On Typekit: Fun, funky and bold

I'm surprised how many people don't know that Typekit fonts are part of their Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. So each Tuesday, I'm going to highlight a typeface available on Typekit that's included for free with Creative Cloud. 


When Typekit first launched, they mostly had a selection of conservative serif and sans serif options. But recently, Typekit has added more decorative, display fonts. For my first "On Typekit" post, I've selected Blenny by Dalton Maag, a bold and funky typeface with a 1970s vibe. It's one of those typefaces that you don't notice until you actually need it. Blenny boasts wide range of characters, all meticulously constructed. I seriously love the ampersand. Check out Blenny over on Typekit.

(Not sure how to add fonts from Typekit to your computer? Check out this Adobe Help document on how to install Typekit desktop fonts.)

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he searches endlessly for the perfect ampersand. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Bridge to no where...

Adobe Bridge wasn't upgraded with the Creative Cloud 2015 update. The last time it was updated, the main change was removing the Output module – which for many of us was the only reason to use Bridge. So obviously, either:

  1. Adobe is going to let Bridge die a quiet death.
  2. Adobe is going to replace Bridge with something more useful.

It's important to remember that Bridge was created to be a replacement for a file system. I always felt Bridge was intended to be a trojan horse – a way of providing a single file browser for Adobe customers regardless of whether they were on Macs or PCs. That customers would (hopefully) prefer the Adobe "operating system" for the native one. To entice users, they included features for server-based version control (Version Cue), a stock photo service and more. But the app was slow and unweildy. And no one that I know really used it.

Technology has changed a lot since Bridge debuted. Bridge was designed for a world where workgroups collaborated with servers, not clouds. Now, Adobe's switched to a cloud-based system. Creative Cloud is the only way to purchase most of Adobe's products and many of their new features leverage the cloud.

I assumed that Adobe was letting Bridge die. 

Lately though, I've been experimenting with the file storage features of Creative Cloud and it's reasonably powerful, simple and straightforward. Most of the file management is handled in a web interface, but as the file storage and collaboration features of Creative Cloud grow, I could see Adobe building a new "Bridge" – one that was built from the ground up in the cloud era. 

Maybe having a web app to tie it all together is enough. The web app isn't bad, but it feels detached from the software. A native app would be much more powerful and user friendly.

(Desktop development is different than mobile development, but for what it's worth, Adobe's new Creative Cloud iOS app has a handful of the features that a mobile Bridge would need.)

The nice thing about Adobe Creative Cloud distribution model is that they can update an app or introduce a new app at any time. So Adobe doesn't have to wait until Creative Cloud 2016 to update Bridge. That said, every update that doesn't include a new version of Bridge sends a very specific message: Adobe's Bridge is going no where...

Artboards in Photoshop!

Love this sneak peak demo of artboards in Photoshop. This feature has the potential to seriously change the way I work in Photoshop, especially for things like web ads. In fact, I really could have used this feature earlier this week. I don't know when the 2015 edition of Creative Cloud will be released, but I'm definitely looking forward to this feature.

How do we learn software?


It wasn't that long ago that design software came with an instruction manual. That your company would invest thousands of dollars sending employees to training. That bookstores had shelves of books walking you through every feature of Photoshop or InDesign.

But the internet essentially ended that. With the ability to look up anything online quickly, books and training became far less important to designers. Online training videos walk you though every step. And coupled with the fact that design software is updated incrementally, most designers simply discover new features on their own.

Yet, when working with my students or coworkers, I've discovered that often, they don't know about simple time-saving tricks.  These tricks aren't covered in the videos or online tutorials. They are too simple. Many of them aren't even new. They've been in the software for years. But we as designers are stuck in our ways. We are accustomed to the way we do things. We don't always use the software in the most efficient way.

Every Wednesday, I'll post a quick tip. It's my attempt to highlight some of the awesomely easy ways to use Adobe apps better. I've added a page to the site's main navigation to collect all the tips and already posted tips for the last three weeks.

