Friday Likes no 1

Hey friends! I’m going to start doing something called Friday Likes, where I share some new products, books, tools, videos, other illustrators, articles, etc that I’m digging.

ColorBox.io by Lyft

The talented team at Lyft developed a new tool to develop and implement color in their design system, with a focus on accessibility and ease of use. There’s a great write-up on their process and thinking behind the tool here. In addition to it being helpful with UI design, I’ve been playing around with ColorBox to create more intentional color palettes for illustration.

Webflow CSS Grid

CSS grid has a lot of potential, and Webflow makes it possible for designers who have neglected their CSS writing skills to build websites with responsive, beautiful grid layouts. I’m super excited to continue building and experimenting with this new tool.

Conversation with Paul Graham

I <3 startups. The energy, determination and talent needed to power a budding company is intoxicating. Paul Graham can succinctly doles out stories from the early days of the internet and packs in a lot of startup advice in an hour. It’s worth the watch.

Myro Deodorant

Is this TMI? Who cares, I love this product. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to reduce the plastic packaging I consume and cut out harmful, petroleum-based ingredients that come into contact with my body. Most natural deodorants I’ve tried come in conventional plastic packaging, irritate my skin after shaving… if they even work at all. Myro has a lovely and unique design that features a reusable base and deodorant refills are shipped to you on a recurring schedule. The scent I ordered (big dipper) is subtle and doesn’t smell like you just came from the commune to shop at the food Co-op. The texture is smoother than most natural deodorants, if not a little on the creamy side, however I have noticed that it dries quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy residue.

Beyond Burgers

Beyond Burgers has been around for a while, but they recently started stocking them at my local H-E-B. You won’t mistake them for real beef, but they have a great taste and texture their own right— plus they’re good for the environment.

How to Be a Good Creature

My husband got me this book for our anniversary and I devoured it on a rainy Sunday afternoon. If you’re an animal lover like me, this a delightful way to spend a few hours.

Ethics & Design

I love the show ‘The Good Place’. Besides being hilarious, I love that it packages lessons of morality and ethics with an amazing cast and great writing.

If there’s any bright side to the screaming hell-scape that is our darkest timeline, is that our society has been forced to reckon with ethics and technology. The results of this reckoning are slowly filtering down from thought leaders & the decision makers to designers. Apple’s addition to Screen Time to settings is a great evolution for Time Well Spent. I stumbled upon this seminar and think it’s a good reminder for any designer, especially one who works in the technology space.

I went to school for advertising, and one of the classes that was a part of our curriculum was Law and Ethics for Advertising and PR. We covered not just the law pertaining to advertising, but also had a background in basic ethics philosophy. I rarely see values and ethics discussed as a part of the design process or even education, and there are few options to blow the whistle when designers have ethical issues with what they’re working on. I see a rise of awareness about design ethics like how disability advocates have pushed for designing for accessibility. While ethics is harder to pin down than text size and contrast, designers can start by incorporating questions of intent and morality into our brainstorming and creative process. How do we encourage conscientious design, even when they misalign with a corporation’s profit incentives?

I don’t have the answers, but I feel like as long as we continue to ask questions, we will be moving in the right direction.

InDesign

I find myself working on a lot more print projects these days, and while it's been a bit of an adjustment, I've loved getting back into some of the nitty-gritty InDesign features. I think, out of all the Adobe programs, InDesign is the nerdiest. Why?

  1. It requires a lot of technical knowledge, between GREP, how to create indexes, staying organized with styles.

  2. InDesign, as desktop publishing software is almost entirely built to serve print. With InDesign, I've designed books, ebooks, my college newspaper, white papers, resumes, business cards, conference programs. I feel like print is inherently nerdier than AfterEffects or Photoshop, as print is designed primarily to convey information rather than illustration, style etc.

Data Merge = Awesome

Anyway, the coolest, nerdiest thing I have learned about InDesign lately is the Data Merge. Basically, any time you need to place similarly laid out content, you can create a template and then use an excel sheet (technically, a CSV) to automate placement, and for multiple instances per page or just one per page. It even has the ability to place images if you’re meticulous about your naming conventions. Great for business cards, catalogues, conference programs

I used this tutorial, but I here’s a few more pro tips for anyone who uses this:

  1. If your content has commas, make sure to save your excel file as a tab separated values and that it’s a TSV

    If you made the mistake I did and import it as a CSV, every time there’s a comma in the description, the content after it will be bumped to the next text instance, and you’ll have the part of your description after the comma in the place of the title, for example.

