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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


Weekly design inspiration: Smallest Printing Company, book towers and Cupcake Ipsum

Weekly design inspiration: Smallest Printing Company, book towers and Cupcake Ipsum

Stuck in the office and looking for a bit of Friday design inspiration/distraction? In this first part of a weekly series, we cover off what’s been getting our design team excited during the week. From printers made for Borrowers to boiler suits, enjoy!

The Smallest Printing Company

It was Liana who put this one forward, with only one thing to say: “it’s so cute!” And that pretty much sums it up because what more can be said about this printing company over in Holland who are using a Viprotech silk screen table and a scale model Roco-Ets V50 to print smaller-than-Hobbit-sized posters at this year’s Chaumont International Poster and Graphic Design Festival? Dubbed The Smallest Printing Company and set up by Letterproeftuin, follow the link below to find out more and to see plenty of pictures of the mobile printing installation.

The Smallest Printing Company by Letterproeftuin

The Smallest Printing Company by Letterproeftuin

Visit the Letterproeftuin website to find out more and see pictures of the print setup.

Book towers in Japan

Ever wondered what the Shard in London would look like if it was made of books? Well this is probably the closest you’re going to get (unless you have a lot of spare time on your hands one day). In Japan, book stores have added a creative flare to visual merchandising by finding elaborate ways to display their products. With some opting for a straight columns and others using a twisting method, we have to wonder what’s next. Now, who’s for a game of Jenga?

Japanese Book Towers

Japanese Book Towers

Take a look at more examples of the book towers over at Kotaku.com.

Cupcake ipsum

Our team are a bunch of bakers – in fact, the whole country seems to be in a bit of a tizz when it comes to sweet treats – and now it’s not just our bellies that are full of sugar. Cupcake Ipsum has started to make an appearance in our design drafts. Simply pop in the amount of text you need, give it some love and out comes as many placeholder marshmallows and cookie cheesecakes as you can manage.

Cupcake Ipsum

Cupcake Ipsum

Head to www.CupCakeIpsum.com to get baking.

Ged Palmer’s hand lettering

Got a font fetish? Take a look at Ged Palmer’s hand-drawn custom lettering and designs. A British designer who specialises in custom lettering, Ged found his fascination while painting graffiti when he was younger. He now uses an extremely sharp pencil to create designs for clients. Take a look at the link below to see more examples of Ged’s work.

Example of custom lettering by Ged Palmer

Example of custom lettering by Ged Palmer

Visit GedPalmer.com for examples of his work.

Six seasons of Walter White

If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad and are now in a state of mourning after its (premature) departure, this one’s for you. Everyone else will probably just be a bit flummoxed by the sheer determination of the folks at waltswardrobe.com, who have put together a diagram of every single one of the 521 outfits worn by Walt during the show’s six seasons. Click the image below for the full size version – just prepare yourself for plenty of pants and boiler suits.

Walt's Wardrobe

Walt’s Wardrobe

Head over to WaltWardrobe.com to take a look at each season individually.

Keep an eye out next Friday for more inspiration from our design team. In the meantime, head on over to the Jigsaw24 shop to take a look at great deals and prices on design and publishing essentials. Found something you think should have made it into the list? Pop it in the comments bow below.



Top design tips: Data merging and Print Booklet in InDesign

Top design tips: Data merging and Print Booklet in InDesign

For my latest roundup of clever little hints to help speed up your workflow, I’ve aimed my designer vision squarely at Adobe InDesign CS6. Specifically, the Data Merging feature, which lets you quickly customise a document, much like Mail Merge but for whole elements of layouts, and Print Booklet – an oft-overlooked tool for producing professional printed proofs. Enjoy!

Data Merging in InDesign CS6

I’ve used the Data Merging feature in Adobe InDesign CS6 a few times before, but was reminded of just how effective it is recently when a particular job came up. We were asked to create and print 50 proposal documents in-house to send out to companies, with personalised company logos, contact names and company names on each of the 15 pages. Initially the designer involved thought they’d have to create 50 documents, and each one would have to be manually put together – placing 50 logos and ‘finding and replacing’ company names. But the neat little Data Merging script meant we could cut out that tedium. Here’s how it works:

Screen Shot 2012-10-22 At 11.02.23

– You’ll find the panel under Windows > Utilities > Data Merge in InDesign CS6.

– Using this panel will allow you to assign areas of an InDesign document with tags that link back to a CSV file. The CSV file should contain all the personalised elements you require.

