Thursday, December 29, 2011

Making PDFs secure

I've made PDFs for a number of years now. I'm sure you have too. We send and receive PDF (Portable Document Format) files. Created by Adobe, the format is as much of our everyday language as xeroxing or Photoshopping. It's a great format.

Most of the time the information in the PDF is meant to be read and used by everyone. There are times you only want select persons to view documents. Those documents may include financial information, medical histories, personal tax information, and so on.  Most document creation software allows you to create secure PDFs—that limits viewing, copying and so on.  Recently I did this for an assignment where I saved Illustrator files as secure PDFs. Expanding on that experience, let's look at some examples.

Microsoft Word
In Word there are a number of native security settings you can use for a .doc or .docx file. You can quickly make a PDF (unsecured) from Word. If you have Acrobat Professional you'd open the document, select File>Document Properties, click on the Security tab, and create your desired security setting.

If you're a Mac user without Acrobat, you can use Preview. In Word select File>Print. With the print options dialog expanded, click on the PDF Button. In the drop-down menu, select Save as PDF... You will see this window next. Fill in the data fields similar to the example below. Click the Security Options button.

Fill in the security setting you want and enter a password only known to you. When finished, click OK.

Open the PDF in Acrobat Reader. Your PDF will display the file title and (SECURED) to alert the reader. Check your Document Properties Security settings dialog.

Paul Rand PDF with Document Properties dialog Security settings

Here's the same Paul Rand quote, copied from Word and pasted into a new Pages document. When you're ready to make a PDF, select File>Export. Click the PDF icon at the top of the window and select the output quality you want. Select your desired security options and enter your password (note that Pages SHOWS your password here. I used x's instead). Click Next. Choose the location to save your PDF in the window that follows and click Save.

Your PDF from Pages is ready for checking in Acrobat Reader or Acrobat Professional.

Last, but not least for today, let's look at Photoshop. You may already save Photoshop files as PDFs, but most of us don't utilize the built-in security settings. When you save a Photoshop image as a PDF, you have the same setting selections as Illustrator and InDesign, including security. Make your desired security settings, enter your password, and select Save. Even Snoopy can be sent to Aunt Mabel, secured.

photo © Isaiah Sheppard Jr.
Wishing all the best to you for a great New Year!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I wanted to share with you my wife's handiwork. Last post I talked about her project. Here is the completed project she has on her office door. I'm really proud of her!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Time for a change

 Hi everyone.

They say the only constant is change, and they're right. When I began this new entry I was taken to a new template center. I'm trying on this "new look." Hope you enjoy it. Will work out the bugs as we go along.

I learned something else new, thanks to my wife. She had an image she wanted resized and printed on two sheets of construction paper. Clip art was from Microsoft Word. 

Screen capture of Word doc
She sent the Word document. I opened it, and increased the viewing size. I clicked off on Word to my desktop and made a screen capture (Command-shift-3 on a Mac. You can also use Command-shift-4 to select a detail of the window. Apple's utility, Grab is another great tool).

Next I opened the screen capture in Photoshop. I increased the image size a bit, cropping and performing minor sharpening tweaks. I wanted to print the document in sections. How did I do it? I  could have brought the image into Quark XPress and printed a tiled image, but I wanted an easier way. I found it, thanks to Photoshop Help. In the File menu, I learned to select Print with Preview.

Print with Preview dialog window
A new window appears, with a thumbnail of the image I want to print. When I select the thumbnail the hand becomes a crosshair I can use to reposition the image to just the part I want to print.

Simulated landscape format printout

 I set my desired paper size and orientation, and press the print button. Two sheets of landscape format printed pages later, she had her document to assemble and post wherever she desires.

Always, when I least expect it, I learn something new I can use at home and at work. How about you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finding your way

Let me tell you a story.

It's the 1860's and the Civil War has begun. You are a young soldier, about to experience your first encounter with the enemy. Form the time you were a young boy you daydreamed about being a hero. You reveled in the successful battles you participated in. You dreamed about how it would be when you returned home—men cheer and women swoon in your presence. It's a wonderful dream. But in the recesses of your mind you wonder: do you have the courage to charge into battle and face an uncertain outcome?

Many of you have read "The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane. A classic text on high school reading lists, this book explores issues that transcend the reasons for the conflict between the North and the South. What does it mean to be a man? Will I fail to stand up to my fears? If I fail, will I return to the fight and regain my balance? You'll have to read the story for yourself for the answer. It's available in print, film/DVD (Audie  Murphy. Wow!), and e-book format (free).

So what can you learn from the story as a designer?

In book cover design, capturing the essence of the story helps bring the reader in. Not new information, I admit. Here are some examples from a Google Image search.

