A day in the life of… Senior Brand Designer Zoe Scott-Smith

A day in the life of… Senior Brand Designer Zoe Scott-Smith

We caught up with Zoe Scott-Smith, Senior Brand Designer at Threerooms Branding Agency in Nottingham, to find out about the kind of work she does, their projects, the technology they use, what keeps her inspired each day, and which industry trends they’ve got their eyes on…

Tell us about the kind of work you do at Threerooms? 

Threerooms is a digital-first branding agency, so as Senior Brand Designer, I get to work on lots of varied and exciting brand projects. The great thing about branding is that each project is completely bespoke and crafted to the individual client, so even though the creative process can be similar, no project or day is the same. I work closely with clients from the get-go, too – from initial brand workshops, through to rolling out bespoke and tailored brands. Brand workshops are a great chance to truly learn about the client, and understanding how a company or business began is one of my favourite questions. You can delve deep into their personality, ethos and find out what drives them.

What are some big projects you’ve been working on recently? 

I have been working on lots of really exciting top brands, covering everything from universities, the emergency services, charities, packaging for drinks, the beauty industry, and even a brand new aquatics brand. I absolutely love getting stuck into creating a new brand. Even now, I find the creative process such a rewarding journey.

Aside from brand jobs, I have been creating a range of illustrations and wall graphics for one of our clients. It’s a lot of fun working with so many different creative mediums.

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What technology does your team rely on every day? 

There are lots of different tools that we rely on day to day. Adobe Creative Cloud (everything from InDesign and Photoshop to Illustrator and Lightroom), as well as 3D software such as Cinema 4D and web software like Sketch. Aside from design software, InVision is our go-to presentation software, as it lets us to upload and present our visuals while allowing for easy commenting and feedback.

When it comes to communication and collaboration, software such as Podio, which acts as our main central hub, is key. Other tools like Forecast help us map out different project schedules, while WorkflowMax lets us keep an eye on invoicing and time allocation management. Google for Business is especially handy for collaboration, and – of course – Spotify is my go-to for much needed tunes.

How does this compare to the technology you were using at the start of your career?

I am quite lucky – when I was starting my career, a lot of the other, lesser known design packages were being phased out and I jumped straight into Adobe CS4! Without making myself sound too old, the technology really has evolved so much. When I started in the industry ten years ago, it was a print-dominated world – web software like Sketch wasn’t around and terms like UX weren’t commonplace. The work felt more isolated, so collaborative tools have really paved the way for more unity and open-thinking between designers.

Regarding interaction with clients, back then it was a bit more of a “here’s a bit of paper with amends scribbled on it” approach. Collaboration tools are not just a way for designers to feed back, but are a huge part of client interactions, too. It is essential for this process to be as smooth as possible to avoid hiccups and allow designers more time to do what they do best. Internally, collaboration tools allow the team to quickly provide feedback from everyone’s perspective, and enable us to understand their comments more clearly. Ultimately, this makes for a better project outcome.

What technology has had the biggest impact on Threerooms? 

All the latest technology trends have had a huge impact on the studio. We pride ourselves in keeping up to date with the latest trends, advancements and tweaks as they all add up in their own way, and usually help to simplify and advance the creative process.

There are a few different things we’re excited about, the first being Dimension, the new 3D software by Adobe. We’re also looking forward to Adobe Spark and InVision Studio.

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How do your team stay productive during busy, stressful times?

We’re armed with our headphones! But in all seriousness, when it’s busy and time is of the essence, being able to pull the team together for input and feedback is ideal for discovering new creative routes and re-energising. Working in a close-knit team has some huge advantages, too. We all know what eachother are working on and can offer input, fresh ideas and collaborate between ourselves, which really helps to enhance each project.

What keeps you inspired everyday? 

The main sources of inspiration are obvious – Behance, Pinterest and Dribbble. However, when a challenge arises, team get-togethers provide the best source of inspiration. You find that with several design heads together, problems are quickly resolved.

I have to mention our beautiful surroundings! With our studio being based at Strelley Hall, it’s amazing how much of a difference having a tranquil setting can make to your creative thoughts. I once heard that the Pixar team often take a drive to ‘nowhere’, passing through serene landscapes to rattle through their creative problems – I think we could be on to something!

Of course, music is a huge source of inspiration for everyone. Nothing is better than throwing your headphones on or cranking up the studio speaker and blasting out your favourite tunes for tackling the tricky tasks at hand.

strelley_hall

Do you use any design tablets, and if so, how do you use them?

