Last month, we took a look at the latest Adobe Photoshop CC features following MAX 2017. This time round, we’re delving into Adobe Character Animator – Adobe’s new live motion capture and multi-track recording app for controlling layered 2D puppets drawn in Photoshop or Illustrator.
Character Animator allows users to create 2D animations and bring them to life with incredible accuracy. The app actually copies your facial movements, so characters act and react realistically in real time. Once again, I caught up with Xenia – our Senior Designer – to find out all about her first thoughts on Character Animator, what she managed to create while experimenting, and how she’s planning on using the software going forward.
What were your first impressions of Adobe Character Animator?
“The first thing I realised was just how easy it was to go from not knowing anything about animation to suddenly being able to animate easily in a few simple steps – and it looks good! When you first start with Character Animator, there are pre-built options that take you through basic face animation so you can get to grips with it. There are preset characters too, so you don’t have to create your own from scratch in Photoshop or Illustrator first – you can just get started right away. When you click on a preset, it opens up in Photoshop as well as in Character Animator so you can customise it and replace elements.
I think it would take a long time to create a character that’s really beautiful in Photoshop, as they’re built in individual layers. As far as I can tell, that’s how Character Animator knows how to target different body parts for animation, whether it’s eyebrows, eyes, nose, arms or whichever. And if I edit a preset animation in Photoshop, it’ll automatically update in Character Animator.
The app uses the webcam footage and audio from your computer to animate various points on your face. First, I had to set a rest pose by looking at the monitor with a neutral face, which helps the animation respond better to any facial expressions.”
What did you create during your first try of the app?
“Well, when you open an initial template, one of them is a blank face. When it loaded up in Photoshop, I experimented with customising the background and eyebrows. I left the mouth and eyes as they were – they require a bit more work and I’d need to capture lots of different facial expressions for Open, Close, Left, Right and more, and as it was my first time, I didn’t want to get too much into them just yet. Once I’d saved my creation in Photoshop, it loaded up in Character Animator and I started animating it with my own facial movements and voice.
I noticed that it isn’t quite as intuitive or responsive as I expected it to be – there appears to be a slight delay and the character missed my mouth when it opened a couple of times. However, having looked a bit more into settings and options, it appears that you can tinker with things to make animations much more responsive and accurate. To be honest, I was genuinely surprised by how quickly I picked it up. All I did was watch a few official Adobe tutorials online and follow the instructions in the app. The best thing is that Character Animator does exactly what it says on the tin, and works exactly how Adobe say it will – I’m very impressed overall. It means that people who aren’t very experienced with animation and apps like After Effects can achieve a good standard with minimal skill, knowledge and time.”
What are you excited to do with Character Animator in the future?
“Personally, I’m looking forward to making my own story and animating it! Thinking about future work though, I think it will be fun to bring a dull project to life with animation without adding too much to my workload. I noticed that Adobe have additional preset characters available for download, so I’ll definitely be experimenting with those when I can. And the app lets you add animated characters into live streams that respond to your facial movements in real time. That could be great for a future social media live stream or something like that.”
We sat down with freelance illustrator, artist and lecturer Jo Berry to find out about her work in the field of scientific imaging, what she’s working on right now, and the technology she uses to bring her creations to life…
What have you been working on recently?
I’ve been working with scientists a lot over the past few years. And I’m working on some different case study projects right now with five different research institutions. One of them is Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg. I went over there last September to work with them in their laboratory, as I’m really interested in microscopy and advanced imaging. So what I’ve been doing is going into different labs, observing research scientists in action and participating in scientific experiments over a range of different subjects.
A couple of years ago, I went down to the Natural History Museum and I worked with their electron microscopes to examine natural objects such as butterfly wings and radiolarian – lots of things that were really, really tiny and you could only see through an electron microscope. I’ve been doing quite a lot of work with the images and data that I obtained there.
I’m also working with the University of Nottingham. I’ve been working with the med school there for a number of years, collaborating with their cell signalling and pharmacology department. They also have a top of the range SLIM (School of Life Sciences Imaging) department, where they image all sorts of biological cell samples to find out how they operate. They’ve been working to find out more about the heart, diabetes and obesity. So I’ve been taking film and static images of scientists at work and collecting a range of data to create new interpretations of science and art-data visualisations.
How do you use creative technology like Mac or Adobe Creative Cloud?
The scientific department at the University of Nottingham has PCs, so I don’t use Macs there. However, at home I have two Macs – including a brand new one – and an Apple laptop, and I used Macs while I was working in Sweden. For me, working on Mac feels more natural and it’s just something that I’ve gotten used to. The only thing I’d like is a bit more flexibility for the programs that I use to be able to move across PC and Mac.
