Tag Archives: Design

iPad Journal: First Week with the 2017 iPad Pro

Using Affinity Photo to design a promotional postcard

Using Affinity Photo to design a promotional postcard

It’s been a week since the 12.9″ 2017 iPad Pro arrived at my door. I can best summarize by saying that without any doubt, this is my favorite Apple device ever. I’m not surprised. I expected it would be. And I say that having used it on iOS 10 only. No beta for me. Actually, I should say that it’s not the iPad alone but the pairing of it with the Apple Smart Keyboard and Pencil. I’ve not used the Pencil much but after just few minutes with Procreate and Affinity Photo,  I was certain that I will indeed get great use and enjoyment from it. I hope to use it more this week. I did however spend many hours with the keyboard.

The Keyboard

I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed using the Smart Keyboard. I’d only used one in a store for about 20 minutes and knew that it felt pretty good to type on. What I wasn’t sure about was the stability of the keyboard or how I would feel about the lack of special, media playback keys.

  • Special Keys: I DO miss the lack of media playback keys which are especially helpful when using Apple’s Podcast App in split screen for transcription work. That said, reaching up to the same spot to pause and start isn’t killing me. Same for the volume keys. I’d prefer to have them but will get along without them.
  • The Smart Keyboard/case is very stable thus far. I’ve used it in may lap during much of every day for the past week. But I’ve found that it is most stable when used on something and conveniently, almost by accident, I set it on the box it was packaged in as I was setting up the iPad the first day. The first time I picked it up to use it I left it sitting on that box which provides a lightweight and stiff base. It’s perfect. I haven’t even used it in my lap without that box under it. Confusing at first but now that I’ve done it a few times the folding of the case over the top of the iPad is very easy as is opening it and setting up the iPad for typing. The two together are very compact and light. I’m really glad I went with this case.
  • Typing has been great. Just as I remembered from the 20 minute test in the store, this keyboard is a real pleasure to type on. When I set-up on Tuesday I was halfway through a 75 minute podcast transcription so of course I finished that transcription using the new set-up and I required no time to get used to the new keyboard. It’s every bit as enjoyable to type on as my to Logitech keyboards. No, actually, it’s more enjoyable with less key travel but with a satisfying movement and light tappy sound.

Screen Size

My main motivation in an iPad Pro was the bigger screen size and it’s been fantastic. Using Coda and Affinity Photo for work over the past week has been an excellent experience on the 12.9″ screen. Over the course of the week I updated a client’s website to a new responsive design all from the iPad using Coda to edit CSS and HTML. I often use Coda in conjunction with Transmit, Safari, Messages, and Spark. It’s so much nicer on the larger screen. I also had to put together a magazine ad for a client and a promotional postcard for another client. Both of those were a pleasure to do with Affinity Photo. At no point did I feel I was using anything less than the full version of the app that I’ve gotten used to using on my Mac. The only downside is that Affinity Photo does not yet support split screen. I can live with that given that its the sort of app that begs for the biggest workspace possible. I just use a slide-over when I need to.

Screen Tech

Unlike many I don’t see a huge benefit in the new refresh rate of 120Hz, what Apple is calling Promotion. Sure, scrolling on the new iPad as absolutely smooth. Everything is smooth. But I don’t read text while scrolling. I’ve compared to the iPhone 7+ and I just don’t see a difference. Everything on the iPhone is also buttery smooth. I do notice the TrueTone and the increase in brightness but there again, I rarely use my iPad brighter than 40%! So, yes, it is an absolutely gorgeous screen but to my eyes it is nearly identical to the iPhone 7. I just went back to my Air 2 and scrolled through a full page of text in Safari. First time I’ve done that in a week. I do see a difference but nothing so fantastic as what I’ve been hearing and reading from the Apple Nerdery. Shrug.

Audio

As was noted when the previous iPads Pro were released, yes, the speakers are pretty great. Much better than the iPads that had only two speakers.

Speed and Memory

Yes, no doubt, this machine is beast. Blazing fast. I’ve not noticed any lag in anything I’ve done with any app. Also, having 4 gigs of RAM is pretty nice. I go back to apps that I’ve not used in hours and they are ready to use with no delay. Safari holds far more tabs than I ever saw with the Air 2. I keep most of my apps in folders and all apps that aren’t in the dock are on the second page of the home screen. My main strategy for opening apps is either the dock, Command-Tab, or Spotlight. Most often it is the latter two and it is instantaneous. With Spotlight I type the first few letters of the app then return and there it is 1.

