For many (most?) people, 2016 hasn’t been the best year. We’ve lost icons, grown busier by the minute, and endured one heck of a rollercoaster ride over here in the good ol’ US of A. But I contend there was plenty of good stuff, too. I felt there was more sharing and collaboration amongst designers, and fellow creatives are doing amazing things that I could ever have dreamed of. Below are just a few of my favorite things I enjoyed learning about and interacting with in 2016.
Make Those Memes
What it is: Part of the larger Adobe Spark family, Spark Post is a great—and FREE—tool for creating social media graphics and quippy memes. From Facebook, to Instagram, to blog post headers, Post makes it easy to create those graphically-rich images adorned with pithy quotables. As a designer, you might think you don’t need such a tool, but trust me, try it and you just might become addicted.
Why I like it: If you have a Creative Cloud account, you can access your stored assets and incorporate them into your Post creations. Not to worry if you’re not a CC subscriber, as the app—as well as the web version—has access to a large stable of royalty-free images. Switching from an Instagram layout to the perfect Twitter profile banner is as easy as picking the new size, then watching the layout magically transform. The latest version adds in the ability to use cutout text. But my favorite feature is the “Spinning Wheel of Incredibility,” (oddly, not Adobe’s official name): a virtual wheel that cycles through various layout options instantly.
A Font of One’s Own
What it is: Create a custom font from your own handwriting with the Fontself add-on for Photoshop or Illustrator. If you don’t want to use your handwriting, you can create your font using symbols or custom vector designs created in either program.
Why I like it: For alphabets, mapping the letters is a wholesale drag and drop operation. Select the consecutive letters and drag into the Fontself window. The final product is an OpenType font of your own creation. The current Photoshop version—with the feature still-to-come in Illustrator—allows you to create fonts with color and shading information. The list of planned improvements include adjustments to kerning values, alternates, and ligatures.
A Better Storytime
What it is: With only a few days of the Kickstarter clock run down, the Moonlight fundraiser has already reached over 500% of the original goal. A childhood dream come true, it’s basically a Viewmaster for the iPhone!
Why I like it: It adds a visual—but not visually-distracting—element to bedtime storytime by projecting images using the iPhone’s flashlight. Images can be shown on a nearby wall or the ceiling, perfect for reading in bed before lights out. Turning the image wheel clipped on the phone advances the story pages for you (or your child) to read aloud. There are even a few sound effects to add to the storytime experience.
Script Those Preferences
What it is: Keith Gilbert has once again gifted us with a useful InDesign script. The Setup script sets the preferences of your newest version of InDesign to the desired settings. Even using InDesign’s built-in migration tools, not all preferences make the trip and I often spend the first couple of days on a new version trying to put my working environment back in order.
Why I like it: The script is entirely editable to suit your preference and Keith has even added comments within the script to guide us while making changes. Each of the preference settings is helpfully listed by location within the application and includes those found in Preferences, those under the View menu, and even those found scattered about the different panel menus.
Color of the Year
What it is: Pantone is a well-known name when you live with a designer, but that name is becoming more of the household variety thanks to their highly-anticipated Color of the Year announcements. This year, they’ve chosen Greenery, know professionally as PANTONE 15-0343, a bright yellow-green.
Why I like it: Pantone says the color evokes the outdoors and the hope that springtime brings. What strikes me most of this year’s selection is the vibrancy of the hue and the happy, hopeful feelings it elicits. The “hope for the future” feeling Pantone had in mind hasn’t kept some from comparing it to the radioactive green of Homer Simpson’s wayward nuclear isotope.
Export Images to Size
What it is: A recent InDesign Secrets Tip of the Week changed my workflow for creating online images (like the ones you see with this article). Mike Rankin explained how to directly export images or selections from InDesign to the desired size. Warning: it involves math!
Why I like it: When working in inches, it’s merely a matter of dividing the desired image size by the current size of the selection or page in the Resolution value box in the Export dialing box. If you’re working in pixels, do the same but add the expression *72 to the end of the equation. Is there anything more beautiful than having InDesign do the math for you?
Mobile Font Detector
What it is: I heard it called “Shazam for Fonts,” and I knew I needed one. The nifty Spector device identifies fonts—as well as colors—from real world samples, whether they be printed or physical objects. Or at least it will if and when it ever moves past the prototype stage.
Why I like it: Spector stores up to 20 samples on the device itself for those times when you’re not sitting at your computer. The integrated camera takes a picture, noting color values in CMYK and RGB or analyzing letter shapes to compare with its online database. When near a computer, the plug-in component can send that information directly and instantly to InDesign, and can even stylize selected text automatically.
Export Illustrator Assets
What it is: This feature snuck by me in this update from mid-2016. The Asset Export feature makes it easy to send only selected assets, or individual artboards, out for export, in a variety of file formats.
Why I like it: Being able to export individual assets from a document saves us from having to create yet one more Illustrator file to keep track of. Using the Export for Screens function, simply select individual artboards to export. Exporting individual assets requires placing those items into the Asset Export panel, then exporting. The best part of that panel is that if the original asset gets updated, the item in the panel does as well, meaning you always have the most current version ready to export.
A Font Family for Everyone
What it is: Noto from Monotype—and commissioned and aided by Google—is a mega font family, containing individual typefaces for every language. Well, “every” might be a stretch, but it does encompass both western left-to-right languages as well as their right-to-left counterparts from the east.
Why I like it: Noto provides options for consistency among letterforms, regardless of language displayed. The type family—which can be downloaded as separate font files—is governed by the collaborative Open Font License. Fun fact: Noto is short-hand for No Tofu….tofu being the little mystery squares when a character can’t be displayed in the chosen typeface.
Adobe’s MAX-ed Out Creativity Conference
What it is: Adobe MAX is the granddaddy of them all when it comes to Adobe-centric everything. This was my first time attending and I was enamored, enthused, enveloped, and more “e” words by the overwhelming resources that existed in one place at the same time. The multi-day conference crams in shorter sessions, networking, product showcases, hands-on workshops, and keynote speakers of the highest profile.
Why I like it: The chance to learn from some of the best Adobe minds around in a classroom with 100 of your closest designer friends is probably the best personal enrichment aspect of the mega-event. Hearing from creatives such as Zac Posen, Lynsey Addario, and the likes of Quentin Tarantino filled me—and the 11,000 others in the main hall—with inspiration and new perspectives on the creative process. But, like many in-person events, the one-on-one opportunities with other creatives and potential clients over a shared meal is the number one greatest plus for attending a show like Adobe MAX.