My hope is that these Wednesday Quick Tips will teach you a new tactic (or remind you of one you've forgotten). And by investing a minute or two each week, you'll save many more minutes along the way.

Kuler and Evernote

A screenshot of Adobe Kuler for iOS. Here, Kuler is selecting a color palette from a picture of Rutledge Chapel on the campus of the University of South Carolina.

A screenshot of Adobe Kuler for iOS. Here, Kuler is selecting a color palette from a picture of Rutledge Chapel on the campus of the University of South Carolina.

Adobe's Kuler app for iOS (iTunes Link) is a relatively simple and useful app. Take a picture and select a color palette from the image. Your color scheme is then uploaded to Adobe's Kuler site where you can download an .ase (Adobe Swatch Exchange) file.

If you aren't familiar with .ase files, they allow you to share color palettes between Adobe apps like InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop.

The Kuler site does provide you a page with all your color palettes. But I use Evernote keep track of my Kuler palettes. With Evernote, I can set up a notebook with project information, other design inspiration and potential color palettes all in the same folder. 

When I find a color palette I like, I email it to my Evernote account. Every Evernote account has an email address that you can add notes with. It's generated by Evernote and you can easily add it to your address book. 

The email attaches a graphic of the color palette and a link to the site where I can get the ASE file. I wish the email would include a copy of picture that inspired the palette. But that's easy enough to add separately in Evernote if I want to keep a record of it.

Why would anyone use the "Touch Type Tool?"

A screenshot of the new "Touch Type Tool" in action. I made the letter T bigger and changed it's horizontal scale.

A screenshot of the new "Touch Type Tool" in action. I made the letter T bigger and changed it's horizontal scale.

I was playing around in Adobe Illustrator CC and came across a giant button labeled "Touch Type Tool" at the top of the character palette.

Using this tool you can easily select a character from a line of text and change it's size, horizontal and vertical scale and location in relation to the rest of the text. And you can make different changes to every single letter. I suppose the benefit is that you can still edit the text, but I'm having a very hard time figuring out when you should use it. Maybe someone needs to make fancy drop caps that are stretched and skewed. I'm guessing this is one of those features that looks good in a demo, but will be poorly used by inexperienced designers everywhere.

It's also very poorly named. To me, "touch typing" is what I was taught in keyboarding class in high school. At least you can hide the giant button with the "Show Touch Type Tool" option in the flyout menu. 

In general, I really like Creative Cloud and there are some genuinely useful new features. I'll try to pull together a more detailed post with some of my favorite new features. But don't expect to see "Touch Type Tool" on that list.


Adobe’s iPad Trio

Adobe has released three new apps for the iPad that integrate with Photoshop. Adobe Eazel is a painting app with a unique interface. Adobe Nav allows you to control Photoshop remotely through a customizable interface. And Adobe Color Lava is a color mixing app.

And while all three can be used on their own to varying degrees, the major selling point is that they are designed to be used in conjunction with Photoshop.

Getting Ready

All of the apps run on either the iPad or the iPad 2. (I’m testing them on my original iPad.) To integrate with Photoshop, you need to be running either the newly released Photoshop CS 5.5 or install the free 12.0.4 upgrade to CS5.

Your iPad and the Mac or PC need to be connected to the same wi-fi network. This doesn’t sound like an issue, but some setups – like the one I have in my office – use wired ethernet and don’t have wi-fi enabled. At home though where I connect through a wireless network, I had no problems.

And finally, you have to enable remote control in Photoshop by going to “Edit > Remote Connections…” You will be prompted to name your “Photoshop Server” and set a password. Then in each app, you’ll need to connect to Photoshop and select the computer.

Adobe Eazel

Eazel ($4.99 in the App Store) is a painting app with a unique interface. When you start Eazel, a video plays demoing how to use the app. And honestly, you need to watch it. The interface isn’t intuitive. You get the feeling that Adobe’s interface designers wanted to develop an experimental interface and that’s exactly what it feels like.

Using five fingers, you activate controls that allows you to paint with pseduo-watercolor brushes. Under each finger is a control that allows you adjust settings like brush size, color and opacity. Using two fingers, you can zoom in and out.

