Why we love it: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC’s Send for Signature

Why we love it: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC’s Send for Signature

Long paper trails can be a real pain. Not only is paper fairly costly when compared to the paperless alternative, but no end of errors and delays go along with it, too. If you’re fed up of losing important work and having to keep track of who’s seen what, you’ll be pleased to hear that Acrobat Pro DC shifts everything from paper to screen, saving you money and reducing errors.

Acrobat Pro DC’s straightforward editing tools and document tracking and management functionality helps you improve day-to-day business processes and cut turnaround times. That way, your team can focus on the important stuff and benefit from increased productivity.

For us, it’s Acrobat Pro DC’s Send for Signature functionality that stands out among a myriad of awesome features. That’s because we know managing and collecting signatures can be a massive roadblock for a lot of commonplace admin tasks. One study suggests that 37% of business leaders experience issues with agreements being signed by the wrong person or missing signatures and dates, 46% aren’t sure they have copies of all signed agreements, and over half the problems everyone experiences in the office are related to documents that have either been misfiled or lost.1

Streamline the process

Acrobat DC simplifies the entire process of signing documents. Send for Signature lets users send documents for signing to multiple recipients, and allows them to sign in parallel with others or in a pre-determined order. From there, users can track them in real time, and see precisely when a document has been signed and returned. You can even set preferences to receive notifications as soon as recipients have signed documents, or prompt them for a signature with automatic reminders if you need to.

Increase productivity

Send for Signature reduces time spent creating documents, and helps users get them ready to be sent. Users can add fields and instructions with ease, and produce reusable document templates to cut even more time in the future.

Using Send for Signature, you’ll notice a reduction in the amount of time you spend processing key documents. That’s because signed documents and audit trails can be stored automatically and securely online, saving you a ton of admin time. And everyone gets a copy, too!

Create legally binding signatures

Send for Signature is covered by eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services), which is an established EU legal framework that monitors electronic signatures, electronic transactions, and involved bodies to ensure users have a secure method of carrying out business online. In the case of Acrobat Pro DC, it essentially allows Send for Signature to recognise signatures and make them legally binding.

What do we think to Acrobat Pro DC and Send for Signature?

Sally Newbold, our Accounts Manager, has been using Acrobat Pro DC and Send for Signature as part of her day to day document and PDF workflow for a while now, and she’s really benefitted from…

“I’ve found Send for Signature really straightforward to use. I had never used Acrobat to edit PDFs and documents before, but I found it super easy to work with even on my first try. I really like that I’m able to merge multiple documents into one PDF, can highlight text when reconciling PDF reports, and easily place watermarks on key documents.”

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and Send for Signature are ideal for anyone looking to simplify the process of collecting and managing documents and signatures. Not only will they help you increase productivity and reduce admin time, but you’ll be able to cut costs on print and postage too.

1 IDC – Business transformation through smarter document workflows PDF

If you want to know more about Adobe, Acrobat Pro DC or Send for Signature, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email adobe@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Adobe Stock expands content library, capabilities and integration with latest updates

Adobe Stock expands content library, capabilities and integration with latest updates

Adobe have dropped a fresh round of updates for Stock, their stock image service, making it easier than ever to find perfect imagery. On top of expanding Stock’s already colossal library, Adobe have introduced powerful new aesthetic search filters, and deepened app integration with a free Microsoft PowerPoint plug-in, allowing users to find high quality images without ever having to leave the programme.

Having launched Stock back in 2015, Adobe spent the last two years figuring out exactly what creatives want from a stock image service. They’ve realised that design teams are increasingly on the lookout for images that aren’t just authentic, but can be used to tell great stories, too. So they’ve incorporated this idea into the latest batch of feature updates. Take a look…

Adobe Stock has grown. A lot.

That’s right, folks. As if 45 million high quality images weren’t enough, over the last two years the good people at Adobe have doubled Stock’s asset library to a massive 90 million.

All-new Aesthetic Filters

Creatives rejoice! Adobe have recognised your daily struggle to find that perfect image, and reckon their fancy new Aesthetic Filters feature will help you cut search time, so you can crack on with creating. If you recall, Adobe introduced a feature called Visual Search late last year, which utilised artificial intelligence and analysis to allow users to search via images rather than keywords. Now they’ve taken it one step further with Aesthetic Filters powered by Adobe Sensai, a unified AI and machine learning framework. It lets users narrow down results by photographic properties, such as Depth of Field and Vivid Colour. Using an intensity bar, you can quickly and easily filter your search against these two parameters to find the exact image you’re after.

