Best of the Blogs: September 21, 2011

There are a lot of provocative questions in design and photography blogs: Are there rules for creativity? Can designers embrace fear? What’s the difference between looking at and seeing typography? But there’s less cerebral stuff, too, like upgrading your camera, understanding image compositing, observing the day of a graphic designer, and filling your layouts with hipster lingo. Which do you feel like?

Typography contributor Jim Felici has released the second edition of his Complete Manual of Typography. He has some strong views about typography in the 21st century, and in this book excerpt Jim discusses the difference between looking at and seeing type. “Typographic problems are not just the concern of connoisseurs,” he writes. “They affect every reader, even though he or she may not be aware of why the text is an effort to read.”

These fonts are more than just hand drawn. They’re hand cut. Stephanie Kubo transforms her original linocuts into wonderfully rustic fonts that give new meaning to the concept of “linotype”.

At the other extreme of handcraftsmanship is Fracture, a font comprised of 200 3D fragments. Its appearance is randomly generated, and you can try it yourself by downloading the free font at Typography Served.

The accepted practice is to limit type combinations to two, maybe three, fonts on a page. More than that is to gamble with taste. PagePlane (via Graphic Exchange) points to an example he considers successful with six typefaces on a page. What do you think?

The letters on this poster are not from a font, per se, but they look like they could be. The neon effect on the type is so realistic that if you took away the hands holding up the poster it might fool you into thinking you’re looking at a real neon sign. At least, it fooled me. Via ReCraft.

Émigré is offering its unique type specimen books as downloadable PDFs. Thanks to for the tip.


If you’ve outgrown your entry-level point-and-shoot camera but aren’t ready to invest in a fancy DSLR, consider a compact “prosumer” camera. Unplgged spells out which cameras make the grade and why.

When you are ready to buy a DSLR, you’ll find the choices daunting. Improve Photography provides a short but sweet guide to Nikon and Canon DSLRs.

“Having a DSLR does not make you a professional photographer.” That’s the mantra of the website You Are Not A Photographer that shows pictures in professional photographers’ online portfolios. No offense to aspiring shutterbugs out there (you have to start somewhere, after all), but I laughed out loud at some of these shots. If you don’t appreciate snarky comments or lurid spot colors, you may want to skip it. Via Gizmodo.


Making realistic-looking images in Photoshop means understanding light, shading, and shadow. This video from PSD Tuts shows how to add dimension to your artwork with these essential elements.

Even well-crafted images need extra oomph from time to time. This tutorial from Tip Squirrel shows how to add drama to your photographs in Photoshop.

Pro Design Tools prognosticates about the arrival of Lightroom 4.

Compositing images in Photoshop is easier than ever, thanks to improved tools that almost do the work for you. But good Photoshop compositing requires skill and planning to avoid making your composite look like a clunky cut-and-paste job. Here are 10 Things You Need to Know About Compositing in Photoshop by Matt Kloskowski, via creativebits.

An essential part of compositing is removing the background of an image. Watch Terry White’s video about how to do just that in Photoshop CS5.

In an earlier post I wrote about the American Media Association’s alarm that overuse of Photoshop is creating a culture of unrealistic body image for young women. Now Beauty High reports that a model is upset that her photograph was not Photoshopped enough in an ad for Estee Lauder’s Origins line. Of course the tale is bit more twisted than that, but it’s a curious turn of events nonetheless.

On the other hand, cosmetics giant Loreal flaunts Photoshop in a commercial for a new line of products for men. In this ad, Photoshop is as much a character as the stuffy male who wants to make the perfect Facebook profile. Let’s just say he ends up looking somewhat different. (Not like that ever happens on Facebook.) From Design You Trust.


What’s it like to be a freelance illustrator? This is just one small slice of a cartoon that pretty much says it all.

The three designers who form Paper Bicycle Creative challenge themselves to create a new pattern every weekday. Better yet, they host a monthly pattern contest in which anyone can submit a pattern that will be judged by the designers and awarded a prize. Take a look at the site to see how inventive these patterns are—and then make one yourself! Figuring out the repeat would be daunting for me, much less coming up with a fun concept. Thanks to Pikaland for pointing this out.

Anyone remember the Mexico 1968 Olympics? Even if you don’t you’ll have fun creating a poster (or whatever) that uses geometric lines as a design element, a la the Olympic brand from that year. You start the project in Illustrator, then finish it in Photoshop. From Spoon Graphics.

Here’s a quick tip from BittBox for aligning to a key anchor in Illustrator.

If you caught the TV series Portlandia, then you’ll understand the phrase “Put a bird on it.” Well, here are 36 logos, each of which has a bird in it.

Creative Business

We know that color has a powerful impact as to how a design or product is received. But do you know why the color purple is used in beauty and anti-aging products? This infographic has the facts and figures to explain <how colors affect purchases.

My Life Scoop features tips and tools for freelancers who need to be efficient and connected, whether working from home or from a coffeehouse. In this installment, Kate Pruitt reveals her 15 favorite tech tools for working on the go and for managing and tracking time, which, we all know, is money. Via Design Sponge.

