Archive for October, 2011

InDesign Secrets: The elusive mysteries of backward compatibility

Published by | Thursday, October 20th, 2011

InDesign-based projects are often collaborative efforts. You may need to share your InDesign document with a whole host of editors, writers, and designers, some of whom may not be using the same version of the software as you are. Unlike Office, Photoshop, or Illustrator documents, which can be opened in earlier versions of the applications that created them with little hassle, InDesign backward compatibility requires that you export your document to a special file format that can be understood by earlier incarnations of InDesign.

In this week’s free InDesign secret, Anne-Marie Concepción shares what you need to do, what you need to know, and what you need to watch out for when converting your document to IDML (InDesign Markup Language) so that it can be opened with CS4, CS5, or CS5.5. She demonstrates the somewhat confusing ‘missing plug-in’ warning that is often just InDesign’s way of telling you you’re using an older version of the program than that which created the document you’re trying to open. Anne-Marie will also show you the things you’ll need to be on the lookout for, like missing previews and matching text. She’ll even reveal how to see the guts of your document in human-readable code.

Meanwhile, Anne-Marie’s partner in InDesign secrecy, David Blatner, has an exclusive movie just for members over in the Online Training Library® that shows you how you can use conversion to IDML (or its earlier analogue INX for CS2-CS3 team members) in order to fix format problems that may otherwise confound you.

And we’ll see you back in two weeks with more InDesign Secrets.

• All the InDesign Secrets in the Online Training Library®
• Courses by Anne-Marie Concepcion in the Online Training Library®
• Courses by David Blatner in the Online Training Library®
• Courses on InDesign in the Online Training Library®

Deke’s Techniques: Drawing a Halloween scareflake

Published by | Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

This week, you get not only Deke’s free advice for making the world’s scariest snowflake in Illustrator, but also insight into Deke’s childhood and how he came to make the scary connection between Halloween and snowflakes. The beauty of this technique is that Illustrator’s dynamic Transform effect means you can work on one-twelfth of your snowflake—creating the scariest, craziest, most intricate skeleton-ghost you can imagine—and have your work automatically repeated eleven times. The effect is this delightful, multi-seasonal creation:

It takes some work to join and properly fill the path outlines along the way, and Deke takes you through his particular ghastly machinations. You’ll see how to use the Pathfinder panel to create the proper combinations. You’ll even see how Deke has to navigate the treacherous interworkings of groups and pathfinding.

For members, there are two more exclusive movies in the Online Training Library® this week, in which Deke shows you how to replicate your snowflake as ‘true clones’ so that you can make an entire pattern in Illustrator and then import your creation into Photoshop as a smart object in order to give it a fiery background. Fire and ice in this week’s holiday technique. Happy haunting!

• the entire collection of Deke’s Techniques 
• courses on Illustrator in the Online Training Library®
• courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®

New feature: Suggested courses to watch next

Published by | Monday, October 17th, 2011

Some members contact us to ask what they should learn after finishing a particular course. Now, right at the bottom of many course pages, you’ll see some of our suggestions. For example, after finishing Foundations of Programming: Fundamentals, you might want to take a look at these courses:

  1. Javascript Essential Training (2011)
  2. C# Essential Training
  3. Objective-C Essential Training

Let us know what you think of this new feature in the comments below, or click on the blue site feedback button on the lower right corner of every page in the site and send us a note.

Marian Bantjes on the big screen

Published by | Friday, October 14th, 2011

This Friday, October 14th, at 9PM, we have a special treat for AIGA Pivot attendees and subscribers who are within traveling distance to Phoenix. As part of the Pivot—AIGA’s 2011 Design Conference in Phoenix, AZ— will present a screening of our latest release in the Creative Inspirations series, Marian Bantjes, Graphic Artist. The screening will be in the beautiful Phoenix Symphony Hall and will be followed by Michael Bierut (Partner/Pentagram) interviewing Marian live on stage. I’ll be there to introduce the film along with series director Scott Erickson. If you’re attending the conference, your badge gets you into the screening. If you’re a member, please go to to add yourself to the guest list.  The theatre seats a total of 2,300 people, so we should have plenty of room! Hope you can make it.

