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Stoughton web designers

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Hello and welcome to this web designers Web Designer Stoughton video tutorial.

I’m Owen Corso from Google.

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And today, we’re going to build a rich media expandable creative with video.

Let’s start by selecting file, New File.

This opens a dialog box where we will set up our ad.

First, let’s make out high of project.

We have four options– The default is Display & Video 360so we will leave that as is.

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7 future web design trends

KENT: My name is Kent.

I'm the creativespecialist on the Google Web Designer team and I'd like to review dynamic exits in Studio A dynamic exit refers to the URL loaded when a dynamic ad is clicked on It's usually related to the product being shown and that URL comes from yourdata feed This video describes the workflow for setting up dynamic exits in Studio Now the simplest case is an ad which doesn't use a gallery or carouselcomponent Here's an example from another one of my videos titled Dynamic inStudio - Google Web Designer You'll see my creative contains only placeholder content But when I preview it in Studio you'll see it loading data from my feed Refresh it Now we're seeing product number 0 Look at my feed for product 0 we're seeing this name, this image and here is the URLfor my exit for this product Now when I set up this ad, I used the simple static exit So when I click anywhere on the ad it'll load a static URL like a landingpage What we want to have happen is this to exit to the URL associated for that product Let me show you how to do that in Google Web Designer First thing we'll do is select the current event and delete it Then we're going to look over inour components panel and open up Interaction and grab a taparea Then with the Transform control selected I'm going to stretch this out to cover the ad And in my Dynamic panel I'm going to click the plus icon to make a new binding We'll select that tap area We're going to look for Exit override URL And we'regoing to drill into our feed the first item, exit URL, and get the URL Click OK and we'llpublish this Now when that's done we'll switch over toStudio We'll reload our creative I'm going to click on the ad Now I'll see we'regetting product one Just to make sure this is really working let's reload itand get another image Here's number five Let's click on that Here's product fiveso that's good Now next thing you might want to do is combine static and dynamicexits in a single ad so you might want to have a logo up here which goes to a home page and maybe some disclaimer text down here which goes to a legal page So let's see how we can do that Back in Google Web Designer I'm going to double click this newtaparea and give it a new name exit-default then I'll copy and paste it I'm going to call that one exit-product and this layer is on top So I'm going tomake this just cover the product area and I'm going to select exit-default andchange the exit on that Now one trick over here in the Dynamic panel I can choose Selection and now I would just see the binding on that selection I'm going to select it and delete it With it still selected I'm going to move to the Events panel click the plus icon and add a new event Google ad, exit ad, gwd-ad I'm going to put an arbitrary ID in here and I'm going to put a full URL to mylanding page OK and we're going to publish again Now when that's done, we'll switch back to Studio and reload the page Now when I click in the corners I'm getting my static URL And when I click on the product I'm getting the correct product That concludes this demo, dynamic exits in Studio Thanks for watching.

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Next, we can select the type of ad.

We want to make an expandable, so we select Expandable on the left.

Next, we can set again ad’s dimensions.

We are building a 320 by 50that expands to 480 by 250.

So I will make those changes.

We then assign the Stoughton creative a name.

I will leave my Save ToLocation as the default, and leave the talk about set to Quick.

Once I’m happy with my settings, I click OK.

Google Web Designer creates the initial pages of the ad for me with the dimensions I defined.

 

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The collapsed page already contains a Tap Area event to expand the ad and an expanded pageStoughton with a close tap area to collapse back down.

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Dynamic Exits in Studio - Google Web Designer

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When I joined Google a little more than 2 years ago, I was asked by a few people to tell the story of how I got there and what my experience was.
I promised I would but I never actually did. Maybe I was shy, maybe I didn’t have the time or maybe I simply thought, probably wrongly, that it wasn’t interesting enough.

I decided to finally honor that promise and write about it.
I hope this is not too late and that it will be useful to some people.
I will try my best to sum up my experience and stories and provide a few advices from them.

Oh, one more thing. This is not a guide on how to get a job at Google. Based on my experience, I do not think such a thing exists. It will not describe the interview process in detail (such as the questions asked) nor disclose any confidential information.

The sole purpose of this article is to talk about my pre-Google personal experiences. I hope this will be useful for you, at least a little.

Baguettes and berets

If you don’t know me, I’m a 27 years old Frenchman born in a small city in Paris suburban area called Lagny. I spent the first 6 years of my life there and then moved to the south of France where I lived and studied in various cities such as Toulon, Hyères, Arles and Marseille.

Today, I’m a visual designer for Google Chrome and Chrome OS, living in San Francisco.

The studies

I got a High school diploma in what was called “social and economics”, then I studied 2 years in a general technology school and 3 additional years in a multimedia project management school.

What these schools and courses had in common is that they taught you a general approach on various subjects. It didn’t specialize you. Thinking back, I think I was taught how to become an effective swiss army knife.

I started by learning the basics of social science and economics mixed with history and philosophy. Add a bit of math to that and you get my High school diploma.
The following two years were all about introducing you to everything you can do with a computer, a screen and a camera. From code to design to filming and photography. Very broad subjects.

The last three years that led to my masters degree were multimedia management. It was all about managing people, project, public speaking and… wearing a suit.