At the university, I take the information and data I’ve gathered and load it into the scientific software they use on their PCs, and then I export it so it can be used in Adobe software. I mainly use Photoshop to crop and to layer, and I spend a lot of time doing digital drawing in Illustrator. I do my drawing very specifically as I do a lot of laser cutting – so it’s done for the purpose of being laser cut or exported into another 3D program. However, I love the simplicity of these drawings and see them as artworks in their own right.
What aspect of digital design and drawing are you interested in?
I’m really interested in the pixilation that is part of the imagery that comes out of these scientific computations. Of course, they look like really slick, beautiful images but they’re actually made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels. So I’m interested in simplifying the pattern that you get with the different colours and layers of these images. In Adobe Illustrator, I’ve been using squares and rectangles a lot recently, and I match them together with Pathfinder. I do this to create intricate drawings that are sourced and created digitally, and then can be moved into another program to be reprocessed as laser cut images at a later date. I take a long time drawing, and I aim to be able to show real depth and intricacy in the images. I’m also interested in making things that combine science and design, and creating something that is another interpretation of science.
You mentioned your work with film earlier. What does that involve?
I capture moving images of cells, then export them into Quicktime and use them to make stills. But I make movies, too. I’m doing a lot of work with Premiere Pro at the moment, and I’m looking to doing even more of those sorts of projects going forward. I’m currently studying part-time for a PhD, so I’ve been documenting what I’ve been doing while I’ve been going into these labs with a handheld Panasonic camera. So, I’m getting all of this data from these experiments – still images and film – and I’m trying to put them together so I’ve got footage of scientists actually working. Then I’ve been combining this footage with these beautiful, moving scientific images to create a sort of montage documenting exactly what I’ve been doing and observing.
What has your experience with Premiere Pro been like?
It’s quite simple and I find it a bit like putting together a collage of sorts. But of course, even after you’ve sorted out your timeline, you’ve still got to do the audio to go with the images. I think it just takes time to sit and do it, and learn it all properly. To be honest, everything I’ve ever learned on a computer I’ve done by just getting hands-on. I also like to learn software based on how I think I can work with it.
Could you tell me about your work as a lecturer?
I lecture in illustration at Birmingham City University in the department of visual communication. I teach illustration to first and final year students and I also train them in Adobe Illustrator. Obviously, I really like working in a cross-disciplinary manner as I’m interested in both drawing and technology, and there are opportunities within the department to do that. I enjoy finding out how you can use a computer and digital programs to create things such as drawings, movies and whatever else.
What technology has had the biggest impact on your work as an illustrator?
Adobe. Working in Illustrator has had a profound effect. About ten or fifteen years ago when I first started working in Adobe Illustrator, that completely changed the nature of my work. At the time, I was doing an advanced research fellowship at Loughborough University, and I was trying to make light drawings in unusual ways. I was making light boxes where I was drilling holes into perspex and lighting them. But then as soon as I started working in Illustrator and I could laser cut, everything became so much more sophisticated. It moved away from craft, and became design. I really liked the purity of Illustrator, because you can work in a very linear way with shapes and Pathfinder, and include the computational source material.
What creative and design trends are you thinking about as we head into 2018?
I don’t follow trends – I’m not really bothered about them. I mean, I read and follow a lot of different things, and I’ll go to exhibitions and people will say “are you thinking about doing this” or “have you read this or that”, but I think you’ve got to find your own individual voice. Of course, this involves research and a design process, but it’s important to really think about what you want your work to be about. And that’s what I encourage my students to do. I tell them to come up with their own ideas and concepts, and not to copy anybody else or be too heavily influenced. I suppose we’re all a bit like sponges – we soak everything in, but it really is essential to find your own voice while grounding it in knowledge.
Exhibiting regularly and widely throughout the country and internationally, Jo’s work is highly regarded, with pieces in the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), Arts Council England (ACE) East Midland Collections, Nottingham University Medical School and Zeiss, Munich. Residencies include the Florence Trust Studios, London, the Natural History Museum, London and Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham University.
Perfect for both at home and in the workplace, and running all the creative applications you could need, this powerful ex-display MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is highly portable and can be easily plugged into a display when you want to get into some more serious work.
Up to 8192 pressure levels, built-in Bluetooth, customisable ExpressKeys.
With this creative pen tablet from Wacom, you’ll be throwing your mouse away and never looking back. The Intuos Pro Paper Edition is great for creating, and accurately emulates the feeling of drawing on paper. It’s ideal for those who frequently work with Adobe Creative Cloud, and is a handy tool for navigating around your files and desktop.
1920 x 1200 native resolution, supports USB 3.0, VGA, DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI-D, ultra-slim 1mm bezel, LED-backlit IPS LCD panel with 178-degree viewing angle.