  2. When you create your template, it can only be one page long.

    InDesign will default new documents to multiple pages, but if you don’t delete all but one page there will be some problems creating a merged document.

  3. There are going to be weird ASCII characters sometimes?

    You are supposed to be able to pick between Unicode and ASCII, but for some reason when you choose a TSV you can only use ASCII. This means that some special characters like an emdash or an upside down exclamation point will show up as 4 characters of gibberish, almost always starting with an “Ä”.

Creative Respite from Social Media

In the past couple of years, a new subject of podcasts, studies, blog posts and OpEd pages emerged: the growing problem of social media addition and how it affects the attention and happiness of its users.  

But before social media omnipresence in our pockets, I was addicted to sharing my work, getting "likes" and striving for fleeting internet fame. Neopets and DeviantArt had me hooked, and while I enjoyed making art I was ultimately striving for that external affirmation. These sites were super nerdy and small, but they were a "gateway drug"—and made it so much easier to jump ship and share on more common platforms like Facebook and Instagram when they came in vogue.

At some point, I realized both crafting the perfect post and being away from my phone or computer for too long gave me anxiety The intensely political atmosphere in 2016 amplified my existential angst about social media, worrying that I was simultaneously too political and not political enough. When I read those articles about how to ease a phone obsession, I took the advice.  It's hard to give it up, but it's even harder for people in creative professions or entrepreneurial ventures.  I justified my addiction because we have a business attached to how well our feeds do. 

For me, my approach to social media feels like dieting rather than quitting smoking or drinking. You have to eat to live, but you make healthier choices that make a lifestyle and enjoy guilty pleasures in moderation. I have gone through periods of strict abstinence and also binged on scrolling endlessly through photos of perfectly curated feeds. 

There are times I feel intense nostalgia for the way the web worked in 2003-2011. I miss the explosion of DIY and Design blogs by plucky individuals, reaching the end of a webpage, Flickr before Yahoo, and everything before "algorithms" locked us into who we are rather than who we could or want to be.  As I get older, suspect that this nostalgia is merely the universal yearning for a more innocent time in one's life. But others seem to think along similar lines. The social media landscape demands constant vigilance—both in producing a never-ending stream of "content" and engagement to stay on top of a continually evolving algorithm. It's exhausting, and I don't even do that great of a job at maintaining my own social media presence. 

Instead of broadcasting my complains onto the objects of my ire, I figured I'd begin by tending to my own corner of the internet, and produce the type of content that I wish to see in the world.  I want to make more things and keep them away from bottomless feeds before I feel like I have a healthy relationship with social media again. But... even then, I have not been pleased with recent ethical and moral lapses by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Is the attention/promotion I get justify rewarding these companies with my creative work and attention?  

 

Here's what I'm doing to try to reestablish a healthy relationship with devices, social media, and passive consumption.

  • Using Moment on my iPhone to track how much I use my phone. 
  • Using the Self Control App when I really need to focus and get off Twitter. 
  • Using Qbserve to measure productivity on my work machine. 
  • I recently deactivated Facebook, but before that I blocked the facebook.com domain from my work machine's computer's  host files. Here's a guide. 

MoGraph Learning

Hey friends! I've been learning After Effects and Cinema4D and I wanted to share a few snippets I've been working on. 

I've found that working on short gif every couple of days is very impactful for getting comfortable with After Effects. Even in a tutorial for something simple, I feel like I learn a bunch of unexpected new things, like a keyboard shortcut, effect, expression, or way to manipulate compositions. 

DNA-1base-pair-3.gif

For this DNA strand, I used this tutorial from YouTube. 

I've also been working my way through 3D For Designers. 

compass.gif
magenta-plane_1.gif

I'll be honest. Sometimes this whole "learning something new" thing is very uncomfortable and frustrating for me. Even for a simple tutorial, I find I must devote 100% focus and often have to rewatch the same 15 seconds at least three times to get what the instructor is trying to get across. As someone who has been primarily using Illustrator, Photoshop, and Sketch, learning a new set of keyboard shortcuts are also frustrating.

On the other hand, seeing a finished result is SO rewarding. And I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of After Effects. It gets a little bit easier every day, and it's less intimidating to take on more challenging and complex ideas.

 

Lin