If you tap with five fingers and then pick your hand up, the control configuration changes from being under your fingers to being aligned in the center of the canvas. For me, this is much easier to control.

The painting effect is kind of cool, but difficult to control. With some practice, I was able to create some fun abstract artwork. But I was never a painter, so maybe someone with some painting experience might be better at it.

When you are done with your creation, you can export it to the Photo library or send it to Photoshop. Files are 2048 × 1536 pixels. When you transfer the file to Photoshop, it opens a new file with the document.

Transferring a file is the only feature that connects Eazel to Photoshop. It’s basically a painting app with a wireless export to Photoshop.

Adobe Nav

Nav ($1.99 from the App Store) is a simple app. Connect it to Photoshop and select tools with buttons. And you can customize the interface. A second screen lets you look at and switch between all open documents. One interesting feature is that when you disconnect from Photoshop, the second screen maintains the open documents. You can look at them and zoom in on the remaining files.

Adobe Color Lava

Color Lava ($2.99 in the App Store) is a color mixing app that allows you to paint colors on a canvas, blend them together and then build a color palette from your creation.

The interface is intuitive. On the left, there is a six color palette and a tray of “water.” In the middle of the color palette is a gray scale palette. Tapping it switches from color to black and white. Double tapping on any color gives you a hue, saturation and brightness sliders to customize colors. The “water” cleans your brush (and as a nice touch, ripples when you move the iPad).

You combine colors on a canvas. Then store colors you like in the five blanks spaces on the right. Just tap on one of the blank squares and then tap the color you want to save.

On the lower right side of the canvas is a camera icon. Click that to add a picture from your photo library. You can then sample colors from the picture, or paint on it to create new colors.

When you start a new palette, the current palette is saved to a second screen. The second screen lets you name your palettes and export them. Double tapping on a color set brings up your selections with RGB, HSB and hex values.

You also are given the option to Send to Photoshop or email the palette. Sending the colors to Photoshop seamlessly adds them to your Swatches palette. Emailing them sends a PNG with an Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ase) file. This is great because an .ase file can be imported into any Adobe Creative Suite application. You can easily add your colors in InDesign or Illustrator.

The main limitation is that there is no way to calibrate the iPad to match your main computer display. If you are a photographer or designer that is very particular about color workflow, then this may not be the app for you. And if you do need to match existing color profiles or if you need CMYK values, you will need to do a few other steps after importing.

Should you buy them?

Is there any real value for adding these apps to a professional workflow?

Eazel is fun, but I really don’t see the point. While the effects are cool, there are lots of painting and drawing apps that are more full-featured for about the same price. And the only Photoshop “feature” is sending the file to open in Photoshop. It feels like an interface experiment instead of an extension of Photoshop.

For Nav, I could see some instances where it would be nice to customize your workflow with some additional buttons or tools. But as it stands now, I’m really not sure I would use it frequently. I mean, how much of this is faster and more efficient on a touch screen than using a traditional mouse or trackpad setup. I do see lots of potential for Adobe to expand and develop this app, but for now, it’s very limited. (Random feature request: I would love to be able to create buttons for individual automated actions.)

Personally, I will absolutely use Color Lava. I can see how this would work with my workflow and the ability to send swatches as .ase files is a great added feature. It’s intuitive and delightful to use and for $2.99, I think it’s a great value.

Finally, let’s be honest, none of these apps are expensive. And if you are a Photoshop user, you may want to check them out. One thing you can be sure of is that Adobe is not done tweaking and adjusting these apps. I fully expect to see updates and refinements in the near future.

Trial Balloons

When I was using the apps, it occurred to me that these apps are, in many ways, trial balloons for Adobe. They can test out and show off different types of connectivity with Photoshop - from simple export to full remote control. They can try out different price points from $1.99 for Nav to $4.99 for Eazel. They can experiment with interfaces and workflows and figure out how to build even better tablet applications. Adobe and many other software manufacturers are trying to figure out how to create, sell and market apps for tablets. Connecting tablet apps with desktop software is a fascinating concept and these three apps are a great start. I can’t see what Adobe develops next.

