Author: James

Apple’s rounded-corner icons

Apple's rounded corners
I’ve always thought there was just something ‘different’ about Apple’s rounded corner icons. I wish I could explain it, but there’s something comfortable and soothing about Apple’s implementation of rounded corners when compared to virtually every other company that tries.

Free font: Satellite

Satellite font
Satellite, a free font by designer Matt Yow, is a geometric sans serif with 194 glyphs. Standard & discretionary ligatures & directional arrows are included as well as multiple language support.

What’s the best size for fonts in email, web & TV?

Just because it looks great and is readable on YOUR screen, doesn’t mean that’s the case for your viewers. I like to stick with 14-16 point text for emails and web, and about 28-32 for PowerPoint/Keynote presentations being viewed on large-screen HDTVs. Anything smaller and you run the risk of your carefully crafted text being unreadable. There are exceptions, of course—but I almost always stick with those sizes.

font sizes for the web

Font sizes for the web: It’s all about the x-height

There’s actually a science behind the best font size for the web. There’s a lot of geeky gibberish in the article (which I personally found interesting), so if you don’t care about all that just scroll down to the bottom of the article and you’ll find a chart of recommended sizes for desktop, laptop, phone and TV viewing.

When to use a hyphen, En dash and Em dash

Hyphens & dashes
Hyphens, en and em dashes appear with great frequency in typeset copy. Unlike the days of typewriters where the only character available to represent these three punctuation marks was a hyphen, all three are available in almost all of today’s fonts. They all have different usages, most of which are a mystery to us designer types. Extensis Blogger, Ilene Strizver, has a great article that explains what Hyphens, En and Em Dashes are and when you should use them.

We all know the Hyphen is made by simply hitting the dash key in the number row on your keyboard. An En Dash is made by hitting Option + dash key. The Em Dash is made via Shift + Option + dash key.

Free font utopia

Free font license
There are plenty of sites to find free fonts. The problem with most of them is that the so-called “free” fonts aren’t actually free to use for anything beyond the little flyer you made for your kid’s little-league team.

If you look at the license for many of these free fonts you’ll find that they’re only free for personal use, not commercial use—which is what most designers are looking to use them for. I’m not saying that paying for fonts when you need to use them for commercial work is bad, but sometimes you just don’t have the time or budget for them.

If you’re willing to spend a lot of time scrolling through long lists of fonts to find the very few that you can actually use, have at it. But if you value your time, try checking Font Squirrel.
Font Squirrel
Font Squirrel has a ton of fonts. All of them free. All of them free for commercial-use. There are tons of fonts available at Font Squirrel, so they’ve categorized them to make it easier to browse. Because the laws of the universe dictate that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, you can use the fonts for free in your print projects and web graphics, but you’ll have to read the license for each font to see if you can use the font for things like embedding in a website.

How to use InDesign’s Span and Split Columns feature

Nothing drives me crazy like working on a file that another designer created that doesn’t know about InDesign’s Span or Split Columns feature. There’s just no need to create a separate Text Box just to have the headline go across the top of two columns of text. It’s a pain in the behind. Span Columns to the rescue!
InDesign's Span Columns
Following close behind is when a designer wants to have two, three or more columns of bullet points in the middle of their text flow and doesn’t realize that you don’t have to create a separate multi-column text box in the middle of the text flow and then use multiple carriage returns to leave space for it. Edit the text above that separate text box and you have to move the text box with the bullets every time. Such a pain. Simply use the Split Column feature.
InDesign's Split Columns
If you don’t know how to use them, Erica Gamet has a great how-to article at CreativePro on how to use Span and Split Columns feature.

Easily switch between Photoshop’s Layer Blend Modes

When you have a multi-layer Photoshop file and you want to set one of the layers to Multiply, Overlay or one of the numerous other Blend Modes, you can click the drop-down menu in the Layers panel, but that can be tedious.

An easier way is to use the keyboard shortcut. Simply have the layer you want to switch Blend Modes on selected and have the Move, Lasso or other tool that doesn’t use Blend Modes (such as the Brush tool) active, and hit Shift + (plus) or Shift – (minus) to cycle through the different Blend Modes.

The shortcut works with tools that DO offer Blend Modes (such as the previously mentioned Brush tool or the Gradient tool) as well.

Incidentally, if you use the Multiply Blend Mode as often as I do, you’ll be happy to know you can simply hit Shift + Option + M to quickly apply it without cycling through it or bothering with the drop-down menu. Other often-used Blend Mode Shortcuts include Shift + Option + S applies Screen, Shift + Option + C applies Color.