Category Archives: Features

Whether we blog about something of interest around the world or around the corner, our Features category examine graphic design trends and viewpoints that are interesting and helpful.

Open Source. It’s a concept that has quietly become one of the greatest influences on innovation in history. Open Source is an approach to design and development that believes in the sharing of ideas and information for the purpose of creation. Because Open Source projects are public projects, the products or concepts are free to use and develop with.

Due to the Internet’s power to connect like-minded people, this had been a popular method of working together, especially on internet related projects. The variety and diversity of open source projects on the internet is amazing. In this post, we’ll list of some notable open source projects that are relevant to graphic design and web development.

Drupal

Drupal is an open source content management system. It offers users some great features such as the ability to access statistics and logs, an advanced search feature, a feed aggregator, profiles, comments, forums, polls, security and even OpenID support. Drupal was originally written as message board software by developer Dries Buytaert. It became open source in 2001. From May 2007 to April 2008, Drupal was downloaded more than 1.4 million times. In 2008, it was voted the best open source content management system by the CMS Awards.

WordPress

Similar to Drupal, WordPress is Content Management System for blogs and websites. The brainchild of Matt Mullenweg, who is unlucky at cards, WordPress first appeared in 2003. The power of WordPress lies in its easy to navigate admin panel and slick system of changing the look and feel of a website quickly by selecting a new theme. Plug-ins are another great benefit of using WordPress. Due to it’s popularity, there is a vast number of plugins that will do a variety of different things. From automatically adding Adsense code to, adding a dropdown menu to navigation, the chances are very good that what you are looking for is out there.

The GIMP

The GIMP (or GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an image editor. It is a raster editor, which means it allows users to paint and edit pictures interactively. The GIMP is typically used for creating logos, and is very similar to Adobe Photoshop, but it was never designed to be a Photoshop clone. The development of the GIMP started all the way back in 1995. The wolf which is used as the mascot to the project is known affectionately as Wilber.

Scribus

Scribus is an open source desktop publishing system, and is widely recommended as a free alternative to such expensive software as QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign and Adobe PageMaker. It can create newsletters, as well as animated and interactive PDF files. The newsletters it produces are print ready, which is a bonus. It was first released on June 16th, 2003.

Audacity

Audacity is a free audio recording application. It has many cool editing features, including noise removal and frequency change. As of the 30th January 2009, it had received over 54 million downloads on SourceForge.net, a popular open source software hosting site. In 2007, it won the SourceForge Community Choice Award for Best Project for Multimedia. All in all, a great piece of software.

Open Office

Open Office is a free software package which is available for many operating systems. It offers all the features of the Microsoft Office package, and it has a very slick interface. It was released in July of 2000. In 2008, it was voted as the best open source software package by SourceForge.net.

Form Tools

Form Tools is a system for web developers who work on online registration sites, or sites that require any form of information gathering from their online visitors. This system provides automatic sending and storage of registration and feedback forms meaning there is no need to reprogram a form each time it’s designed. Form Tools was written and designed by Ben Keen of Black Sheep Web Software who resides in Vancouver. Form Tools remains one of my best Open Source finds over the years.

All in all, open source projects provide great opportunity and value for both the developer and the end-user. There are many more available on the web, and the best place to find them is SourceForge, the open source software host.

If you know of any other great open source projects, let us know in the comments section of this post!

When it comes to graphic design, perhaps the most exciting type of project to undertake is the poster. Unlike other larger, more complex mediums, the poster is generally a simple attempt to attract attention and communicate basic information about an event or a product. Sometimes staring at a pure, blank art board is an exhilarating feeling. Other times, it can be a frustrating task deciding how to start. Whether you are a designer looking for inspiration or a novice needing a few tips, this post brings you the tips you need to make your next poster your best poster.

Montana Meth Project

Montana Meth Project

1. How to Get Attention

Your first task is to decide on captivating photography or an interesting main element that will make people stop and take notice. Some posters use shocking imagery to get a point across like this one, designed for the Montana Meth Project. As you can see, the subject matter certainly makes an immediate impact. Other posters will use plenty of white space and an interesting question, or some creative word art to make you stop and think. This first step is the cornerstone of your project and it’s very important to choose carefully.

2. Simple is Nice

Your poster should say what it means through pictures and colours rather than through words and written details. Keep text to a minimum and make full use of your website, if you have one, to inform people of further details. If you bog down your poster with text, your poster will not look as interesting to people passing by.