PowerPoint plug-in

Having received an avalanche of requests from users to develop a Stock add-on for Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe have done just that – allowing users to illustrate their presentations with stock imagery without having to leave the application. Once you’ve installed the plug-in (which is absolutely free), all you need to do is click on the Adobe Stock icon in the toolbar and start searching. Users can search for images by keyword, explore curated collections, or even perform a Visual Search by dragging and dropping an image into the search bar and having Stock dig out something similar. The PowerPoint add-on also allows users to preview images from Adobe Stock, test different layouts and styles, then use Preview History to license the images.

What are your options? 

There are three options currently available for Adobe Stock…

Adobe Stock Small

– Equivalent to £2 per image.

– £240 ex VAT per year.

Adobe Stock Mezzanine

– Equivalent to £1.20 per image.

– £576 ex VAT per year.

Adobe Stock Large

– Equivalent to £0.16 per image.

– £1440 ex VAT per year.

To find out more about different Adobe Stock plans, click here.

Still got some questions about Adobe Stock? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email adobe@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

 

Bottlenecks, bandwidth and the importance of building an up to date network

Bottlenecks, bandwidth and the importance of building an up to date network

If your company’s network is running on the back of out dated technology, there’s a good chance it’s struggling to meet the demands of your day to day data flow, and you’ve probably started to notice a dip in productivity and performance as a result.  

In 2017, networks are tasked with handling multiple devices, applications and workflows. And while you may be fully equipped to handle emails, web surfing and the transfer of documents and other small files, you’re going to need more bandwidth to be able to cope with the demands of the modern networking world.

We’ve listed a few FAQs below that should help you decide whether you need a network upgrade to better support the requirements of your organisation’s IT infrastructure…

So, what’s a bottleneck? 

No, we’re not talking about those things you slurp lager out of – we’re talking about high network usage slowing or altering the speed of a network. Speed is reduced when the network lacks the resources and bandwidth to cope with the demands of its users – networks will naturally slow down in an attempt to handle the additional traffic.

How do bottlenecks impact productivity? 

If your network is clogged with users attempting to access the same resources and lacks the infrastructure to support this kind of activity, it’ll create a bottleneck that’ll grind your network speeds to a halt. This isn’t exactly ideal if you’ve got staff using essential network-based applications, working on mission-critical files on the server or distributing large amounts of data across your organisation. Without sufficient bandwidth, your network will continually experience such slowdowns, so it’s best to start thinking about modernising your network infrastructure to better support your company’s data flow and the needs of your end users.

What are the benefits of updating my network?

If your networking infrastructure is lagging way behind the times, it’ll really show and your end users will have some serious difficulties working on the network. Complete with noticeable performance deficits, you’ll likely experience total network outages where nothing works until traffic is reduced – this is something you want to avoid, as an outage could cause you to lose data and possibly days of work.

To put it simply, by not upgrading you’re missing out on a load of substantial speed and performance benefits, and risking precious data. Bandwidth abound, you can rest easy that your network will be able to cope with previously crippling amounts of data usage, and can handle even the most demanding multimedia workflows.

Getting your network updated also means you won’t have to waste excessive amounts of time and resources trying to rectify problems created by slow speeds and poor performance – instead, your IT support team can focus on helping end users without having to fret over never-ending network bottlenecks. And don’t forget that you’ll likely see an uptick in productivity now that your employees can access everything they need and can use the network at full capacity.

Of course, it’s always important to implement best practice whether your network is up to date or not, especially when it applies to organisational growth and the IT infrastructure associated with it. Always remember that for every additional employee or device, it’ll have a knock on effect on bandwidth, storage and more, so your infrastructure will need to expand in conjunction with the business.

Try and implement monitoring systems that help you keep track of the resources in your network, how much data is being transmitted across your company, and potential shortfalls in bandwidth capacity and networking speeds. It’s also worth double checking that your network is configured correctly, so that fresh installations or new services aren’t blocking existing business-critical applications and causing unnecessary downtime.