I used to dabble with Wacom’s a fair bit – I think they’re great to use. I guess I don’t particularly miss the interaction of holding a pen-like device though – whenever I am needed to create bespoke illustrations, I instinctively grab my brush pens and do them raw. Something about this tactile approach is rewarding and offers greater control.

I then use the Adobe Capture mobile app to snap my hand-crafted illustrations, which then sync instantly into my chosen Creative Cloud library as a vectorised illustration. I love how this app still retains even the slightest imperfections – the smallest splatters of ink or alterations in a line – which all add to the character of the overall look.

Are there any industry trends that your team are thinking about incorporating into your work in the near future?

I think it’s important to always look to the future, and to consider what we need to incorporate in order to keep Threerooms ahead. With logo animations being one of the dominant trends at the moment, we are looking to push animation in all of our work, from logos all the way through to websites. In addition, we’re looking to push modelling advances by using the latest Adobe software like Dimension, and we’re also thinking about the possibilities of VR and how we can shape new experiences in that environment.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work and how do you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges for all designers is to ensure we are still generating creative ideas and staying ahead of the trends. I often find myself scrolling through the latest and greatest branding examples, questioning why certain things were done in certain ways, what they were looking to achieve, and most importantly, absorbing everything I see.

Outside of the creative process, the biggest challenge would have to be client deadlines, which we overcome by utilising our workflow tools to assist with timeframes. Budget constraints can also be a challenge, however we find our process of in-depth workshops helps us to achieve the end goal quicker by fully understanding the client’s needs from the outset.

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How important is collaboration for your team, and how has technology helped with this?

Collaboration is massively important, and enables us to get the best out of our projects. We never underestimate the value of getting a fresh pair of eyes on our work, and are always doing internal reviews to enhance collaboration on all of our projects. With everyone’s eyes on each project, it allows us to continually push the boundaries in what we create and feedback on each other’s work. Not only does it lead to great results for Threerooms and our team, but also for our clients.

Threerooms are a leading brand and creative agency in Nottingham. They help marketing teams and business owners add value to their brands through impeccable design and effective brand strategy.

threerooms.com

If you’d like to find out more about about any of the creative kit mentioned above, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

Our first look at Adobe Character Animator CC

Our first look at Adobe Character Animator CC

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.

animator_1

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.

Character Animator screenshot 1

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.

animator_2

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.”

Character Animator screenshot 2

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.”

If you’d like to find out more about the latest Adobe Creative Cloud updates, 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.

A day in the life of… artist, illustrator and lecturer Jo Berry

A day in the life of… artist, illustrator and lecturer Jo Berry

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.

Jo_Berry_Image4

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Jo_Berry_Image11

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.

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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.

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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.

joberry.co.uk 

If you’d like to find out more about about any of the creative technology mentioned above, give us a call on 03332 400 888 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook. 

Creative trend: Unlock creative productivity and increase engagement with AI

Creative trend: Unlock creative productivity and increase engagement with AI

While AI (artificial intelligence) might conjure up thoughts of machines dominating the world, when it comes to the creative industries, the reality is quite different. No, you’re not being phased out in favour of designing or copywriting robots – if anything, AI will probably make your life and daily processes more straightforward. But in order for AI to be successful within marketing agencies and creative teams, it’s essential for individuals to be open minded and optimistic about its potential and implementation within creative workflows.

It’s no wonder people are sceptical and even scared of AI – even its definition is kind of spooky. Artificial intelligence is ‘the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, and translation between languages.’ Earlier this year, Facebook were forced to abandon an AI experiment after two artificially intelligent chatbots began talking to each other in a secret language that only they understood.

As weird and off-putting as that might sound, Facebook weren’t scared. They only dropped the project because they wanted the AIs to talk to people rather than each other. But no matter how you feel about two chatbots developing indecipherable code-speak (or AI robots gaining citizenship in Saudi Arabia – we’re looking at you, Sophia), it hasn’t stopped tech firms and agencies from using AI to bolster their content output and boost their engagement statistics.

Using AI to inform creative and marketing processes

As any marketer or creative knows, the key to success lies within their ability to stay ahead of the curve and embrace new technology and trends as quickly as possible. If there’s tech out there that can put you ahead of the competition while streamlining your day to day processes, adopting it sooner rather than later will have a tangible effect on business. In that vein, agencies throughout the world are looking for ways to implement AI that could help support human creative processes – whether that’s by automating repetitive tasks, filtering and managing data, handling complex data analytics, providing predictive marketing functions, or simply freeing up more resources so creatives can focus on content generation.

Marketing agencies need to be able to respond flexibly to data patterns, while designers and copywriters rely on said information to aid their creative decision making. But in order to do this, all parties require insights into what works and what doesn’t, and how audiences are reacting to their existing content output.

