Should Creatives be Drug Tested Like Athletes at the Olympics?

drug test creatives
I have just been watching a bit about the Olympics, while having lunch. They were talking about the young Chinese swimmer, Sun Yang who won the 400 metres with an amazing time. People are now questioning if such a performance could be genuine or from performance enhancing drugs.

I don’t know why, but it got me thinking – what if they did this with creatives and designers? What if you created the most amazing piece of work, your best so far, can you imagine if people questioned how you managed to do it?

Having never taken illegal drugs, i can’t say what the effects would be on me, but I have found that a few glasses of wine (not in the day 🙂 ) definitely helps the creative juices flow more easily, especially brainstorming for brand names. Who hasn’t seen a bizzarre advert, piece of art or film that makes you wonder – how on earth did they come up with that? Maybe it’s just the creative mind, but perhaps on occasions an additional stimulant has helped. We have all heard of music which has been inspired by experiences on drugs and gone on to help make the band a fortune.

The point of drugs testing for athletes is to try and make sure everyone is playing on a level playing field and not gaining financially/personally in an unfair manner. So is it right that drugs may enhance the performance financially of creatives and others outside the sporting arena?

Drug test before you present your next set of design visuals or advert ideas – maybe?

There’s my odd thought for the day – and all I have had is a cup of tea 🙂

Competition to Win my How to Design a Logo Course for Beginners

I have been a little quiet on writing this blog as I have been busy putting together video course about how to design a logo called:

How to Design a Logo – a Beginners Course

Win one of 3 free access codes to my beginner’s logo design course worth $45each

All you have to do is add a comment saying why you would like to win a copy of the course and I will pick 3 winners next Thursday 2nd August

In the course you will learn how to design a logo from brief to completion. You will watch as I take a logo design from the client on Skype and then I will break down the whole process into simple steps.

You will learn:

  • how to generate initial ideas
  • how to use sketching to get your ideas down quickly
  • different ways you can come up with ideas through a step by step process
  • about different fonts
  • about common logo text positioning
  • about different colour options
  • how to work up the best ideas in Adobe IIlustrator
  • how to send the ideas to the client

You will also learn the more practical side of logo design, how to quote for a project and things to be aware of.
how to design a logo ebookThis course also includes a bonus 60pg ebook guide of how to design a logo including warm up exercises and sample logo project.

Why the 100 dollar start up is a book designers should read

The 100 dollar start upChances are you will have heard of Chris Guillebeau and his recent book the $100 startup, but here’s my view on why I think it’s a book that designers should read.

Let’s face it, work is harder to get than it was a few years ago for us designers, so we have got to start thinking differently. We have a wealth of skills at our finger tips, and not just to create work to fit a client’s brief. We have the ability to create new designs, products, websites and probably have numerous ideas for apps amongst other things, if we only knew how to harness our talents.

This is where the 100 dollar start up (aff link) comes in. Chris Guillebeau, interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs, but not of the get rich quick internet millionaire flavour. These are people who have created businesses that make them a good living, but not necessarily a fortune. After each entrepreneurs story Chris Guillebeau has identified key take away points to help you with your business ideas.

One of the stories which will probably interest you, is about 2 graphic designers who were a little bored of their normal design work. The duo were going on a trip and wanted a nice map to plan their journey, but couldn’t find one, so they designed one themselves. In order to get it printed they had to get a small run made. They gave a few to friends, and then thought they would see if they could sell the rest. The map was a success and their map business now supports them both.

There are plenty more inspiring and yet attainable stories in the book. Now it’s just a case of working out how you can apply it to your work and talents.

A product designer recently said to me “It’s about being creative by using our talents in a non-predictable way. You need to develop products!” I think he’s right.

Buy the 100 dollar start up here (aff link)

Is It Worth Putting QR Codes On Your Designs?

A guest post by Nathan Amery, writing for

phone QR code
QR codes have been forced on consumers by brands and touted as the future of offline marketing, supposedly bridging the gap between the real world and the web. A study by Austin & Williams has shown that just over half of all smartphone users in the US have heard of QR codes, with just over 28% having actually scanned one at some point. But are QR codes the same as the printed URL of the 90s? That is to say everything had to have your URL printed on it, as it proclaimed ‘Look at us, we have a website! We’re very forward thinking!’. Are people actually finding them useful?

According to the same study, 6% of users had gone on to purchase after scanning a QR code – not that this tells us whether they would have bought anyway, but I felt 6% was pretty high – If I had an online ad with a 6% conversion rate, I’d be pretty pleased with myself.

However, there’s some companies using these things wrongly: For example, things I’ve seen QR codes on include:

  • Bags of potatoes (impossible to scan due to the fact it’s a crumpled plastic bag)
  • Subway adverts (there’s no Internet down there guys…)
  • Textured surfaces like brick walls, (there’s no way I’m going to able to scan that)
  • Billboards (Is anyone climbing up to them and getting out their phone?)

