Archive: Nov 2014

  1. 28 Christmas Present Ideas for Designers

    Leave a Comment 8 min read

    It’s 28 days until Christmas! Are you excited yet!? Yes!? Well chill out – it’s still November for Gods sake. That being said, you do probably want to start thinking about what to buy your creative loved ones this Yuletide, so I’ve put together this list of all the things I personally want this year (you know… in case any of you out there fancy buying me something – ha!) to give you a few ideas. So dip your festive quill – it’s time to start penning that Christmas list.

    Main Presents

    So here are my big wants this Christmas, some of these are total pipe dreams I know, but it’s nice to fantasise isn’t it? If you’re thinking of buying a present of a designer that you’re not willing to sell a kidney for, you might want to skip to the stocking fillers section below where the gifts have a slightly more earthly budget. But for those willing to join me in holding Rudolph ransom this year, check these out.

    Wacom Cintiq

    Every designer dreams of having a Cintiq – that’s just the rule. But they’re always so flippin’ big and expensive aren’t they? Not really a justifiable expense for the mobile freelancer. That’s why I really want one of these newer 13inch models. Same great product but way more compact. The lack of space doesn’t really bother me (you’re talking to the illustrator who traded in a A3 tablet for a bamboo pen), so I’m really excited about something that’ll pack away alongside my MacBook. The screen resolution isn’t quite retina quality but at 1920×1080 it’s very decent, and did I mention you can draw on it?

    Cannon 100D

    Any photographers reading this will probably be uttering “really!?” to themselves in a high pitched tone about now. Yes – granted, if you’re a photographer, this is probably a little below the mark for you, but for the rest of us, this little beauty is ideal. First off, it’s small for a DSLR- like really small, so it’ll pop into your current work bag (and I’m hoping make a pretty decent travel camera). Second – it takes really nice pictures. I could probably ream off a load of numbers referencing mega pixels and f-stops and the like, but I don’t know anything about that because I don’t have a flippin DSLR camera yet! All I know is, this works with all the standard cannon lenses, so you won’t have to rebuy anything if you choose to upgrade later and the pics it takes are more than worthy to act as placeholders on that client website you’re building. Who knows get good enough with it and maybe you can pop those images on the bill!

    Surface Pro 2

    No I don’t need another tablet. The reason I want a Surface Pro 2 (not a 3 – very important!) is that is apparently really really nice to draw on. Mike Krahulik even went through a stage of drawing all of his comics directly on the Surface Pro 2 – for someone with a Wacom tablet the size of your dinner table at their disposal, that’s quite the endorsement. The reason I want the Surface Pro 2 over the 3 though is apparently the drawing experience, despite the machine being more powerful in every sense, has gone downhill (in fact the pressure sensitivity has dropped from 1024 to just 256!). I recently had a little play with the Surface Pro 3, and I really wasn’t blown away. Maybe it’ll be something that can be patched down the line, but for now – I’m happy to pine after the 2.

    iMac 5K

    When the MacBook Retina was first released, this was kinda on everyones mind; how cool would that be on a 27″ screen? Well here it is, and it’s glorious. Aside from being a slightly beefed up regular Mac, the new 5K screen has a resolution of 5120×2280! That’s more than both my current monitors put together! Another nice feature is the 1TB hard drive that the MacBooks are sorely lacking. So at around the same price, if your bunkered into your office, one of these would certainly make your Christmas.

    Stocking Fillers

    Ok so if all that stuff was a big mega (and based on my naughty/nice rating it definitely was!) check out some of these stocking fillers. These are perfect small to mid presents for that designer in your life.

    Mobee Magic Charger

    This elegant little device is a cradle for your Apple Magic Mouse. Pop it on this at the end of the day and it’d recharge your mouse for you. It looks really good on your desk too.

    Book Book Travel

    We have cases for all our important stuff, but often it’s the things like wires and chargers and headphones that take the hit when we travel and are just stuffed into a bag. This is a nice and pretty fix.

    Adobe Stylus for iPad

    iPad stylus’s leave a lot to be desired for the most part. This beauty however is getting some excellent feedback and is designed to work with your adobe file on the creative cloud too!