Looking back at it, the more I was going through these school courses, the less I was learning the skills I use in my current everyday job.

I learned at school what I didn’t want to do.

School is not about teaching, not really. It’s about opening your mind. I forgot most of what I learned at school but it helped me visualize and understand the things that I wanted to do and the things that I wanted to avoid.

It’s by learning a subject that you realize it’s not for you.

I had to learn math to discover that I hated it, I had to learn to code to discover that my appeal to it wasn’t as strong as my appeal to align pixels.
I had to wear a suit to realize that this is not something that I would want to wear everyday. I learned how to manage projects and people to understand that what I really wanted to do is to spend my entire day in Photoshop, listening to Hans Zimmer and Amon Tobin.

Maybe it’s not the best path to follow to learn things, but it was mine. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot of useful things in these schools but somehow, it’s the things I hated to learn that gave me the most beneficial lessons and drove me to my key skills.

In any given project, I always volunteered for the design part, it was my refuge. In response to possibilities of acquiring more knowledge, I specialized in one thing.

In the 5 years following my High school diploma, I dismissed a lot of potential knowledge to obsess over details in interfaces.

Is it a good thing ? I do not know. I’m not a fast learner. I found what I was good at and instead of searching to acquire a broader range of skills, I maximized the strong ones.

Let’s summarize who I was after my studies:
An obsessed interface designer focused on web and mobile design. I was comfortable and self-confident enough to present my ideas in front of people.

I had a daily schedule made of an hour and a half of web browsing to discover, save and categorize inspiration across the web followed by 8 hours of visual design in Photoshop and Illustrator. Also, I was fluent in English, and this was key.

The work

My work history is tightly linked to my school history. My 3 years of multimedia management were alternate. I had to spend a month at school and the other in any company nice enough to welcome and form a newbie.

I was lucky enough to work for companies who made me do some actual work besides bringing coffee and I will always be grateful for that. Here is the biggest thing I learned and that I have absolutely no doubt about whatsoever:

The best way to learn is to work for real people, in real companies.

The benefit from working and learning at the same time with people who actually make a living out of what you want to do is by orders of magnitude more beneficial than school. Any internship will teach you more about real life work than any class.

Now I’m not saying that you don’t learn anything at school. You need it to give you the basics, the by-the-book approach of design and tech but being able to apply learned principles and confront them to real situations and projects is priceless. Combining school and in-situ internship is for me the best pedagogical approach to learning a subject, at least in our field.

The first Year

During the first year of alternation, I learned print, logo and identity design. From an intern perspective, I did a decent job. From a professional designer standard, I was terrible. My work was messy and full of mistakes. Thankfully, it was ok, because I was with the right people.

During your life, if you’re lucky enough, you will meet people who will help you grow. People who will help you reach what you think was too far, by standing on their shoulders.

This was the kind of person my boss was during this first year. We were a two people company, he had a ton of experience and was eager to share it. He was patient and when he detected the smallest amount of talent in me, he helped me expand it.

I wasn’t expecting that, it think it’s rare to meet somebody who needs to make a living and is still available to help you grow professionally and personally. I’m trying to carry on this lesson, but I’m not there yet.
It takes a lot of selflessness.

The second and third year

I spent the second and third year of my alternation in another company. I left my first year one because I needed to make a little bit more money, he couldn’t assume an intern anymore and I was ready to move on.

The company was a small web agency created by one person who was sick of being given orders and wanted to make cool things by and for himself.

Now let’s take a break here for a quick advice to any aspiring designer who wants to land any job/internship:

Smile and engage.

As simple as that. At the time I was a shy guy with a bit of confidence issues when it came to selling myself. Saying that my presentation was underwhelming is an understatement. If I wasn’t supported by an employee of this same company, I think I would still be searching an internship right now. Hurray for networking and string pulling.

Ok, back on the subject. You remember what I wrote earlier about my first boss ? Well you can re-apply this here. Two in a row can be considered lucky, and it is. Luck is an important factor in your career but I will get back to that.

These two years improved my visual design skills at an incredibly fast rate.
I was working on a large range of projects from complex web-design to phone applications. It was a balance of internal and client projects. A good way to keep some freedom in your work while making a living. I even did a few email design for mass mailing which I’m not very proud of but teach you the realities of the field. This is also important:

You will not always be working on something that makes you proud, but you will always learn something out of it.

Following the same logic as for school, doing something you do not like builds you and defines you as a designer.

This work was thankfully secondary. A large majority was incredibly interesting projects with a lot of challenges for a young designer. I grew exponentially with every work because I had freedom and responsibility. My boss was a safety net, a knowledgable guide that was there when I needed him. But he trusted me from the start, giving me enough responsibility to feel involved in everything I was doing.

Be a safety net for the person you want to see evolve. Make him feel impactful and in control of his decisions and projects.

I finished my studies and was hired full time in this company. I stayed another year before being hired by Google and I loved every second of it.

Self teaching

In addition to school courses and learning with pros, learning by yourself will be a great asset in your career. Some may say that it is all you need, especially in our line of work.

If you have the passion about something, self teaching should come naturally. If you have fun learning stuff, you are where you’re supposed to be.