– The small example below shows we need to personalise a full company name, company name (shortened version is applicable) and we want to add a photo change – in this case a company logo.

– Once we have the CSV file with our 50 companies, we need to load it into the Data Merge panel. Go to the flyout menu and click ‘Select Data Source…’, then find your CSV file.

– The fields from the CSV file should now appear in the Data Merge panel.

Screen Shot 2012-10-22 At 11.04.51
– Now it’s simply a case of telling InDesign where it needs to put this information. This is done by selecting the type that need to be personalised and then clicking the correct data. InDesign will insert << Company Name >> (or the appropriate data tag) where this data needs to be added.
– To add a photo change, create a blank Frame and then select the data source to fill this, in our case @Photos.
– Once you’ve added all your data fields, you’re ready to create a PDF or a merged InDesign document. There are further options to explore at this point but basically if you click OK, InDesign should create your personalised document for how ever many versions you require.
And that’s it – simple customised documents in a fraction of the time it would take to individually make changes for each company. If you get stuck, there’s more information on data merging at the InDesign community help page.


Print Booklet in InDesign CS6


We produce a range of printed marketing material at Jigsaw24, including catalogues of varying page numbers. For mocking up proofs to check and get internal approvals on, we use another handy little feature tucked away in InDesign – Print Booklet. This allows you to take your chronologically prepared pages and print it as printers pairs. It’s a very useful and straightforward feature for proofing, or if you want to get a flavour of how your document might be working.
Screen Shot 2012-10-22 At 11.44.25
Simply head to File > Print Booklet to open the options menu. From here, you can choose what kind of page arrangement you’re after – 2-up Saddle Stitch, 2-up Perfect Bound or Consecutive. You’ll also find extensive options for creeps, bleeds, margins and more. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but there’s more information about all the options and troubleshooting at Adobe’s community help site.
– Like what you see? Both these features are available in InDesign, and we’ve currently offering great savings when you upgrade from CS3/4 to Adobe Creative Suite 6!
Call 03332 409 306 or email sales@Jigsaw24.comFor all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Edit any PDF in Quark with PDF2DTP

Edit any PDF in Quark with PDF2DTP

It’s one of those design nightmares – a client comes to you with a PDF and wants it amending, but you don’t have any of the original source files! Short of manually converting the PDF one page at a time or recreating the entire document (all the while mentally editing an image of your client’s head into a vicious animal attack), what can you do?

Markzware, creator of tons of plug-ins for Quark, think they have the answer with PDF2DTP. This new plug-in, or ‘XTension’, lets you easily import an entire multipage PDF into QuarkXPress 9, converting the whole thing into an editable Quark file. Then you can simply make your edits with familiar tools and export it back out to hand to your client as a new PDF.

How well does it work?

Have a look at the PDF2DTP XTension for QuarkXPress 9 in action and get the full word from Markzware in the video at the bottom. It’s already getting rave reviews from designers for its conversion speed and accuracy – Paul Ramos, a publishing professional at Difusao Cultural enthused, “PDF2DTP is fantastic! I tried it on a PDF for a book that had 524 pages, and it took less than five minutes to make the total conversion. It even isolated the images in separate files.”

Our resident Quark expert Priya Saggar reckons PDF2DTP will be a very welcome addition to designers’ toolbelts. “This is going to take a lot of tedious work out of converting PDFs to make minor edits, or quickly recovering a document when all you’ve got left is the PDF,” she said. “It does usually retail for £179 but, for a limited time, you can get it free with every QuarkXPress 9 purchase or upgrade. PDF2DTP comes as an electronic download for either Mac or Windows – all you need to do is register your Quark and fill in the online redemption form.”

You can also get more info by calling our team on 03332 409 306 and emailing sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

Looking for a print solution for your drafting workflow? There are dozens of large format printers out there which will all produce good quality results, so we’ve pitched two of the top offerings from HP and Epson against each other so you can see what kind of printer is best for your needs…

HP DesignJet T790

HP are primarily known for producing technical CAD printers for use in architectural, engineering, surveying and construction environments. Their 44″ DesignJet T790 is a plug-and-play large format printer which combines high-speed results with intuitive use. The real stand-out points here are the ability to easily create print-ready PDFs with the optional AutoCAD plug-in and the collaborative aspect of HP’s exclusive ePrint & Share application. This free web-printing solution allows you to select, print and share files directly from the colour touchscreen.

