After an article in DBW, Mike Shatzkin has explained things the most thoroughly. I’m excited. How about you?
July 26, 2012
I haven’t used this wordpress.com blog since 2008 when I started publishing full-time. I’m posting five times a week, minimum, in the two new blogs.
October 23, 2008
It’s been a busy 2 years since my last posting on this blog. Sorry ’bout that. A lot has changed for me.
Now I teach Web design, HTML, & CSS as much as I teach typography, & page layout.
It’s been interesting. since my last posting, GoLive has died. I miss it, but GL9 was really buggy even though it was the best attempt yet at Web page layout for graphic designers.
Dreamweaver is still focused far too much on developers at the expense of designers.
However, I have fully made the conversion to CSS and though I still hate coding, I have gotten used to it.
The main thing about CSS is still the area never taught from knowledge
CSS is the only way to add typographic control to a Website
However, there is really almost no teaching about Web typography and readability. Remember, typography is about presenting your content so it is effortlessly accessible. It is all about line length, line spacing, indents, padding, and the rest.
It is not about pretty fonts.
Here are some of the articles I have written recently about Web typography on my typography blog.
I’ll try to add some more on my new teaching efforts in a few days. Most of my posting is on the typography site though.
August 25, 2006
Having spent the past 15 years training pros and teaching newcomers, I’ve noticed something very strange — consistently strange.
The vast majority of the current training materials available are virtually useless. They are designed to sell software and make software companies happy. They rarely have the needs of the student/trainee or the eventual client/customer in mind. Worse, these useless materials are required by publishers “to sell books”.
“You can’t sell the steak, you need to market the sizzle.” I’d hate to count how many times I have heard that or something similar. That attitude is producing a group of graphic designers who are causing untold problems in output.
Many printing companies, sign shops, billboard companies, and so on are going broke trying to fix the bad files. Many clients are going broke paying for unnecessary printing expenses and unreadable Websites with horrible navigation and very slow download times. The list goes on & on.
What does the student need?
Practical information about the tasks they will be doing hour by hour and day by day. let me ask you some questions:
- Why do I want a book focused on the RGB/CMYK separation issues for full-color work when over 80% of my projects are spot color or black and white?
- Why do I want tips and tricks about fancy filters when my clients always bounce the results because they “distort the photos”?
- Why do InDesign, Quark, and PageMaker books almost never have any page layout training?
- Why do the Photoshop books never tell you that a halftone is worth maybe $10 and a separation is worth maybe $25?
- Why do Illustrator and FreeHand books spend all their time on fancy effects and special filters and never talk about the issues raised with the need to expand everything, make sure the raster effects are 300 dpi or better, make sure the transparency flattening is set up for [High resolution] or better?
- Why do Illustrator books never deal with the clutter of frames and extraneous boxes with masks that must be eliminated before things will print correctly?
- Why does no one talk about spot color?
- Why does no one talk about stochastic and the new hi-fi solutions to the spot color problem?
- Why does no one talk about bad PDFs and how to avoid them?
Yes, I realize that there are specialty books that cover many of these issues. I’ve written quite a few myself — and I am in the process of writing many more. But, most designers never see them. They need these issues covered in their classes and in their software training books.
August 17, 2006
It is an analysis of how monitors and the readability issues they cause might be changing both the quantity and quality of our communication. Johnathan seems to have come to many of the same conclusions I have.
We are overwhelmed by short, terse information with little depth. There is so much of it that our fundamental learning process has changed. I used to recommend speed reading to all my students, but it has gone far beyond that. Now we have developed fast scanning with bookmarks.
It has changed our writing style for sure. Our TV ads are now commonly image-rich and word-poor. Magazines have less and less content about more and more topics. Newspapers rarely have in depth articles any more.
It seems obvious to me that the leadership of our country is made up almost entirely of readers. It may be true that top CEOs are living on “executive summaries” — but middle management and consultants are making a living by reading and summarizing. So what is this new writing style doing but catering to an increasingly illiterate lower-class.
Oh my gawd, I was politically incorrect. There’s no such thing as a lower class. Hogwash!
There always has been a huge group of people (the majority) who are told what to do by the leadership. Why do you think political races are now waged in TV spots and pod-casts?
The way we communicate has not changed. What has changed is the way the leadership manipulates the undereducated, illiterate, intellectually lazy majority.
How does that affect us as designers?
The tools we have to produce our documents are still governed by the same readability issues. In fact, those general principles may have become more important. Those that read are increasingly overwhelmed by data and reading materials. We need to help our readers as they try to cull out the junk by making our designs clear and concise — accurately telling the reader what our content is and why it is important.