Ideal for viewing at different angles as part of a multi-monitor setup, the EIZO FlexScan EV2455 is a display that’s easy on the eyes and budget, and delivers optimal performance, quality and reliability for creatives.
Adobe Creative Cloud is the industry-standard creative solution, letting you create amazing content, collaborate across desktop and mobile with powerful apps and syncing tools, and make sure you’re always one step ahead of the creative curve. With immediate access to new products, the latest features and exclusive updates as soon as they’re released, you can make sure you’re always up to date too.
5. Canon EOS 750D DSLR with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens
The Canon 750D is one of the best DSLR cameras available for beginners, and is perfect if you want to avoid the cost of buying a separate camera and camcorder. Packing advanced features, it’s capable of great quality video and capturing a high level of detail in a variety of scenarios.
Apple’s long-awaited iMac Pro has finally arrived, and it’s an absolute juggernaut. Packed full of staggeringly powerful tech, Apple designed this beast with the most demanding creative workflows in mind. But with such impressive specs, iMac Pro comes at an unsurprisingly high price point – so can you justify making the purchase, and how could it improve your day-to-day creative processes?
While it looks almost identical to the mid-2017 5K iMac (minus the dashing Space Grey paint job), iMac Pro is a completely different machine. Lets take a look under the hood…
– 27″ Retina 5K display.
– 5120×2880 resolution.
– 500 nits brightness.
– P3 wide colour gamut.
– Base model: 8-Core Xeon.
– Upgradable to: 10-Core Xeon.
– Upgradable to: 18-Core Xeon.
– Base model: 32GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory.
– Upgradable to: 64GB.
– Upgradable to: 128GB.
– Base model: 1TB SSD.
– Upgradable to: 2TB SSD.
– Upgradable to: 4TB SSD.
– Base model: Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB of HBM2 memory.
– Upgradable to: Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB of HBM2 memory.
– Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports.
– Four USB 3.0 ports.
– SDXC card slot with support for UHS‑II.
– 10Gb Ethernet using RJ‑45 connector (supports Nbase-T 1Gb, 2.5Gb, and 5Gb).
So, what’s it good for?
If you’ve been using iMac before now, you’ll know just how good the platform is for creative work. But iMac Pro takes things to the next level. It’s perfectly suited for everything from video editing and music production to 3D animation and software development and much more. Compatible with up to 18 cores and packing up to 128GB DDR4 RAM, most of the work creative professionals do will benefit greatly from iMac Pro’s extra computing and graphics power. Subsequently, tasks like video encoding and editing in particular will enjoy noticeable performance boosts from the additional processing cores, while even 3D rendering will become that bit easier thanks to ample memory.
If your team are preparing for the future and want to adopt new technology trends, iMac Pro will to be a great addition to your creative workflow. As demanding new formats and technologies like 4K, 6K, 8K, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality become increasingly popular, it’s imperative that you have access to a machine that can keep pace while you’re hard at work. Thankfully, early benchmark tests of the hardware found inside iMac Pro suggest it’ll outperform previous generation iMacs on all fronts – that means you’ll see a definite improvement over your last iMac and you won’t have to think about upgrading your hardware for the foreseeable future.
With two GPU variants available – Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB HBM2 memory and the more impressive Pro Vega 64 with 16GB HBM2 memory – iMac Pro is the ultimate bit of kit for graphics work. Creative teams will find VR applications working much faster than on an older iMac, enabling you to embrace and experiment with the new medium like never before. Likewise, iMac Pro’s powerful GPU will be a big plus for any games development projects you might be working on, and rendering in video editing programs like Premier Pro and Final Cut Pro X will also benefit.
Is it worth the upgrade?
Firstly, you should ask yourself if your team’s existing iMacs are meeting your workflow requirements. If your work doesn’t need need masses of computing power behind it, you probably don’t need an iMac Pro which, as mentioned above, has been built specifically for the most demanding creative projects. Of course, iMac Pro’s A10 Fusion coprocessor and SSD will undoubtably save you time when booting the machine and loading apps, but if you don’t mind waiting a few extra seconds it’s probably not worth forking out for.
With that being said, anyone looking to embrace new technology trends or push the boundaries of their existing video, software, audio, animation or development work will benefit from having an iMac Pro in their office. Complete with hardware never before seen in an iMac, iMac Pro delivers an experience you can’t get with any previous model and will provide an unmatched productivity boost that’ll more than make up for its top-end price.
2017 has come and gone, and what a year it’s been. Creative agencies have produced impressive content and campaigns during the last 12 months, and we’ve really enjoyed seeing everything they’ve created. But how did the creative sector fare economically, which campaigns have been the most engaging and successful, and what economic factors should you be thinking about as we head into 2018?