How can we help?

We offer the full range of networking solutions, from the design and installation of complex multisite networks to tailor-made WiFi setups for business. In short, our engineers will make sure your network is fast, continuous and secure. Whether you’re looking for someone to help you with system design, structured cabling, active network hardware, wireless LANs, network security, or maintenance and support, we’re your guys.

Want to know more about networking? Get in touch with the team on 03332 409 306 or email solutions@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

We’ve renewed our place on the G-Cloud 9 Framework

We’ve renewed our place on the G-Cloud 9 Framework

Big news! We’ve successfully renewed our relationship with the government’s G-Cloud 9 Framework for the supply of cloud software services and support for the fourth consecutive year. 

As part of the agreement, we offer a full range of services and support through the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) Digital Marketplace to bolster cloud-based working across the public sector, including local government, health, education, not-for-profit and devolved administrations.

The CSS is a public sector organisation that acts on behalf of the Crown to drive savings for the taxpayer and improve the quality of commercial and procurement activity.

Our G-Cloud 9 Framework offering includes:

Cloud software services

– Adobe Creative Cloud.

– Managed fulfilment of Apple technologies and services.

Cloud support

– Apple audit services.

– Cloud help desk services and support.

– Active directory (AD) Apple integration cloud services.

– Hosted Apple management.

– Bring your own device (BYOD).

– Apple VPP (Volume Purchase Programme) service.

– Apple cloud consultancy services.

– Apple DEP (Device Enrolment Programme) consultancy services.

– iPhone and Apple Watch managed services.

– Tech bar services.

– Adobe Creative Cloud VIP programme.

If you’d like to find out more about each service and support solution, including scope, planning, pricing, implementation and much more, you can visit Jigsaw24’s section of the G-Cloud 9 Framework Digital Marketplace here.

Want to talk to us in more detail about cloud services and support, and the G-Cloud 9 Framework? Give us a call on 03332 400 888 or email gps@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

 

Securing Macs in your organisation: The basics

Securing Macs in your organisation: The basics

If you’re managing security across a large Mac estate in your organisation and finding it both intimidating and confusing, we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. With a little help from Apple’s built-in security features, as well as a few recommendations from Apple device management experts, your IT team can tackle common security issues with ease.

Security can be a tough nut to crack. The reality is, when you’re responsible for your business’ Mac estate, you want to ensure that you’re getting the job done properly, and that the devices can be used safely and securely. Of course, you need your Mac security to comply with existing network security measures, too.

How can macOS help?

If you’ve made the jump to macOS Sierra (which we recommend), there’s a plethora of ways it can help your Mac estate stay secure.

Regular software updates from Apple ensure that your machines always have access to the latest and safest version of macOS, while Gatekeeper protects you from any malicious apps. The safest place to download apps from is the Mac App Store, but if you’re downloading from the internet, developers can receive a Developer ID from Apple that helps Gatekeeper identify unscrupulous software and block installation from unapproved developers.

FileVault 2 keeps your data safe and secure by encrypting the entire drive on your Mac – and it’s fast and unobtrusive to boot. Users can even encrypt removable drives, which makes it ideal for securing Time Machine backups or external devices. And if you want a clean start or to give your Mac to someone else, you have access to instant wipe functionality that removes encryption keys, rendering data inaccessible, then performs a complete wipe of every last scrap of data on the disk. Best of all, it’s relatively easy to set up and initial encryption won’t take long so you can get right back to work once it’s done.

The upcoming Apple File System (APFS) looks set to revolutionise everything, including imaging, backup, OS upgrades and security. Fortunately, this is a good thing as APFS is optimised for Flash/SSD storage and features strong encryption, copy-on-write metadata, space sharing, cloning for files and directories, snapshots, fast directory sizing, atomic safe-save primitives, and improved file system fundamentals. You can read more about it here.

What do the experts recommend?

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) is an organisation specialising in cyber security. As internationally recognised specialists, they set the standard for macOS security. Making their security recommendations a part of your day-to-day practices will ensure you’ve got all bases covered.

Click here to check out a few of their benchmark recommendations for macOS security – they even provide terminal level suggestions for enabling and disabling certain features.

How can you meet security benchmarks like this for large scale Mac estates?

