So. Yikes, it's 2018. Hello new year. Let's get cracking with a new type of post - a review. Ooh. Digital photographs are brilliant. You can take as many as you want and look back at them instantly, you can share them and print them on mugs and t-shirts and all sorts. I remember using film and I don't think that digital photography replaces it necessarily... but that's a discussion for another time. I found that, especially after trips and holidays, showing people photos on my phone just didn’t feel like a good way of sharing my snaps. With film, you'd get photos printed, whack them in an album and take it everywhere to show people what you'd been upto, and supplement your tall tales. A phone doesn't really carry the same weight... so what's the solution? Enter Saal Digital… Saal Digital I came across Saal Digital in a small Instagram ad, and was intrigued enough to sign up. I thought, why not? Their deal? I order one of their photobooks with a £40 discount, and in exchange I write a product review when it arrives. Yeah, that's really the deal. I admire their honesty and transparency. Yes, I got £40 off a photobook and yes, that may have biased me slightly, however: they have not pressed me to present their product in a positive light and they also haven’t pushed me to share my experience with everyone I know - they simply asked me to write a review and post it somewhere online. So here it is. First off: The Positives The quality of the book is really, really good. It doesn't strike you as cheap (well, in fairness, it isn't) and it carries a bit of weight. The pages are beautifully clear and crisp, and not too flimsy. The flexibility of their software let me lay out my photos how I wanted, and gave me a pretty accurate representation of how the book would look before I sent it off to be printed (a process which was very smooth and handled entirely in their own propriety software). The image quality is brilliant. The print is really sharp and shows a great amount of fine detail, and the colour representation is also on point. Sometimes I've found that photos can look much darker when printed (and thus lose quite a bit of their dynamic range) but the colours in the book look well balanced and, if I'm honest, not very different to how they look on screen. Bravo Saal Digital, bravo. Also, their customer service was good. I've been a bit late posting my review, having received my book at the end of October, but they've been nothing but polite. Replying to their emails does at first seem to put you in some sort of help-ticket system (complete with automated responses) but hey I'm willing to let that slide. The Negatives Ah, the negatives. OK, first off none of these are deal-breakers for me, as I got this book with a £40 discount. However in the spirit of fairness I feel it's fair to give Saal (and you, reading this) some honest feedback. My biggest gripe really was the software. I understand that image editing software is tricky and that coding it is no mean feat, however my experience with the catchily-titled "SaalDesignSoftwareUK" app wasn't all that great. My main problem came with loading images - it would bug out quite a bit and refuse to load thumbnails of photos, leaving me taking stabs in the dark as to whether I was importing the image I wanted or not. It's not badly designed software, but for me it's not as easy to use as I'd like. Yes, I could have gone through all my photos and named the ones I'd wanted to import - but that's a lot of effort sorting through 600+ images, and not something I can imagine a lot of people would be comfortable doing. The autofill feature is nice, and the software has a handy image quality notification which stops you getting pixellated images - I appreciate that and it definitely helps in producing a more refined and polished final book. I also had a couple of issues with just navigating through the software in general: panning and zooming on the book previews was a bit of a faff, and also quite sluggish which made things a little frustrating. Its auto-snap feature also didn't work all the time, which caused me to have a white line of background appear between two images in my book - something that I couldn't see in the software. A small issue and it definitely won't affect everyone, but it did catch me out a little bit. Finally, this isn't a criticism of Saal Digital necessarily, but moreso the photobook industry in general - the price. Now, I got a £40 discount as I've said, but had I not had that, this book would have cost me £55.20 plus delivery. To me, that's more than a bit steep and I definitely can't justify spending that to make a holiday album each time we go away. So the price puts this product out of my reach and also a lot of my friends and family who don't have that kind of money to spend. Conclusion The book itself is wonderful and I'm supremely grateful for Saal Digital in getting in touch with me and letting me try it out, and then letting me write whatever I wanted as a form of payment. I admire the company and their openness, and think that they have the potential to be a big player in the future of photobooks if they can just sort out some of the gripes with their software (and maybe make the products a little more affordable, although I appreciate this is tricky!). It's something that we'll treasure and keep as a memory of a very special holiday, and we've been able to share it and our experiences with many of our friends and family. It goes one step above an old photo album, and I'd love to get more and create a collection of memories that we could look back on in years to come. Just hopefully I won't have to take out a loan to make that dream a reality.