InDesign FX: Exploring Basic Feather settings

Published by | Thursday, October 13th, 2011

InDesign’s Basic Feather effect gives you the ability to blend the edges of an object with what’s behind it, creating soft transitions instead of sharp edges.

Perfectly sharp edges can make things look a little too sterile and digital, so this effect can be helpful for making objects seem a little more natural. In this week’s video, I lead a tour of the refreshingly simple Basic Feather dialog box, showing you how to control the shape and width of the feather as well as how to use Choke and Noise settings to tweak the transitions.

While Basic Feather works just fine on relatively simple shapes, I show why you might want to avoid using it on complex, small shapes like letters, where it can be difficult (if not impossible) to find a combination of settings that won’t break down the shapes entirely.

In the video I also show how to deal with one potentially frustrating aspect of working with InDesign FX: the fact that you can’t hide the frame edges of a selected object. This can make it hard to clearly see an effect like Basic Feather as you adjust the settings. The fix? Open a second window showing the same spread. In one window, select the object you’re feathering. In the other window, make sure the object is de-selected.

Target the window where the object is selected and open the Effects dialog box. Then, as you adjust your settings, preview the effect in the other window. It’s easier than it sounds, and it sure beats making repeated trips to the Effects dialog box.

For members, I have another new video this week exclusively in the Online Training Library® on one of Basic Feather’s more sophisticated cousins, Exploring Directional Feather Settings.

And I’ll see you here again in two weeks with another InDesign effect.

• InDesign FX complete course
• courses on InDesign in the Online Training Library®
• courses by Mike Rankin in the Online Training Library®

Deke’s Techniques: Creating an ambigram in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

This week, Deke’s Techniques turns our world upside-down, only to find that it’s the same as when it was right-side up. Deke sets out to create an ambigram in Illustrator, and he chooses a particularly appropriate word (both in its structure and meaning): Adobe.

For those of you who aren’t devotees of either Douglas Hofstader (Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid) or Dan Brown (Angels & Demons), an ambigram is a typographic treatment that—to quote Hofstader— “…squeezes two different readings into the selfsame set of curves.” The particular type of ambigram Deke explores this week is one in which you turn the letters over, only to find that it looks and reads exactly the same in the new orientation:

The free video this week shows you how to exploit Illustrator’s dynamic Transform command to work out your ambigrammatic tendencies, watching as you create one half of the word and see it flipped in real time on the other side. For members of, Deke’s exclusive video addition to the Online Training Library® reveals a more complicated double-word phrase that can still be turned upside-down without a shift in meaning.

Stop by next week for another free technique to find out what mysteries Deke has in store.

Interested in more?
• the entire collection of Deke’s Techniques 
• courses on Illustrator in the Online Training Library®
• courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®

Lynda Weinman interviews TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie

Published by | Friday, October 7th, 2011 co-founder Lynda Weinman recently interviewed TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, who spoke in Santa Barbara in October as part of  Innovation Matters, a new series in the UCSB Arts & Lectures program. Read the full interview at the Santa Barbara Independent.


Reflecting on my father and Steve Jobs

Published by | Friday, October 7th, 2011
Lynda and her father, 1996.

My father and me, 1996.

My father passed in July 2011, and it was a time of great reflection for my family and me. Hearing of Steve Jobs‘ passing affected me intensely and has also spurred deep reflection—though of course different than that for a parent, but deeper than you might imagine for a person I have never met and only admired from afar. Like so many others who are writing their Steve Jobs stories, I feel compelled to share mine.

I know I’m not the first or last to write about Steve’s passing, but that’s not important. I had a similar experience with my father—I couldn’t stop thinking about his passing and what his influence had been on me and my family, but I needed to process it a bit before I could formalize my thoughts. Some of my reflections are personal, and some of them have to do with our company.