January 26, 2012

Update: Solutions to My Illustrator Problems

It occurred to me after writing the previous post that perhaps there was some way to fix Illustrator and get rid of those pesky issues with the pen and brush tools. After all, plenty of other people use Illustrator to draw, so it must be possible.

Lo and behold, the solutions are out there:

After making these adjustments, I was able to create the following doodle:
This was all done with one brush. See how close the circles making up the necklace are? No way I could have done that before! But now I can draw a row of tiny circles, one right after the other, without hitting Cmd + D after each one.

January 23, 2012

I Miss FreeHand

I miss Macromedia FreeHand's freehand tool. When Adobe bought Macromedia, I wish they'd incorporated it into Illustrator. Instead, all I've got is Illustrator's lousy pencil and its dumb brushes.

You see, if you're drawing in Illustrator and you start drawing a new line too close to where you stopped the previous one, the software deletes the old line and replaces it with the new one. I don't know why somebody thought this was a useful feature. Perhaps Adobe's programmers thought that everyone likes to draw in one, long, unbroken stroke?

The only way to stop Illustrator from deleting the line you just drew is to deselect it. In older versions of Illustrator, this was Cmd + D. Annoying, but not too much trouble. However, in CS3, they've changed the keyboard shortcut for deselect to Shift + Cmd + A, a whole new "three-finger salute." At least I can change it back in the preferences, but it's still annoying.

In FreeHand, I could just draw, with a tool that responded to the pressure of my pen. Look at the difference. Here's some doodles I drew in FreeHand:

And here's one I drew in Illustrator, with a pencil and a brush line:

See how one-dimensional the brush looks? I miss FreeHand.

January 20, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 2

More doodles from my time at AIA. I think I drew this one near the end of the semester:

And this one probably refers to the career prospects of some of my less-motivated classmates:

January 19, 2012

Television as a Mirror

I enjoyed the season finale of Hell on Wheels. (If you haven't been watching, you've got a few months to catch up on reruns before new episodes begin.) There was a lot of action and drama, including an actual tar-and-feathering, but the scenes that have stayed with me are the ones of Lily at the party. She's dancing with Durant, talking with the railroad VIPs, but the whole time she's really hoping that Cullen will show up. Dominique McElligott doesn't have to say a word to make it clear this is what Lily is thinking: it's obvious from the way she's acting.

The reason these scenes affected me so is that I've been in her shoes. I've gone to the party only because I thought someone I really wanted to see would be there. Then I spent the whole evening distracted, waiting for him to arrive. (It probably helped that Anson was the man Lily was waiting for.) But I never realized how obvious it would have been to everyone around me that I was not entirely present. Watching those scenes, seeing the resignation on Durant's face as he watches Lily waiting for Cullen, I saw how I must have made the other people around me feel when I disparaged their company in favor of someone who wasn't even there.

This is what good art does: it holds a mirror up to life, letting you see it from a new perspective.

January 16, 2012

The Real Life Test for Startups

Recently, I saw Steve Rubel tweet that he didn't think Pinterest was particularly viable compared to some other startups he's seen.

My reply was that Pinterest will succeed because it affects my life and the life of my friends offline. One friend who's a teacher used an idea from Pinterest to teach her class about the different states of matter. I've used a few ideas from there to do my hair and make games for my kids to play.

Pinterest crosses the barrier between digital and real life. Why is that important? Because most people do not live the majority of their lives virtually. And I posit that any online startup which becomes a part of our real, non-virtual lives has more staying power than one which can simply vanish into the ether as if it never existed.

January 13, 2012

Margin Doodles No. 1

A while back, I scanned in a bunch of the doodles from the notes that I took in my classes at AIA. I think it would be fun to post them here, maybe one every Friday.

Here's a lovely specimen from April '97 that includes a little rap ditty. I don't know who this guy was supposed to be, but my guess is it's probably someone in my class who annoyed me.

January 12, 2012

Words as Images

Since joining Pinterest, I've noticed a lot of links to inspirational or humorous quotes displayed as graphics, sort of like digital posters. I suppose this trend has been building for a while, since the popularity of image macros started to take off. But I didn't really think about the consequences for semantics and search until I read this post by Kevin Marks: Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus shun HTML, causing the infographic plague.