3. Fonts are Fantastic

If your fonts are a little unusual or unique, this will add to the depth of your design. Try to avoid common fonts that might be used on a standard document or for an everyday purpose. On the other hand, don’t use fonts that are crazy to the point of being hard to read. Many times it’s a good idea to use a sans-serif font in a headline. It’s important to limit the number of fonts you use on your poster. The more fonts, the more potential for confusion. If you have the ability, it’s also a nice touch to use your text in a non-standard way like this poster for a James Chance concert.

4. Move the Eye and the Information will Follow

It’s important to design a poster with information consumption in mind. Always try to start with the most important information in the largest font and work your way down in the order of importance. Display this information in such a way that the eye follows this information down the page as if you were writing a short story. Use cues in your main design element to point at important information or provide direction.

5. Colour Correctly

Try to use a colour scheme that is fundamentally correct. Respect the basic rules or colour theory. You can even start designing your poster based on a pre-determined colour pallete. Match or compliment the colours used in your primary imagery to add consistency to the piece. Colour Lovers is a great place for ideas and sample palletes.

6. It’s a Balancing Act

Basic design and layout skills dictate that good design displays good balance. Try to ensure your poster follows this ideal. To tell if your layout is balanced, divide your page in half and compare the number of elements on either side of the page to each other. Try this diagonally as well. Adjust your design accordingly.

7. Break All the Rules

Sometimes good design means breaking out of the formula to produce something unique. If this is your plan, it’s important to know what rules to break so you can break them like a pro. Hopefully these tips will help you design something that is both different and good.

For some fresh inspiration, make sure you visit Design Reviver.

It’s that time of year again. The time of year where you wonder what to get the Graphic Designer in your life that has everything. It’s also the time of year when Graphic Designers wonder what to populate their wish lists with to prevent being the victim of poor shopping choices. We’re here to help. Here’s our list of things to buy a Graphic Designer for 2008:

Item #1: A Swashbuckle from Veer – $65.00

Give the gift of typeface with this stylish belt buckle. Perhaps if the graphic designer you are shopping for does not wear belts (or pants), you might consider a hoodie instead. Heck! Anything from the store at Veer seems like a good choice.

Item #2: Keming Mug from Cafe Press – $14.99

If design isn’t your cup of tea, the premise of this mug may be lost on you. To let you in on the joke, kerning is the space between letters and if you move an “r” too close to a “n” you end up with an “m”. Your graphic design may find this quite funny and if you’re looking to impress him or her with fancy design jargon, this mug has “perfect” written all over it.

Item #3: WIFI Finder from Think Geek – $49.99

This is the perfect gift for someone that’s always on the move. This Digital WiFi Detector has a backlit LCD screen that provides information on signal availability and strength as well as essential network information. It will help you find out everything you need to know about a hot-spot before you set up shop.

Item #4: A Magazine Subscription – price varies

Why not give them a magazine subscription to a Design magazine like PRINT, STEP, or Applied Arts? There’s no better way to say “Merry Christmas” than with some good old fashion inspiration.

Item #5: A Houseplant Twitter Transmitter from Think Geek – $99.99

If a Twitter obsession is part of the daily routine for a Graphic Designer you live or work with, this gift will not only help keep him or her organized, it could save the life of your plants as well. This DIY Twitter kit will internet enable the plant of your choice. By subscribing to it’s Twitter feed, it will provide notification when it needs water, if you’ve over-watered it and provide periodic updates.

Item #6: Virtual Laser Keyboard from Think Geek: $159.99

Connect this to any Bluetooth capable hand held device and project a laser keyboard onto a flat surface for fast message notation without having to rely on a tiny keyboard. It even makes real clicking sounds!

Item #7: USB Keys from Mimico.com – $34.95

Why not stuff a stocking with a designer USB key? They come in all shapes and sizes and always seem to come in handy.

Item #8: Books – prices vary

You can’t go wrong with an interesting book. Can you? Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • In House Design in Practice by by Cathy Fishel
  • Beyond Trend, How to Innovate in an Over-Designed World by Matt Mattus
  • Creative Sparks by Jim Krause
  • Caffeine for the Creative Mind by Stefan Mumaw & Wendy Lee Oldfield
  • Women of Design by Armin Vit and Bryony Gomez-Palacio
  • The Web Designer’s Idea Book by Patrick McNeil
  • Inspirability by Pash

Item #9: A Print of a Raccoon in a Suit from Etsy: $15.00

Why Not? It’s a little bit random but who doesn’t like raccoons? It’s hand drawn by Berkley Illustration.

Item #10: A Goat from World Vision: $75.00

That’s right. A goat. Because everyone needs to be reminded from time to time that it’s not all about them. This gift will provide milk, cheese, and yogurt to a family in Haiti or Kenya.

Good luck with your Christmas shopping!