Zigbot Media Design Blog

June 9, 2011

Health & Wealth – The cost of a cared for nation

Filed under: Industry, Stuff — Bryan Hughes @ 9:17 pm

(Click to enlarge)Health Care Information Technology - Infographic [Via: Carrington College's Health Information Technology Program]

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October 27, 2010

Fix Photoshop CS4 Beachball Issues on Mac OSX Snow Leopard

Filed under: Photoshop, Software, Tutorials — Tags: , , , , , , — Bryan Hughes @ 11:13 am

For whatever reason, Photoshop CS4 wants to throw beachballs at me while doing really, really simple tasks. Apparently I’m not the only one, either, as there is quite a bit of complaint out there about this very issue. After going throw the ringer with quite a few assumptions and bad advice, I found something that actually works.

Of course, this assumes that you’ve already checked other more obvious candidates for performance issues, such as scratch disk management, toggling the GPU setting, and other system considerations. If your entire machine hums along just fine with Photoshop lagging behind like a three legged donkey, this may be for you.

1. Make sure Photoshop is not running.

2. Go into Macintosh HD > Users > [Insert You Here] > Library > Preferences

3. Find and delete the file com.adobe.Photoshop.plist

When you restart Photoshop, it will recreate this file with a new, shiny, non-corrupted version and you should be running beachball-free.

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December 16, 2009

How to Use Google Wave in 5 Easy Steps

Filed under: Design Related, Funny, Online Tools, Personal, Software, Stuff — Tags: , , — Bryan Hughes @ 4:35 pm

Here’s the definitive, step-by-step guide to use Google Wave, as observed by current user experiences. It is quite easy for anyone with a few minutes to kill and even low levels of curiosity.

  • Step 1: Get invite, smile, and sign up.
  • Step 2: Send a self-referencing wave to someone you barely know, but is the only one actually using Google Wave.
  • Step 3: Try and find a use for it, or integrate it into daily tasks assuming more people will eventually join.
  • Step 4: Stop using Google Wave.
  • Step 5: Check in once a week and send the tweet “Anyone need a Google Wave invite?”

There you have it. I hope you find the service to be as productive as I have! If anyone needs an invite, let me know.

google_wave_logo

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December 14, 2009

Work at Home? Tips on How to Not Go Crazy.

Filed under: Industry, Personal, Stuff, Tutorials, creative process — Tags: , , — Bryan Hughes @ 3:39 pm

I’ve been working out of my home office for a few months now, and it’s everything I dreamed it would be. I wake up when I want, work when I want, and seldom have one pair of fuzzy slippers been so often worn. That being said, it’s everything I feared it would be as well. When I’m busy, I realized that it is very easy to spend up to a week at a time without talking to anyone face-to-face (other than my wife, of course), and the soft call of the xbox in the other room invades times of the day that just aren’t reasonable. It becomes difficult to use the new-found isolation option to see what happens if you grow a funny mustache or shave half of your hair off and make a pseudocombover (I’ve done this, sad to say). It seems some of the annoying things about working in an office are just impossible to replace, and without them, you could very easily lose the ability to interact with others on the level that’s taken so long to develop. Here is some of what I’ve learned.

This can be the extent of a work-at-home universe if one isn't careful.

Get up and get dressed, no matter what.

Like many people who work on computers, my morning looks like this: get up; walk sleepy-eyed to the computer; respond to anything critical; get ready and go about the day. When the office is the place this ritual occurs, it is all too easy to just stay there and start working, or respond to those emails you’d normally have put off for a better time. Before you know it, it’s 2pm and you’re still in your bathrobe.

The way out of this is simple, but requires some imagination. Make a rule to get dressed, eat breakfast, and whatever else you’d normally do as if you were going to an office. I’ve found that doing so is an incredible help to how productive I am throughout the day, having a defined start and finish to when work begins and ends.

Get outside every day, no matter what, even if it’s for no reason at all.

There’s leaves to rake (well, not in Arizona), cars to wash, and dogs to walk. Make sure you find some reason to put your shoes on and get out every day, especially on the days you have no reason to whatsoever. You may find, as I did, that too much time staring at a computer locks up your creativity and it can be difficult to shake it loose. When I used to commute, I had 2 hours each day to listen to music, see the sun, and sort ideas out. Now that I’m often in a place where ideas can be tried out in real-time, keeping focus can become difficult, if not impossible, without some variation of scenery. Next time you run out of milk, volunteer to get some more. Both your wife and your projects will love you for it.

Put your Business Plan in writing.

Some businesses don’t really benefit from writing a business plan. Most of the time this is for investors or to define operations between groups of people … things that a one-person company seldom has use for. For this reason, I let mine slide for a long time.  When I did finally type it out not too long ago, it came easy, and I learned a lot.