To get a real picture of the creative industry’s economic impact in 2017, it’s worth examining its performance over the last few years. Looking back, the sector’s GDP contribution has grown year on year – from £63.4 billion in 2010 to a whopping £91.8 billion in 2016. 2016’s figure even grew by an impressive £6 billion on 2015’s number, and there’s no sign of 2017 bucking the trend. But why is that? For a start, 2017 has been home to lots of effective creative campaigns – lets take a look at some of them…
Lucozade: Contactless bottles
As part of an awareness campaign, Lucozade treated London commuters to a free trip on the underground back in May. During rush hour, the company handed out bottles of the energy drink that had contactless pins on the bottom, allowing commuters to simply scan the item at the gates and board their train without spending a penny.
Airbnb: Don’t Go There. Live There.
After market research suggested that 86% of Airbnb users wanted to experience a new place like someone who actually lives there, Airbnb were inspired to launch their ‘Live There’ campaign. Hosted entirely through social media, it focused on Airbnb’s unique service – offering tourists the chance to live in an actual home rather than hotels while travelling, and encouraged deeper integration into local communities during a stay away.
Addict Aide: Like My Addiction
Addict Aide launched a campaign on Instagram to help shed light on alcoholism and how social media can be used to promote and encourage it. Having caught the attention of the right audience – teenagers and young adults – the campaign ultimately generated 5 times as much web traffic for Addict Aide’s homepage.
Heineken: Worlds Apart
Heineken set out to prove that having a simple conversation over a beer can bring even the most diametrically opposed people together. Having been given three tasks to complete, participants would only discover how different they really were towards the end of the beer maker’s social experiment.
Tesco: Discover app
Having teamed up with Engine Creative, Tesco built an AR app to enhance the shopping experience for their customers. Tesco Discover allows shoppers to scan pages from their brochures, where they can access an array of related information, images, video, competitions and more. The app also builds on Tesco’s successful partnership with Disney, letting users scan Frozen-themed books and stickers to bring a 3D scene from the movie to life within the Discover app. Customers can even take virtual selfies with various Frozen characters within the AR app.
Embracing new mediums
Right now, the creative industry accounts for around one in 11 jobs in the UK, and that number is rising – unlike other industries, the creative sector is one of the least likely to lose jobs to automation. Combine that with industry-wide collaboration, entrepreneurialism and a raft of new trends, and you’ve got a recipe for continued growth. And creatives have been quick to incorporate fresh mediums into their work this year.
From augmented reality (AR) to artificial intelligence (AI) to social media live streaming to virtual reality (VR), agencies throughout the country have jumped on these tools and used them to create engaging content for their audiences. Inside the creative industry, the best example of this is the rapid growth of a field known as ‘createch’ (which grew 11.4% in 2016). Createch is an area in which technology is used to enable and enrich creativity (particularly for things like audio, video and storytelling), allowing content producers to deliver new services, products and experiences to consumers. As a result, new, immersive technology mediums like the ones mentioned above have encouraged continued innovation in this field and are sure to deliver further growth and development in 2017, particularly as the technology becomes more advanced and readily-available.
What to look out for in 2018
It’s estimated that by 2018, the value of the creative industry in the UK will grow by almost £9 billion to a total of £100 billion. And with the continued success of UK exports in games, design, film and TV, music and more, it’s essential for creative businesses to be ahead of the curve and prepared to experiment with new technology and creative mediums next year.
To help with this, the UK government are investing £500 million in AI, full fibre broadband and 5G (the fifth generation of telecommunications standards). And with over 2 million people employed in the creative sector in the UK, this money is expected to bolster the country’s position as a creative market leader on the world stage.
As the UK moves closer to severing its ties with the EU next year, it’s also worth considering the affect Brexit could have on the industry’s talent pool. While creatives are currently free to travel throughout Europe for business, this could soon change and agencies will have to rely on the UK’s workforce to provide the talent and skills they need. That means businesses will likely have to refocus and invest in the training and development of UK-based workers in 2018 in order to avoid falling behind in the years to come.
If you’ve had your current technology setup for a while now and it’s still doing a perfectly good job, upgrading probably isn’t even on your radar. And that’s fair enough – spending on new kit can be expensive, and moving over to fresh hardware can be a hassle if you don’t really need to. But it’s important to remember that as new software and standards are released, your tech will gradually begin to slow down.
It’s easy to sit back, relax, and deal with something as big as a complete technology refresh only when you absolutely have to, and having the very latest hardware isn’t exactly essential. With that being said, why should you bother upgrading your kit, when exactly is the best time for a refresh, and how can you ensure you’re getting the best value for money?