Everyone has a preferred set of utilities, apps, and other tools that help you work more efficiently. This list of 10 essential tools for graphic designers has a few I hadn’t considered.

On newsstands now is Fast Company‘s October issue that’s devoted to design in America. Titled “The United States of Design,” it looks at the people, products, and companies that are shaping design both at home and abroad. The website has an interactive chart of 50 most influential designers in America.

Fast Company has also created two iPad apps: a free app that showcases 76 American products and a $4.99 app that features the 100 most creative people in business, with dynamic content not found in the print magazine.

One of those 50 most influential designers listed in Fast Company is Stefan Sagmeister, who work is shown on a Design You Trust post called (Sag)meister of typography.

What’s in a name? When it comes to naming your business, quite a lot, and that’s especially true for designers whose company names should imply creativity. There are many company names that are impossibly clever or seemingly nonsensical, and yet these businesses thrive (Modern Dog, anyone?). But there are just as many if not more that fall flat and confuse potential clients. You The Designer offers suggestions for naming your business to attract customers.

The pending holidays are a great time to market your photography business. Going Pro suggests creating a holiday card that features one of your best shots and send it with your best wishes. The site has advice about making the best of this seasonal opportunity.

You’ve seen what the life of an illustrator looks like, now take a gander at a day in the life of a graphic designer. This is just one small part of the entire image. Via How Design.

I’m itching to get my hands on Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite so I can get cracking on publishing for the iPad. But DPS pricing is practical only for big publishing companies. So I was excited to see the post on InDesign Secrets entitled “Digital Publishing Suite Ideas for the ‘Little Guy'” in which Bob Levine tells you how to start experimenting without forking over $6K a year.

Lateral Action proposes a thought-provoking question: Is there a template for creativity? We think that creativity is a freeform, loosey-goosey thing that can’t really be defined, much less conform to a template. But is that really true?

Fear—of failure, success, or lack of inspiration—can overwhelm even the most experienced and stalwart designer. But fear is part of the creative process, say artists and psychologists. Instead of fearing it, harness it and turn fear into an asset. The Atlantic has a resource guide to books about fear and the creative process by such folks as Twyla Tharp and Rollo May.

It’s easy to look back to the past to see which designs have withstood the test of time, but it’s more difficult to predict which current designs will be considered classics in the future. A discussion thread on Core 77 tackles the subject “what will be design classics in the future”. Get online and submit your own nominees.

Perhaps the epitome of classic design is a black cube. According to the website The Black Cube, “Its versatility is endless – the word ‘omnifunctional’ would have to be invented to best describe its usefulness that is boldly asking you to just start dreaming and then turn this thing into whatever you might desire it to be.” A group of anonymous artists and a few students at Köln International School of Design sent a black cube to eight designers and academics and asked them to air their thoughts about what makes the black cube so compelling. See three interviews—Dieter Rams, Ruedi Bauer, and Stefan Sagmeister—on Fast Company Design.

I’m in love with this website discovered through a Flavorwire post. Facsimile Dust Jackets is an archive of 8,000 or so book jackets collected by Mark Terry who believes that “dust jackets are an important part of our heritage.” While you can look lovingly at pictures on the website, you can also buy prints of scanned jackets, most of them created during an era of exciting book design. Makes me wistful for many reasons.

Riffing on the text placeholder Lorem Ipsum continues. First there was Lorem Pixum that generates placeholder images for your projects. Now there’s
Hipster Ipsum, an updated version that fills your layout with trendy jargon. Your options are “Hipster, w/a shot of Latin” or “Hipster, neat.” You’ll get such text as “Quinoa next level ut gluten-free aesthetic.” To that I say, “Put a bird on it.”


Posted on: September 21, 2011

Pamela Pfiffner

Previously editor in chief of, Pamela Pfiffner developed content and information tools for the site. A Mac user since 1984 and desktop publisher since 1985, Pfiffner has been editor in chief of several publications, including MacUser and Publish magazines. She has a BA from Northwestern University and a Masters of Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she also taught classes in print publishing and Web design. Currently, Pamela is a writer, editor, and jack-of all-publishing trades in Portland, Oregon.

3 Comments on Best of the Blogs: September 21, 2011

  1. Really sorry, but I do have to make a comment on how and why you could choose an upgraded camera. 1. Canikon are NOT the only camera manufacturers out in the big world. They merely have the biggest most aggressive marketing divisions. 2. There are much ‘better’ choices than your recommendations. AND choosing a new camera is in fact a VERY cerebral process. 3. Please do your homework, properly. If you were one of my students, you have just been sent back to rewrite your assignment and to show clearly how and what you researched. You have not given a full list of criteria. 4. The information is all out there do not simply believe the Canikon marketing hype. You may be amazed at what you find !

  2. I’ve never used a camera with a brand that you used. But from the description and the picture you uploaded on this page, this camera seems to have quite a lot of advantages and can be snapped-moving objects without any shadow effect. architecture service

  3. Love the play with the light and shadows with the cowboy picture, it just made the picture pop!. It takes a real talent and tons of patience to do that. I can only do a little of that with my <a href=””>Adobe</a> software, but I would love to learn more.

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