MDM (mobile device management) solutions like Jamf Pro allow users to control the settings, security, permissions and applications on any mobile device in your organisation, whether that be tablets, smartphones, laptops and even things like POS kiosks or mobile printers. It provides a single, centralised overview of your organisations mobile estate, no matter how many locations or platforms it covers. Such solutions also bolster device security and offer superior protection for your company data.

MDM tools should provide FileVault 2 controls so IT administrators can administer encryption and recovery keys, and can also help your organisation manage system preferences for your devices. This includes enabling FileVault 2 across your company to ensure data security, as well as iCloud preferences relating to file backup. Similarly, passwords and keys can be escrowed in Jamf Pro’s Server Inventory so you can rest easy knowing they’re stored securely in a central location.

Similarly, device management platforms are also great for handling system access, authentication and authorisation processes. This includes things like certificate distribution, with any good management tool utilising computer-level certificates to protect a company’s assets in a variety of ways. Typically, this includes certificate authentication for machines being integrated into an organisation’s network. Likewise, most management solutions should permit admins to configure a server that will act as a certificate authority, which will then be used to manage certificate services across an organisation’s computer network.

MDM tools can even help with log management, which is ideal for ensuring system and network security, and regulatory compliance. Logs are created on almost all devices, and if you’re running a large Mac estate you’re likely having to handle a large volume of them. They’re essential for analysing and solving bug issues, and testing new features during early development stages. So having a device management solution that can organise logs will save you time and money in the long run, and help you tackle future problems before they arise.

MDM solutions also support patch management, which allows admins to monitor the latest software updates for devices and applications, ensuring they’re up to date and secure – take a look at our mini guide to patch management.

Want to know more about getting started with Mac security, and how MDM solutions such as Jamf Pro can help your business keep on top of everyday IT tasks and meet security benchmarks? Give us a call on 03332 409 366, email enterprisesupport@Jigsaw24.com head to Jigsaw24.com/enterprise-support or pop your details in the form below. For all the latest news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @WeAreJigsaw24 and ‘like’ us on Facebook.

Scripting: Your need to know basics

Scripting: Your need to know basics

If you’re looking to take a more hands-off approach to your device management processes, scripting is a great way to automate day-to-day tasks such as update rollouts, security policy deployments, remote wipes, troubleshooting and everything in between.

For those that don’t know, a computer script is a list of commands that are executed by a certain programme or engine. Scripts are used to automate the execution of tasks that would normally be carried out one by one by a human operator, thus removing the tedium of repetitive processes.

There are lots of different scripting languages, but as we’re talking about device management, lets take a look at the languages a popular Mac management tool like Jamf Pro supports:

– Perl (.pl)

– Bash (.sh)

– Shell (.sh)

– Non-compiled AppleScript (.applescript)

– C Shell (.csh)

– Zsh (.zsh)

– Korn Shell (.ksh)

– Tool Command Language (.tcl)

– Hypertext Preprocessor (.php)

– Ruby (.rb)

– Python (.py)

LaunchDaemons are system processes that start up every time your device is booted. Essentially, they form part of the nuts and bolts of scripted operations, and whether you use the features they provide doesn’t matter – they’re always chugging away in the background consuming RAM. LaunchDaemons run as part of a unified framework known as launchd, which starts, stops and manages daemons, applications, processes and scripts.

Similarly, LaunchAgents are file locations that house scripts and automatically manage system processes. Unlike LaunchDaemons, they load when an individual users logs in, rather than when the device is booted. Simply put, LaunchDaemons and LaunchAgents are essential for triggering scripts and applications, as well as automating device management procedures. They can also be programmed to operate as and when you see fit – whether that’s every so often, at set intervals and so on.

With MDM (mobile device management) solutions, users can run, manage, deploy and add scripts to package sources. Package sources allow you to view and edit the attributes of a package, including files, scripts, privileges and localisations. This makes it easier to deploy devices at scale and automate processes associated with device management.

If you’re looking to effectively manage and deploy package sources, it’s essential to consider a third party solution such as Jamf Pro. Not only that, but a trusted partner (like Jigsaw24) can help you skip the steep learning curve. We can write and deploy scripts for you, and handle all the tough technical stuff to ensure your management solution and other processes are running at maximum efficiency.