My favorite way of learning was by looking at other people’s work and learn from the .psds they were sharing, that’s why I’m still doing that to this day. A way to return the favor.

There will always be more talented people than you.
Look up to them and try to catch up.

Networking and design communities

Something you need to know: I hate networking. Actually I used to. I’m getting a little bit better at it but even today, I’m awkward. I have this weird expression on my face that makes people think I’m obnoxious sometimes. I don’t know, maybe I am a little bit. But I think it’s mostly shyness.

Anyway, I learned very early that networking is important to develop your career, especially in our field. Dennis Covent will probably explain why better than me in his blog post so I will not spend too much time on it.
That’s the beauty of internet, you can network without engaging anybody in the real world. You can build yourself as a designer and build your web presence simply by participating in communities. If you are alone on an island, you have virtually the same chance of being recognized for your work as anybody else.

Of course this is not entirely true, an outgoing person living in San Francisco will probably network easier than a brown bear living in a south France cave with poor internet connection but you know what I mean.

Thankfully, I wasn’t a bear, I had a decent internet connection and a need to share things. So I started a little blog using Tumblr.
It was simply about sharing things about design and writing various notes about it. Some sort of personal Pinterest. Very few readers but that was fine. I enjoyed it. Heres an important note about that:

If you enjoy sharing things, even to an extremely small audience, keep it up as long as you like doing it.

So I continued writing my little blog and I was eventually contacted by a bigger french site focused on web-design and various source of inspiration for designers. My audience suddenly exploded, of course. This blog had way more visibility. I started shifting from sharing inspiration to creating my own design resources, or “freebies”, after discovering the work of Orman Clark and his work on Premium pixel. I was and still am a huge fan.
It was a great way for me to improve, satisfy my compulsion for pixels and gave me things to share. I also learned a lot from reverse engineering other designers freebies, it was my way to give back. I even started writing tutorials.

And then the owner of the blog asked me this question:
“Do you need an invite to Dribbble?”

Dribbble

This deserves a section of his own simply to make a point. Dribbble played a huge part in my career and I think this is the case for a lot of people.
I joined it the 6th of March 2011 and published this shot:

My first Dribbble shot, a pricing table.

My first shot made me rapidly get followers. At the time I was publishing a freebie per week. It took a lot of time, I was pretty much doing nothing else during the week besides working and creating photoshop goodies to share and updating my blog. Doing this created a lot more opportunities than I ever thought it would. Suddenly, people contacted me for work, outside of France.

Oh and also, it’s where Google found me.

A little bit of freelance

Remember that at the time, I was working in the web agency. That’s during my full time year that I started receiving work inquiries from companies outside of France via Dribbble. The first one I received was from a print company based in Sweden. That was a big deal for me. I was speaking enough English to understand them, but we were talking about business here. I was fresh out of school and not that confident about handling my own projects.

So I proposed to my boss to make this request a company project. He would teach me the business part of it and I would handle the rest.
This is how I started my first “sort of freelance project”.

Based on my experience, if you ever get the chance to do side projects for real people as a young designer, take the opportunity. It will teach you a lot.

It went smoothly, they were satisfied by the result, I delivered in time and we built a pretty good relationship. This project added to my portfolio, I was more confident because I went out of my comfort zone and did it.

Going out of your comfort zone will greatly improve your confidence.

I was continuing my constant flow of freebies on Dribbble and spending half of my day in photoshop, designing mock-ups after mock-ups for sites, mail, iPhone apps and iPad apps. I was designing everything I could from video players to upload panels (why?! I’m not sure). I was getting more followers and more work inquiries.

I accepted projects from France, Denmark, and the United states. Each one opening new design horizons. From social platform to DJ-ing software.

As the inquiries got more numerous, I learned to choose the projects I wanted to work on, taking them both for the companies and starting a few projects on my own. Usually, everything went well for a simple reason: I got all my inquiries via Dribbble from clients who knew what they wanted and knew what to expect from me based on my previous work. Being able to choose your client is a luxury. I was able to do that because I had a full time job.

If you have the time and if your situation allows it, taking side projects as a freelancer while you have a full time job is a good way to try it out and see if it’s something for you. Be careful though because you will not see the sunlight a lot.

Getting all these clients also helped me to do one important thing, build up a portfolio. Which brings me to this.

Working for free

Before anything else I suggest you read this article by Dann Petty.

I know this is a delicate subject. Every work deserves payment. There are a lot of people that will take this opportunity to exploit young designers and I received my share of “I need a design for a youtube-like site, $200 should be enough.” or “there is 5 other designers working on this, I will pay the one I pick”.

Working for free is all about building your portfolio.

Now, you will only be able to do that if you actually manage to pay for your internet bill first of course. One benefit to it is that you will choose the project you want. You will work on what makes you happy and what you will be happy to show as a work reference. If you work with the right persons, it will open doors for you.

That’s why I accepted a lot of requests with no money involved, any student party that needed a poster, every little website design with very low budget because I knew the guy, this kind of thing.

Do it when you are a student, when you’re eager to do over hours and work on various stuff. Yes they will get something for really cheap or even nothing, but as a young designer you will get invaluable experience, you just need to be careful.