If you want to stay ahead of the competition, having access to the latest hardware is obviously a major plus and should prevent you from falling behind. Powerful tech allows you to explore and experiment with new mediums – for example, only Creative Cloud users have access to Adobe’s incredible tools for things like VR, AR and 3D animation – and means your existing workflow and projects will benefit from increased efficiency and productivity no matter what your creative vocation is. Likewise, if you’ve started to notice your current setup wearing down and underperforming, it’s time to start plotting a refresh. Once your tech starts causing problems for your creative workflow, you’ll find it harder to hit deadlines and meet the requirements of stakeholders and clients.
Answering the ‘when’ question is a bit trickier. A lot of it comes down to the amount of money you have available for an upgrade at any given time, what’s happening in your business (whether you’re in the middle of large projects, restructuring or hiring new staff, for example), and how critical a kit update is for your team. It almost goes without saying, but keeping an eye out for deals and sales could be ideal if you need new hardware but are limited in the budget department. So try and time your purchasing plans with upcoming sales and jump on bargains when you see them, and if you can purchase a large amount of gear in one go at a discounted rate, you could save yourself more than a few quid.
When planning out your creative technology upgrade, consider searching out trade-in/buy back deals. Once you’re sure you’ve received a good offer for your existing tech, trade it all in for cash to put towards new hardware. It’s also worth staggering your upgrade process, starting with the oldest tech and working up – that way, it’ll be easier to manage and you won’t have to splash out on a large outlay.
In terms of manageability and affordability, you’ll find it easier if you partner up with a reliable supplier that can offer you expert guidance along the way, and advise you on the best choices for your creative needs and budget (like us!). It’s also well worth looking into Device as a Service (DaaS) models for your purchasing. DaaS provides businesses with a rolling agreement for the very latest hardware, and includes support, repairs, warranties and more for one price, per user, per month. Likewise, leasing arrangements are a great way of spreading the cost of your new kit, allowing for increased flexibility and simpler budgeting than a big, one-off payment. You can find out more about our leasing options here.
If you think you’re ready to upgrade your team’s setup, take a look at our Creative Kit Configurator – it’s the best way to ensure you get the perfect, cost-effective tech for your needs. Simply select the type of user you’re buying for, then customise different parts of the setup to suit your specific requirements.
When it comes to making big technology purchases, it’s always nice to know that a team of reliable pros has your back. Not only do our accounts team make billing easy, solve any issues with payment plans, organise your 30-day credit account and more, but our squad of creative technology experts are available to support you every step of the way.
Still not convinced? Here are our top five reasons why you should come to us for all your creative technology purchasing requirements…
1. We’re flexible on payment methods.
We’ve got options to help you spread costs, ways to fit in with your budget and can offer you a 30-day credit account. Not to mention that our on-the-ball accounts team make sure that we (and our suppliers) are compliant with all the relevant legislation, so you can spend less time on your due diligence checks.
2. We know what we’re talking about.
Because our team of technology experts and ex-creatives have worked in the industry for years, we can offer insightful advice on how to get things right first time to avoid costly replacements and expensive downtime.
3. We’ve got everything – and we mean everything – covered.
We can provide all your kit from start to finish, as well as services and support afterwards, so you can get everything you need in one place, under one invoice. We also have a £7 million stockholding at HQ, all available for next business day delivery – sorted!
4. We’ve stood the test of time.
We’ve been providing creative solutions to the industry for over 25 years, and in that time we’ve listened to what you guys need to make the whole purchasing cycle as pain-free as possible. From keeping you up to date on the latest releases, to working closely with vendors to ensure we get first UK stock on key releases, we’ve got you covered.
5. We pay great attention to detail.
We can work within a given budget, advise where you can save time and money, foresee potential shortfalls and ensure that your kit is future-proof. Whatever your objective, we can make sure you achieve whatever you set out to do.
Thinking of forking out for a Wacom tablet? Now’s the time! Jigsaw24 customers will receive a free 90 day Adobe Creative Cloud membership with the purchase of selected tablets between 1st October 2017 and 31st March 2018.
Wacom and Adobe are teaming up to help creatives hit the ground running as soon as they buy a brand new Intuos Pro, Cintiq, Cintiq Pro or MobileStudio Pro tablet. With three months of free Creative Cloud, users will be able to access Adobe’s entire collection of creative apps for Mac, PC, smartphone and tablet and get to work right away. That includes 29 separate desktop apps and 10 mobile apps, including favourites such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere Pro. Customers will also have access to exclusive Adobe services such as Adobe Stock, Typekit and Behance absolutely free.
Ideal for mobile working, collaboration and productivity, Creative Cloud allows users to sync, share and create on the go thanks to Adobe CreativeSync, which powers Creative Cloud Libraries and lets you access your favourite creative assets anywhere, any time. Throughout the 90 day period, you’ll also receive new features and updates as soon as they’re available, plus in-app tips to help get you started if you’re new to Creative Cloud.