I feel these are all examples of using QR codes as a ‘me too!’ device, just like a business shouting about having a Facebook account before the whole social media thing became as mainstream as it is today. Technically pointless, but attempts to show some level of being ‘with it’.

Now don’t get me wrong: QR codes do have their place in advertising. The survey mentioned above was taken of a broad range of people; men and women, of varying ages and backgrounds. If your design is to appear at a tech convention, a comic book event or some other geek-hangout, QR codes are probably a must. Get creative with them; have them send users to a specific landing page for that offer, at the very least (Or a page specifically designed for whatever you’ve created). Or better, lead the user on a QR code treasure hunt to find each code, scan it, which displays the clue for the next one, ending in some form of reward.

The fact that QR codes are on everything these days means you’ll need to go one better with yours. You will need to not only convince the user to scan it, but also to convert (in whatever way you deem to be a conversion) based on that scan. So there’s four groups of people here: Those that don’t know what a QR code is; those that do, but think they’re a waste of time; those that aren’t into your message enough to bother getting their smartphone out and scanning; and finally those that actually are intrigued and savvy enough to scan your QR code.

You need to work out which of your audience your design is aimed at and think about what their motivation to scan is. If you’re aiming at women over 50, (no disrespect to women over 50 who are avid QR code scanners!) you could probably use that space for something better (or just avoid having a weird looking black and white square on your otherwise flawless design).

If your message is aimed at 20-something males (we’re in the right QR ballpark here), it’s still not necessarily the best option. Looking to promote something that has no real online aspect? A bar (which has no online offers, and only a simple website) for example. Adding a QR code is probably going to disappoint those who scan it (‘It’s just the website? Well that was pointless’) and those who don’t; are either going to not know what to do with it, or take a cynical view to its presence (‘This company is trying too hard to be cool’).

So the answer is yes, QR codes are great in some cases. But just like when companies use their Facebook accounts badly (The ones that beg ‘Please like us. Please Please Please!’) using QR codes incorrectly can be bad too, since it can give you that clueless ‘me too’ vibe that smacks of uncoolness.

nathanNathan Amery is the Director of Search Marketing for Pretty Klicks, a web agency specialising in web design, social media and SEO in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Design Possibilities of E-Publishing

A guest post by Nick Lewis writing on behalf of

E-publishing – for mobile, e-readers, tablets and desktop – opens up enormous potential for creative design. Although most e-books and iPad publications are little more than the digital source for the paper version, as e-publishing matures we are likely to see far more advantage taken of the possibilities of digital publishing.


Here are just a few examples of what e-publishing makes possible.


The most obvious example is more comprehensive use of illustrations. With the financial constraints imposed by printing removed – thicker paper, more inks – the scope for full colour illustrations is much greater.

More than that, the displays available thanks to the devices like the iPad mean that these illustrations can be more beautifully rendered than they ever would have been in an affordable paperback.


Although illustration may be more cost effective in digital publishing, the real potential goes beyond that.

Animation has already made an appearance in groundbreaking e-books, most notably ‘Operation Ajax’, a “motion comics” telling of the CIA’s involvement in the 1950s Iranian revolution. The addition of animation to comic books has the potential to add new depths to the genre.

The possibilities of animation aren’t just confined to comic books though – animated ‘illustrations’, advertisements and diagrams could all be valuable additions.

Operation Ajax on Ipad by Cognito Comics


Operation Ajax also offers up dossier files on all the main characters for the reader to peruse at their leisure. ‘Cathy’s Book’ goes further.

Although originally a print novel itself, the iOS app offers animated versions of sketchbook drawings and voicemail phone clues, crossing the audio/visual divide.

Cathy’s Book

Ruper Murdoch’s pet iPad newspaper ‘The Daily’ became eclipsed by certain events in the news, and was not generally well received. But by combining multimedia and print as well as an app’s sensibility to navigating a newspaper, it did show that there could be a place for digital only newspapers and magazines that go beyond publishing the same text online and linking to the odd video.

The Daily


As a professional musician publishing novels on the side, Nick Cave was particularly well placed to introduce the soundtracked novel to the world.
The iPhone version of his last novel ‘The Death of Bunny Munro’ synced the audiobook reading of the book with the scrolling text, including full soundtrack by Cave and long-time collaborator Warren Ellis as well as sound design from British artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard.

The Death of Bunny Munro

Not every novelist is an acclaimed songwriter and composer, but the possibilities pointed to for multimedia e-books combining sound, animation and graphic design are certainly compelling, and demonstrate that e-publishing can be about far more than just crystal clear pdfs.

nickNick Lewis is a technology and design writer, writing on behalf of premedia specialists Rhapsody Media.