August 14, 2006
I just spent a week learning CSS.
Was it fun? NO.
Was it enlightening? Maybe.
Will it be useful? Yes.
Is it necessary? Regrettably, yes.
In my work with the GoLive team, I am constantly getting beat up by the professional Web designers because I do not like what we have to go through to get pages laid out on the Web. I’m told that CSS is the salvation of the Web and that it is better than white-sliced-bread. Maybe it is but it’s NOT nearly as good as a real page layout program like InDesign (or even Quark).
CSS does give us some control of the very limited possibilities of Web page content. But those capabilities remain as limited as ever. CSS does not give us better font choices. It does give us more typographic controls — at a price. That price is an extremely long setup time. GoLive CS2 does better than anything I’ve seen.
GoLive is probably the best solution for people like myself at this point. The best review I have seen about the basic capabilities is this one from Newspapers & Technology. The application has made a real effort at enabling page layout specialists, like myself, easier access to the capabilities of CSS. My hope is that they will continue in this direction.
I figured I better download a copy of Dreamweaver 8 and check it out. So I did.
Suspicions are confirmed. Dreamweaver writes the code nicely. In fact, it writes everything into CSS. But there is not a graphical CSS editing dialog box like GoLive has. It is extremely clumsy to set up a large, comprehensive set of styles in Dreamweaver. New rules are added one at a time. There is no sense of generating an overall CSS plan and structure that can be used throughout a site. I understand that it is there (I assume) but it is certainly not easy or intuitive to find it or access it.
Of course, for both apps — it is assumed that you are a CSS guru and completely understand all the stuff you are using. GoLive does quite a bit better here though. As I went through the countless (very boring) CSS tutorials last week I did find that I knew quite a bit more than I thought I did — and that I had learned it simply by playing with the CSS editor in GoLive CS2.
THINK SECRET has posted this article:
IF this is all true, it sounds like GoLive might be doing what I have hoped for for a long time.
For professional designer for print, CSS really needs some help to be handy for us.
As I’m sure you know, most of Web design is now coding and database management. However, we can do a lot with easy access to CSS. One of the larger problems with Websites today is produced when sites are designed by the programmers. We really need to be able to help them visually with page layout and structural setup. To do that we need to be able to fluently build pages that fit into that new structure.
A well set up set of CSS styles can go a long way toward making that structure easy to read, easy to access and consistent throughout the site. Designers need to be putting these styles together. Currently, this is barely possible with a program like GL CS2. It is almost impossible with Dreamweaver.
So my hope is that GL CS3 will meet this challenge head on and give us tools to design Websites using CSS. My hope would be for paragraph, character and object styles applied by shortcut — as in InDesign.
Personally, I’ve been waiting for that for many years now — maybe its time has come.
August 8, 2006
I ran across this article today. I do not doubt that it is:
- Great fun
- A good source of information
- A wonderful networking opportunity
- A modern version of the “good ol’ boys club”
The problems are many, of course.
- How do you get the time off from your boss?
- How do you find out about it?
- Entirely dependent on the knowledge and passion of the participants
- Lack of structure can lack depth and development
- Lack of planning can cause serious overlapping session problems
Looks like the result of the general spirit of lawlessness.
Who ever decided that random access is good? Anarchy breeds chaos — no matter how much fun it might be getting there.
July 31, 2006
One of the major things going on in printing, in general, is the pressure to fully automate the job process to eliminate any adjustments made by human hands — as much as possible. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have the pressures from the Web, pressures from text messaging, customers who cannot read, and much more. On the other side, printing is now being controlled by the designers. This is a radical change that has been made possible by the digital revolution. Until very recently printing was controlled by the printing companies. Now print has become a commodity where a designer can go to a huge variety of printing companies with virtually identical capabilities.
All of this will be causing many changes to the way we design and set type over the next decade. I want to talk about some of them now. This is not a comprehensive list — just food for thought.
Elimination of spot color
I’m not saying this is good or bad. It is just going to happen to us, like it or not. I posted a note on my commercial blog last week on the new system by Kodak that they call spotless. There is tremendous pressure for printing companies to come up with a process color system that will match spot color. It is getting too expensive to print spot any more.
Here’s a quote from the Kodak site:
“Spot colors have also been expensive to reproduce, so creative freedom and marketing flexibility have been reduced, said Arjen van der Meulen, Product Manager, Color and Press Services, Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group. “Not anymore. The SPOTLESS printing solution replaces the downsides of spot colors with manufacturing efficiency. No more costly inks, long makereadies, time consuming ink changes and wash ups, or multiple passes to add spot colors.”