As for being able to pick your clients, working for free is a luxury, it is not for everybody. I was able to do it because I had a supporting boss, family and a full time job. If you can to, consider it but do it for the right people.

“Want to chat ?”

The year went by and I received my first recruitment email from a company in Spain. That was weird. For the first time somebody wanted me to work for him, in a big structure, out of my country. He wanted to know if I would consider “a chat”, and they would bring me to their headquarters for it.

I actually told my boss about it what he told me was: “go for it!”. Remember what I wrote earlier about the kind of people that will help you grow?

So I went for it and accepted to go there just to chat. Why not after all? I wasn’t that in love with the city I was living in, I loved my job for sure but I saw an opportunity to grow.

If you see an opportunity, if you have the slightest doubt or “what if” in your mind, just go for it.

They paid for the plane ticket and the hotel just to talk to me. I know, now it sounds completely normal to some people but that was crazy for me in a world where I heard clients not willing to pay more than a few hundred bucks for a website design… when they were actually willing to pay anything.

So I did the interviews and got to know them a little better. Things were clicking and I was starting to consider the fact that I could move from France to Spain. It wasn’t that far after all and these people were pretty awesome. But a week after being back home I received another email.

I think this is spam

This email was from Google as you probably guessed. I really thought it was spam. It was completely out of the blue.
I answered… you know… just in case.

At the time it was during a US holiday so it took five days to receive an answer, reinforcing my spam theory in the meantime.
Turned out it was real and I couldn’t wait to know more.

After checking a few things like my willingness to move to the US in case this ever works, the recruiter told me that I was going to enter the process, starting with a call from a Googler.

At this moment I thanked the thousand of hours spent listening to various American TV series while working at home. Otherwise I would have struggled to understand anything during our conversation. It was still hard though, it is way different to passively learn a language than it is to have an actual human interaction, and my brief 2 weeks school trip in the US when I was fourteen didn’t really help.

I thought I did terribly on the phone but apparently not as they were willing to continue the process. The next step was a design exercise.

This part was very stimulating for me. I had the opportunity to demonstrate how I think and deliver polished visuals. It really wasn’t that different from what I experienced several times with clients, maybe the result was a bit more life changing…

So I sent the finalized exercise crossing my fingers hoping to get a positive answer and avoiding imagining them laughing at my work.

Around two weeks later, they told me they wanted to see me in person, in Mountain View.

What am I doing here ?

At the time I had a two weeks trip in New York with a friend planned 4 month earlier. Some sort of “we’re done with school” trip because we wanted to discover New York and the US.

The confirmation email came during this time. I was stopping twice a day at a Starbuck to get some Wifi and check emails. I mentioned I was in New York and that it would be a good idea to meet during these two weeks, you know, to avoid crossing the atlantic and come back again.

They agreed, set up my flight, two days later I was flying somewhere I’ve never been before, California.

I landed in San Francisco and before realizing what was happening I was driving a rental car on a highway that was going to become the one of my daily commute. The “What am I doing here” moment was when I realized I was driving for the first time on a Californian road, passing signs with cities like San Francisco, Palo Alto and Cupertino written on them. Big deal for me.

The next day were the on-site interviews. It went really fast and was over before I could realize it. One thing I do remember is that, between two interviews, I was asked when I considered joining Google. I answered that I never considered it and that I never imagined being here, it was just not a realistic possibility for me.
Retrospectively, this was a probably a weird if not bad answer but it was the simple truth. I was too tired and disoriented to start thinking about what could be a good answer.

Be true.

Thinking about it, maybe it was what to do. It sounds cheesy but I think this applies to a lot of situations and to any job applications. You may talk your way into landing a job by finding the right answer at the right moment but you would be at risk of not finding the right thing in the end, something that is neither for you or your employer.

This time I didn’t forget to smile though.

And that was the end of it, I just had to wait for the final decision. I jumped in the plane back to New York, looking to San Francisco by the window, a city I would never enter until I discovered it for the first time, searching for a place to live.

If you want more information about the Google hiring process,
head this way. You will find some useful details on that.

Luck

I received the call on a Friday. I was asked if I was interested in joining Chrome. This couldn’t have been better. I didn’t hesitate a second and gave a positive answer. The web made me and now I was going to help make it better.

My Dribbble announcement post.

One thing you may say if entering Google is one of your objectives is that I got really lucky. I was lucky to have the studies that helped me figure out what I wanted to do, lucky that I got two great bosses in a row, lucky that I got a Dribbble invite at the right time with a Googler looking at my work at the right moment, lucky that I was already in the US when they wanted to see me, lucky that there was still some visas available when I applied, and you would be completely right.

Luck played a huge part in this and I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for it. One addendum though:

Be prepared for luck, if it ever happens, make sure you can take your chances.

Closing notes

Reading this article myself, it sounds like I described some sort of magical story made of rainbows and ponies and that I am a huge fanboy writing an advertisement. You may also not agree with what Google is doing, although reading this to the end would seem like a huge waste of your time. This is only my view of it.