Screen capture from Google® Image
A designer has the ability to see things with new eyes.  The covers above express creativity in varying degrees. Whether or not you like them, doesn't it make you think, how would I approach this design problem? What would my cover design look like? 

Cover design, Quark XPress® 9. Photo from Library of Congress

Cover design, Photoshop® CS 5, blood splatter brush

As you design the interior pages, how does your interior design move the readers from one page to the next? When you export the design to various media, how does your design enhance the end users' experience?

Interior spread. Quark XPress® 9

For designers and other creatives, getting to the solution involves trial and error. Try another font. Tweak the leading. To add or not add a graphic? More white space. Drop the gradient. Add a drop shadow. Add a motion tween. Slow down the Keynote transition. Make it faster! And the client asks to make his/her logo bigger. The really great designers are persistent and willing to try again, and again. After all, at our best we are servants working for the greater good.

Sometimes we lose our perspective and wonder if we really have what it takes to help others make their dreams (and ours) a reality. Then we take a walk, listen to music, rest. And then, we remember why we are called to do what we do. We pick up our banner and "run the race that is set before us."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Team Meeting Deja Vu

A few months back I attended a meeting to discuss the illustration plans for an article revision.  What struck me about this meeting was I experienced a 'deja vu' moment-old and yet new. We call it a team meeting—the idea being that it takes a well chosen team of individuals to do what no one person can do alone.

Maybe you have something like it. For you it might be a client who has a small business. He or she needs your talents to create or enhance their business identity. You take notes for the design brief you will present. Maybe it's your account executive, and design director with you presenting your proposal in a corporate board room. You use Power Point, Keynote or Flash animations to help your client choose the best solution (which might not be the one you really like) based on your research.

After this kick-off session, you gather resources while the editors (or your copywriter) refine the text. With the help of staff or freelance photo editors, illustrators, photographers, media artists, and stock image sources, you and your 'team' choose the most appropriate visuals and get your client's blessing. You (or a staff/freelance production designer) create final files. Approval is secured, prepress or you preflight the media and files are delivered for print, web, and mobile devices.  Later you celebrate the completion of the job, and the joy of a shared collaboration with your team.

That's the ideal, and for me anyway, that's been the way things have worked out many times. The faces may have changed during my career, but the goal of presenting authoritative, accurate information in a way that our end users can understand (in our case, students from K to 12) is the same.  I appreciate the support I've gotten from my teams of the past, and the teams I serve with today. Perhaps you will take a minute to write a note, email or make a call to express your thanks to those who have been on your 'team'.

Books currently on my smartphone: "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain; "100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People" by Susan Weinschenk, Ph. D.; and "Bobby Flay's Bold Flavors" by Bobby Flay.

Follow up on World Book's World of Animals App: the free download period has expired, but you can purchase the app for your iPad (or a friend's) at a very reasonable price. Check it out in the App Store!
Next post: what does a story about a Civil War soldier have to teach us about design?

Per my company's Social Media Policy I'm including the following statement on my pages beginning with this one: “The views I express on this page are my own. They have not been reviewed or approved by my employer.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

World of Animals App and Web Fonts

And now, a word from our sponsor:

World Book's first App for the iPad, World of Animals, is now available for free for a limited time! This product will give iPad user families hours of fun and learning. It's beautifully designed! It's a FREE download until July 10! Did I mention I worked with World Book's Digital Products, Marketing, Editorial and Graphics and Design teams on this project? Did I mention it's a FREE DOWNLOAD until July 10? Get the details here. Try it, and give World Book feedback so we can make the product even better!

The topic of web fonts can be daunting for designers but the concept is quite simple: Consistency of site appearance is assured on most browsers and font designers are duly compensated for the use of their designs. Content is editable; no need to create image files for headlines, callouts, and other html elements.  It's a great step forward for web design and more fonts are being added by the providers daily.

Some of you already have experimented with web fonts. A simple tutorial is available on Another site that has information and links galore is this one. You can learn and try whatever you like with free and commercial web fonts. Enjoy, enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

InDesign, Quark XPress, and others

Before I jump into this session I want to encourage you to help those currently suffering around the world in the way that suits you best.  Japan, Haiti, the American southern states have been hit hard. The design community has already done a lot. Let's keep it up!

In my last post I made the word 'should' italic in the first paragraph. I have a lot of control writing and editing as most bloggers do. Recently I happened to check my blog during lunch at work. All of the text appeared in bold italics! I was reminded of two things: text appearance is driven by available fonts on a reader's computer as well as the operating system. A good reminder that a reader may not see what you meant them to see.

There are ways to maintain a consistent look. CSS or Cascading Style Sheets, are used in almost every corporate web site. Web fonts, a topic I plan to write about, allows web designers to specify fonts in the same way print designers do (with some limitations). 