Following their MAX conference in October, Adobe released the latest version of Photoshop CC. It offers a variety of new features for designers, digital photographers and illustrators, and our design team were eager to get their hands on the newest iteration of the app and put it to the test.
With Adobe touting the effectiveness of the Curvature Pen, Stroke Smoothing and Variable Font functionalities, I sat down with Xenia – our Senior Designer – to hear her thoughts on the enhancements, how she’s been using them and how they’ve affected her creative workflow.
Curvature Pen tool
“The Curvature Pen tool is really useful, and it’s taken the hassle out of drawing curved shapes and straight line segments. I like that it lets me plot basic points in a rough shape initially, then move and adjust each point when needed – and double clicking provides an angular point rather than a curved point which is helpful, too.
Overall, I’d say it’s much easier to use, intuitive and accurate compared to the regular Pen tool, and its helped streamline my Photoshop workflow by cutting out the time consuming, unnecessary tasks that used to make drawing simple shapes kind of awkward. Plus, the tool makes it quicker to create paths without losing accuracy, which is ideal for when I’m cutting out certain elements of photographs.”
Stroke Smoothing (Pulled String Mode)
“I’ve enjoyed using the new Stroke Smoothing functions in Photoshop, particularly Pulled String Mode. My favourite thing about it is that it’s given me more control over the brush tool, which feels much smoother and creates less jagged edges – it’s a way better experience. As you use it, you can see the brush rotate and twist carefully, making the brush strokes much more accurate and precise, and cursor movements inside the ‘smoothing radius’ don’t leave a mark on your design. This has allowed me to create softer curves and rounded elements. It’s nice because it means I can put more time and care into my work, and helps me get things right on the first try without having to redo things.”
“They’re okay, but not as useful as I expected them to be. Variable Fonts let you customise certain attributes of fonts with sliders, such as weight, width and slant, although some Variable Fonts only let you adjust one or two attributes rather than the whole lot. And while this has still been helpful, not every font is as ‘variable’ as I had expected, meaning you’re limited to Adobe’s predefined list of Variable Fonts.
The list appears to be quite large, but is actually just made up of slightly different variations of the same few fonts. If I’ve needed to use a Variable Font, I’ve just found myself looking for one in the list that most closely resembles the font I initially wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I like that you’re able to quickly toggle different options with fonts, and it’s helpful for when I’ve been experimenting with quick layouts and I’ve wanted to see how a font may impact the overall design, but I think it could use some work. With a bit more development, it could be a really handy feature and I’m excited to see what Adobe do with it going forward.”
We’re a festive bunch here at Jigsaw24. When November rolled round, our creative team only had one thing on their collective mind – 2017’s Christmas adverts. With top brands such as John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and others pumping out some absolute classics in recent years, we were waiting with bated breath to see what they had in store for us this year.
Once every big Christmas advert had been released, we gathered our team together to watch each one and create a definitive ranked list of our favourites. With monsters under the bed, talking bears, magical factories, snowmen and snowdogs, there was a lot of ground to cover – but it was a challenge our cynical bunch were more than willing to take up (stick with us though, we get more twinkly as the list goes on). So, without further ado…
12. Sainsbury’s ‘#everybitofChristmas’
Having been spoilt with big budget productions over the past few years (who could forget Mog?), we were expecting something special from Sainsbury’s, and this year’s effort seems like a bit of an afterthought by comparison. Carrying on their ‘living well’ campaign from the rest of 2017, they partnered up with rapper and actor Doc Brown to write a song titled Every Bit Of Christmas and set about finding people to sing the tune…
The team’s thoughts
“The best bit about it is the fact that they are talking/singing about Christmas problems and memories etc that most people have. But I’m not that keen on it being black and white, and I’m not a massive fan of the tune.”
“I think going against the ‘expensive Christmas ad’ is a good idea, but it’s a shame that Tesco did it better. And tying it into their existing campaign and branding rather than having a very separate Christmas look is fine, but I’ve not seen much of that campaign unfortunately.”
11. Barbour ‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’
Using beloved stories and characters to sell stuff is always a risky business. People can get very angry if it doesn’t turn out well. And that’s what Barbour (who partnered up with Snowman Enterprises and Penguin Ventures) were up against this year when they took two Christmas favourites – The Snowman and The Snowdog – and created the “next chapter” of their story…
The team’s thoughts
“Animation of already popular franchises seems to be a bit of a craze this year. And with The Snowman being a classic Christmas film, it does conjure up fond childhood memories. Although, I’m not sure how I feel about giving the snowman a coat which will melt him…”
“This is a travesty. Firstly, the Snowman dies in the Snowman. That is the entire point of the story. That is why it’s been making people cry for 25 years. Reviving him robs any emotional impact, and by giving him an ill-fitting jacket the man is actually speeding his friend to a second heat-induced death. Not cool.”