First, putting the things I do from day to day on paper showed immediate areas where improvement to my productivity could happen. Of course there’s a time to work on organizing my fonts, but not on Monday morning when there are leads to work and proposals to write. Writing your business plan into something solid helps keep you working on what you should be working on, not just what needs to be done at the time.

Secondly, writing and prioritizing daily tasks defines when the day ends. It is all  too easy for the eager home office worker to work until 10pm … it can be hard to pull away from something that needs to get done, and one may feel as if the more time spent at the workstation means getting ahead. Of course this can’t be true, as there is a never-ending supply of tasks awaiting the usual business owner, and the feeling that working longer to get a jump on the next day is an illusion that’s hard to break away from. By having an objective list to refer to, your day ends when specific goals are achieved. You may get these done at 4pm and get off a little early, or maybe you went to lunch a little longer than you should have and 7pm is the cutoff. Regardless of how the day is structured, there is great benefit to defining flags on the clock.

Sort Tasks by Location

I’m typing up this post in a local coffee shop I’ve never been to before. I’m a graphic designer, and my laptop can’t handle almost every design task that I actually make my living performing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not at work right now. My daily goals are not only sorted by order of importance, but by where I can do them from. I knock out two birds with one stone by combining all the things I can do from my old laptop with no more than a keyboard and a phone. This includes a good portion of correspondence, Twittering, any social media tasks, planning and writing proposals, many SEO and PPC activities, following up with clients, researching … the list goes on. There’s no reason why I should be at home on my $6,000+ graphic design monster going through my daily RSS feeds when it can just as easily be done surrounded by other people at the local library/coffeeshop/park/wherever. Even better, I can’t get distracted here by the urge to crack open Photoshop and explore every thought that floats my way.

Is there anything I’m missing? Let me know about it. Any good tips for keeping my cat out from under my desk would be much appreciated. Good luck, and stay sane.

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December 4, 2009

How to Get the Most Out of Your Graphic Designer

Filed under: creative process — Tags: , , , — Bryan Hughes @ 3:22 pm

This article is in response to a cartoon published by TheOatmeal called “How a Design Goes Straight To Hell” that’s floating around right now, to which any designer can relate to.

It can be avoided, absolutely, without any extra work whatsoever.

Anyone who’s ever hired a professional graphic designer knows results can be a mixed bag. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, and it can be very difficult to know how to get exactly what you’re looking for without knowing the industry inside and out. The thing you may not be aware of is what role you ultimately play in whether the design you end up with is ultimately the best it can be for the time and money you’ll be investing.

As a former art director in the corporate world, I have extensive experience in effective creative process. Here are a few key points I’ve noticed time and time again that may actually be hindering your designer from creating the perfect result.

1. Hire the right designer.

Do you truly know what identifies a good designer? There are multiple points to consider when choosing who you will be trusting with your visuals, and these can also be a good flag system to avoid bad results from the get-go. If your designer says they can get a logo done in a day and a half for under $500, avoid them. A huge part of the designer’s job is to walk you through the creative process and design something that works for you. Designers who skip crucial steps may not have the skills to move the project along from point to point with any reliability.

2. Realize why you hired a designer in the first place.

We’re all taught in kindergarden that we’re all wonderfully creative individuals and our ideas know no bounds. That concept abruptly ends when these ideas need to perform. The fact is that there are good ideas and bad ideas, and not one of these outcomes is based on an opinion. Your design is a business tool, not a vision, and your designer knows the difference. The fonts, colors, and other elements a designer uses are not purely preference or personal style, but the accumulation of years of research and daily study on current trends. Every element on the page has a reason for being there. Your designer is not just a technical operator, so get the most out of your money by letting them use their knowledge, even if it conflicts with your opinion. It is good to ask questions, of course, but be prepared to listen to reason when there is some.

3. Get your communications under tight control.

I’ve seen many designs come to terrible ends simple because there is too little effort to organize feedback in a useful way. Simply put, if there are 5 people involved in the decision making process, there should not be 5 individuals communicating with the designer individually. Assign a point person responsible for being in contact with your designer, and make sure any internal debate happens on your side of the table. Personalities will conflict in any group, and the last thing you want is for them to end up in your design. If this happens, you will end up with a Frankenstein design created to satisfy individual opinion rather than the effective piece you actually need.

4. Eliminate opinions from the discussion wherever possible.

Do you not like red? Your clients couldn’t care less. If research shows that you should be doing something a certain way, follow the numbers and leave your personal taste behind. Another way to quickly create a useless Frankenstein design is to allow personal likes and dislikes to override best practice. This can be difficult, of course, since there are very few hard line ways to tell, but that is why you’re paying your designer. The more you can keep your creative talks focused on research-driven decisions, the more effective the end result will be. If your customers love red, then must you.

