Thursday, November 30, 2006

Firefox the Microsoft way

Enlightened web surfers use Firefox, don't they?

Now Windows users can share the love, share the joy and benefit from the the best of both worlds. The world needs Microsoft® Firefox.

Thanks to the folks at Drum Foundry for pointing this out.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Interviewing from both sides of the table

Having been on both the interviewee and interviewer sides of the table, and currently interviewing potential candidates for a design position, I've been thinking about the interview process. Is it just me, or has email made this process a bit too casual?

I'm being particular with my approach to interviewing, and to how applicants present themselves. My approach may not be the same as other firm's, but then again, they're my standards. If you're currently looking for a new job in the design field, here are some points to consider:
  • An employer is not looking for an individual who thinks this is "just a job." Of course, candidates should have plenty of outside interests, so that work isn't everything. However, if the candidate doesn't convey excitement about work and passion for design in the interview, why should an employer think they will convey that for their clients?

  • Proofread your resumé. Did you get that? Proofread your resumé. If there is a typo, it goes in the trash. Even if you worked for somebody well-known in the field.

  • Be professional. If you don't understand what that means in the design field, please ask someone with more experience than you. The employer needs to be confident that a candidate could represent the firm to a CEO or president.

  • Check your ego.

  • Remember, the employer is running a design and creative business, not an outlet for your personal expression. Clients hire design consultants to solve their problems and communicate their messages in ways appropriate to their audiences. If a candidate requires personal expression, then perhaps it's time for a hobby such as painting.

  • Dress appropriately for the interview. Employers are aware that business dress has become more casual, but you're trying to impress, not show off your fashion sense. If you're not familiar with the culture of the firm, dress better than you think is necessary.

  • Read the qualifications of the posting carefully before sending a resumé. If the requirements are "3 to 5 years experience" and you're a recent graduate, it just tells the employer you can't read or pay attention to detail.

  • A note sent via the company's contact form via the web site does not count as a cover letter. If it's not stated on the posting or on the website, it is an appropriate way to ask how to submit a cover letter and resumé.

  • Always send a thank you letter. Handwritten or typed via snailmail is best. Email is acceptable, but won't impress.

  • A few well-designed web pages that include your resumé, some samples of your work, and perhaps your design approach and philosophy are helpful to the interviewer. Not only does it help the interviewer pre-qualify the candidate, it saves the candidate time as well.

  • Remember, a candidate not only has to have serious design talent and training, but inter-personal skills and technical knowledge are important. If your list of software skills includes software that the position doesn't require, the interviewer will need to know why those skills are valuable to them.

  • Clients hire for how we think and solve problems. An employer will be looking for the same in a potential employee.

  • In addition to the above, a candidate also has to fit into the culture of an organization. The smaller the design firm, the more important this is. Likability is a huge factor.

  • Expect to be asked to take a behavioral profile, such as a DISC or Meyers-Briggs test. Most likely this request will occur if a candidate is seriously considered for a position.

  • Show your best work. Be familiar with the quality, standards of and type of work the firm you are interviewing with does. Showing fewer well-crafted and thoughtfully-designed pieces convey the sense that a candidate knows how to present themselves and their work. Adding some pieces that are average or below-average dilutes the impact of even the best work.

Some of these considerations may be obvious, but all together they are very important; even more so for the principal of a small design firm and potential employees to to consider.

Disclaimer: This is intended to make your job search more enjoyable and fruitful. If you get a better position because of what you've read, thank me. Or not.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ted the expert saves the day

This week has been technologically challenging.

Every design firm needs big bandwidth, and ours is no exception.  DSL in our area of Ohio (USA) is provided by Windstream, and due to tariffs, they have a monopoly on phone company broadband. 

On the plus side, Windstream has provided exceptional service and have worked diligently to resolve our issues.  On the other hand, they are a company that chose a 50's Chevy pickup truck to symbolize their company.  My perception of this brand positioning is "as slow and efficient as a US Auto manufacturer..."

I'm not certain that's what they intended.