Oh, look, Alex is writing a compilation list. How original! In the immortal words of the great Tina Turner: “Greatest hits is easy because one has nothing to do.” Anyway… I know everyone writes these kind of posts, but, truth be told, I love reading all of them. There’s nothing quite like finding a new treasure trove of inspiration that makes your brain start doing somersaults and firing off ideas like you’ve downed a litre of coffee, and as a designer it’s important to keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry – what are the latest trends and styles? What new cutting-edge HTML/CSS wizardry is happening out there? What new camera equipment has just been announced that costs more than your entire life savings and house? So, without further ado, here are five places that I go to for inspiration. They’re not numbered because they’re all brilliant in their own ways, and hopefully some of these sites may be just what you’re looking for. Codrops https://tympanus.net/codrops/ It seems to be getting more and more popular now, but for quite a few years Codrops by Tympanus.net has been my go-to website for front-end web design inspiration. Some of their concepts are just too advanced to actually implement (web browsers still have some catching up to do) but others are just brilliant, inspired solutions to design or content presentation problems. They also have a fantastic collective online magazine-type collection of resources from around the web which gets released every week or so, which is well worth looking through. Behance https://behance.net/ Yeah, the big daddy of design inspiration. I was in two minds whether to include this or not, because if you’re a designer and you haven’t heard of Behance then… where have you been? But seriously, it’s an absolute goldmine of projects from some of the most talented creatives in the world. Some of the case studies on the site are just mind blowing, so don’t visit if you want to feel better about your own work… but do visit if you want to be pushed to new creative heights. Unsplash https://unsplash.com/ This is a fantastic resource for free photography. Stock images? Who needs them, especially if your budget is, like mine, a big fat £0. Photographers from all over the world are sharing some fantastic images that are free to use (it’s good practice to include a credit if you use one). As a photographer, it’s a great way to get your images out there – you can click through to the photographers portfolios and jump onto their websites or get in touch if you want to commission them. As a designer… free images? Need I say more? Dribbble https://dribbble.com/ Another site that should be a staple for every designer out there. Dribbble is a great little resource for creatives, although it tilts heavily towards design/illustration with some web/application stuff sprinkled in there. Again, the standard of work is jaw-dropping and it’s also a great way to network and chat to your peers and design idols. Medium https://medium.com/ Not specifically a design resource, Medium is more of a blogging platform that leans towards articles. I first came across Medium when Teehan+Lax (one of my favourite design agencies ever) posted a case study of their design process for the first iteration of the Medium site. It’s evolved massively since then, and Teehan+Lax have sadly folded so the case study is no longer available, but Medium still proves a fantastic resource if you want to jump more into the why’s and how’s of design and development. I’ve learned a lot and sharpened my critical/analytical thinking by studying some of the articles, and more are being added all the time so it’s definitely a site worth checking out for any creative. Afterword And that’s it. My exhaustive list. Not! But I hope that I’ve given a little back to the design world that’s given me so much, and I hope that some of you readers have found this post helpful or inspirational. Just remember to browse the sites for a bit, and then close them down and actually do some work!
I built this website back at the very start 2015, when I was suiting up ready to take the plunge as a full-time freelance graphic designer. I wanted to provide a home for my skills, my portfolio and my thoughts, and yes, show off just a little bit. Over the past couple of years, the site served me well, securing me some freelance jobs and piquing the interest of some in the design world. I got myself some business cards with a design styled around the website, and got my head down and worked hard as a freelance graphic designer and web developer. Things were going well. Flash forward over two years - we’re now more than halfway through 2017 and my freelance career has been going well, if in fits and spurts. I’ve worked with bigger name clients and been involved in some massive projects with huge scopes and responsibilities. I made enough to live on (just, if you take off what I paid in taxes!) and was earning more annually than I had at a previous agency I worked at. In a way, the freelance dream was working out. There’s a ‘but’ coming, isn’t there? While the freedom and flexibility of working for yourself are massive bonuses, I have found that the intermittent nature of freelancing has proved tricky for me in the past year or two. Over quite a few coffees and a few late night thinking sessions, I’ve decided to put my freelance career to one side for now, and I’m looking to join a design agency to push myself to become a stronger, more flexible and more experienced professional. I have loved freelancing and worked with some incredible people over the past few years, and I don’t intend to stop freelancing completely (I’m too addicted to design for that!). But I think as I have cleared my 25th birthday, a fresh start is in order and I feel that working within a creative agency is the right step forward for me at this time. Which agency? Who knows - there are plenty to research, but design is a competitive industry so we’ll see what the future holds. So what about this site? This site isn’t going anywhere, but it’s transitioning to more of a portfolio / notebook and less of a shop-front for my freelance design services. I hope to get back into writing more (the last article I wrote was in 2015, and that was the third in total - so currently I’m averaging one article every 6 months or so!) and using this website as a place to post my portfolio pieces and design experiments. I’m sure there will be freelance projects peppered here and there. I will endeavour to keep this journal more updated and post my thoughts and experiences as I head back into employment. It’s been quite a ride over the last couple of years - here’s to the future. See you there.
Sometimes, I just can’t finish my personal projects. Many people who know me will already know this – sometimes it drives them (and me!) mad, the fact that I can sometimes endlessly tweak something. I’m pretty sure that other designers out there will immediately relate to this situation as well. I never really have this problem with client work: we set out with a brief, we hit the targets and complete the brief, polish it up, deliver it and job’s a good ‘un. It gets a little more tricky with personal projects, however, because sometimes there isn’t a finite finish point.
Buried deep in my desk cupboard are hundreds and hundreds of handwritten pages of varying shapes and sizes, and a couple of folders packed with diagrams and ideas, sketches and maps. Created by a young teenager with a burning desire to write a story, this little paper trail is mostly hidden away, forgotten until the annual ‘time-to-clear-out-the-desk’ event leads me to sit and look through all the work that I produced back then when my world was simpler and goals seemed a lot easier to reach.