snatch up every bit of shiny new tech that drifts over my horizon. But I do have a fondness for sturdy and capable kit.

One of the relentless pushes of the idea – and marketing – people at Apple is the notion that you could easily replace your laptop for professional creative work. Creative pros have been a specific target for advertising the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. As a designer, I am to whatever degree, Adobe’s bitch. Mostly due to the necessity for having to deal with clients and vendors and an installed base of fellow professionals that goes back decades. I am not totally sold on Adobe Creative Cloud, but that bit of professional extortion is a topic for another entire column.

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What Graphics Programs Should A Pro Graphic Designer Know?

Graphic Applications on my Mac PRo. -

Graphic Applications on my Mac Pro. – Yep, the Big Kahunas are there.

Recently I came across this post on the MacRumors Design and Graphics forums.

“Hello, Got a friend who’s interested in going back to school to become a graphic designer. Wondering what programs graphics pro’s are expected to know.”
Chris7, Mar 10, 2010.

There were a lot of thoughtful replies over a few years, so it might be worth your time to visit the thread and read through them. A lot of good recommendations. It was also very interesting to see the trends in design and publishing software evolve over the multi-year span of the thread. What was common, even essential, even a decade ago falls by the wayside, and new entries rise in prominence and usage. However, I noticed my comments weighed in at article length, so felt they were worth sharing, with some clarifying edits. Hope you find them worthwhile.

If you look at some of the (few) job listings out there, the short answer is, apparently, ALL OF THEM. But the practical reality is: the software your Employer/Client uses in their shop. Which could be state of the art everything on cutting edge machines, to legacy dedicated-purpose applications from the 80s running on ancient Windows NT boxes they can’t update, as the software publisher went under in 1997.

As a battle-scarred veteran of the Desktop Publishing wars, I entered the field in 1980 B.C… Before Computers. When DTP came along in the 90s, it was heavily marketed as a way to eliminate entire art departments. Since then, it has been discovered that training, taste, the ability to draw, and understand principles of Design still makes a difference. This revelation lead to the the idea that giving Creative Pros robust tools and paying them was more effective than giving them to High School interns. However the ubiquity and strength – what nuclear missile guys would call “throw weight” – of our digital tools has put a LOT of talented people to pounding the floors in Walmart, if not on the street. A spectrum of design assistants and outside services I would have employed and used in the 90’s are now all contained within my workstation and software.

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Sekrit N1nj4 Project

FRS_Book_tease_1200Having been at this for over 35 years, and from time to time taken a few moments to digitally restore some of the work recovered from the house fire, the not entirely (well, a little) insane notion came across me that I should pull together a retrospective of some of my better work from my student days to the present. The original thought was it would make a nice giveaway to friends and some of my better clients. Given that the technology to self publish and offer print-on-demand is out there and getting better year after year.

So I started to pull together FANTASTIC REALITIES: A Life In Art & Design. A labor of voluminous free time and love. Was quite the trip down memory lane. Also some minor frustrations as I discovered that some storage and archive technologies did NOT stand the test of time. So for instance the breakthrough digital files of the 1996 Witches Ball Poster are apparently lost to digital mischance. ZIP Drives, anyone? Retrospect Express on a Pre-Power PC Mac? Hoo Boy.

But I scanned, reconstructed, touched up. Sniffled a little over fire damaged originals. Curated my own collection. Let me tell you, that is an exercise in humility. There were a few moments of, “oh god, I got paid for this?” But finally I was able to pull together the book in InDesign, and had an editor friend give the text a once-over. And I sent it up to the self-publishing site

Got my Authors copy… it’s stonkin’ beautiful!

Beautiful... and too big.Beautiful… and too frickin’ big.

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NOT Today…

Generic text, stock photo, zero information content...

Yes, just who the frak ARE you, stock photo people? I’ve got nuthin’…

I was not in a patient mood today for fools and shysters.

As a Web designer. I am usually pleased when people see my sites, even the modest ones that are typically just there to establish a web presence for a client. But that means that from time to time, I do get one of those emails…

But I was able to suppress my annoyance and compose a reasonably polite and professional response.

Identifying data has been redacted to protect the guilty guilty guilty….

Hello [redacted name],

I am the Web Designer and maintainer for [redacted domain name].

I am well aware of the scope and limitations of my client’s current site. It is on deck for a redesign and re-build. Of course that depends on my client being motivated to do so and dedicates the required resources. Be that as it may, such a project is well within the skill set and resources of my studio. That is entirely up to us.

However, I would be far more confident if your message included legitimate contact information, a company name, web site, and any other suggestion that you might be legitimate — or even an actual person.

I did visit [redcated URL (from email address)], and that visit does nothing to reassure my opinion. It is a generic site full of generic marketing copy and stock photography, utterly lacking in specificity of any kind, a legitimate address, a phone number, testimonials, portfolio, customer list, or even a single named principal or employee. Your “Who We Are” tells me exactly NOTHING of value. A Google search of “[redacted company name]” produces NO company information, reviews, or even much in the way of search results.

Did you think I would not vet you? There is no way I would trust a client’s money and my credibility to a company that does not even seem to legitimately exist. I am not impressed. There is honestly no THERE there.

Please move on to more gullible prospects.

Kurt E. Griffith
Creative Director
Fantastic Realities Studio


In more explicit terms– piss off, I’ve got work to do.

White Paper:
Starting A Web Design Project

Working on the FRS Web Site in Adobe DreamWeaver

Working on the FRS Web Site in Adobe DreamWeaver

Stuck at the Staring Gate

One of the daunting things about getting your company or organization, or even just your own web site online is just the sheer size of the task. Gathering content. What will the site look like? How is the site organized? What about Responsive Design? Search Engine Optimization? E-Commerce? Unless you’re doing this professionally, it can all seem like a mountain to climb.

If you are working with a Web Designer or Developer, you can make your job a lot easier by understanding a basic outline of what the tasks are and who’s responsible for what.

In general, for most web sites, the design process involves three overlapping parallel tasks. Visual Design, Information Design, and Content Development. Ideally, different people are responsible for these different jobs. They entail different skill sets and appropriate knowledge. But the best processes are collaborative, with all involved in communication sharing information and ideas.

I’ve written a white paper for Site Owners with some ideas that are an outline of the process and some of the practices I’ve found to help the project get launched and go more smoothy. They are intended to help you not be stuck at the starting gate, and get the most out of your team and time.

Remember that your Web Designer and Developer are resources, we’re there to help you get your project online, and we want you to look good!

Download Notes for Starting a Web Design Project [PDF-121k]