I can understand the appeal of a pithy phrase turned into a poster-like graphic. I am also a fan of good design and typography. But a solid color rectangle with Arial block letters made in MS Paint? Really, that doesn't convey anything that actual text can't.

And yet, the current structure of some social media (Twitter being a notable exception) makes it worthwhile to put text into images, instead of using actual text.

Look! I have a SQUARE with some WORDS in it. And I even used the alt attribute, suckers!

January 9, 2012

Slowing Down

"Slow" seems to be the word of the moment. Slow food, slow living. I can appreciate the need for some slowness, but I'm one of those people who doesn't need any encouragement to be slow. I like being slow. I need help speeding up most times.

If 2010 was the year of the bird, and 2011 the year of the owl, perhaps 2012 will be the year of the snail.

January 6, 2012

Thinking About the Future

The past is behind us, what has been now is gone
But right now is with us, and we must carry on
- "This Time" by David Meece

It's been years since I've heard that song, but its opening words have been playing in my mind a lot lately. A new year always brings new predictions for the future, some plausible and some risible. What I think matters most in making these sort of predictions, though, is to remember that there will not be a return to the past. There may be patterns of a sort in history, but I have yet to see any large society completely roll itself back by decades or centuries. Even when parts of society fall apart or regress, as in Somalia or Afghanistan, we can never entirely escape the present.

Fearing the Future

In his latest long-term predictions, Bruce Sterling says that our future will be about "old people in big cities who are afraid of the sky." I think he's right, at least in part. The old will always fear the present to some degree. Has there ever been a time when older folks didn't long for the good old days? To put things in perspective, right now is likely the time I'll be reminiscing about when I'm old. ("Whatever happened to Joss Whedon? Let me tell you, sonny, that man could make a show!") And there will be a lot more old people in the future, percentage-of-the-population-wise. But I don't believe that's all we have to look forward to.

The Last Big Thing

The last big technological advance was related to communication. Think back to the 1980's: how expensive it was to talk to someone on the other side of the country, never mind the other side of the world; how the only way to get your voice heard in the media was to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. What did early hackers target? Phone companies. What was ARPANET about? Communication between researchers.

After decades of innovation, communication isn't much of a problem anymore. I can converse easily with almost anyone anywhere at any time for little cost. There are still details to be worked out, refinements to be made. And we'll likely be living with the fallout of the communications revolution for years to come. But the big leaps forward have already been made.

The Next Revolution

So what big problem do we face right now? What's holding us back?

From my point of view, it's transportation. Where I live, it's difficult, inefficient, and expensive to get myself and my stuff from one place to another. I'm particularly noticing this right now since I was in a car accident on New Year's Day and have been stuck at home this week while my husband takes our remaining car to work. (Thank goodness for the communication innovations that let me work at home!) I could theoretically walk or bike to the store if I needed something badly enough, but the roads here are not designed for anything but car traffic and I'd be literally risking my life. And it's not just me, where I live. Our state's capital city can't even manage basic public transportation, and the capital of the neighboring state can't build streets that let people get from one place to another without getting killed.

Transportation is ripe for innovation. I look forward to seeing what people come up with to solve these problems. I may even post some crazy ideas here myself. By the middle of the century, I want to be one of those old people remembering a simpler time when people didn't just zap in and out of existence right in front of you. How rude! Kids nowadays...

January 2, 2012

Stay Positive in 2012

With all the political nastiness that's bound to happen in an election year, I knew I was going to have a hard time not getting angry and frustrated every day. But, to paraphrase Linda Holmes, "Too much time spent in a legitimate state of tooth-grinding benefits no one but dentists."

So I decided to create my own logo and motto for 2012, something to remind me not to get too worked up over the blathering of idiots. I immediately thought of the faux-Latin phrase from The Handmaid's Tale, "Illegitimi Non Carborundum." In the story, the main character is told it means "Don't let the bastards grind you down." I drew a goofy happy clown face to go with the saying, and I even put it on buttons and t-shirts.

May we all have a happy new year, and not let the bastards grind us down.

$2 from the sale of each item will be donated to Home Works, a wonderful organization that definitely does a lot to help make people happy.