An analytics-focussed AI that drives predictive marketing should help teams identify their successes and failures, improve targeting and provide a clearer route to desired results. That means your team won’t have to spend so much time worrying about data and statistics, and can instead focus on creating effective content and achieving the highest possible conversion rates. Some AIs are even intelligent enough to recommend potential directions for a campaign based on tried and tested results, and AI chatbots can be used on webpages to interact directly with customers to gather marketing information in real time.

Advertising and creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi LA used an AI to run a number of campaigns earlier this year. Back in January, they teamed up with Toyota and launched a Facebook campaign using the AI ‘IBM Watson’ to help social media users find unique activities to try. Having provided Watson with 1000 distinctive interests to filter through, the AI targeted adverts at people depending on the interests they had in common with each other. In one example, Watson matched individuals who shared an interest in both barbecue and martial arts, before giving them adverts for an activity called ‘taikwan tenderizer’. Saatchi & Saatchi LA were pleased with the results, and were happy to have have access to deeper insights. They’ve even given this type of advertising a name – ‘flexible storytelling’, where certain parts of adverts can be altered depending on data findings.

Using AI for content creation

With the advent of driverless cars, chatbots, and everything from automated call centres to automated operating theatres, experts have been pretty concerned about the impact automisation will have on the workforce. But there’s one job that experts aren’t so worried about – content creation.

Artificial intelligence already forms the part of the backbone of creative software we use every single day. Adobe Sensei is an essential part of Creative Cloud, pulling together trillions of content and data assets within a unified AI or ‘machine learning framework’ to provide advanced image matching functionality, deeper understanding of the meaning and sentiment of documents and fine-tuned targeting of key audience segments. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also capable of fleshing out incomplete photos, identifying objects and faces, transforming paper into digital documents, enabling complex image searches and much more.

Taking it one step further, some companies have even made the leap to employing AIs to write articles. Developments in things like natural language processing, machine learning and image recognition have allowed scientists to develop the writing skills of AIs to a point where they’re indistinguishable from something produced by a human. And as lots of marketing content available online shares similar messaging, tone and style, it’s easy for a machine to replicate existing content without any noticeable flaws.

AI has even been used to create film and music. Grammy award-winning music producer Alex Da Kid used Watson to help guide the production process of his debut solo single Not Easy. When it came to lyrical, emotional and rhythmic inspiration for the song, Watson took five years’ of Billboard hits, plus other pieces of pop culture information to help create something that appealed specifically to the emotional state of the listener.

Similarly, in 2016, 20th Century FOX teamed up with IBM to produce an AI-created movie trailer for the horror film Morgan. IBM and FOX also used Watson, and tasked the AI with analysing visuals and sounds from hundreds of horror film trailers to get an idea of how they were composed and pieced together. From there, Watson chose scenes for editors to patch together into a trailer. Ultimately, the entire creative process for the trailer took just one day, when it would usually take weeks.

It makes sense that intelligent machines can handle data, analyse statistics, provide basic communication functions over the internet and carry out administrative duties (thus giving creative teams more time to be creative), but there aren’t many people who believe artificial intelligence could feasibly replace humans when it comes to creativity. Surely all creative work, whether written or designed, comes from years of experience, trial and error and the recognition of complex patterns only made possible by a living human brain?

If you want to find out what creative workflow solutions we can offer to help support your team, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email designsolutions@Jigsaw24.com. If you’re ready to start shopping head to our design storeFor all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

 

A day in the life of the Jigsaw24 creative team

A day in the life of the Jigsaw24 creative team

The creative team is part of the marketing division at Jigsaw24, and is composed of a team of copywriters and a team of designers; these two groups combined are behind the production of all marketing materials produced by Jigsaw24. But who are they really? Here’s a little overview of the team…

How the team is structured

Responsible for the supervision of the whole team is the management team, consisting of Ade Leader (the boss man), the Head of Marketing along with Victoria Baxter and Louise Goldsworthy, both design managers. When this trio of forces combine, VAL is formed – an unstoppable managing mastermind. A main part of Ade’s job is managing the workload and communicating with other teams in the business to plan and implement marketing campaigns. Victoria plots the work of the designers and organises their days by each hour. She plans months in advance (like an organisational ninja) in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Meanwhile, Louise deals with the tech side of the designing such as the website.

The copy team consists of four copywriters; Liz Sunter, the senior copywriter, who works alongside Shariff Ibrahim, Joe Harby and Becki Crossley. Their job centres around writing copy for all marketing materials, which can be as wide-ranging as print materials like brochures and flyers, web pages, direct email marketing and more, as well as running the social media accounts. Day to day, the copywriters will focus on certain campaigns or projects, incorporating feedback from other teams both within the business and externally. Liz’s job involves communicating with the management team and making sure the work of the other copywriters meets the briefs for the campaigns.