    Wacom Inkling

    Like drawing on paper rather than a tablet? Me too – that’s where this comes in. The scanner at the top of the paper tracks the (actual) pens movements and converts whatever you draw into a digital file.

    Browser Sketch Pad

    It’s a like a browser window, but it’s just blank paper, do you get it? Seriously though, when I’m working on a wireframe I always sketch in the browser for some reason, so this is just a nice time saver to get you in the right mind set.

    Anker Portable Charger

    I own this already, so not technically a present I want, but it is class. Holds seven charges for my iPhone so basically lives in the bag I take to all my meetings. Essential on a busy day out of the office. Works for most other gadgets too.

    Field Notes

    Designed by all America Hero Aaron Draplin. These note books are just beautifully designed and crafted and are all made in the USA. They don’t do anything special, they’re not even that big, but they’re really nice all the same.

    Pantone Formula Guide

    Only a designer could get excited about what is essentially colours printed onto cardboard. Pantone is the industry standard though from print media, and popping out a set of these in front of a client is a big win for professionalism.

    Photoshop Fridge Magnets

    Finally – my two loves combined! Photoshop and my fridge! Could you imagine pairing this up with like a dry wipe board though? Why would you ever turn your computer on again. It’s the future I tell you!

    Twelve South BookArc

    Not instantly obvious is it? This stands up your Mac Book for when your working on an external monitor, basically giving you a really beautiful desktop set up without all the mess.

    Osprey Pixel Port

    I know my back packs. Trust me on this. This is by far the most perfect pack for a designer I have ever seen. There is a space for everything you could want in your mobile workspace and its all packed in this glorious form.

    Evernote Moleskine

    This is just clever – little marks on the page sync photos you take of them straight to your Evernote account. There are even smart stickers that add specific tags to stuff. Dunno if I’d actually use it, but it’s just cool.

    Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

    Can’t believe I’ve not bought this yet. Gary Vaynerchuck is the man when it comes to expanding your business through social media (and plenty of other ways) this is suppose to be chock full of practical gems.

    Pantone Mug

    Anyone see’s you with this bad boy and they’ll know you’re a super elite design hero. That is if they’re a designer themselves and know what Pantone is. Otherwise it’s just a silly in joke isn’t it?

    Wacom Wireless Kit

    Make your Wacom Wireless, simple as that. I hate having wires all over my desk and my Wacom is the very last thing I’ve got wired up – I really don’t need it, but man I want this so bad.

    Moleskine Sketchbook

    Have you ever owned a Moleskine notebook before? They’re just… better. In all honesty though I’ve had a few, but never a sketch book, if it’s anything like the quality of their regular note books, this will be sweet as a nut.


    If you’re like me you live on your PC and mobile devices. This is just a really really simple way of getting all that content back onto your big tv that’s been gathering dust.


    It’s a quadcopter! A quadcopter! Just think of all the possibilities! I can’t think of any right now, but… look just shut up – it’s a quadcoper! I don’t need your approval! Trust me – you need this.

    Felt Sleeve Macbook Case

    This may be a personal thing, but I just think all these neoprene covers for Macs are just a bit dull and ugly. This is simply a much more beautiful alternative. No idea how protective it actually is though.

    Letterpressed Letters Cookie Cutters

    Take a break – make yourself some cookies. Everyone likes cookies, but now they can be in the shape of some beautiful letterpress style letters that you can use to spell out swear words.

    Typodarium 2015

    An ordinary calendar? Well yes – but every single day of the year introduces you to a new font face, so instead of doing all that font trawling at once, break it down over a year.

    WD My Passport

    A trade off with the new Retina Mac Books is a much smaller hard drive, so external devices like this are essential. This is tiny and massive at once and connects via super fast USB 3.0

    Kindle Paperwhite

    Do you read on your iPad? Like actual books? I have loads on there but I haven’t read any. Kindles are still the go to device for sustained reading, but don’t go with the fire apparently.

    Raspberry Pi

    Two things. 1 – This is a PC. 2 – This is the size of a credit card. Super nerdy, this little gizmo can be anything you want it to be, it’s the bare bones of any device you can imagine. No idea how it works.