“It’s alright I guess. Always nice to see the big guy.”
10. Aldi ‘Kevin The Carrot 2017′
Aldi brought back their sentient carrot – Kevin – this Christmas for their vegetable-themed take on Murder on the Orient Express. Love-struck and determined to meet his future carrot companion, he ventures across the dinner table. But before he can make it all the way there, he has to risk his life to save the girl of his dreams. Watch Kevin in action…
The team’s thoughts
“It’s ok. I like the narration, Christmas music and setting, that all works for me. Also like that they are showcasing the product. But I just can’t get too warm and fuzzy about carrots.”
“Not keen on veggies talking about wetting themselves on the Christmas dinner table. Overall a bit weird, nowhere near as good as Kevin’s 2016 adventure.”
“Kevin the carrot is cute, I can see why he’s back again, but it didn’t make much of an impression on me story wise.”
9. TalkTalk ‘This is Christmas’
Teaming up with creators CHI & Partners, TalkTalk made Christmas simple this year. They made it so simple in fact that it looks exactly like every British Christmas ever. The ad is actually completely unscripted and was shot during Christmas Day 2016. It follows the TalkTalk Family (of Gogglebox fame) as they go about their festive celebrations, and features Christmassy scenes that you’d expect to see in every house throughout the country – and that’s what makes it work…
The team’s thoughts
“I think this suffers because I don’t know about the TalkTalk family, but it’s probably my second favourite after the Tesco ad. What can I say, I like my Christmas ads pseudo-realistic.”
“I liked the concept and the fact that they haven’t spent loads on it but I felt too detached from the characters, nothing quite interesting enough in it for me.”
“Another very simple one about a British family Christmas, I really enjoyed it because a lot of it was recognisable.”
8. Very ‘Get More Out of Giving’
Using the same theme, characters and glowing pink presents as last year, Very went down the animation route once again. When a little girl goes to sleep on Christmas Eve, she dreams of delivering the final present on her ‘giving list’. To help her along the way, she’s joined by her toy-wolf-turned-real-wolf – but when she loses the gift, her companion disappears over a waterfall. Luckily, Santa appears to save the day. She wakes to find a bight pink present on the windowsill containing her wolf and giving list, with Santa’s name crossed out at the bottom. All in all, a nice enough advert with a nice Christmas message, but I’m sure ‘man infiltrating the dream’s of children and influencing the real world’ is the plot of something else…
The team’s thoughts
“Nice message however I felt the ad went on too long and didn’t really see how it promoted Very.”
“Sweet enough but not quite as heartwarming as it could have been.”
“Not very keen on it stylistically, but the story I thought was stronger than a lot of the others. It definitely stays on my mind more.”
7. Argos ‘#ReadyForTakeOff’
While putting in some seasonal graft at Santa’s workshop (which looks like it’s been outsourced to a futuristic packaging company), one plucky elf notices that a child’s Christmas delivery is missing a gift and about to leave. To save the day, she has to make it through the warehouse to gate nine before it closes and the Rudolf-4 delivery ship takes off. Naturally, she makes it and Argos saves Christmas…
The team’s thoughts
“Promoted their key product and had a very child-like Christmas spirit to it. I’m not too keen on Santa/North Pole being represented as that futuristic, think it takes away from the magic a little. Doesn’t feel quite as heart warming thinking of it as a high tech military operation.”
“I quite like this – they’ve gone for quite a nice telling of a more commercial angle.”
” I like the energy of this and the fact that it’s gone slightly less schmaltzy than other tie-ins.”
6. Asda ‘Best Christmas Ever’
Asda have gone for their version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this year, and unsurprisingly, it’s doesn’t feel very Christmassy. The ad follows a young girl and her grandfather as they explore an Asda factory at Christmas time, and features lots of products, as well as some fun little Christmas/elf-themed scenarios and vibrant colours…
The team’s thoughts
“I do love the colours and style to it so an extra mark for that, but it’s a little forgettable for me story-wise.”
“This raises too many questions about Asda’s recruitment and health and safety policies for me to give it any more than three stars.”
“I think it’s a great campaign. They’ve managed to cram in a wide variety of their products without it having a hard sell.”
5. Apple ‘Sway’
With the tagline ‘Move someone this Christmas’, Apple’s advert uses the brand new iPhone X and AirPods to tell the story of a man and woman who bump into each other in the street and bond over the Sam Smith song ‘Palace’ (each to their own). After the woman hands the man one of her AirPods, they embark on an epic dance routine throughout the city before parting ways as the song draws to an end. It’s all relatively straightforward, and probably one of the nicer commercials this year…
The team’s thoughts
“This is kind of cute. If the song fit the dance a bit better it would have been great.”