Epson Stylus Pro 9700

Epson’s range of photo and graphics printers have a heavy emphasis on print quality, and so are mainly used in the print for pay, production graphics, pre-press proofing and photographic sectors. They may seem a little over-qualified if you only need a printer that’s adept at producing 2D drafts, but if you’re working in an environment where you work with a range of designs and media, the flexibility of the 44″ Epson Stylus Pro 9700 could be what you need. ENERGY STAR-qualified, it also boasts plenty of eco-features such as a fixed printhead and low power consumption to boost your green credentials and keep printing costs down at the same time.

How they stack up

The stats you need to know, at a glance.

Printer HP DesignJet T790 Epson Stylus Pro 9700
Printhead HP Thermal Inkjet Epson Micro Piezo TFP Variable-sized Droplet Technology
Max resolution 2400x1200dpi 1440x1440dpi (special line mode)
No. colours/cartridges Six cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black, Matte Black, Grey) Four colours, five cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black and Matte Black), ten ink channels
Nozzles 2,112 nozzles per colour, 12,672 nozzles 720 nozzles per colour, 3,600 nozzles
Minimum droplet size 6-9pl 3.5pl
Max print speed 50m^2/h 50m^2/h
Best quality print speed 2.8m^2/h 4.2m^2/h
Paper thickness 60 to 328g/m^2 up to 0.8mm 0.08 to 1.5mm
Memory 8GB 256MB
Power consumption 120W 85W
Warranty One year onsite ex printhead One year onsite inc printhead

The verdict

In terms of initial cost, there’s little to separate the two printers (both have an RRP of around £3000), but the Epson does just edge the HP in terms of consumables, with printheads included in the guarantee and ink costing nearly half per ml. The real decider should be what you want your printer to achieve – for a dedicated drafting printer, you may be better off with the quicker, more accurate Epson 9700 and its collaborative tools, but if you need your printer to do more flexible colour design work, the HP T790 could clinch it for you.

To find out more about large format printing, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The benefits of QuarkXPress 8 for teachers and students

The benefits of QuarkXPress 8 for teachers and students

When it comes to desktop publishing, Keith Martin really knows his linking tool from his Bezier picture box. Senior lecturer in publishing at the London College of Communication, Keith has extensive experience under his belt, with a degree in graphic design and numerous books published about digital media. He also juggles the role of technical editor at MacUser magazine at the same time as teaching!

Keith has been using QuarkXPress for desktop publishing since he was at university and now teaches his own students how to use the latest version. He explains the way its logical design makes it easy to produce quality layout for anything from leaflets and posters to full-blown magazines and newspapers: “You make a box, you put a picture in it. It’s as if you are working with pieces of cut paper on a big poster-size page on a desk.”

Quark’s flexibility makes it really user-friendly according to Keith, and he says it is really easy to make Flash content without having to get involved with coding. “Today we are in a situation where, if designers want to actually work in digital output, they have to learn programming. But with QuarkXPress 8, you can actually get Flash done quickly and you don’t have to look at code, so I think it’s a great option for designers,” Keith added.

Now in its eighth version, Keith believes that QuarkXPress’s “pedigree” means it has a longevity that will see it carry on developing. He said: “Tools change, but design never does. I think the future is going to be that the software does the difficult stuff for you behind the scenes while you get on with the creative work.”

Find out more on QuarkXPress for teachersand students by calling our education team on 03332 409 333 or emailing learning@Jigsaw24.comFor more news on technology in Education, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter and ‘Like’ Jigsaw Education’s Facebook page.

Rendering in Revit Architecture 2009 with Mental Ray

Rendering in Revit Architecture 2009 with Mental Ray

With the new release of Revit Architecture 2009 came a lot of excitement, due largely to the inclusion of Mental Images’ Mental Ray in place of AccuRender for the Revit rendering engine. But how does Mental Ray perform in Revit, and what exactly does it add to your workflow.

As an avid 3ds Max user, I was keen to address the question or how Revit’s Mental Ray compares to that of the one in 3ds Max. So, I did a little testing and can safely say that, in my opinion, it fares very well; it has all the Pro Materials from 3ds Max (so the setting up of objects for rendering is very straight-forward), lights are a breeze, and all the photometric or IES light data contained in your Revit Light will be used in rendering calculations in Revit.