If you’d like to find out more, you can download our Mac Management white paper here. Alternatively, if you need a hand with script writing give us a call on 03332 409 365 or email solutions@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @WeAreJigsaw24 and ‘like’ us on Facebook.

Your mini guide to patch management with Jamf Pro

Your mini guide to patch management with Jamf Pro

Patch management is an integral part of application security, so it should be high on your list of priorities when it comes to your Mac estate. IT admins spend hours scouring the web for software updates, but it doesn’t have to be as complex and time consuming as you might think.

Formerly a repetitive manual process, quality device management solutions like Jamf Pro have made it easy for users to ensure their software is up to date and secure. How does it do this? Well, Jamf Pro automatically notifies administrators when third party software updates are released, bypassing the rigmarole of figuring out what needs upgrading and which updates are available. This is especially handy given that so many popular third party applications churn out multiple updates a month.

Figuring out where to take action when new updates are available can also be tricky, as most organisations with thousands of machines and users are likely running different software versions. Identifying potential software vulnerabilities is a must, but thankfully Jamf Pro provides visibility into the software or app version a device is running, as well as the number of devices operating on a specific patch. All the information is compiled in an easy to understand visual, and reports can be downloaded or bookmarked so you can share your findings with colleagues. From there, you can take action as and when you need to, ensuring the security of your Mac environment.

Jamf Pro's Patch Management interface

Jamf Pro’s Patch Management interface

If you’re looking to take patch management one step further, Jamf Pro allows IT admins to automate update deployment by utilising policies and scripts. We’d recommend using a mixture of packaged scripts to guarantee a successful rollout with minimal downtime and interference.

If you’d like to find out more, you can download our Mac Management whitepaper here. Alternatively, give us a call on 03332 409 365 or email solutions@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @WeAreJigsaw24 and ‘like’ us on Facebook.

 

Cut the time it takes to provision a new Mac from hours to seconds

Cut the time it takes to provision a new Mac from hours to seconds

How long does it take you to provision a Mac for a new starter? What about rebuilding an existing device that requires different network configurations or software? What if you could cut this process down from hours to seconds – or even to the point where you don’t have to touch the device at all?

If you’re looking to save yourself time when setting up fresh Macs for employees, zero-touch deployment should be a priority – and Apple tools and mobile device management can help you achieve it.

To demonstrate the hassle of manually setting up a new Mac and user profile (which can take up to an hour depending on the amount of software installs required), here’s a simplified example of a typical IT administrator checklist, detailing everything that needs to be done before a device can be deployed into the workplace:

Manual setup of a new user

  1. Create user on directory service, and assign privileges
  2. Create Mail account(s), CRM accounts etc.
  3. Set up IMAP; map Sent, Trash, Drafts folders etc.
  4. Create Mail signature.
  5. Create server shortcuts from IT support, as well as any additional shortcuts.

Manual setup of a new Mac

  1. Turn on the device, and run through all the standard start-up steps (AppleID, TouchID, Apple Pay etc)
  2. Set up Admin user.
  3. Run system software update.
  4. Bind to OD (Open Directory), and/or AD (Active Directory).
  5. Add access to corporate services and security requirements
  6. Install software.

– Microsoft Office 365.
– Printer drivers for all printers.
– Adobe Creative Cloud.

  1. Set wallpaper and edit dock.

Comparatively, you can use zero-touch deployment to cut down this process from hours to seconds.

What is zero-touch deployment?

Zero-touch deployment is the end result of leveraging a mixture of tools that enable devices to be provisioned, integrated and configured automatically, eliminating almost all of the manual setup process. By the time they’re delivered to desk, devices will have the correct security policies preloaded, be prepped to install the correct system specifications and configured to suit the tasks they’ll be used for, and have the necessary creative applications awaiting installation.

This is achievable by using some simple tools to create:

– Configuration profiles and software packages – effectively a base image.

– Policies against users and user groups, so when someone joins the team they get the same deployment.

So, which Apple tools support zero-touch deployment?

Apple’s Profile Manager simplifies management, streamlining deployment and configuration of Mac computers in your organisation – it can be used as an MDM (mobile device management) solution in its own right, but many organisations use this tool in conjunction with third party MDM solutions to better support larger estates.