On the design team there is Xenia Spray-Smith who is the senior designer along with graphic designers Liana Philips, Thierry Courtois, Simon Curd who balances in-house video production and animation with graphic design, and web designer Jamie Shaw. Their work is very varied, including both print and digital collateral, web design, event invites and stands, photography and in-house video. Xenia, as senior designer, is responsible for overseeing the team as a whole and will relay information to and from the management team.

What the team are currently working on

Presently, the creative team are focused on the production of the Jigsaw24 annual report, an in-depth (132 pages) overview of the business year. In addition to this, they are continually creating newsletters and brochures throughout the year along with their everyday tasks such as sending out emails and creating blog posts.

Where they live

The main office is open plan, with the directors working alongside the marketing, apps and systems development, sales, product management and project management teams,which enables better communication and encourages great socialising between all departments. Behind their roles and responsibilities, the members of the creative team are incredibly supportive of each other and are always willing to help out other colleagues. And morale is always boosted by the odd break from work to play pool, table tennis or table football (with questionable skills), not to mention the occasional office tournaments such as darts and table tennis (all while being super productive, of course…).

If you want to find out more call us on 03332 400 888 or email us at broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest updates follow us on Twitter @WeAreJigsaw24 or ‘like’ us on Facebook.

Bridging the gap between PIM and design with MatrixCMS

Bridging the gap between PIM and design with MatrixCMS

Getting your print collateral just right requires cooperation between multiple departments: creative, marketing, product management and data teams to name just a few. Unfortunately, having so many cooks – including ones who’ve never dealt with a creative brief before – can make it difficult to get consensus on what the key focus of different spreads is, leading to rounds of time-consuming amends.

In MatrixCMS, product managers can just drag and drop elements onto a page to create a visual brief that shows products and page hierarchy, ready for designers to pick up and refine in InDesign. And best of all, it only takes minutes to create.

Design Brief from Matrix Software on Vimeo.

MatrixCMS is designed to streamline print production and centralise product information in five key ways. Here’s how it can help you bridge the gap between product management, project management and marketing…

Drag and drop creative briefs

Rather than asking your product teams to fill out a creative brief – a time-consuming and manual exercise in which they’re likely to encounter new and ambiguous instructions – MatrixCMS allows product teams to drag and drop product codes, descriptions and images onto a page to demonstrate which products need to be featured where. MatrixCMS then sends this document to your designers, who can refine the plan and design the page in InDesign.

Access to rich media assets

As well as raw product data, MatrixCMS can house product imagery and other rich media, so product managers have access to promotional materials from suppliers, plus content you’ve created in-house. Not only does this make it easier for them to add rich media to product descriptions (great for increasing online engagement), it makes it far simpler for them to see their options when it comes to images for print marketing, and identify images that have been used previously or are out of date. This way, they can manage visual assets in the same way they do data, so internal marketing teams will always have the most up to date imagery and assets.

Centralised product information

MatrixCMS stores all your product information in one central repository, so you have a single version of the truth that can then be pushed out to all your web and print channels, ensuring your product data is always consistent. It reduces the risk of customers encountering conflicting data if they check two sources, as all your channels can be updated at once. And because your staff are no longer manually updating each and every product on each and every channel, they have more time to invest in moving the business forward.

 

 

Template-driven automation

Common marketing types can be templated so that any staff member (or reseller, if you’re providing materials for people further down the sales chain) can update images and text, if the job is too small or time-critical to be referred to a dedicated team. For example, staff at Flight Centre produce personalised itineraries for each of their clients.

Integrated approval systems

Workflow tools are built right into MatrixCMS, so project managers can see the status of various pages of a project, and use automated alerts to ensure design, product and data teams get the right information at the right time. MatrixCMS also supports an automated approval workflow, where proofs are distributed, annotated and signed off from within the software, rather than incurring extra print costs by carrying out hard copy approvals.

Want to find out more? Give our team a call on 03332 400 888, email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and tips, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘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.

Transmission_stuart_img_1

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.

Transmission_9

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.

Transmission_5

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.

Transmission_6

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.

Transmission_10

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

If you’d like to find out more about about any of the creative kit mentioned above, 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. 

 

Win a Wacom Intuos Pro by sharing productivity tips and pics

Win a Wacom Intuos Pro by sharing productivity tips and pics

Calling all design teams and creative studios! Would you like to win a Wacom Intuos Pro? Just share your best creativity or productivity tip with us by emailing comment@Jigsaw24.com or getting in touch on social media to be in with a chance of winning our design team’s graphics tablet of choice. 