The major layout programs Adobe InDesign and Quark XPress recently announced upgrades. You can read about Quark XPress 9 features here. Adobe InDesign CS 5.5 information can be found here. You can decide whether it makes sense to upgrade if you use these programs (each offers so many features one can't call them 'page layout' programs anymore).  I love both programs and can't imagine doing what I do professionally without them.

There are other programs designers use. On Windows, there is Microsoft Publisher. (Full disclosure: I have not used this program. All the design work I perform is on a Mac platform.) It does not enjoy a great reputation with most professional designers, gleaned from comments I've read. That said, it may be a great option for you. See the details on Publisher 2010 here.  Corel is a major player after Adobe's FrameMaker and InDesign programs. Though Corel's latest offering gives users a lot of image editing power and output options, it also gives users templates to create print and web layouts. An overview can be found here.

Designers often complain about the costs to purchase and upgrade the biggies. But there are low-cost and free alternatives (legal). Scribus is a free, open source program that has a good reputation for document creation and output. It's worth your time and a bit of HD space to check it out. Details here.

A program that doesn't get much attention but is starting to make some noise in the creative community is Pages. The successor to Claris and AppleWorks has many features designers need and, starting with Pages 9, output includes epub and iPad.  One issue: Pages embeds media into its pages. If a designer wants to tweak the media file, media placeholders have to be created first. Read the discussion here.  Mac users can purchase Pages 9 in the App Store for $20.

Options in page design are out there. How you use the them in design business/pleasure is up to you!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Graphic Designers and Their Resumes

One of the groups I joined on LinkedIn has a great discussion going on whether the writer should design their resume. Or to put it more directly, whether a professionally designed resume really matters in the era of HR keyword-detecting software. The employment climate is still tough for creatives.  I've been thinking about this more as the time approaches for a new group of design graduates looking to join the profession.

I learned in school the importance of a well-designed resume as part of my personal identity program. I believe that is still true. Your resume, along with a printed business card and letterhead was the first introduction creative managers received about you before they saw your portfolio.

Today, prospective employers can view your website. Social networking sites contribute to an employer's knowledge about you before they see you face to face. Many aspiring designers have Flash based portfolios, and readily send out PDFs or DVDs of their best work.  A text only resume may be required when seeking a corporate design position. How would you advise a fellow established designer or your soon-to-graduate intern?

I've appreciated the depth of comments submitted so far on LinkedIn. The designer, recently laid-off, asked for help, and others in the trenches offer advice and encouragement. A few reviewed her resume, suggesting changes. Others shared their resumes, asking for feedback. I'm sure there are others who have contacted the designer privately offering help.

Here is what I shared (in case you wondered). Old school:

1) No more than 2 pages

2) Emphasize strengths

3) Summarize successful design projects in terms business people can understand. Example: your design increased your client's sales by 30%.

4) Tailor your resume to your job prospect where possible

5) Follow up with phone calls, emails, etc.

Art and design directors who mentored me also suggest updating your resume periodically.  I suggest continuing the pattern of lifelong learning you began as a new designer. Take a class, attend a seminar. Take a trip. Sketch or paint a little. Do something that stretches you creatively.

A blog I read recently concluded with this thought: remember the resume gets you the interview, not the job. You help get the job by your positive professional attitude, killer portfolio, and personal integrity.  Like you, I hope our economy rebounds faster so more of us find the meaningful work we were born to do, and more of us become better resourced so we can hire and mentor the designers of the future.

Monday, April 4, 2011

More of HOW Design Conference, and At the Library

I got another card on that un-coated paper from HOW Design. They have extended the conference early bird registration to May 1. If you're interested in learning more from top creatives in our business, check it out!

One of my favorite pastimes is visiting our public library.  I love browsing the aisles checking out books and magazines and seeing the new DVD and e-book offerings, graphic novels (comic books for adults and the kids who love them), and so on. I spend a lot of time at the high school to adult section of the library.  Print is in challenging times to be sure. But—at least for me—the library is an oasis in my world of layout programs, HTML and XML. I like it so much I 'Liked' it on Facebook!

I had a few moments so I decided to do some 'research' in the children's section.  Much of what I do as a designer is preparing reference materials for kids. It had been a while, and it was a great eye opener. In the fiction section, there were a number of supernatural-themed titles. Multiple copies of the Harry Potter novels were available. There was a smaller graphic novels section that included familiar licensed characters and educational offerings. I didn't get over to the media section this trip (unless you count the Lego display).

Then I came to the reference section, where current editions of The World Book Encyclopedia reside with our competitors' works. It's a great place to analyze book spines, covers, paper stock, and interior design. I was especially pleased to see our new People and Places set on the shelves and to thumb through one of the volumes I worked on. Very cool!