“I like this ad from Apple. The fact it’s Sam Smith knocks a couple of points off, though.”
“Enjoyed the advert, but the Sam Smith song doesn’t really give out the Christmassy vibes.”
4. Boots ‘#ShowThemYouKnowThem’
Boots is in at number four. Inkeeping with this year’s family-theme craze, this seasonal effort focusses on the relationship between two sisters (played by real life adult sisters Kathleen McDermott and Karen McGarrity), and how – by recounting childhood memories – one of them figured out which perfume the other wanted for Christmas. Touching stuff…
The team’s thoughts
“I do not have a sister, and would now quite like one for Christmas.”
“Again, I love the song, and it’s a nice sentiment, but the reality is is that’s it’s only perfume, and if it’s anything like my family you’d specifically request what perfume you wanted.”
“Really sweet, could have been a bit more Christmassy but I liked the story. Also – I know that there are vintage Boots products in every scene from the right years, which is clever (even if you don’t notice it until someone points it out).”
3. John Lewis ‘Moz the Monster’
It was the one everybody was waiting for. The granddaddy of all Christmas adverts. There was a lot of anticipation for John Lewis’ commercial this year (people were even uploading ‘leaks’ to YouTube), and with the success of Buster the Boxer in 2016, as well as Man on the Moon and Monty the Penguin before that, they had a lot to live up to. This year’s advert tells the story of a little boy – Joe (played by twin brothers) – who struggles to sleep at night thanks to a large, snoring, farting monster under the bed called Moz (played by two, oxygen-deprived men who do the body movements, while CGI handles the facial expressions). After befriending the big dude, the boy stays up late every night to play with his new pal. When Moz realises the boy is always tired, he gets him a nightlight for Christmas which makes the monster disappear. The young lad’s reprieve is short lived however, as Moz quickly returns once the nightlight is switched off, thus condemning the boy to a lifetime of sleepless hell. Not very Christmassy if you ask me…
The team’s thoughts
“Always great production-wise, top marks here. The story was fairly good but it needs to be more than fairly good – it needs to be exceptional for John Lewis and this was just not at a high enough level emotionally.”
“Love the song, so that gets me on board straight away. I think being a parent here pulls on my heart strings. The relationship between the monster and the cute little boy is heartwarming, and I’m a sucker for an emotional ending. Love it!”
“Not a huge fan of the design of Moz, though having seen the behind the scenes video I have nothing but respect for the poor souls sealed inside.”
2. Marks & Spencer ‘Paddington & The Christmas Visitor’
While number two capitalises on the success of a popular film, it’s still really lovely. Marks & Spencer’s Paddington & The Christmas Visitor takes the much-loved bear and puts him on a Christmas mission to deliver Santa’s presents. The gifts have been stolen by a thief who Paddington mistakes for Father Christmas, and while the criminal is initially frustrated at the bear for returning his ill-gotten gains to their rightful owners, the advert ends with him realising the error of his ways and enjoying a marmalade sandwich. What’s not to love?
The team’s thoughts
“The animation was excellent, the general tone was adorable, and it’s one of the most sensible tie-ins I’ve seen so far.”
“Love this advert, it makes me feel Christmassy with the snowy scenes and the lovely decorations. I also have very fond memories of Paddington Bear back when I was a child, and love the new movies.”
“The burglar wasn’t very convincing and this could get easily lost. Appreciate that it’s appealing to a younger audience and doesn’t want to appear ‘frightening’ though.”
1. Tesco ‘Turkey, Every Which Way’
With many millions of pounds spent on this year’s Christmas adverts, it’s really quite nice that one of the more simplistic, down to earth commercials is the best of them all. In a similar vein to the ads from TalkTalk and Boots, Tesco based theirs on the typical British family Christmas. The advert includes different types of families and scenes that every viewer can relate to – arguments about the food, excited kids, Christmas crackers, wanting ketchup with dinner, people falling asleep and turkey sandwiches – and has a heartwarming, inclusive message to top it off…
The team’s thoughts
“I think this is really strong. Low costs to produce but really captures Christmas, the nostalgia and love the inclusive message about whichever way you do things. It’s all lovely and fuzzy.”
“I am hosting Christmas this year, and watching this advert makes me worry intensely about whether the turkey will fit in my oven.”
“This is what I like, and I think they’ve really hit the nail on some of these situations. The basting argument is my fave.”
“I love the simplicity of this one, and how well it reflects a typical busy British family Christmas. The simple ones definitely won out for me this year.”
“Favourite advert, encompasses true family Christmases and everyone can relate to at least one family portrayed in some way.”
That’s all for this year, folks! Merry Christmas from everyone at Jigsaw24.