I tried to stay true to what I felt at the time and how things worked out.
I feel grateful to be where I am surrounded by people way more clever than me. Is it awesome every day ? No. It can be frustrating and you may not agree with everything. You are part of a gigantic machine that makes things at an unimaginable scale. That’s also part of the thrill.

Will I be there forever ? I do not know, I had my ups and downs but I do love Chrome, Chrome OS, my team and Google.
For now, I’m not going anywhere.

I think it’s an extraordinary experience simply to be here, not just at Google but in the bay area. I’m trying to remind myself that when I tend to act like a spoiled kid. Deep-down, I’m still waiting for them to realize that I’m a fraud and put me on the first plane back to France.

Get in touch

I didn’t cover everything, it was a long story.
If you have any questions or just want to chat or connect, here is some shameless social network self-advertisement:

Twitter
Dribbble
Portfolio
Work Showcase
Google+
Facebook

7 future web design trends

I’m no color expert. Far from, actually. Throughout my career, I’ve depended on visual designers better than myself to produce an engaging palette and apply it harmoniously across a UI.

Yet, as a systems designer, I’m often in the position to provoke and validate color decisions as a system takes shape. Here’s a 16 lessons I’ve learned while stabilizing a primary palette, tint and shade choices, secondary palettes, and solving for accessible contrast.

Primary Palette

By primary, we’re talking colors used everywhere including your brand colors, neutrals, and a typically interactive digital blue.

#1. Stabilize Brand Colors Quickly

︎Every organization has one, two, or no more than a few core brand colors. THE red. THE blue. THE orange. Settle on them. Even if reasonably set up with a color variable or two, nothing signals a design system team that can’t get their act together than constantly changing primary colors.

Takeaway: Decide your essential brand colors early, because they spread widely, quickly.

#2. Involve Brand (If You Alter a Brand Color)

Is brand blue a bit dull? Can’t resist the urge to liven it up? Nothing poisons early collaboration more than a casual “We saturated the brand orange for web” followed by brand reacting with “You did what?” Oh the sacrilege!

Takeaway: Brand colors are the brand team’s territory. So discuss adjustments with them and defer to their judgment as needed.

#3. Drop the Neutral Neutrals

From dark-as-night charcoal to fluffy light gray, neutrals provide essential UI scaffolding. Loading a system with neutrals, even a few, risks giving teams access to muddy colors. They can also lead to “wireframey” designs. And, neither dark nor light type has sufficiently accessible contrast on a medium gray background.

Takeaway: Provide a few light grays and a few dark grays to achieve useful contrast, but don’t get wishy washy wireframey. Consider avoiding medium grays in between.

#4. Go “Digital Blue.” Everybody Else Does.

My past five design systems settled on a saturated blue as a default button and link color. Links have always been blue, perhaps since the dawn of the first browser. This “Digital” blue, a utility color for links and clickable items, is essential in any core palette.

Takeaway: When (not if 😉 ) you go with your “Digital Blue,” choose an accessible one and make sure it doesn’t clash with the brand’s own blue, or red, orange, purple, or green.

Tints & Shades Per Color

You can’t have just a few colors and call it a day, right? System users often need to tune a color choice across a range, reuse with ease, and know their boundaries.

#5. Stack the Tint & Shade Range, Per Color

Color palette display patterns long predate the web. Yet I still love me a compactly arranged tint stack. They can be just…gorgeous. The best stacks visualize more than just a color, combining its name with HEX codes, code variables, and other indicators (such as prohibiting overlaid type). A quick scan is all you need.

Takeaway: Stack available colors in each hue, and treat the stack as a visualization to include important details compactly.

Material Design’s Indigo and Deep Orange

#6. Name Tints & Shades by Brightness

We’ve all been there. A month into the system, the neutrals $color-gray-1, $color-gray-2, … , $color-gray-7 — are stable. And then, in a stroke, you’ve got another tint to add stuck between -1 and -2. That numbering system stinks.

Takeaway: Scale color names between 0 and 100 based on brightness, such as $color-gray-05 and $color-gray-92. The scale reflects a familiar range from dark to light, allows for injecting new options between, and heck if I won’t remember $color-gray- 93 until we retire it later.

#7. Limit Tint & Shade Quantity

At the core of a good system is choice without endless options, a stable aesthetic to serve as a starting point. Odds are, you aren’t Material Design, intended to serve countless products. In most cases, a design system need not offer boundless choices. The more choices you provide, the tougher it’ll be to control harmonic combinations and a consistent feel across applications.

Takeaway: Offer a handful of options and avoid tedious variety. Empower system users with just enough choice: more than a single option, but only up to a few intentional choices.

#8. Tell Me How To Transform: Hand-Pick or Functionally

Modern tools like SASS and Stylus offer transformation functions like darken and lighten to shift a color by a brightness percentage. These handy tools enable a you to alter a color for subtle contrasts like a hovered button or tiered navigation.

But transforms can be troublesome: carefully crafted base colors can become inaccessible alternatives (see below), a page’s overall palette can muddy, or a “5% system” that works on moderately bright colors yields insufficient contrast for a very light or dark case.

Takeaway: Deliberately allow — or avoid — color transformations in your system. If you endorse the practice, then offer examples of when and how to do it effectively in your system, such as 5–10% for moderately bright cases and 10–20% in more extreme cases. If transformations should be avoided , document that succinctly.