Weight, Size and Portability

Yeah, well, this is bigger than the Air 2 but still, very portable. With it’s Smart Keyboard it is lighter to tote than a MacBook Air 13″ or a 2017 MacBook Pro and only slightly heavier than a MacBook. And with at least 10 hours of battery time, yeah, it’s still a great portable machine.

Pro Computer, Pro Apps

Until last spring I’d owned an Apple laptop of one kind or another for 17 years. I sold my last one a year ago because it wasn’t getting used anymore. After over a year of using the iPad Air 2 as a primary, preferred device I have no doubt that my Mac laptop days are over. The real point of this size iPad is that it be a laptop replacement it is fully capable of doing that and even more. As a form factor with flexibility it is better than a fixed hinge laptop. It can be used attached to a keyboard or near a keyboard or with no keyboard at all. Not only that but with the maturity of iOS I have an operating system that I find a delight to use and with iOS 11 it even more so. With the Pro line, iPad is no longer a compromise, no longer a sidestep, it is a step up to something better.

The deal is sealed with “pro” apps. For those that require apps such as InDesign, Final Cut Pro and Xcode this is not YET the device for them. I’m sure there are plenty of other example apps that are not available on iOS and for folks that need those the time for using only an iPad Pro is not yet. But we can see with the release of Affinity Photo that the iPad is fully capable of performing heavy-duty tasks with fully featured apps. There should be no doubt, Affinity Photo represents the long sought after “Photoshop for the iPad”. I’d go further and say it is better because, like it’s desktop equivalent, it does not come with the baggage or subscription pricing that come with Adobe and Photoshop. Going forward it seems a certainty that the iPad Pro, along with iOS 11 and upcoming pro apps by Serif and others, will begin to gain a great deal of traction.

Apple has made it clear that the Mac is not going away which is great news for folks that prefer the Mac. It’s a mature and powerful platform that has it’s place. But it is equally clear now that the iOS platform as an increasingly pervasive and capable mobile ecosystem will continue to expand in power and flexibility to accommodate the needs of power users. I for one am happy to celebrate all of them but it is the iPad that I will look forward to using everyday.

  1. Of course, it was pretty fast on the Air 2. See, mostly, the Air 2 felt very fast to me. I was not unhappy with it and were it not for an iPad with this screen size I would have likely just kept using the Air 2 which says something about how fast older iPads and iOS are.

iPad Journal: Affinity Photo for iPad!!

Affinity Photo on iPad

Affinity Photo on iPad

I’ve been using the Affinity apps, Photo and Designer, on my Mac for the past couple of years and thanks to them I’ve largely left Adobe behind. In fact, I only use Adobe for InDesign projects and for Illustrator’s trace functionality. It’s rare that I open up either Illustrator or Photoshop and I look forward to the day that I don’t need to have them installed. The Affinity apps are, in my experience, true replacements for those two Adobe apps.

As I’ve transitioned more if my work to iPad I’ve been waiting and hoping for the Affinity apps to make the jump. Monday at the WWDC event it was announced (via an on stage demonstration) that Affinity Photo was now available for iPad. I purchased it immediately and after a few hours of trying it out I can say I am very satisfied. I should note that I’m using it on an iPad Air 2, not a Pro, and that performance is excellent. I’ve already used the app to do work for two clients and expect to do a lot more. This is a full version comparable to the Mac version rather than something only a small subset of features. It is a fantastic experience. I can’t wait to give it a go on the new 12.9″ Pro next week!

By way of comparison, I’d previously been trying to use Pixelmator on iPad and while it occasionally proved useful for bitmap-based work it was never as powerful as I needed and so I often ended up back at the Mac using Affinity Photo or Affinity Designer. With Affinity Photo installed I will likely remove Pixelmator altogether. There really is no comparison. Now I’ll be able to that much more work on iPad. The only difficulty that I expect to encounter is in the area of available fonts but that’s a shortcoming of iOS not this app. In such cases I’ll save a copy to my Mac towards the end of the project and finish it off with the Mac Affinity apps.

