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 and brown – just look at the modern Marpat patterns and WW1 dazzle ship designs. Seeing patterns in things is one of the most basic instincts we have. It is a survival instinct, something that…

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 a printer, chances are it is an A4 model. If not, it’ll almost certainly be an A3 inkjet, perhaps even one that can print onto oversized A3 – probably SRA3. But have you ever stopped…

Focaltone colour secrets

Sometimes, when you need to get something done, the simplest approach is to cut to the chase. Colour matching is a case in point. This stuff is important but it can also be annoyingly, sometimes mind-numbingly, complex. What I’m about to say may sound a trifle heretical, but hear me out. Forget science, forget abstract…

What a (page) imposition!

Pagination and page imposition is a strange thing when you first try and grok it. As designers we always see the pages in our layouts as sequentially numbered page pairs. The most complicated things normally get is explaining to newbies why things always start with a right-hand page (it’s the cover, of course), and figuring…

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 look: shop signs, clothing labels, corporate logos, packaging of all kinds, the iOS interface – and now of course Mac OS X itself. One of Yosemite’s many changes was the booting out of Lucida Grande…

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 or later, you’re going to have to stand up in front of a group of people and talk about something. Practically everyone hates doing this kind of thing, especially the first few times. As we’re…

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 typeface designed by the prolific Hermann Zapf, the man responsible for Optima, Palatino and a great many other well-known fonts. Zapfino is specialit’s a swash-rich design with a range of styles and options beyond almost…

Prints Charming: letterpress meets DTP

I got a new printer the other day. It was unexpectedly heavy – it took two of us to carry it from the car – and it isn’t the fastest of devices by any means. When I say ‘new’ I mean new to me, as really it’s rather old; as far as I can tell,…