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Swimming against the tide?

I’ve been a long time fan of Adobe’s Creative Suite, from way back when they started binding together their various apps to slay the mighty Quark Xpress.

I’m a CS5 user myself and, despite the frequent criticisms of growing bloatware, the CS Suite is an awesome and comprehensive set of tools, in fact it covers pretty much everything a graphic designer needs. But the accelerating development path (and more particularly the expense involved) of the recent CS Suite upgrades has raised a few heckles in the Creative Industries. It’s understandable that a company of Adobe’s scale needs a certain degree of profit to sustain their considerable momentum and also that they clearly wish to be seen as catering for the ‘Pro’ market, but the entire concept of software ‘Apps’ is currently undergoing serious re-evaluation as the platforms, marketing practices and the Apps themselves continue to evolve.

There’s an increasing number of alternatives cropping up to seriously challenge Adobe’s products and, while Adobe always had competition, the nature of their competitors has changed significantly. As the Mac OS has gained in popularity (including an overlap with the booming iOS world) developer resources have grown to reflect this. The big guns of the software market have always had competition from talented independent developers, but now those independents have access to a very mature programming ecosystem - and online marketplaces on a scale that they could never have dreamed of just a few years ago.

Granted these competitors are usually stand-alone applications and no-one is producing the convenient all-in-one toolbox that Adobe offers. However, a set of well designed single-focus applications, operating to industry standard file types, can achieve similar results and often with only a little more inconvenience. But by far the most compelling reason to try any of these competing apps is that they’re only a fraction of the cost of the Adobe products, so even if you have to buy three or four apps it’s still a huge saving over the cost of the complete Adobe Suite.

In the Creative Industries, as with many others, the trend driven by ever-improving digital toolsets has been towards a low (and decreasing) cost of entry for new talent. This has helped reveal some amazing new talent in Music, Design, Video and the Arts in general. But Adobe’s pricing policies for their Creative Suite appears to go against this low-cost trend, most noticeably with the new services and extensions to their existing CS Suite, intended to encourage content development for iPad/tablet publishing.

Currently the potential of the iPad as a publishing platform is generating a lot of excitement, with some very interesting start-ups making their intentions known. For example, this post (from the Adorama blog) on the impressive work from Pushpoppress, initially for Al Gore’s ‘Our Choice’ iPad book:


A team of ex-Apple engineers have created a specialized book publishing service for iPad. Originally created for a one-off multimedia version of Al Gore’s environmental opus, Our Choice, Push Pop Press has emerged into a full-fledged development platform, which promises to bring drag-and-drop simplicity to the process of creating multimedia books. It’s an obvious competitor to Adobe’s suite of digital publishing tools for iOS, which have a prohibitive price barrier and learning curve, suited more for developers than artists and writers. Now you don’t need an engineering degree to design an attractive user experience.

Of course it has yet to be seen if they will eventually sell this software to the public - and if it really will be as easy as it appears to produce such specialised content. But, like a few others, they see the opportunity for a lightweight dedeicated authoring App and I believe their approach to this is definitely on the right track.

And this from Wired Magazine:


The 800-pound gorilla in this digital space is Adobe, whose tools are used to create some tablet periodicals (including the iPad version of WIRED magazine). But the complexity — and expense — of Adobe’s Creative Suite is an opportunity for new entrants in the self-publishing game.

Sadly I think it is very unlikely that Adobe will attempt to make their pricing more competitive, as they still appear focussed more on the established (and presumably better monied) Pro market rather than those struggling to become the next generation of that market.

So what do you think?

Are you an established Pro who can easily afford the latest and greatest from Adobe and could care less about their costs?

Or are you a design graduate trying to balance your need for quality software tools with your bank account?

Art & Copy at the Art & College

I've been looking forward to this movie for a while and finally got to see it last night at the NUU Art College in Belfast. The theatre in the College is a nice modern facility, but unfortunately they were attempting to show the movie DVD from a laptop. As a result we had a few crash-induced intervals throughout the screening, although to be fair there these problems did appear to be with the supplied disc itself. 

Technical issues apart though I really enjoyed the movie and, although there were many truly larger than life Ad legends interviewed, the movie's measured delivery made a good job of setting the context of those personalities against the environments that created and inspired them. In fact it reminded me of the Helvetica movie - which was excellent.

The creative luminaries interviewed in the movie are a who's who of Advertising legends: George Lois, Mary Wells, Hal Riney, Lee Clow, Dan Wieden and David Kennedy - to name but few.

George Lois was definitely one of the most entertaining, not so much 'in your face' as through your face and out the back of your head!

It was terrific to see that the passion and drive of these creative tribe 'elders' remains undiminished, despite their long years of service in the most high stakes and high-pressure of Advertising Agencies. The creatives interviewed in this movie are the real deal 'Mad Men' and 'Mad Women' responsible for some of the best and most memorable campaigns ever seen. It is entirely believable that they're said to have influenced 20th Century thinking and popular culture more than any president, government or movement has.

Amongst the many highlights of this movie were the shocking origin of the famous Nike 'Just Do It' strapline, the almost dumped classic 'Got Milk' slogan (a familiar theme in Advertising war stories, 'Vorsprung durch Technik' was almost dropped by Audi too) and the creation of the amazing Apple '1984' Superbowl ad.

I particularly loved one of the quotes from Mary Wells when credited with 'inventing' an astonishing new look for one of her high-profile clients (I think it was the Braniff Airlines campaign) her reply was that she did not invent it, rather she discovered it and showed it to the client. Mary's summary of what makes a great Advertising talent is that they're 'born with a gift for sensing what will turn you on.' Art & Copy certainly bears that out.

If you're involved in the creative business in any way I'd recommend seeing Art & Copy, in fact there's so much great work and inspiration in it that it's worth picking it up on DVD copy for occasional future reference.

Also: they had me at 'Art'.

So funny I could weep...

This has got to be the sharpest and funniest portrayal of worst-case scenarios in a creative/client relationship. Unfortunately, outrageous as it may seem, discussions like these are all too common in the creative business.