Needed: Serious Presentation App for the iPad

John Nack from Abobe asked a few weeks ago for ideas for Adobe iPad and tablet apps. The comments section was filled with ideas and most were related to bringing Lightroom or Photoshop to the iPad. And while those are nice ideas, personally, I’d like to see some type of viewing and presenting application designed especially for creatives.

A Presentation App for Creatives

I find that the iPad is great for bringing to meetings and sharing ideas with colleagues or clients. I was recently at a meeting and unexpectedly needed to show a logo redesign I had been working on. Luckily, I had my iPad and a PDF and was able to pass around the tablet for the committee members to review the concept.

I also use PDFs for many of my lectures. And while I’ve used Keynote on the iPad, I’d still love to be able to present with PDFs. And it would be helpful to keep a portfolio on my iPad to share with prospective clients. There are apps like Good Reader (Warning: iTunes link) that allow some of this functionality, but what’s missing is an app to allow this to function seamlessly.

Adobe Presenter (or Portfolio?)

There are lots of apps that allow you to read PDF files or view image files. But I think Adobe could take it further and specifically target the needs of creatives. Here’s what I think the app would need to do to be successful:

  1. Support many formats. At least PDF, JPG, PSD, AI and PNG. And maybe TIF. And any other files you can support. The more file formats that can be supported the better.
  2. Video-out mode. The app would have to support presenting through the VGA adapter. And hopefully they can improve on Apple’s interface for presenting with Keynote on the iPad.
  3. Ability to assemble or modify presentation. I envision an app that would allow you to store assets – PDFs, images, native files – and select which assets you want to include in a presentation. You could combine files and rearrange the order of assets, including reordering the pages in a PDF. You could store a portfolio of your work on the iPad and customize your presentation before showing a potential client. Or rearrange a presentation on your iPad before a lecture.
  4. Integrated web browser. If you want to show a web site as part of your portfolio or lecture, you would have to leave the app. So include an integrated Webkit browser (like Twitteriffic does…) and allow access to links from within the app.

Other features that would be helpful, but wouldn’t need to be present in a 1.0 version… 

  1. Notes/Captions. I’d love to be able to add notes to each slide. That would be helpful if I need to see lecture notes or if I want to add details for the images that I’m showing. And in video-out mode, bonus points if I can see those notes on the iPad’s screen.
  2. Commenting. I can see adding comments to files as a nice feature. Not necessarily needed in version 1, though.
  3. Support for video files. I think this would be a great addition, but I think PSD and AI support is more important.
  4. Some mechanism for easily syncing files. For me, this is the biggest challenge for the iPad… managing files. Initially, you can use the hooks built into iTunes for file sharing, but I’d love to see a more sophisticated system, similar to Dropbox. It would be helpful to rate images, add captions, comments and keywords. And then have that data sync back with my Mac. However, I think this workflow would be challenging unless there was some kind of cloud-based sync service. Perhaps Adobe could try tying it into their online service. I’m not sure what the best solution is here.

Why Adobe?

Looking at the features above, anyone could make the app. So why should Adobe build this app?

Well, I think it is an app that works for their target audience. Photographers could use it to show images to a client. Designers can use it for their portfolio or for discussions with clients. And it could double as a lightweight PDF presentation application for creative of all types. It enhances PDF as a presentation platform, could provide extensive support for their native formats like PSD and AI and possibly connect with their online services. Plus I think it would be a natural fit for Adobe to offer to the creative community.

How much are you willing to pay?

So far, Adobe’s iPhone and iPad apps have been free. Mobile and Adobe Ideas are both offered as free downloads. I’m sure Adobe sees this as a service to their clients and a way to gain some positive PR.

But personally, I’m willing to pay something for an app that can do everything listed above. Apps with similar feature sets are priced in the 2.99 to 9.99 range. I’m sure Adobe could find a large audience with a price tag somewhere in the middle of that range.