5. Be verbose.

Graphic design is communication. Information is being passed to your customers about who you are and why they should care, and in return they give you information about themselves … hopefully with dollar symbol attached. Just like any form of communication, design can be effective or vague. Your designer will ask you a lot of questions, and you should answer them as exactly as possible. If you’re unsure how much or how little to divulge, always err on the side of too much. The more your designer knows about what you’re trying to do, the better they’ll be able to convert the idea into an effective design.

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December 2, 2009

Twitaura.com, Custom Twitter Backgrounds

Filed under: Marketing, Zigbot Media — Tags: , , , , — Bryan Hughes @ 7:42 pm

I am happy to announce the launch of a new service from Zigbot Media, Twitaura. I contacted some good friends who are some of the best designers I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and created a service to supply custom Twitter backgrounds for $99 with an 8 hour turnaround time. It is one of several social media services I plan on rolling out in 2010.

There are indeed plenty of sites out there that provide this service to some degree, but Twitaura is different in that everyone involved has worked in-house, and are extremely experienced with respecting an existing brand’s visual style, and how exactly to walk that line between creative and too much. Twitaura is a premium Twitter design service, meant for heavy hitter brand professionals who can’t trust such an important issue to some design mill cranking out template-based trash.

If you’re ready to drop the free template you’ve been using and get serious about your social media strategy, give it a spin at www.twitaura.com.

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November 24, 2009

Content-Aware Scale in Photoshop CS4 is My Best Friend

Filed under: Photoshop, Tutorials — Tags: , , , — Bryan Hughes @ 10:39 pm

I remember the first time I saw a tech demo on YouTube for this technology and flipped out inside. I flipped out inside yet again a few weeks later when I heard rumors of Adobe buying it for possible integration into CS5 or so, and then once again, flipped out, when I found it in the Edit menu of CS4. I can’t even count how many times the ability to resize images to new aspect ratios without causing a destructive edit to faces and places of importance. This is as close to magic as it gets.

The song is from a Phoenix band called Mind Museum, who just released an album. I highly recommend it.

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November 6, 2009

Create Perfectly Equal Content Sections Without Any Math or Rulers

Filed under: Photoshop, Software, Tutorials — Tags: , , , , , , — Bryan Hughes @ 11:29 pm

I thought I’d share a quick method I use all the time to help create blocks of equal size across a width. All designers need to do this from time to time.

Let’s say you have a content area 900px across, and you have 6 buttons to create, or 7, or they you have 8 buttons that need the same margin as the logo … whatever; you’re in for some grade school mathematics and pixel-level zoom editing. Here’s a quick & dirty way of very quickly creating equally sized colums (or rows) without even thinking about breaking out a calculator.

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November 3, 2009

Online Copyright? It Does Exist.

Filed under: Marketing, Online Tools, Reviews, Software — Tags: , , , — Bryan Hughes @ 11:54 pm

Today a client asked e about how to go about copyrighting the website, and I hit a wall. “Well, it just is, because we say so.” is what my fingers wanted to return, but I know better. As someone who puts stuff out there on the web … you know, creative, useful stuff like photography and design work, I know my way around a ripoff. This year alone I’ve had scrub someone’s filthy name off my hard work a half dozen times, and that’s not atypical. Once, I even learned I was the winner of a photo contest that I never even entered (I did ask to receive the prize instead, but as it was in the UK I was ineligible, even by the weirdo circumstances involved).

I’m done taking my own word for it. Although I’ve never had any real issues with people stealing my stuff (like, getting my ass sued off for illegal distribution/use of things I don’t actually own rights to), I know it happens, and I know that it should be treated just as seriously as any other type of theft. I’m looking forward to the launch of MYOWS, a first-of-its-kind online copyright management application by Max Guedy of Agency Zebra.

I highly suggest signing up for the launch notification. If the number of “OMFG SOMEONE STOLE MY DESIGN AGAIN!!!” tweets I see have any meaning whatsoever, it is that this is necessary.

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October 5, 2009

How to Type Text Inside a Path in Illustrator CS4

Filed under: Software, Tutorials — Tags: , , , , , , — Bryan Hughes @ 3:35 pm

It seems every application flips text on a path differently, including every individual version of Adobe products. Today’s Illustrator work was no different, as I was sent scrambling online looking for where that essential text alignment flipping button would be. I found it, and here’s how to do it:

1. Select the text path to be flipped.

=

2. Open Type on a Path Options dialog.

3. Select “Flip” and OK.

4.Win.

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