Friday, March 31, 2006

Visiting Microsoft in Redmond USA / Expression

I've been visiting Microsoft in the USA this week, amongst other things we've been discussing Web 2.0 technologies, most of which is under NDA but as information is made public I will keep you informed.

Something that Microsoft are currently promoting is their new suite of creative tools: 'Expression', well worth a look, In the next few weeks I'm hooking-up with Wayne Smith, Senior Product Manager for Microsoft responsible for the new Expression Web Designer product, so hopefully I will have some interesting info coming up on that product.

This morning I had a quick play with one of the cool features in Microsoft Expression Graphic Designer, it is called: 'Photo Montage', I took the following photos this morning of my colleague Dr. Neil, and used this automated feature to seemlessly blend the images into a panorama, the process took less than five minutes from start to finish... well worth a look!


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tablet pays off!

Last week I completed my first piece of commercial work using my new Toshiba Tablet PC, I have been focussing on generating 'Ideas & Concept' work which is the bit that I really enjoy, with a background in illustration it was only a matter of time before I would make the switch to 'Ink' and there is no looking back, I'm really pleased I opted for the Tablet PC over a Wacom.

Now that the client has approved the concepts, I am pleased to include some images. The process I used involved 'Sketching' in Alias Sketchbook Pro (Image on left). Rendering in Macromedia Flash, (I am still a fan of Flash's ultra-simple vector drawing tools), then laying-up the final artwork in Adobe Illustrator CS (Image on right).

The biggest problem I came across was that Flash doesn't cope particularly well when drawing the outlines using the tablet pen - there is quite a lot of lag. If anybody has any ideas on this I'd love to hear about them. Also I am looking for outlets to write articles on these techniques and processes, please drop me an email if you are looking for this type of content for your site/ magazine.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

sketchbook pro - backgrounds

Just found a neat set of backgound templates that Alias provide as a free download to compliment their Sketchbook Pro application (Registration Required).

This download contains a bunch of background templates (tiff format so can use in photoshop too) including storyboards, graphs, timelines, perspective graphs, architect templates and even hangman…

I think any tablet/ wacom users could find this download extremely useful.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Ways to get creative with software development

Listen to this morning's Podcast with Dr. Neil Roodyn: Click Here

Show notes:

'Ways to get creative with software development'

Fantastic brands have a unique point of view, if you can establish your brand-alignment your product will become a circle that people want to join AND tell others about.

If you make branding a part of your product development you will: Increase the perceived value of your product, make your software easier to learn/use and broaden your market, increasing sales.

3 Goals:

1) Don’t set out to create a software tool – ‘Make a Place’
This creates an emotional tie between your product and your customer, great brands have practised this historically, an obvious example is the Apple iPod experience.

2) Keep usability at the forefront – pay special attention to buttons and navigation, Keep It Simple Stupid. Model techniques that the big software developers have used for navigation, they have invested millions of pounds getting it right. Where possible test your product on non-techies.

3) Stay focussed on your brand alignment and what your product is trying to achieve, take every opportunity to get your message across, this could include the packaging –even if it is a downloadable product it can have packaging – an installer screen for example.

Most importantly stay passionate about your products, all brand leaders have this in common!

Have a fantastic day!



Thursday, March 16, 2006

Web designers still failing disabled people

The Disability Rights Commission have today anounced that 80% of websites surveyed failed to uphold basic accessibility requirements, while research carried out by The Society of IT Management last year showed that only one in seven English local authorities met the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) conformance level A standard.

It is obviously still easy for designers and comissioners to be seduced by the opportunities that software provides to create visually stunning designs, while forgetting about the audience.

For a full article on this:
The Guardian Newspaper

For advice talk to who is passionate about this... (His blog)


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sketch Book Pro

I have been experimenting with the following software: Alias Sketchbook Pro, If you are a creative and using a tablet I SERIOUSLY suggest that you download the demo and have a play: Click here to download demo

As you would expect form Alias it is a truly intuitive piece of software, they have put tonnes of thought into the gui, and it is a joy to use on the tablet PC. Expect more on this topic!


Secrets of Successful Brands (This is a fantastic exercise that I use to help people discover their brand values)

Successful brands resonate at an emotional level beyond the product we buy and the
service we receive. These brands stand for something that people value. They create
the expectation of a different type of experience. They are recognised as ‘my kind of
company, my kind of people’. Their customers are proud to be associated with the

We cannot give you all of the answers, but we can give you the questions. If you
invest the time to answer the following questions we believe that you will have the
magical ingredients upon which you can develop a unique, exciting and healthy brand.

1. What capabilities do you have now, what are your core values? (A value is
something that you do, even when it hurts!)

2. It is no longer about positioning; it is about taking a position. What type of
people do you strive to be? What will you be famous for?

3. Today’s customers are more connected, more knowledgeable and
consequently more demanding. An explosion of choice also overwhelms them.
Who is your audience?

4. Who else is competing in your arena?

5. What is your destination? Which existing brands do you aspire to, what is their
brand positioning? (These could be a gadget, a beverage, a clothes label etc.)

6. What communication devices will you use? Recognise your customers for who
they are and see things from their point of view, how do they expect you to

7. How will you measure the success of your new brand positioning? What will
the Key Performance Indicator’s be?

Truly great brands have a unique point of view, this positioning will set you apart from other companies, it makes your brand a circle that people want to join and tell others about, it sets up a unique service experience.


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