In the rundown of the elections down here in South Africa I read some comments (complaints really) of South Africans as reported in the press. The number one gripe is unemployment which is very high at 24%. Third highest in the world and eating away at the support for the ruling ANC which has been unable to remedy the situation after 20 years in power.

But it’s not the ANC. There are no jobs because we are not working. It is not the other way around. Bonga, the guy working in my garden on Mondays understands this. He works at my place on Mondays only because he is fully booked every other day of the week. His income is 15 times that of the average South African.

What makes Bonga different? There are thousands of laborers complaining about unemployment. They can’t find work for one day in the week. But Bonga has too much work. He is at the point where he will have to hire help if he is to expand any further.

Employment is not a gift, it is a decision.

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Bitching About Adobe

I own PhotoShop CS4. Re-installing after a computer crash I was informed that the serial number is “invalid”. I tried again. No luck. I assumed it was because I did not deactivate it on my old PC, which I could not do because that PC was resting in pieces.

I contacted Adobe and explained the problem. They simply said that I had an invalid serial number. No further help. No explanation. I protested, but I was getting nowhere.

So I reluctantly clicked the link in the PhotoShop error message to buy a new serial for CS4. After 15 minutes of searching on the Adobe site I could not find a way to buy a serial number for CS4. Around every corner I had CC shoved in my face.

Can the mighty Adobe really be this shortsighted?

I arrived at the only logical conclusion. The Adobe umbilical cord must be cut. For a while I will struggle without PhotoShop. Initially I will have to work an extra 20 minutes every day to get the same work done. I’ll miss PhotoShop and Illustrator, but I’ll be OK. I am convinced that paying for CC now would put me in a far worse situation: Held captive by a company that unashamedly tries to suck every penny from every user.

(Sucking every penny from every user used to be “just good business” in the pre-Internet era. With the level of connectedness we have now, delivering a fantastic experience every time is the new road to profits. People now have a greater ability to talk about bad experiences, like I’m doing here. When bad press piles up it can reach a critical point where the negativity starts to feed off itself and snowballs. Where it becomes popular to hate a company. I fear that Adobe is closer to this point than they seem to realize.)

If you already legally own CS2, you can download an “end-of-life” version with serial number here:

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“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”
— Chuck Close

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An Internet Success Building Block

I could not give you all of the blocks – some of them only you can find – but one of the building blocks that I think is essential is also deceptively simple: Ignore the money.

It is easy and fun to focus on how much cash this new venture will make. And how it will make it. We spend a lot of time building beautiful pathways to our order forms. Pathways that few people travel down.

Much better to leave money out of your thinking and your planning. Focus on building something that is insanely useful. Only that. Let the number of people it touches be your measure of success. You really, honestly have to flip this switch in your thinking. The money switch in the “off” position. It was for Google for many years before they flipped it to “on”. Same with Facebook and virtually every super brand on the Net.

And when you flip it to “on”, do it without hurting the core usefulness/value.

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CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator has been king of the hill for a while now. It’s the standard and the one professional graphic designers have to have.

But recently Adobe seems to making a hash of it and, in my opinion, they opened the door for Corel. With their customer database hack and their recent move to subscription-only software, Adobe has dropped the ball. If they had clearly better software that would be another matter, but they don’t. The only advantage they have is that people are used Illustrator. It’s comfortable. They have some customer loyalty that stems from that. Given this, their decision to milk their customers for every dime seems suicidal. Losing customer loyalty is a hell of a lot easier than earning it and it happens much, much faster. Company greed will do it. Perceived company greed is just as bad.

I really hope that Corel sees the opportunity and steps up. I’ve always been a fan of Corel and I use CorelDraw far more than I use Illustrator. It’s just better.

What will it take for Corel to dethrone Adobe?

  • Have the savvy to learn from Adobe’s subscription mess,
  • stop ignoring the Mac community and
  • have massive incentives for schools/colleges to teach CorelDraw alongside or instead of Illustrator.

If Corel doesn’t seize the opportunity, someone else will. Either way, Adobe’s reign is over.

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Password Security for Dummies

If we’ve learned anything from the recent security breach at Adobe, it’s that passwords are not secure. And if you use the same password everywhere you are an easy target.

You suck at remembering passwords?

Who doesn’t!

Use a generic one for unimportant stuff like your Gmail login, but use different, longer, non-dictionary passwords for anything where money is involved, like your bank login or PayPal login. If you don’t, one hack on one little, unimportant site that you do not control can bankrupt you. It is happening to real people like you and me. Change your passwords now.

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Note To Self

Working on low-level tasks is a drain on your energy and enthusiasm. It also impacts your confidence to take on high-level tasks. Admit it: At times when you are working in your business rather than on it, you are miserable and unmotivated. Insist on delegating every single task that someone can be trained to do. Even those crucial tasks that need to be done really well. There are wonderful, talented people out there who would love the opportunity.

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Good Design versus Small Business

In my experience, my small business clients prefer the work of my junior designers over the (more accomplished) work of my senior designers. It’s a swoosh mentality. A name with a swoosh going around it is still popular with many small business owners who could not really give a damn if it’s good design or not. They like it. Their customers think it looks cool. That’s all that matters to them.

As we get better at what we do and push design ever closer to art, we tend to loose touch with these clients. It pisses me off when a client rejects a brilliant logo proposal and asks for more “swooshy” designs. Should we educate them? Perhaps. But perhaps these business owners are more in touch with reality than we are. If a swooshy logo sells their products then prescribing anything else in the interest of “good design” is selfish.

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Pixel Real Estate

The reality of logo design post 1995 is that your creations must work on the web, in pixels, even if the client insists that the logo will only be used in print. Somebody, somewhere will scan it and post it some place on the Net.

So you need to contend with pixel real estate. It’s like building a logo with Lego blocks. If you have only so much space, you can only have so much detail. Conversely, the amount of detail dictates the minimum allowable web size for the logo – in other words how small you can make it before pixels become flooded with more visual information than they can convey. The simpler the logo, the smaller you can make it.

A glaring problem in logo design today is an apparent ignorance of this limitation. Designers (or more likely their clients) insist on more intricacy than the final display size allows.

I’m not sure what the solution is. Do we resort to designing favicon-style logos (If it works as a 16 x 16 pixel favicon, it should be good for the web.) or do we prescribe minimum pixel dimensions when a logo project is finalized?

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Shooting in the Dark

As logo designers we pour everything we have into every project and then, excited, we await the client’s comments – only to hear “Nah, I don’t like it. I’m not sure what I want. I guess I’ll know it when I see it.”

No doubt it is discouraging, but in the age of pre-designed logos it need not be a bad thing. When you think about it, the client is paying you to play. Anything goes. Chances are you won’t delight this client no matter how awesome the logo ideas, but continue making awesome logos anyway. Your time is not wasted. All of those rejected concepts are good logos, right? So sell them!

[When you think about it some more, the client is paying you to create pre-designed logos that you will get paid for…]

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