    Unlike a lot of the times I link to products, I (obviously) don’t own any of these, so I can’t vouch for their awesomeness, but hopefully this might give you a few good ideas for bolstering that Christmas list! If you’ve got any cool present ideas this year, let me know if the comments below!

    Photo Credit to sunlight cardigan
  2. Conquering the Morning Wake Up

    1 Comment 4 min read

    So anyone who read my article on tips for working from home will know that one of the things I struggle with is getting started, or rather getting up. I’m not a morning guy, I’ve tried it and it ain’t me. On the rare occasion I manage to drag myself to my computer at a reasonable hour I find it almost impossible to get started on a project and when I finally do, I’m sluggish and more than a bit crap. What little I do, I usually end up having to revise and I finish work when I normally would have done anyway.

    That being said, every now and again you hear the story of an artist who likes to wake before the sun rises so he can meditate for a while and start work whilst the world is still quiet. Or the high powered business man who contributes his millions in wealth to the fact that he only needs four hours sleep. I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at those examples, and whilst they’re probably about 50% bullshit, the truth is they are a little bit inspirational too. You can’t help wondering, “maybe I could accomplish more if I had those few extra hours?”.

    “You’re not actually gaining any time, your just rearranging it”

    Now that notion in itself is flawed. You’re not actually gaining any time, your just rearranging it (unless you take time away from sleeping of course), in effect you’re gambling that having two hours in the morning will be more productive than having those same two hours at night.

    How much of that is really a gamble though?

    Jeff Finley; one of my favourite designers and authors recently announced that he’s publishing a book called ‘Wake up: The Morning Routine That Will Change Your Life!‘. A guide to not only waking up earlier, but making that time actually useful to you. As you can imagine, this was a title that piqued my interest.

    For those that don’t already know Jeff Finley is the author of Threads Not Dead – to my mind the book on apparel design. I don’t even work that heavily in apparel, but the list of things I learned from that book is utterly staggering, (check out this article for some of the peaches) plus it’s absolutely beautifully designed – I highly recommend you take a look at it.

    Jeff states that since he started waking up early his life has totally changed. He talks about how he had this long list of positive habits he wanted to employ but actually fitting them into a regular schedule and keeping up with them was really tough. But with this new block of time in the mornings he was able to slot them in and make them part of a new routine that he could stick with.

    “Those are just not activities that you’d do between 12am and 2am”

    I guess that’s about looking at the morning with fresh eyes. For Jeff he wanted to read design blogs, meditate and exercise more. Now you could argue the case all day long, but if we’re being honest those are just not activities that you’d do between 12am and 2am. So even though those two hours in the morning are stolen from the same two hours at night, I think the truth is; you probably could do more with that time in the mornings.

    It’s worth a punt at least isn’t it?

    But you see this is where I usually get to. The nice idea that I’ll wake up early and do loads of extra useful stuff. As I drift off to sleep I’m filled with excitement about the possibilities the new morning will bring, and then before I know it, my alarm rings out and lets me know its 10:30 and I pull my ever popular ‘what the fuck!?’ face.

    One of the reasons that Jeff’s book has me interested is that it actively addresses this issue head on. It’s about how to actually go about making that transition from night owl to early bird.

    “The notion seems to be about not overloading yourself to begin with”

    Right now he’s running a 30 Day Wake Up Challenge on Lift that I’ve decided to participate in (and I encourage you to join me!), and it’s actually going pretty well. The baby steps Jeff plans out are almost negligible at first, but after only a week they’re starting to add up. The notion seems to be about not overloading yourself to begin with, and Jeff’s orders or getting up 30 min early and then going watching tv for those extra 30min are really easy to start off with. I’m really interested to see where this challenge takes me and if it helps me actually stick with the changes.

    In either case I’m definitely going to be grabbing a copy of Wake Up once it drops. I contacted Jeff yesterday and he told me that he expects the book to be published early 2015 around February or March. So make sure you sign up for updates here so that you’ll be notified once it becomes available.

    Once I finish my 30 day challenge I’ll let you know how it went, if worked, what I found most useful and if I’m still sticking with it (fingers crossed!).

    Image Credit to Jeff Finley