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Scott Citron

Keep the back door open

Posted by Scott Citron May 24, 2016

Recently I've been developing a new logo for a company that makes one of the best font management products on the market. While working on multiple versions with multiple variations I was reminded of how important it is to work non-destructively so you can always un-do any step along the way. I like to refer to this as "leaving a back door open." Working this way involves thinking several steps ahead, like in a chess game. It's not hard, but it does require a bit of forethought before changing a design element forever.


Specifically, working non-destructively in Adobe Illustrator, for example, means leveraging the Appearance panel whenever possible. Appearances, one of AI's most powerful features, allows designers to change how an object looks without altering the underlying object itself. In other words, applying an Appearance converts an object, non-destructively, leaving a back door open for future changes down the line.


In Photoshop, working non-destructively can be done a number of different ways. Smart Objects is one such way. Convert any layer into a Smart Object, and that layer will store an unaltered version of itself, too. With a smart object, designers leave a back door from which they can return a layer to its original state in the event of future changes. Layer Comps is another way to create multiple iterations of a Photoshop file without committing to one or another.


InDesign has no such backdoor feature, per se. There are workarounds like Alternate Layouts, for example, but I'd welcome the addition of an Appearance panel like the one in Adobe Illustrator. InDesign product managers, are you listening?

Last week I finished designing a 42-page four-color report for the NY City Labor Market Information Service, a division of the City University of New York. The project was mostly designed in InDesign CC 2015, with a number of tables created in Adobe Illustrator CC 2015. Additional tables and graphics were created directly in InDesign. All photographs were treated as fake-duotones in Photoshop, using a slick Action I downloaded somewhere ages ago. The principle typeface was FFScala, with heads, subs, and figure captions set in Univers, one of my personal favorites from Adrian Frutiger.


I mention this project because it was another successful fusion of four powerful Adobe apps (Acrobat provided the fourth wheel), all coming perfectly together. I'm proud of my fluency with these four applications and the ease with which I'm able to bring them together into a handsome and professional publication.

Scott Citron

Photoshop 3D

Posted by Scott Citron May 6, 2016

Although I'm primarily a 2D guy, lately I've had to use Photoshop CC to manipulate a map of NY State in 3D space. After placing the map from Illustrator, I converted the layer to 3D using the Postcard mesh. If you know nothing about 3D (and I know not much more!) the Postcard mesh doesn't extrude objects but allows you to manipulate a flat surface in 3D space. The fact that the object is flat is why, I suppose, it's called Postcard. Once I manipulated the map to the proper angle, I converted it to a Smart Object. As a Smart Object as I was able to apply non-destructive lighting, tilt-focus, and Hue/Saturation effects. Wow. Great feature. Now I need to learn more, as I've seen amazing things done with PS 3D.