1000-word thoughts

This is where my Design columns for MacUser are collected for reference and comment. These are all written as creative explorations of specific ideas, originally published in MacUser magazine and now made available here. Many have been inspired by and/or feed back into my design, publishing and production lectures at London College of Communication (University of the Arts London). If you have any questions please leave a comment on the relevant article and I’ll get back to you.

— Keith

Keith Martin presents Fun with Flags: the evolution of the Catalan Estelada

Keith Martin presents Fun with Flags: the evolution of the Catalan Estelada

"Hello. I'm Keith Martin, and welcome to Keith Martin presents: Fun with Flags”. No, hang on, I promise this won't ...
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Dazzle and digital camouflage

Dazzle and digital camouflage

Camouflage is the art and design of staying hidden. But there's more to camouflage than blobs of muted green, yellow ...
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Paper sizes: learn your ABCs

Paper sizes: learn your ABCs

Paper size is something we don't give that much thought to, most of the time at least. If you have ...
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Focaltone colour secrets

Focaltone colour secrets

Sometimes, when you need to get something done, the simplest approach is to cut to the chase. Colour matching is ...
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Big Brother evil eye

Big Brother evil eye

The evolution of a graphic identity There's a well-known saying from early last century that travel broadens the mind, and ...
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What a (page) imposition!

What a (page) imposition!

Pagination and page imposition is a strange thing when you first try and grok it. As designers we always see ...
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Helvetica: still pulling its weights

Helvetica: still pulling its weights

Helvetica is the world’s most popular typeface. Not everyone likes it, often precisely because of this, but it’s everywhere you ...
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Presentations, the art of knocking 'em dead

Presentations, the art of knocking ’em dead

"Are we sitting comfortably? Is this thing on? Friends, Romans, countrymen! Oi, you in the back!" The odds are that, sooner ...
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Zapfino, the typeface with built-in magic

Zapfino, the typeface with built-in magic

Zapfino is one of the most spectacular typefaces you'll ever get to use. It's a calligraphic tour de force, a ...
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Prints Charming: letterpress meets DTP

Prints Charming: letterpress meets DTP

I got a new printer the other day. It was unexpectedly heavy - it took two of us to carry ...
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What is a magazine?

What is a magazine?

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the organisation that gives the official tally of who sold how many, the ...
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Invisible ink – still lots of fun!

Invisible ink – still lots of fun!

I bet at least some of you experimented a little with invisible ink when you were young. Lemon juice was ...
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Microsoft logo design history

Microsoft logo design history

Back on August 23rd (note: this was written in 2012) Microsoft announced something new. It wasn't software, and it wasn't ...
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Video vs text? Fight!

Video vs text? Fight!

What's the future of text? I'm going to be talking about this at a seminar in October, and it's a ...
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Tattoo design

Tattoo design

Would I get a tattoo? I don’t have a specific thing in mind, but the concept is an interesting one: ...
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Digital skeuomorphism

Digital skeuomorphism

Skeuomorphism is probably not a word you've heard much in your life. Not until summer 2011, anyway, when it took ...
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Signage design is a creative challenge

Signage design is a creative challenge

Where are you going? I don’t mean in the metaphysical sense, that’s too deep for right now. I mean do ...
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Book binding tips, tricks, advice and secrets

Book binding tips, tricks, advice and secrets

I love what's possible in digital design and production, but the truth is there's something that digital products lack when ...
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Print effects without ink?

Print effects without ink?

How can you print without using ink, without applying some kind of colour to a surface? There are two processes ...
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White space is not a lazy designer's excuse

White space is not a lazy designer’s excuse

There's a handy saying that I learned many years ago: "when in doubt, leave it out". It was said about ...
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Comic book and showcard fonts

Comic book and showcard fonts

One of the first projects I used to give my Magazine Publishing students involved creating an eight-page graphic novel, done ...
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QR codes: enter the matrix!

QR codes: enter the matrix!

Quick Response (QR) barcodes are more interesting than you might think, so it's worth considering them. Just make sure they ...
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Walk, Don’t Walk

Walk, Don’t Walk

The curious life and times of Ampelmännchen I’m in Berlin as I write this, and I’ve noticed something curious about ...
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Creative Design Briefs

Creative Design Briefs

In which Keith explores the answers to a question and finds confirmation in a particular typeface design... I was asked ...
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Paper Planes: Fly me to the moon...

Paper Planes: Fly me to the moon…

Paper planes are a fun design exercise – and they're even heading into space! Recently, purely for my own interests ...
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No natural affordances in iPad magazines

No natural affordances in iPad magazines

No natural affordances: big problems with digital magazines. The world is going crazy for digital design and publishing. And I ...
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Static graphics vs animated media

Static graphics vs animated media

There’s more to creating good animations than most designers think, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. In my experience, ...
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Type is the clothes our information wears

Type is the clothes our information wears

Typefaces dress our words and tell the reader what kind of thing to expect. Like clothes, the typefaces we choose ...
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Preflighting: boring but important

Preflighting: boring but important

Know more about preflighting than your software or you’ll get caught out. Grammar purists, look away now; this is all ...
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Graffiti creativity

Graffiti creativity

Graffiti is... what? “Graffiti is a creative art form.” “Graffiti is destructive vandalism.” “Graffiti is gang-related.” “Graffiti is about individual ...
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Hanging in the (white) balance

Hanging in the (white) balance

White balance can make or break a shot, so take the time to understand its foibles When is white not ...
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Airline safety card designs

Airline safety card designs

A form of standardised international illustrated instruction? On a recent trip to Turkey I realised something: there's one thing that ...
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Digital sketch books - can they work?

Digital sketch books – can they work?

Can the iPad really replace the designer's traditional paper sketch book? If you're a designer, the odds are high that ...
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Design a new character for a typeface

Design a new character for a typeface

Designing the character behind the face. Of all the design discipline specialities, typeface design is probably the most monastic. Creating ...
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Art Therapy for design block: The CD Cover game

Art Therapy for design block: The CD Cover game

A creative challenge for you... What do you do if you find yourself staring at an empty page, unable to ...
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Freelancing and internships

Freelancing and internships

Negotiating the minefield of how much to charge and judging the morals of working for nothing. This is the time ...
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Paper facts and recipes for discerning designers

Paper facts and recipes for discerning designers

Get hands-on with paper Graphic design processes are almost always about putting marks on surfaces, and those surfaces are almost ...
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With resolution, size does matter

With resolution, size does matter

When I teach I constantly have to remind myself that things that seem simple because I learned them years ago ...
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Cover design challenges in the digital world

Cover design challenges in the digital world

Is it possible to design sophisticated magazine covers that communicate and sell in the virtual newsstand when all we can ...
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One-trick specialist or flexible expert?

One-trick specialist or flexible expert?

Don't be afraid to play around with established production methods. If you know enough about them you'll find creative ways ...
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