The Mental Ray interface is a lot more streamlined compared to the Max version, with simpler controls and a more user-friendly, less menu-intensive feel. Although this does restrict some of the finer settings available in 3ds Max, it makes picking up and producing good quality images – even for the complete beginner – very simple. As a general rule of thumb I’d say that Mental Ray in Revit achieves about 80% of the image quality in 20% of the time you’d expect from 3ds Max.

Getting into the interface

The render dialogue is easy to find and is represented by a teapot icon in the bottom toolbar when in your perspective view.

Once the dialogue window has loaded, first impressions are very good: endless drop downs and menus within menus are defiantly a thing of the past, with all options sensibly labelled making for quick and easy adjustments.

Even without going under the hood or into any of the custom quality settingsgood quality renders can quickly be achieved by simply choosing from the listed pre-sets on this screen.

The Quality pre-sets (i.e. those dictating how good your image will look) include options for draft, low, medium, high and best. From what I’ve seen and played with I don’t think you’d want to be showing customers renders with anything less than the medium setting. The draft and low settings are great, though, for quick test renders, making sure that your lighting is correct and ensuring that the overall composition of your image is right before waiting for the higher quality renders.

A nice feature from this dialogue is the ‘region’ tick box, which allows you to specifically render a user-defined area of your scene. This is an excellent time-saver when assigning materials to your design because it allows you to quickly produce renders with the ‘best’ quality setting in order to see how objects are going to look textured without having to wait for your whole image to render.

Looking under the hood of the Quality settings takes you to a customisable screen for tweaking your settings. Again, hats off to Autodesk: these options areextremely easy to use, with a nice interface explaining what each option does and a simple slider adjustment to make any changes. If I had one complaint it would be that it’s too easy to make changes! There have been a couple of times when I’ve become ‘slider happy’, maxing out all the settings but then realising that I’m going to have to wait a week for the image to render.

For those of you familiar with Mental Ray in 3ds Max and Viz, all the usual options for Anti-aliasingReflectionsShadows etc. are here, so if you know what you’re doing then you can play to your heart’s content. For the average user, though, I think the ‘high’ and ‘best’ options will provide more than enough realism without having to worry about these settings.

As briefly mentioned earlier, Revit Architecture 2009 now includes the Mental Ray Pro-Materials. For those unaware, the Pro-Material library was officially introduced with 3ds Max 2009 and provides fast access to pre-set materials that are ready for rendering in Mental Ray. Again the user interface is spot on, with easy-to-use modification options and thumbnails depicting how the material will look when rendered, thus giving you the best possible insight to how your objects will look. The Pro-Material library is extensive and really does make texturing a design very quick and simple.

– Materials Library (below)

– Render Appearance Library (below)

The realism in any render is usually down to two factors: light and shadows. It’s incredible how a 3D-looking scene can be made photorealistic with the effective use of lights and subtle inclusion of shadows. As we’ve discussed, setting up lights for rendering is extremely straightforward; all Revit Light data is available to the Mental Ray engine, so if you are using photometric or IES data the lights in your scene can be visualised as they would be in the real world. Again, lighting settings are pre-set driven in Revit 2009 with 6 available options; 3 for exterior lighting and 3 for interior. Below, we’ve depicted the lighting of a simple room with a large curtain wall and a floor lamp to show the effect of the different pre-sets.

Exterior: Sun only

Exterior: Sun and Artificial

Exterior: Artificial only

Interior: Sun only

Interior: Sun and Artificial

Interior: Artificial only

All of these work very well, and once again the pre-sets reduce the learning curve needed to get good quality renders.


The industry feedback we at Jigsaw have received so far is very good, and I’m personally very impressed with the Mental Ray inclusion. Customers I have spoken to have all been blown away with the ease and quality with which renders can be set up. One firm has even said that they no longer need to outsource their visualisation but instead can save the money and get all their images produced from Revit in-house!

I think it’s great that Autodesk is extending its traditional media and entertainment products into the architectural space. As we all know, average 3D renders are no longer cutting it with customers, so in order to get those bid-winning presentations technology from the film, TV and game industries needs to be utilised. At a time when a growing number of dedicated visualisation firms are being set up, Autodesk’s introduction of Mental Ray into Revit has opened up to its customers the possibility of good quality, in-house visualisation. Who could ask for more?!

Visit Jigsaw24 for a range of professional CAD solutions, and call 03332 409 306 or email CAD@jigsaw24.com if you have any related question.