Secondary Palettes

Beyond the brand colors and their variants, well-considered color systems array the broader variety of colors reserved for varied purposes.

#9. Define Meaningful Sets Like Feedback Colors

Most systems reserve a certain red for errors, green for success, yellow for warning, and (possibly a lighter sky) blue for informational messages. Feedback color is critical, because it’s positioned at the top of the page interacting with other key components and/or encountered as a result of an unwelcome circumstance. Without system guidance, such messages become embedded in product code, the result of product teams solving a challenge quickly and moving on.

Takeaway: Explore and define the standard feedback colors and other relevant sets to ensure that colors fit harmoniously rather wedging them in later or having teammates recall “I just grabbed it from Google.”

Typical feedback colors: success, warning, error and informational

#10. Illustrate Theme Variety

In some systems, color use is customized per product, section, or brand. Often, this may be a result of relating a master brand (think, Marriott International) to its sub-brands (think Courtyard Hotels, Ritz Carlton, and Moxy Hotels). Or it’s a prefab themes like Ambient Warmth and Frozen Blue. Maybe the user is complete control, and you need to illustrate the breadth of (all the havoc of) what they can do.

Takeaway: Reveal the range of themes available compactly, and set boundaries around allowable theme colors in certain contexts.

Theme colors for multiple Marriott.com hotels, derived from product pages

#11. Define How Theming Works

It’s not enough to simply say “Go ahead and theme it!” A theme color may apply to predictable accents throughout a UI such as button background-color, active tab background-color, or a primary navigation’s thick border-top. Just as important, theme colors may be forbidden from altering other bits, such as long form type or — yikes! — a link color that ends up invisible.

Takeaway: Identify how theming works, particularly via reference to specific UI element properties in play. Just as important, articulate which — if not most — elements are off limits.

#12. Avoid Guiding on Color-Mixing Until (At Least) Dust Settles

One of my favorite all time design system tools is Google’s MDL Color Customizer, which enables users to combine primary and secondary UI colors effectively. It’s so easy, and the outcome so helpful. Yet, the system teams I work with either don’t want to provide this kind of flexibility or lack the time and care necessary to solve such a combinatoric challenge.

Takeaway: Avoid the rabbit hole of solving for a vast array of color combinations unless it’s a core system value. In most cases, system users will pair up their own combinations or benefit from a tool more dedicated to doing just that. Help them propagate their choice rather than solving for every combination they may consider. That experimentation is their job.

Serve users of your system by making it efficient to propagate their choice through a product, rather than making the choice for them.

Contrast & Accessibility

Solving for accessible color contrast should a core practice of setting up any digital color system from the get go. However, design can be tumultuous place, and teams can lose sometimes. Or some members don’t know about accessibility. Or they simply don’t prioritize it.

A systems team can engrain accessible practices into a workflow to provoke and spread values in accessibility broadly across an enterprise.

#13. Check Contrast Early & Ritually

It happens often: a few weeks or days before a product — or design system — launch, finally somebody notices. The design team hasn’t taken necessary care to ensure the primary and secondary color palette is being applied in a way to meet WCAG 2.0 color contrast of 3.0 (for large, heavier type) or 4.5 (for standard type). So designers — and then, their developers — scramble to determine fixes and inject it into the code.

Takeaway: Any system designer responsible for color must be familiar with WCAG 2.0 rules, have a tool (like Tanaguru) to test color pairs, and incorporate the practice into color selection.

Tanaguru, one of many accessibility calculators online

#14. Explore Accessible Color Choices Across Ranges

A drawback of WCAG guidelines is its stark threshold: a color pair passes or fails. This leaves designers yearning for more, but worse leaves stakeholders flummoxed at how bad the color pair fails and how much it needs to change.

Conversation quickens when we reveal a spectrum of choices, with the pass/fail line fairly evident. This transforms the process from trial and error to tuning a dial. Before, it was “That pair failed. Let’s try again.” Now, it’s an enlightening “Oh, so that’s how dark the blue needs to be” followed by a rational discussion to balance visual tone, brand identity, and accessibility sensitivities.

Takeaway: When exploring accessible color contrast, show a range of choices to help a team select a color that passes the test.

Exploring neutral and interactive colors by showing multiple choices across a range

#15. Solve the Reverse Light on Dark and Dark on Light

When creating a system, it’s up to the systems designer to be mindful of and solve for the entire range of choices on offer. It’s not enough to just test for accessibility problems as they arise. Instead, a color palette should be thoroughly reviewed prior to publishing a system for reuse.

This is especially true for reverse color treatments. It’s very common for a system to default to dark text on a light background. However, most find themselves reversing color treatments, whether a black and white on light and dark neutrals or tints of another primary or secondary color.

Takeaway:Solve for and recommend reversed pairings to adopt or avoid.

A table of calculated contrast (using a SASS function) between neutral backgrounds and interactive blue alternatives

#16. Use Color to Provoke Broader Accessibility Awareness

Color is fundamental to a system, and accessible color contrast is fundamental to color. This injects accessibility smack dab into the middle of a system’s formation. People that matter are paying attention: brand managers, design leads, developers, and execs. What a wonderful opportunity to use color to open a door to the broader array of accessibility considerations.