So to supply our thirst for bandwidth, because we're too far from the central office to get the juicy 6 MB download speed, Windstream suggested installing a second DSL line.  Brilliant, if it would work.  A Google search led me to the Netgear Dual Wan router, (affectionately known as the FSV124G).  This device would create one huge fate pipe by combining two.  Or at least load balance the two lines so that when one was busy, the other would balance the load.

Being the fiercely-independent-do-it-all entrepreneurial type, I unpacked it and tried setting it up.  About 1.5 hours later, I decided to do the wise thing: call an expert.

Enter Ted, a networking and VoIP expert and consultant.

Ted had it working in less time than it took to unpack the box and set it up.  And gently explained to me what I was doing wrong.

Lesson learned: Hire experts to do the kind of work that design firm principals are not good at, even if one is capable of figuring it out (eventually).  If your choice is billable work or bragging rights that you "did it yourself," choose the former.

And yes, we now have much faster internet access.  And I have one less technology thing to worry about.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Color Wars

Color matching is the bane of designers everywhere.

When matching process colors is critical, the EFI Designer edition software, coupled with an Epson Stylus 2200, paper from Red River Papers or the Epson Matte inkjet paper, yields dead-on results. So accurate, that at our last press check, the printer put our proofs in front of us to compare to the press sheets. When I pointed out that these were our proofs, not their proofs, they were quite surprised, a little embarrassed, but interested in how we accomplished it.

But when it comes to matching Pantone colors, especially when showing proofs for brand development projects, it's another story. I have yet to find a system, including our Xerox 6350, that matches Pantone colors accurately

The Adobe software doesn't make it easy, especially Illustrator. By the time one figures out where all of the color management settings are, and how they must match, precious billable time has slipped away. Granted, Adobe Bridge allows for all Creative Suite apps to be synchronized, but Illustrator isn't "smart," in that copying a color match into a new file won't produce accurate results.

Upon reflection, I think the solution would be to specify CMYK (spot to process) colors, and work from there. And in one's spare time, print a sample of all of the Pantone colors, and match to your target color.

And leave plenty of room so that the color matching process doesn't affect the budget!

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Typefaces du jour

Typefaces, like music, come and go.  Some rise to the level of classic, and become ubiquitous (not necessarily in that order).  Others are seen for a while and reappear from time to time.

Given the number of conversations (with our clients) that have taken place in the last few weeks regarding the role of typography in brand development, I offer these fine typeface suggestions as examples of excellent choices for inclusion as part of the brand development:

Vista Sans (Emigre): a broad range and robust san serif, by Xavier Dupré.  It has the traditional "E," not the semi-cursive "E" popular in many Emigre typefaces.  Xavier is a fine type designer, an overview of his work is available on

FF Profile (Fontshop) by Martin Wenzel.  Another san serif with a wide weight range, and a traditional style italic. (note the italic "a.")

Apex (Village) by chester.  A 6-weight san serif, has a "square" feel to it.  Most likely our choice for the new BS&Co identity.  Lighter weights will require tracking to close up the letterspacing.

One thing I have noticed is that many contemporary sans serifs, in the light, book and regular weights, often require negative letterspacing for my tastes.

We've used these three typefaces extensively in recent projects, and all have performed well.  Avoid temptation, license legally, and enjoy your new typefaces.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Can you say Ugarit?

Today's post on the Logos Blog details the process of creating a new TrueType font for Ugaritic:

A Semitic language written in cuneiform, Ugaritic was in use around 1300 BC in the city of Ugarit in modern Syria. The city and its language was discovered by archaeologists in 1928. Ugarit literature bears some resemblance to parts of the Hebrew Bible, so it is studied by biblical scholars today.

Logos Research Systems decided to to publish digital editions of a dozen Ugaritic texts and grammars. Since Ugaritic was originally written using a stylus on clay tablets, the font designer had to tackle some thorny questions, such as:
  • How much do you try to emulate the tablets, and how much do you try to emulate later grammars (which often used hand-drawn glyphs)?
  • What are the standard grammars, and how do they draw certain characters?
  • What shape should the wedges be?
  • How tall is each character?
  • Do they have a consistent baseline?
The blog details how the font designer dealt with these obstacles and view some samples of the final product: Zebul Open.

Can you say Ugarit? I knew you could.