This is a radical change from even five years ago. Back then, the thought was spot color is cheaper because you need fewer plates, fewer washups, and so on.
Elimination of human hands
We’ve been heading this way for a long time. There was just no way to implement it. Printing companies for years have been eliminating art departments to try and force the responsibility for artwork back onto the designer. Design software has been enabling designers to take more and more control of the workflow. The two are merging to a place where Designers do everything in front of the actual plate. The goal of printing companies is the receipt of PDFs that can be printed without alteration.
We’re getting very close to that. I was in a meeting the other month where a company offered to set up a Website for us where the designer would open the document they wanted printed. Then they would simply print the file, choosing a printer driver named after our company, this would make the PDF according to our specs (refusing to make the PDF if it was not up to specs), and open the PDF for the designer to proof on the screen or on their calibrated printer. If it is OK, the designer them fills out the job ticket, checks the box “print without changes”, and get a discount on the printing bill. If it actually prints OK, we would be tickled to give them a portion of our savings in the form of a discount. We’re working on it.
One of our largest costs, at this point, is prepress labor. Wages are low, but there is a lot of this work being done. We get 1300 orders a day and we keep 60 full-time graphic artists busy just preflighting and fixing files. However, the customer will not bear actual charges for work done — so it actually costs us money to fix their files. Our major hope for profitability is the elimination of this unpaid labor. If you think you’d pay for it, let me give you this example. Choosing the wrong spot color means we have to change the color to one we support. This takes about ten minutes to open the files make the changes, and save the file in a format out plate room can accept. Even at $60 per hour, this is only $6. But our actual costs are closer to $240 per hour, so that would be $24. would you actually pay $24 to simply swap one spot color for another?
Opentype Pro and InDesign are changing the definition of excellent typography
I’m convinced we will see many changes here. OpenType Pro has so many features that changes things. InDesign has many more. Let me just do a short list of changes that are probably coming sooner than you think:
- Justified copy becomes the quality choice. Only the poor capabilities of Quark and PageMaker forced us to believe that flush left type is easier to read and of better quality. That is simply no longer true.
- Run-in heads: Inline subheads like this will replace all the subheads levels lower than subhead one. they are easier to read, make more sense intellectually and visually, and they do not take nearly as much room.
- Ligatures, swashes, and alternative letterforms will become commonplace. Scripts will continue to look and read more like handwriting. This look is automated in some of the better OpenType Pro scripts already.
- Optical margin alignment: Optical margin alignment compares to hanging punctuation like a firecracker compares to a grenade. The crispness of optically aligned margins will be seen as the quality choice.
- The new tables give us page layout options that make lists like this look archaic.
- Cap, oldstyle, and small cap figures let numbers actually be part of the copy without jumping out at you. It will become a typo to use the wrong case numbers.
- Proportionally reduced small caps will be seen as a typo.
- Leader control (size, color, and font) will change tab leaders and make them much more usable.
- Glyph palettes will make bulleted lists a thing of the past. Excellent type will require appropriate dingbats used for bullets.
I could go on for quite a while, but you get the idea.
The elimination of letterpress: foil, embossing, die-cutting, and so on
This has already happened to a great degree. This trend will increase though. First of all, the new digital designers are not even aware these choices exist. Second, They are all so labor-intensive that prices will go through the roof. Third, these techniques do not work well with toner-based printing — and most printing will be done with toner. Letterpress work will become more and more a smaller and smaller niche used by few. That’s a real shame.
Page layout skills will become more necessary
As more and more work is being produced by untrained people using Office, the quality difference of well-trained page layout specialists should become more obvious (and desirable). But that may certainly be a hope on my part.
Times, Helvetica, and Arial will be increasingly relegated to the bureaucratic
This is already happening of course. But I expect this to increase to the point where anything that looks remotely like these defaults will be tainted. There are really negative things attached to the use of these fonts now — a big brother grows in strength, the feelings will be more negative unless the large bureaucracies bail on the default fonts.
Personalization will become commonplace?
Name insertion: I doubt it except online and wireless. Most readers tend to find this a little scary in print. Even if it is not scary, it’s always a blatant grab for money and nearly always seen as insincere. Do designers really think anyone will actually believe that companies using personalization will make a connection with the customer that isn’t there already?
Variable data: Things like custom catalogs and brochures will clearly become more common. The more targeted you can make things like this the more printing costs are saved and the more sales are received.
On-demand printing with very short runs
Documents stored digitally and printed as needed will become the norm. Downloadable PDFs printed by the reader will also become much more common. Quite often the print run will be one copy.