Once Serif releases Affinity Designer for vector focused work I’ll have a nearly complete iPad toolkit for graphic design. I expect I will, from that point on, only return to the Mac for InDesign and for projects that require additional, Mac-only fonts. I also expect that one day Apple will allow for an easy way to add fonts as we see fit.

This is exactly the kinds of app needed to help move the iPad toward being a fully Pro tool for those of us that do this kind of work and who choose an iPad as our primary device. I can say, without a doubt, Affinity Photo will be one of my most used iPad apps.

iPad Journal: Speedy production of posters and social media graphics

I've been doing a bit of volunteer work for our local library lately and we're currently moving towards an April vote on a tax increase to help cover the operating costs of our little network of rural libraries. I was asked to put together a collection of simple posters that would highlight the value of library services to patrons via print and social media. I did most of the work in Pages on the iPad with two exceptions that required a quick edit on the Mac. On the iOS version of Pages,1 rotating elements is not possible and second, the ability to create a shape with a transparency gradient is also missing. Not a big problem, I just saved in iCloud and stepped over to the Mac to rotate the logo on the side of the page and create a white box with a transparency gradient. By the time I was back at the iPad the file was updated with the two changes. This would be my "template" so I made several duplicates and altered each to a specific value that the library wanted to highlight.

I'd used portrait mode on the iPhone camera to capture a series of images that I AirDropped to the iPad. After quick edits to text and the color of the bottom box element they were each given a different image and I was done. I wanted to send each poster version in its own email with two attachments, a jpg for social media sharing and pdf for printing. Easy enough. From Pages I would share as pdf via the Share Sheet to one of my most used apps, Graphic which I used to export as jpg to my camera roll. I'd jump back to Pages and share as pdf again but this time to Mail. Once I had the Mail draft with pdf attached I'd add my image attachment and send. The whole process took about 90 seconds for each email with two attachments.

Smooth sailing.

  1. I've noticed that many of these missing features are available in other iOS apps. There's no reason Apple couldn't add them and bring Pages on iOS closer to Pages on the Mac.

Recent Work: Midwest Tiny Houses and Sheds

I don't just love tiny houses, I live and work in one. It suits me very well because I don't own much stuff and what I do keep around serves a function. Not much clutter in my world. My small space has served me very well and I don't see that changing for any reason. A couple months ago a local fellow started a new tiny buildings business and asked me to do a website and other marketing materials. Of course I was excited to see a new Fredericktown business and one that was going to be building tiny houses made it all the more interesting to me.

In the short time they've been around they've already built several buildings including a couple of cabins and garden sheds. Midwest Tiny Houses and Sheds will be building for local clients but are planning to build and deliver their buildings to clients in the St. Louis area and Cape Girardeau too. Basically they'll be focusing (initially) on St. Louis and Southeast Missouri.

I've had a first hand look at the construction and it's solid and well crafted. These are beautiful buildings that will last many years. Looking forward to seeing them thrive.

Juno Mission Infographic

When I'm not creating something for a client chances are pretty good that I'm reading about astronomy, physics, space exploration or some related area of science. I've often used those interests as the ingredients in a variety of a for-fun graphic design projects. If you follow NASA at all you probably know that this past July we put the Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter. On August 27 NASA announced that Juno completed it's first extended orbit around the planet and has begun the next orbit. There will be 35 more in total. In celebration of the mission I put together a Juno infographic:

Space Exploration Themed Posters Part Two

I continue to enjoy Affinity Designer. In fact, after three months of use I far prefer it (as well as Affinity Photo) to Illustrator or Photoshop. As of this moment my plan is to only use the Adobe apps if a client/project requires it. These new Affinity apps by Serif are fantastic and did I mention they are not rented via subscription but available for purchase the old-fashioned way? Buttery smooth, fully featured and a pleasure to use.

In my downtime this summer I’ve continued working on my series of space exploration-themed posters which I’ve made available on Red Bubble.

A vector illustration of Marathon Valley

This view from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows part of “Marathon Valley,” a destination on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, as seen from an overlook north of the valley. The scene spans from east, at left, to southeast. It combines four images of the rover’s panoramic camera on March 13, 2015, during the 3,958th Martian day of Opportunity’s work on Mars.