It allows admins to configure and roll out settings to Apple devices and users across their network, and quickly set up lots of devices with the apps, settings and documents they need. It also helps organisations enforce password polices, define the kind of networks devices can connect to, disable certain features and deactivate system preferences in macOS. Similarly, devices can be remotely locked or wiped with Profile Manager, handy if staff lose their Mac or iPhone.

Fortunately, before you’ve even invested in a third party management platform, Apple supply some of the tools you’ll need to make hands-off deployment and disk imaging on macOS a success. System Image Utility provides users with the functionality to create and configure three types of network disk image: NetBoot, NetInstall and NetRestore, as well modular images that contain the operating system and allow users to download and install the apps they need.

Remote Desktop is Apple’s open standards-based desktop management software utility; it lets admins remotely control and configure systems, install software, provide assistance to end users, create reports and automate management tasks. You can leverage Remote Desktop to check that all automatic, remote and zero-touch configurations have been implemented successfully, or for ongoing remote management of the devices once they’re deployed.

Using computer lists, administrators can define a group of computers and manage them according to type, physical location, use, and more. From there, you can choose to set up a remote Mac and create a dedicated Task Server to gather information and distribute it with sanctioned admins. The Task Server is always on, and serves as an automated administrator that can install packages and configure client settings without central control from Remote Desktop.

The process of setting up a new user’s Mac can be further simplified by:

  1. Adding a new user to your Mac management tool of choice, integrated with Apple’s Device Enrolment Program (DEP).
  2. Assigning the Mac to the user in the management tool, so that when it’s turned on, it pulls down everything the user requires.

To save even more time, admins even have the option of uploading a list of devices rather than adding them one by one – ideal for larger scale rollouts.

While Apple laid the groundwork for Mac management with Profile Manager and other tools, it’s essential to consider a third party solution such as Jamf Pro if you’re looking to manage your Mac estate on a larger scale. Not only that, but a trusted partner (like Jigsaw24) can help you skip the steep learning curve and handle all the tough technical stuff to ensure your management solution is running at maximum efficiency.

If you’d like to find out more about building user profiles on Mac, you can download our Mac Management white paper here. Alternatively, give us a call on 03332 409 365 or email solutions@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @WeAreJigsaw24 and ‘like’ us on Facebook.

 

Five creative trends we’ve got our eye on

Five creative trends we’ve got our eye on

From AR to VR and every acronym in between, there are lots of fresh creative trends on their way up this year that we’re getting pretty excited about. 

As you’ve probably figured out by now, we’re celebrating 25 years of being a leading creative technology provider. As part of the festivities, we’ve been looking back at retro tech and old school design work, but as fun as its been to enjoy some nostalgia, we also like to keep our eye to the future and stay right up to date on the hottest industry trends.

Check out our top five creative trends to look out for…

Animation and video

More and more websites are leaving static imagery behind, hoping to capture the imagination of users through animation. Advancements in web browsers, CSS and HTML5 have made the creation and implementation of animation online much simpler, and web designers are utilising its ability to tell dynamic stories to customers as they browse online.

Video is already hugely popular, but it’s becoming even more so as developments in live streaming via social media take hold. Video is so effective because it allows companies to communicate fine-tuned product narratives to viewers in a way that engages and excites them. If you haven’t adopted it yet, now’s the time!

Did you know? By 2018, 79% of all consumer internet traffic will be video-based.

UX design

Thanks to the fundamentals of human psychology and visual perception, ensuring the effectiveness of your visual communications is key – that’s why usability and accessibility are so important to any digital or online experience. Linear, easy to use interfaces, intelligent personalisation and specialisation should be your top priorities when it comes to UX, and with apps like Uber, Snapchat and Pokémon Go perfecting the practice to great success, its uptake among design teams looks set to continue. 

Virtual reality

You probably guessed it’d show up at some point. VR has only just started infiltrating our lives, and the creation of groundbreaking immersive experiences is definitely on the up. In this year alone, we’ve seen the introduction of virtual tours and VR-themed stage productions, the creation of dementia-friendly virtual environments, VR sketching software for creative professionals and virtual reality apps for reading the news. Not only that, but digital marketers are jumping on the bandwagon as they look to capitalise on a fresh, fully interactive medium for customer engagement.