Takeaway: Seize the opportunity to advocate for accessibility. Always be probing a collaborator’s knowledge of accessibility (or lack thereof) and educate and advocate all you can.

web design kalispell

Sketch was made for screen-based design.
Websites, app interfaces, icons… these objects of design exist within a world of pixel measurements, RGB colors, and presentation on digital screens. Unlike many of the Adobe creative tools which include 10,000 features and the kitchen sink, Sketch is laser-focused in its purpose—and consequently works far better (and more efficiently) for what it does do.

Sketch was not made for print-based design.
Business cards, brochures, posters… these exist within a physical world of inch/centimeter/point/pica measurements, CMYK or Pantone colors, and presentation on a variety of papers and materials. Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are two of the most popular tools in this arena.

If you’re like me, you’re far more efficient working in Sketch.

And when a print design project rolls around, you might find yourself yearning to continue using the same tool you’ve become so adept at using for web/UI design. I want you to know that it’s possible. Here’s how I do it:

(full disclosure: Adobe Illustrator is required)

The Magic Number 72

Dating back to the craft of setting lead type for a printing press, the primary units of measurement were points (72 per inch) and picas (12 per inch). Lead type (pictured here) is measured in points, and is produced in pica or half-pica increments such as 12, 18, 24, 36, and 72 points. Those numbers should sound familiar to you, as they became standard digital font sizes with the Macintosh. The first Macs used screens where every inch contained 72 pixels, resulting in 12pt text that looked practically the same size onscreen as in print. The evolution of pixels per inch (PPI) is too extensive for this article (especially since the advent of retina displays), although it’s important to know a bit about the origins of this 72:1 ratio.

This article will mostly use inch measurements, as used for print design in the US. If you are familiar with a centimeter workflow, I’d love to hear from you!

Sketch measures everything in pixel units, so we need a way to convert our design to the physical world of inches. By now you may have guessed where this is going: 72 pixels in Sketch converts to 1 inch in an exported PDF.

  • An 8.5" × 11" piece of paper (US Letter) converts to a 612px × 792px artboard.
  • A typical 3.5" × 2" business card converts to a 252px × 144px artboard.
  • When adding a new artboard, Sketch 3 gives you a few “Paper Sizes” presets. Speed things up by adding your own custom artboard presets!

The pixel dimensions of a 72 PPI layout may be far smaller than you are used to when working on websites or user interfaces. Remember that the clarity of your print project is dictated by the print method you use—Sketch’s “Show Pixels” function is of no use here!

Tips for Designing Your Layout

  • For elements in your design, try to use measurements that make sense in inches. 1px = 1pt for lines and font-sizes. I’ll often use 1/8 inch (9px) or 1/16 inch (4.5px) increments for layout elements.
  • You can use Sketch’s Grid feature to make these inch-appropriate positions or measurements easier. I suggest a grid with a 9px (1/8 inch) block size and thick lines every 8 blocks (1 inch). Show/hide the grid with ⌃G on your keyboard.
  • You can turn off “Pixel Fitting” in Preferences. There’s no need to be a stickler for pixel alignment as you would be for screen-based design.

Margins & Bleeds

Professional print shops often require your artwork to have extra space on all sides, extending any parts of your design that “bleed” out to the edge (see example below). This compensates for the slight, yet inevitable, variance in where the edges are cut on your final print. My printer asks for a 1/8 inch bleed, and I often add this to my Sketch layout (9px extra on all sides). If your design has elements that bleed, I suggest you do the same—if not, you can easily add these extra margins later when saving a PDF from Illustrator. Printers will also recommend that any text is at least 1/8 inch inside the trim lines (a “safe zone” or “critical print area”), as in the business card below.

The “Trim Lines” indicate what the final card will look like. Because trimming is rarely 100% accurate, any parts of the design that extend to the very edge should continue out to a “Bleed”. Shown here, the bleed extends to 1/8 inch outside the artwork.

Preparing the File for Print

99% of print shops are strict about the specifications of your “artwork” files. The following process will help you give printers the files they want! If your layout relies heavily on images, gradients, or shadows, skip to the next section!

When you have finished your design in Sketch, export it as a PDF at 1x scale. Many programs, such as Preview or Adobe Illustrator will automatically interpret the file at 72 PPI. You can view the PDF’s dimensions in inches in Preview (Tools > Show Inspector, ⌘I), or in pixels using Finder’s Get Info window (under “More Info”). If you save your PDF through Illustrator, pixel and inch dimensions will be automatically included in the file.

There are 2 other things we need to change about Sketch’s exported PDF:

  1. Text needs to be “Converted to Outlines”.
  2. The colors need to be CMYK values instead of RGB.
  3. Any images in the design need to be embeded as CMYK images.

Converting Text to Outlines

To ensure that your design is printed exactly how you see it on your computer, it is important to convert the text objects in the PDF to actual vector shapes, or “outlines”. This makes the text look exactly the same on any program on any computer, regardless of the fonts you’ve used in the design, and regardless of whether or not those fonts are installed on the printer’s computer.