I plan to visit our library and children's section again soon. Until then, please join me in saying thanks to the librarians, supporters, and volunteers who help make learning and reading fun.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Praise of Paper

I get a lot of mail inviting me to attend seminars and other events. I'm sure you do too. Lately it's been to attend the HOW Design Conference ( I received several invites. A few I passed along to staff members, and the rest found their way into a recycling bin.

All except one.

What was different about this one? Not the message. Not the design. It was the paper.

The post card was printed on Canaletto Grana Grossa Bianco, 78 lb. cover stock by Gruppo Cordenons.  This uncoated stock has a subtle texture that intrigued me. That choice of paper in a moment took me back to earlier days as a student discovering the wonder of paper, and the value paper brings to a design project.

We're used to seeing items printed on various weights of coated stock. It's nice to see your work printed with a gloss or dull varnish. It's also nice, if the job warrants, to use a paper that helps the customer 'linger' a little longer. If it's been a while, take time to review your paper samples.  Well chosen, an uncoated texture stock can save your client money and provide a tactile experience you can't get online.

If you are a graphic designer living in the Chicago area I encourage you to check out the HOW Design Conference.  The opportunities to learn from top speakers and network with peers is great!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Interactive magazine design

There has been an explosion of e-book creation activity. Everyone is watching to see how publishing business models are impacted by the trend—some with anticipation, some with apprehension and/or fear. Change is coming to our world and it effects how we and the next generation will learn how to read and communicate. Before we look to the future let's look at where we've been.

A few years ago magazine publishers began to look at how to use the Internet to expand their reader base. Websites sprang up based on the magazine brand. Some publishers found subscribers wanted the experience of their print counterpart, and magazines using page turn technology were born.  Users wanted more from this experience and publishers began to ask, "what if?"

One early entry in the PDF magazine model was InDesign Magazine, published by The magazine was instrumental in creating buzz about Adobe InDesign. When Adobe included the ability to add videos in PDFs, InDesign became a great way to get it into a PDF. The magazine, created using InDesign, included videos.

As I grew more comfortable with viewing magazines online I started using one of the digital magazine delivery services, Zinio,  In 2008, Zinio offered magazines and books for download to the desktop. Today, magazine purchasers can also download publications to their iPad, iPod, and iPhone devices.  Magazines for Android devices can't be far behind. Zinio offers a number of free sample magazines for download.

Here's a spread from Layers Magazine. Readers can zoom in to read text, and the magazine frequently included hyperlinks to designer and advertiser sites.

Other magazine producers began to give users a more unique experience. National Geographic produced an interactive version of its issue on Water. It's cool to watch a magazine cover rain before your eyes, with sound of thunder, text, and the familiar yellow NGM branding finally appear.

Last year a traditional magazine, Smithsonian, produced an interactive version of the print special magazine on 40 things you need to know about the next 40 years. Some articles included Flash video presentations.

One more magazine publisher takes user experience to new heights. VIV magazine creates a rich interactive experience from the articles to its advertising. Here's an example. This article gives women the opportunity to visualize sunglasses and hats on a model.

What does the future hold? Who knows? One thing is certain: the new world of digital publishing can be an exciting place for talented designers working with gifted editors, programmers, and usability experts. Let's get ready to get in the game.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Getting to Know Your Tools of The Trade

Sometimes you hear designers say you have to have to have the latest and greatest (version of xyz, newest computer, etc) because with it you can . . . . (you fill in the blank). There is some truth to this. In a perfect world we would all update hardware and software every 18-24 months. But what if you can't?

Most of us use a small percentage of the features of our software programs. Before you make that upgrade, maybe it's time to rediscover what your current programs are capable of. I had fun playing with some Photoshop filters recently. In almost all images I adjusted Photoshop's default settings.

Here is a photo I shot with an iPhone after a recent snowstorm.

I applied some effects to the image.

Colored pencil


Inked outlines

Plastic wrap



Sunday, January 16, 2011

Homage to Layers Magazine

One of my favorite design magazines, Layers, ceased publication recently. I have enjoyed it for years, starting with its predecessor, Mac Design. Many of the graphic designers I know and respect have written articles to inspire and challenge us. I've downloaded some of the sample projects to help develop various production skills with Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I'm extremely grateful to Scott Kelby and his team for their work. Looking forward to the new features that will appear in Photoshop User magazine (, and to reviewing tuts on Layers' website .

The last issue of Layers used rounded corners graphics in a number of creative ways. One I noted was the use of numbers in tutorial lessons, like this one, an InDesign CS5 tutorial by Terry White.

Taking my own advice, I created a series using Quark XPress 8.5.
Added a drop shadow to the tutorial number
Changed the number font, added a drop shadow to the other type.
And one more: applying a gradient, adding a stylized rule and reduced opacity type.

Try a few of your own!