Marathon Valley was selected as a science destination because observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter yielded evidence of clay minerals, a clue to ancient wet environments. Opportunity has been exploring the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since January 2004.

Moon Walk

“For me, the most ironic token of [the first human moon landing] is the plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon that Apollo 11 took to the moon. It reads, ‘We came in peace for all Mankind.’ As the United States was dropping seven and a half megatons of conventional explosives on small nations in Southeast Asia, we congratulated ourselves on our humanity. We would harm no one on a lifeless rock. That plaque is there still, attached to the base of the Apollo 11 lunar module on the airless desolation of the Sea of Tranquility. If no one disturbs it, it will still be readable a million years from now.” -Carl Sagan

Space Exploration Themed Posters

My trial run with Affinity Design continues, this time with a series of space exploration posters featuring Carl Sagan quotes.

Mars Rocket

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan

Rocket Launch

“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.” – Carl Sagan

Space Rocket

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

The Typography of Alien

A pretty fantastic post about the typography of Alien.

My third post about typography in sci-fi has been gestating for a while now. Indeed, it’s been slowly taking shape – you might say it’s been forming itself inside of me – for really quite some time. I’m delighted to say that it is now ready to burst forth from my allegorical chest, and to spatter allegorical typographic blood all over your allegorical faces. Welcome to Typeset In The Future: The Alien Edition.

Mini-Review: iDraw for iPad

My main work machine is the 2012 Mac Mini. I’ve written before about my transition to a standing desk for health purposes. That said, I do want to be able to use the iPad as a tool to get work done. Having a flexible workflow is good and it would seem a waste, with the increased power of the iPad Air 2, to not utilize it when the need arises. My initial thought was that it would come in handy for editing the html of client websites and yes, that is a breeze with Diet Coda and Transmit. But why stop there? Those were tasks I could also accomplish with the 3rd gen iPad.

IMG_4261.PNG

In recent days I have also begun wondering if I might not also be able to get a bit of graphic design work done with the iPad. Adobe does not yet sell an iPad version of Illustrator or Photoshop but there are other options available. Pixelmator is the most recent crossover from the Mac. It has some pretty fantastic photo filters and the handy ability to be passed back and forth to the Mac version. It can also export to psd for crossing over to Photoshop when I’m back to my Mac. That said in the little bit of dabbling I’ve done with it I’m finding some frustrating limitations which I’ll likely explore in more detail soon. Suffice it to say for the purposes of this post that those limitations led me to try out iDraw and that has proven to be a great decision.

iDraw has been available for the iPad since the first iPad release in 2010 and there is a Mac version too though I’ve not tried it. Last week I downloaded the iPad version and have been giving it a spin. Fantastic. This is an app I can use to get real design work done. I’ve not yet used it for a client project though that will come soon enough. I’ve done enough with it in a few hours to know what it is capable of. Not surprisingly, it’s not as fully featured as Illustrator or Photoshop but it does have the most important tools and they perform very well. In fact, the iPad handles everything I’ve tried to with iDraw with ease.

I created the example image in my first spin with the app. Shape building, styling with gradients, adding text to a path are all very straight forward. I started with the rectangle tool and then used the pen tool to begin adding new points and then used the path tool to make my pen handle and tip. Apply stroke and gradient and then tweek. As with Illustrator, all the objects are put on one layer but layers are supported and easy enough to create. I used the same process for creating the inkwell. Styles include drop shadow, inner shadow, inner and outer glow. Multiple instances of these effects as well as multiple fills can be applied to each object. Very handy to be able to apply multiple gradients to single objects.

IMG_4262.PNG

The brush tool is very easy to use with width and smoothing options though I only found the one style brush tip. Will need to investigate. Adding text to a brush stroke is easy enough as is styling that text after adding it to the path. Adjusting the path or moving the text to different points along the path are also very easy. As you might expect, there are plenty of object options such as alignment, path combinations and more.

When you’ve finished you have quite a few options for using and sharing images. Before sending to any of the iOS 8 app extensions for sharing (Transmit, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) you have the option to choose the file size, resolution, and format: pdf, svg, psd, png or jpg.

IMG_4264.PNG