You can convert text to outlines in Sketch (more about that here), although if your design has more than a few lines of text, Sketch will slow down dramatically. If you want a guaranteed way to crash Sketch, try selecting a dozen text objects and converting them to outlines all at once! Fortunately, Adobe Illustrator excels in this department, so we’ll use that instead.

  • Open the PDF in Illustrator and navigate to Select > All (⌘A), from the menu bar.
  • Also in the menu bar, navigate to Type > Convert Text to Outlines (⌘⇧O). Easy as that!

Converting to CMYK Colors

After opening your PDF in Illustrator, navigate to File > Document Color Mode > CMYK Color. This converts the entire document to a CMYK colorspace from RGB. That’s the easy step. Now we have to change the colors in our design to actual CMYK values.

If you’re used to screen-based design and appreciate great colors, I feel obligated to tell you that CMYK may disappoint you. Due to the nature of combining those 4 colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) in ink, many bright and saturated colors are difficult or impossible to recreate. Without diving into color theory or the pros/cons of various print methods, I will simply suggest that for any color that is important to your design you see a sample of that exact color value from a similar printer on a similar material. To do this I recommend choosing a close match on a Pantone swatchbook (a bit pricey, but a great investment), or ask your printer for a printed sample of a variety of colors printed on the paper you’ll use (they probably already have these, and can give you each color’s CMYK value).

Once you’ve chosen great CMYK values for all your colors, it’s time to replace the color value for each of the elements in your design. This sounds tedious—and to a certain extent it is—but I’ve discovered a few shortcuts to help you!

  • First off, you will need to select the elements whose colors you want to change. If you aren’t familiar with Illustrator, know that a layer is only selected when you click the small circle to the right of it. Simply clicking on the layer’s name will not do anything!
  • If your design has many elements with the same color (say, all green text), they can be selected all at once by first selecting one instance of the element then clicking the “Select Similar Objects” button on the right of the toolbar. If this toolbar or button isn’t available, try navigating to Select > Same in the menu bar.
  • When your elements are selected, hold down the Shift key when you click on the fill color in the toolbar (fill color to the left, stroke/border color to the right). Even elements that are pure black need to be converted to CMYK black, for which there is a little swatch below the color sliders.

Last Step!

When all of your text has been converted to outlines and all of your colors are CMYK, it’s time to save a separate PDF (I add “-print” as a suffix to the new filename). By using File > Save As, you get a trillion options for the PDF. The single option I ever use is to add a bleed margin (my printer likes 1/8 inch) on all sides of the artwork. To do this, go to the “Marks and Bleeds” section on the left and uncheck “Use Document Bleed Settings”, as shown below.

You’re all done! Trust me, next time this process will take you half as long!

Is Your Design Image-Heavy?

If your Sketch design includes bitmap images (non-vector images), they will be automatically converted from RGB to CMYK when you change the Document Color Mode. Upon importing the PDF to Illustrator, any shadows in your design will be converted to bitmap images and any gradients will become un-editable “Non-Native Art”. Because of this, if images, shadows, or gradients are important to your design, I strongly suggest you instead save the entire Sketch layout as a PNG and convert it to a CMYK file in Photoshop using the following steps.

  1. Export the Sketch artboard as a PNG at 4.166x scale, which gives you the amount of pixels you’ll need for a 300 PPI print-ready file. Printers rarely accept bitmap images less than this resolution. Make sure your artboard includes the necessary bleed margins (described above) before export.
  2. Open the PNG in Photoshop and navigate to Image > Image Size, in the menu bar. Uncheck the “Resample” checkbox and type in either the artwork’s dimensions in inches or the “Pixels/Inch” you used when exporting from Sketch (again, this is often 300 PPI). Click “OK”.
  3. In the menu bar, navigate to Image > Mode > CMYK Color. This will alert you that Photoshop is converting the file to a default CMYK color profile. This step may visibly change the colors of your design. Rest assured that your computer screen is not an accurate representation of colors in print, although you should also not expect the same bright or saturated colors capable with RGB (as described above).
  4. Adjust the colors slightly if you desire, then Save As a .psd or .tif file. Be sure to tell the printer what bleed margins you included in the artwork!

Of course you can use this process in conjunction with the PDF + Illustrator workflow above, by embedding the Photoshopped images into your Illustrator document. But most of the time I stick to one process or the other.

Is This Workflow Right for You?

If you’re fast at designing in Sketch, feel more at ease or more creative using it, or aren’t very familiar with Illustrator/InDesign, this may be good for you. This may also be a useful workflow if you have existing designs from Sketch (an interface, icon, logo) that you want to prepare for professional printing. I can’t read the future, but with Bohemian Coding’s small team and success focusing on screen-based design, I don’t advise you to hold your breath for print features. It’s a huge can of worms!

Examples of projects made with this workflow. From packaging, to letterpressed business cards, to laser-engraved signage. This work for Juice Shop recently won the Type Directors Club’s prestigious annual design competition.

I’ve written this article to share my workflow for print design projects, but also to learn of ways that I might improve this workflow in the future. If you have any suggestions, especially related to Illustrator or the print process, feel free to share them!

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