Minimalism and modularity

As a designer’s job becomes ever more technical and complex, it’s kind of ironic that we’re striving for less in how we present our content. Brands are competing to appear elegant and refined, and a great contemporary example of this is conversational interfaces. News apps in particular send small, digestible pieces of information (usually based on what you’re interested in) straight to your smartphone. From there, users can choose to interact with the notification if they wish to see more content, but otherwise it’s presented in a clean, concise way that doesn’t clutter your home screen.

We expect this trend to continue to grow, so it’s worth bearing a few things in mind if you want your design work to keep up with the competition. We’d recommend breaking your layouts up into digestible chunks and making them easy to engage with, rather than forcing users into walls of text and information. It makes the design process more manageable and goes hand in hand with that sleek, minimalist look we were just talking about.

Typography

Experimenting with typography is key to the design process, and the importance of selecting something that both compliments your work and adapts nicely to your design layouts can’t be understated. Whether you’re using it to help represent complex ideas and abstract concepts, bolster minimalist page designs with a dash of creativity that make them more exciting or just trying to make your work look prettier, designers are now spending more time than ever mulling over their typographical decisions.

These days, the use of larger fonts is becoming more prevalent thanks to the need to optimise websites for mobile screens. Similarly, designers are being tasked with creating responsive logos, which are designed to keep up with the ever-growing selections of formats and scales available to users. Preferably, a good responsive logo will be simple and malleable, and react naturally to its environment while still being functional. This means that we could see creatives move away from hand drawn typography, as these logos are likely to be intricate, much more complex, and less flexible and responsive.

Want to find out more about about the latest creative technology? Give us a call on 03332 400 888, email sales@Jigsaw24.com or pop your details in the form below. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

 

A day in the life of… Stuart Tolley from Transmission

A day in the life of… Stuart Tolley from Transmission

We caught up with typographical designer, art director and author Stuart Tolley to find out what he gets up to while plying his trade at Transmission, his Brighton-based studio. He’s got years of experience working on magazines, a passion for minimalism (he even wrote a book about it!) and prefers to do things the old fashioned way. So we asked him all about how he’s adapted to changes in the creative industry since beginning his career, his work, the technology he uses, what keeps him inspired, and his predictions for the future of design.

What have you been working on today?

Today I’ve been working on typographical experiments for the covers of a forthcoming book series. I’ve been picking apart the headline type using Adobe apps to typographically represent complex theories about psychology, sociology, economics and creativity. I mainly use InDesign, which I combine with Photoshop and Illustrator for other parts of the work.

You’ve authored some books of your own; what were they about?

The first one was called Collectors Edition: Innovative Packaging and Graphics, which is about the renaissance of vinyl records and limited edition publications. My second book, MIN: The New Simplicity in Graphic Design, is about the rebirth of minimalism in graphic design.

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Could you tell us a bit more about your work on minimalism?

Well, MIN has been out for about a year and is published by Thames & Hudson. There have previously been books about the history of minimalism, but no one has published an up to date book about it, particularly in the last 5 years.

We’ve become accustomed to the stripped back designs of contemporary technology and this is really important to me, as I didn’t want the book to be a historical look at the style. I think people are really aware of minimalism now, particularly with the stripped back user experience and product design of Apple devices – this is all part of a decluttered lifestyle, which is something I wanted to tap into. The reductive nature of the book has informed a lot of my studio projects too, because I like working with quite abstract concepts and then stripping them down to their barest form.

What are the biggest challenges you face in keeping the studio up and running?

The main challenge is balancing all the [on-going] design projects we have coming through the studio. We’re a small studio and I take care of all the creative work – I like to do everything myself as well, which I suppose is a bit controlling.

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What technology were you using back in the 90s, at the start of your career? 

I graduated from university in 1999. There were a small amount of computers within the university, but at the time I was using the photographic dark rooms to enlarge my negatives and creating a lot of photographic work. We were on really basic versions of editing software back then – I think I might have used Photoshop a handful of times.

The thing is, I was right on that cusp. Magazines were produced using a cut and paste layout system, with lots of rulers and measuring grids. Of course, I missed all of that and started work when Quark was the main publishing tool. Before I left university, I was using the photocopier all the time to print stuff, cutting and pasting, using lots of tape to stick it all down – really hands-on work. Then as soon as I started work people were like “Right, now you need to use QuarkXpress”.

