Thoughts on Open Source and UI / UX

Thoughts on Open Source and UI / UX

After an inspirational few days at the Software Freedom Day in Mumbai and Hamara conference in Pune, I got into some very interesting discussions with some incredible people, which truly changed my view on open source software. One such person was the inspiring Krishnakant Mane – an entrepreneur who has helped to develop many projects, runs his own GNUKhata, works at the Indian Institute for Technology, gives talks on objects around the world, and happens to be blind. You can watch his TEDx Talk here. So as a confessed ‘Mac Daddy’, I’d like to offer a bit on my background and my views on how we can contribute further to Hamara and open source projects to help grow the communities. Like a large percent of the population, I grew up using PCs from school, the model was that if you use a computer, the only option in schools is a PC running Windows. It wasn’t until leaving school and furthering my interest in graphic design, I discovered the iMac. Apple have been innovators in a lot of areas (though, they have stolen a lot of ideas too – Xerox are one of the main originators in question!), but one thing they really picked up on is packaging it for the average consumer. Typically in the early days, computers were created, owned and used by people who could build and develop them. The parts were sold separately and the user would build them themselves, tweaking and refining to suit their own purpose, often with just a bespoke wooden or plastic box to contain them. Steve Jobs had a passion for computers looking as aesthetically pleasing on the inside as they are on...
G is for Graphic Design

G is for Graphic Design

Main image – one of our projects for Jaguar Heritage – using the tail fin of the D-type to form the 60 to graphically link them. The art of layout and graphic design is as old as art itself – maybe even older. Daubs of paint or branches laid on the floor for way finding dates back thousands of years, and while techniques have changed, the basic premise is the same – to inform, visually. And these days a digital graphic design agency encompasses many things – brand, marketing, online, UI and UX, motion – all joined together with principles of layout, colour and text to convey a message. To design a poster you need to have a clear vision of what the message is, who it is aimed at and how you will compel the viewer to act on it, and the same can be said for any design medium, it is to generate an impulse – a ‘call to action’. It’s no good using an image of a fox to sell a car, unless the model is a Fox – context is one of the most important things to get right, but that said, sometimes something out of the ordinary is used to knock the target audience off-track, a technique in advertising called ‘relative abruption’. If you see a large red sign saying stop, you’ll likely act on it. Likely too, if you saw a huge orange sign saying ‘juice’ you might start feeling thirsty. Once the audience is drawn in on your headline and hero image, the next step is hierarchy. What do they need to...
F is for Fonts

F is for Fonts

Fonts, or to be more accurate, typefaces, are one of the key factors in a brand – and indeed for some brands they are so synonymous with it that the typeface alone can be enough to deliver a branded message. To be clear; a typeface is the look and feel of the characters themselves, and a font describes a group of such characters such as 12pt; or what weight they are, for example bold. Though to be honest, these days, the terms are interchangeable. The fact that ‘characters’ of a type’face’ are humanised by name, they do indeed embody just that. They convey emotion and expression, so it’s very important that we choose the right one when working on brand development to ensure it fits the ethos and character of the company. A funeral director business would look very strange set in Comic Sans for example – a cheap feeling, ‘friendly’ typeface which to be honest only really works well in an children’s book, yet it is the go-to typeface for many an office worker for their internal ‘please wash up your mugs’ signs. A serious, annoyed message written in a font that would be best describing what shades of the rainbow the unicorn is painted in to a 4 year old. In fact, there is such outrage over Comic Sans in the design industry, multiple websites and campaigns have sprung up to rid the world of the typeface! Whilst some brands invest a lot of money into instantly recognisable bespoke typefaces (Channel 4, The Guardian, Google) some choose a classic and run with it, to a point that it...
D is for Design

D is for Design

Design is everywhere. From the screen you’re looking at, to the seat you’re sitting in or the clothes you’re wearing. Threaded through life itself, design is used to inform, educate and excite. Whether it’s adding some life into an important document (why not use infographics on that boring report and bring some character into it?) or ensuring your product stands out amongst the others, it’s vital that good design is employed to ensure that not only does your audience notice it, they want to engage with it. From the typefaces we choose to the colour palette, everything we do as a designer has a reason – why the headline is at the top and the call to action is at the bottom; why that picture was chosen over the 1000s to choose from – we can rationalise every part of it. We have spent our lives exploring every facet of design, intrigued and inspired from everyday objects and classic album covers. Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. ― Steve Jobs Next time you initiate a project or look at a magazine – ask yourself why that typeface works with that brand, why that colour instills a sense of warmth / cold / happiness and what the words mean to you. Being a designer isn’t just making a layout look appealing – it’s joining every element of it together, forming one strong message. We’ll finish this article with the 10 design principles from one of the leading designers for the last century – Dieter Rams:   Good Design Is Innovative The possibilities for innovation are not, by any...
C is for Creative