To celebrate our 25th birthday this year, we’re looking back at the last quarter century of creative work, and where it’s heading. We want to hear from you guys about your own creative workflow and how you stay as productive as possible.

How to enter

For your chance to get your hands on a free Wacom Intuos Pro, let us know your top creativity and productivity tips with us on Twitter and Facebook with hashtag #Y25Wacom, or email comment@Jigsaw24.com, or send a picture of the creative team working away that captures what a day in the life of your studio looks like. Your tips could include anything from advice on the tech you use to stay productive (your most used Wacom, Adobe or Apple shortcuts, for example), to an insight into how your team stays creative – we want to see how your team work, and the more interesting the better, so feel free to get creative!

The competition ends on Friday 30th June, so get thinking and snapping, and get your entries in sharpish if you want to be in with a chance of winning!

Terms and conditions

– The prize is 1x Wacom Intuos Pro Creative Pen Tablet Medium (2017). There is one tablet available to be won.

– The competition closes at 11.59pm on Friday 30th June 2017. Any entries received after the closing date will unfortunately not be considered.

– The competition winner will be chosen by our judging panel on Monday 3rd July 2017.

– The winner will be informed via the platform through which they entered (Twitter or Facebook) on that day, and delivery of prize will be arranged.

– By submitting your tip and photo, you agree to Jigsaw24 possibly using your entry (including text, photo, entrant name and company name) in future marketing, including online, print, email and social media collateral.

– Entrants must be based in the United Kingdom.

– The competition is not open to any employee of Jigsaw24 (nice try though, guys…).

So best of luck, everyone, we’re looking forward to seeing your best tips and pics!

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @WeAreJigsaw24 and ‘like’ us on Facebook.

Creative game-changers: What our designers can’t live without

Creative game-changers: What our designers can’t live without

We’ve been doing this for 25 years, and there’s no one out there who gets creative workflows the way we do. And, in the past quarter of a century, there’s been a huge amount of technological advancement. So we caught up with our design team on the game changers they’ve seen in the creative industry, and how they couldn’t do their jobs without them…

Xenia, Graphic Designer

“The Wacom Intuos Pro has changed my life. It makes everything so much easier and is always invaluable throughout all stages of a project – I’d never go back! From quickly drawing out ideas in Illustrator, to easily zooming in or rotating an image, to using the Expresskeys customised with my most-used Creative Cloud shortcuts, I’ve found the Intuos Pro to be an essential piece of tech. And with the wireless kit, working on the go is as easy as moving to another room – I just keep the adaptor plugged into my MacBook ready to go.”

Jamie Shaw, Web Designer

“Back in the day, I remember trying to get PC and Mac to work together was very laborious. Now saving and opening things on both and passing work between them is seamless, and saves so much time! Where getting Windows and macOS to work with each other used to be a headache, everything is much easier now that Macs support SMB, and I’m excited for APFS.” (If you’re not quite as prepared as Jamie, we can run through where you are with your kit and where there’s room for improvement to increase your overall productivity – ask us about our Strategy & Discovery Sessions for more details).

Thierry, Graphic Designer

“A biggie for me is having a notebook and tablet, and the mobility that brings for working both in the office and at home. For example if I’m working away from my desk, I can mock up a more refined document using Adobe Comp on iPad Pro as easily as sketching on paper. And when I move back to my desktop, I can seamlessly pick up exactly where I left off without the hassle of emailing files across or swapping software. Very quickly, I’ve got a clear idea of how things are looking and a design that can be presented for approval.”

Liana, Graphic Designer

Creative Cloud is great because I can work from home, and have files readily available rather than getting people to email them across. I’m able to cut out a lot of steps in the image searching process, so I can spend more time designing and less time trawling the web. Being able to search and share images, styles and assets among different applications and computers, as well as with other team members, has really impacted my productivity.”

Simon, Graphic Designer

“On a day to day basis, I often find myself swapping between print and web work. A colour calibrated display, such as the Eizo ColorEdge series, is great for this because at the click of a button I can change the colour mode needed for the current project I’m working on. I know the finished product will look how I want straight away instead of battling unwanted hues by trial and error. I can be confident that colours on screen will reflect the end product, and get more out of my day by not having to waste time on avoidable colour edits. And not only does the colour and tone of imagery look better when working on it, but it translates to the screens of other devices much better as well.”

Want to find out more about being more productive? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow us on Twitter @WeAreJigsaw24 and ‘like’ us on Facebook.