Even more After Effects

I am still screwing around with After Effects and, to a certain degree, Premiere trying to find the line between interesting and schlocky. Editing turns out to be the hardest part: keeping just enough elements to make your point and eliminating anything that serves no purpose.

This is a new/simpler version of an intro for Never for Ever videos:


Then I started working on something for Nanaimo Yacht Charters as learning project. I think it still needs some editing. The first is an intro. It runs 8 seconds but the one time I used it in a video I ended up cutting it to 6. The second is an outro, and I like it a lot more for its intended purpose.



And here is the first complete promo video I did for NYCSS.

After Effects redux

I  need to get back into the habit of retaining and retraining skills. So apropos of that I decided to revisit some of the video I shot while sailing last year in anticipation of the coming season. I have picked up a SJCam4000 (a GoPro knock-off) for doing some more filming so if I am going to be a big YouTube star I will need to get some fancy-ass graphics going.

That meant I needed to take a look at Adobe After Effects again. (Here is the last time I screwed with it.) Essentially After Effects is sort of the Photoshop of the video world. It allows one to do all sorts of fancy effects before moving the composition into Premiere or iMovie for the final cuts.

After a day’s work I didn’t end up doing anything fancy but it did get my mostly-rusted-shut skills a bit looser. So this is the AE composition (just the graphics) laid over a small video clip. I am thinking of using it, or something similar, as the intro to any new videos I make.


The real time consumer was getting all my files in shape. It’s a whole new game of file prep and organization…



An animated gif version..


Pantone for Beginners

With wide adoption from the design and style industries, knowledge of the existence of the Pantone Matching colour system is much more widespread that it was years ago. But its original function is still a big part of my working life.

Printing (colour printing on a commercial printing press) is done with 4 colours of ink: Cyan (light blue), Magenta (red), Yellow, and Black. CMYK. The black is not strictly necessary but is used to create true blacks and to reduce the amount of ink laid down on paper. Using these 4 inks printing presses can create a huge gamut (range) of colours

Often though, the gamut is not enough and in special cases like branding, designers want a specific colour. Pantone created a colour matching system back in the 50s that is pretty much the industry standard using 13 base pigments (14 if you include black) to create an even larger, standard colour gamut. Thus if you want to recreate the orange used in Penguin Book’s logo, you could get a close approximation using 0% cyan, 60% magenta, 80% yellow, 0% black or an exact match if you specify a “5th” colour which is Pantone 1505 or PMS 1505.


It’s a lot like going to the paint store and getting a specific tint, except with inks. And it comes at a cost, as a lot of presses only have 4 colour units and so either have to run all the paper through the press again to get the 5th colour or you have to move to a bigger, more specialized press that has a 5th tower.

But the best thing about the Pantone system is the swatch books. I got a brand new set a few weeks ago for my work on T8N magazine. There are tons of variations but in my industry, there are two basic sets. The first is the CMYK process book, which allows you to see a given process colour (that’s CMYK) actually printed on paper. It comes with two sets: coated and uncoated. Coated paper is gloss or semi-gloss paper that has a coating of clay on it. This forces the ink to sit on top of the coating and is therefore sharper and brighter. Uncoated is more like the everyday bond we use and the inks soak into the paper and thus is a bit duller and not as bright. The variation between the two can be extreme in certain colour ranges.

PMS Coated and Uncoated comparison

The other set is the Formula Guides. This includes over a 1000 different ‘Pantone’ colours, with one swatchbook for uncoated and one for coated. If you stop and think about it, this means that the had to mix the 1100+ inks and then print them, 7 colours at a time, on each swatch in the book. No wonder the sets retail for hundreds of dollars.

Of course this is a simplified explanation and the variations and exceptions of using inks and paper are skills unto themselves.

Cool huh?


What kind of Designer am I?

One of the things about doing a small magazine is that you do a lot of ads. One of the things about doing ads for a small magazine is your turnaround time is short. Very short. In the old days I might fuss over an ad for weeks and certainly the “idea” of an ad campaign was generally worked on over a season and each ad was thus just a variation that you played with for a week or so.

These days Rob usually sends me a size and a client name and asks me to make something up (see my Toast Post). If I am lucky he has included some body copy. If I am really lucky he has included some graphics (although 50% of the time they are too small or too ugly to be of any use) and if I am extremely lucky I get an ad or brochure to use as a base. Then he usually wants to see it the next day. Sometimes the same day. It’s a whole different kettle of fish. And, rather than getting feedback on the various options I try to supply, I usually get a few text changes or the infamous “Can you add a few Xmas ornaments or tinsel without making it look tacky?”, but mostly they just pick one and deliver an “approved.” And once it’s approved, fussing or changing anything beyond a bit of kerning is deeply frowned upon.

To get going, most companies have websites or Facebook pages and you can start there, looking for inspiration or at least a logo. Sometimes you resort to competitor’s ads to see what the genre looks like. And there is always the photo stock agency to mine for pictures, but that can get problematic if you don’t actually know what the companies product or brand is—and I don’t. It’s easiest to dump a bunch of stuff on the pasteboard and see what it looks like organically. One of my biggest challenges is always colour. If I have a good palette to start from then things generally flow ok. If I don’t, then I can run into some big problems that have me gritting my teeth later because with the short timelines switching boats midstream doesn’t happen. Take these two ads for the same client for example. I hate the first one and want nothing more than to start over. The second one works for a whole lot of reasons and is starting to become one of my favourites from this issue (which, btw, is off to the press as we speak).

Ayre&Oxfordone-third-square Final Ayre&Oxford-Northridge-one-third-square

Nevada Place came first. I had a brochure to steal copy and images from but it was a dark, dark blue with yellow headlines that wouldn’t work in a smaller format with all the other junk. So I visited Aryes and Oxford’s website for some inspiration. The colour palette that I ended up using comes straight from their site (except for the yellow which I kept from the brochure). A decision I regret, but after the first “approved” with request for adding a map, some starbursts and some more copy ( I believe the actual request was  “Needs more fluff”), changing the colour palette opens too many problems on such a short timeline.

Ayre&Oxfordone-third-square Final

Blech. And Yuck.

The second ad came a few days later with a sample ad done in a local newspaper. Instead of stealing their colour palette or design, I just took the lovely little square logo and adapted it as a framework for the ad. And I loved the way it turned out. This way I was working with someone else’s thoughtful design and stealing the time they spent fussing over colours to kickstart my design. It’s a way to magically “create” time.


I’d still love a week or two to fuss with the details and massage the copy, but I am generally pretty happy with the result.

So if I steal the palette from ad two and spend 5 minutes adapting it and switching some of the basic proportions (since I’ve had time to mull things over) I get this:

Ayre&Oxfordone-third-square mockup

Still a long way from being good, but way better IMHO. It just needs some more time. This really is a different game than I am used to. Fun though.


This is a short (15 minutes or so) video of one fellows logo design process. What I find interesting is his process which mirrors mine fairly closely — although I will admit to often skipping the sketching much to my detriment. In regards to process I am almost entirely self-taught. My career paralleled the development of the computers and software, often starting with version 1; such was the case with Pagemaker, CorelDraw, Aldus Freehand and InDesign. THe result was, other than the occasional magazine article or coffee discussion with co workers, we all made our own way when it came to deciding how best to use the tools that were being developed.

So, if you ever wonder how I go about doing logos or wordmarks, watch this video. I have tons of files with multiple copy and pasted versions sitting disjointedly on the desktop. I don’t keep a sketchbook though… I tend to just doodle on whatever is at hand; maybe I should get one…

Aaron Draplin Takes On a Logo Design Challenge from lynda.com on Vimeo.