C is for Creative

Combining and crafting ideas for effective communication All of us are creative – but how we apply it is different for every one of us. Some people approach maths problems with creative solutions – for others it is hearing the correct notes in a musical composition that makes it just right – and pushes boundaries. For graphic design, the creative process is paramount to the job – distilling and enhancing a brief, injecting some out-of-the-box thinking to the approach, crafting words both linguistically and aesthetically. Just as artworking a design piece requires linear thinking to ensure it is compliant, the initial creative thinking is the polar opposite. Challenging the brief, throwing away the rulebook and employing some ‘relative abruption’ – to deliver something engaging enough to stop someone in their tracks; divert them from the glow of their smartphone to a poster, or have the viewer humming the audio ident from your motion campaign. Great creative can make or break a campaign and define a strong brand, so it is important the correct time and research is employed to complete the job, as well as a flair for finesse to put the icing on the...
B is for Branding

B is for Branding

More than a logo Brand extremes – McDonald’s brand is so strong, you know it’s one of their ads by the colours and subject matter.   First, we must ask – what is a brand? According to Kevin Lane Keller: “A brand is a set of mental associations, held by the consumer, which add to the perceived value of a product or service” So this tells us it is not just a logo, a typeface, a colour scheme, the companies values – it is the sum of these parts that triggers the emotional response in the client/consumer/end user. Relevance of logo (would Firefox feature a cat?), choice of typeface (the ‘face’ and ‘character’ of the brand), colours that are sympathetic to the desired audience are all underpinned by the corporate identity guidelines, and shoed all be carefully considered to ensure they convey the right message. You wouldn’t (well, you certainly shouldn’t!) use Comic Sans to brand a 4×4 track company, just as you wouldn’t use Times New Roman as the typeface for a cool new kids drink. A brand book is used to suggest the language, tone of voice, typeface, colour palette, image style and graphic design layout guides with which to express the brand in a meaningful way, whilst still allowing creative freedom. We call this the ‘creative platform’ and using a combination of these (and not necessarily all of them) keeps brand communication strong and ensures the correct message is portrayed. Global brands such as Nike and Apple have such an established brand presence that the words ‘Nike’ and ‘Apple’ are rarely used. But you can tell by the rest of the communication...
A is for Artwork

A is for Artwork

The science behind the art The foundation of all design – either literally a ‘work of art’ or the process of ‘artworking’ a job, ready for completion to print / epublishing. This process checks for any rogue lo-res images, unexplained RGB, CMYK or Pantone colours, ensures bleed is set and checks against the print spec. Different settings are required whether the job is destined for a website, print or special colour separation work using Pantone inks or onto mixed media such as fabric or metal. It is somewhat of a lost art with design graduates, yet it is the foundation for a successful print or digital job. Just as a mechanic tightens the last bolts or a chef finalises presentation, it is an essential part of the design process, and an essential skill to possess. It’s also to do with the set up – to follow a recipe you need the right ingredients, and to blend and cook them in the right order to get the desired results – and graphic artwork is no different. Have you ever had an image sent to you with the colours inverted? Chances are it is set to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and ‘Key’ – black) which is for litho or digital printing, and you are viewing it in an RGB colorspace, which is intended for screen / online use. Similarly you may have found the bright green you saw on  screen ends up a muddy green in print – this is because CMYK and RGB colour spaces (or ‘gamuts’) cover different ranges. It is almost impossible to replicate some greens and oranges in print that...

The ABCs of creative graphics

It’s been a busy 6 months for DeType Ltd – lots of new clients, new projects and new experiences  – and we’re looking forward to more of the same in 2015. We’re also starting a blog series covering the creative process, using the 26 letters of the alphabet. This will give you an idea of what goes into a project from a full service graphic design agency’s point of view, and the journey we make to deliver your creative communication. We hope you enjoy reading them, and look forward to your feedback! Read the first part – A is for...