What technology has had the biggest impact on your studio?

I use a lot of Adobe programs. I really am a slave to Apple and Adobe at the minute. A big change was when InDesign overtook Quark, which was the industry standard. I think the biggest change for me personally is how social media and marketing have developed. The internet is now the mainstream form for viewing information, especially since the explosion of smartphones.

There was a period, maybe a decade ago, where I was working on print and magazine projects, but nobody was interested in print at all. Just a constant stream of “nos”; people were demanding apps and stuff for tablets instead. But magazine apps haven’t really taken over as much as people predicted, and instead we’re witnessing a golden era of independent magazine production that’s targeted at very specific audiences.

How did you adapt to the latest trends, whether it was online, video or animation? 

I didn’t. The rise of digital design and user experience has exploded really in the last four or five years, all while I was making my books. I was kind of blissfully unaware and then popped out the other side of it. That’s when I realised the design industry had changed quite a bit. But, for me, it’s quite important to just stick to your guns and say, “You know what, this is what I love to do and they’ll be an audience for it.” I think once I realised that, that’s when I decided I didn’t need to be making loads of apps or websites just to keep up, because there are so many people that are doing that anyway.

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When did you get your first Mac?

My first Mac was a big old [Power Mac] G4 desktop, which had a great big screen. It was all that was available at the time and I got it almost as soon as I left university and had enough money. I was working at Sleazenation magazine at the time and used it to create freelance work on the side. I now have an iMac with a Retina screen, the highest spec I could get, which I use as my main computer.

So how would you say the G4 you were using compares to the top-spec iMac you have now?

The new iMacs are much more streamlined. What you’ve got now is a screen on a stand, whereas before you’d have your [tower], hard drives and a massive monitor with a deep back to it, wires everywhere. Now it’s all part of the decluttering, minimalistic process. You know, the wireless keyboard and mouse, stuff like that – I just embraced it, it was fantastic. 

Do you use any design tablets, like Wacoms?

Some of my friends swear by [Wacoms] but it’s just not something that I’ve ever tried or embraced.

How do your friends use them?

One of them has a huge one; it’s basically just a screen that he draws into. It’s an incredible bit of kit – but as they’re illustrators, they need the ability to draw and work freehand. Whereas I would say my work is more typographical, which I can handle on a mouse.

What Adobe apps do you use the most? 

I use InDesign the most, but I do vector-based work in Illustrator too. I use Photoshop for colour correcting, retouching and things like that. I also use Bridge quite a bit for manipulating images in raw mode, but InDesign is definitely the one I use the most – all day, everyday basically.

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What upcoming trends are you thinking about for the future?

I’ve just created a book about minimalism, so I’m quite interested in the opposite of that. The whole point of the book was that there have been these very ornate designs around for a long time, then minimalism comes along and it refreshes everything. But there will always be a reaction against a current design trends and you’ll probably see a reaction against minimalism in the next few years.

So what will the reaction to minimalism be then?

I think there will be a point where everyone gets bored of things looking really clean, and minimalism just won’t be doing its job anymore, because everything just looks the same. You see it within the independent magazine industry, which are all currently being produced in a minimalist design style. They’ve all got a little logo, top centre, and they all look exactly the same. There are magazines coming out that are totally different, really energetic, and they’ll stand out because they don’t look like everything else. That will be the biggest change; a style will come along that’s more playful and experimental.

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How do you stay productive during busy, stressful times?

I go and sit on the beach. I’ll just take a sketchbook and go and make notes, draw and come up with ideas. It always works. Guaranteed.

What keeps you inspired everyday?

I often change career path and that keeps me inspired. I still work within editorial design, but I’ve shifted quite a lot. I think that’s something that I would like to continue doing, mixing formats and styles. I’ve just been commissioned to work on an exhibition in Brighton this September, so I’m already thinking of ideas for that in the back of my mind. It’s just about doing lots of side projects and changing direction every so often. It’s frightening, but it’s important to do it.

Transmission is a graphic design studio and editorial consultancy, working with clients in the cultural, commercial and charitable industries.

www.transmission.design

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