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February 25 2014

07:30

February 24 2014

15:28
Tags: Design
11:00
07:30
04:14

February 21 2014

16:12
11:00

February 18 2014

16:00

February 17 2014

11:00
03:34

February 12 2014

08:14

February 11 2014

11:00

HTML, CSS, PSD and More: 24 Free Design Resources from January 2014


  

Creativity is like a cat. Sometimes it gives you head butts and rubs against you. Then it delivers you nothing but dead prey or stays away completely for days. As a creative professional you need to find ways to get creativity back, while your cat just needs you to patiently wait as long as it takes. Sparking your creativity is best done by inspiration and inspiration comes from many things, not the least other people’s work. In the face of this fact we’ve put together yet another set stuffed with HTML, CSS and PSD templates and added the best UI kits. Your cat will not be interested, but you should keep the following list safe and warm….

February 10 2014

07:30
05:11

Tips and Techniques for Designing Powerful Band Websites

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With the popularity of music-based social networks there isn’t as much demand for bands to create their own websites. But hosting your own website offers more creative control over content, photos, and merchandise. Any serious band or solo artist should consider launching their own website to provide an official online resource for fans of the music.

In this article I want to cover just a few techniques I’ve noticed on many band or musician websites. Designs often vary drastically based on the homepage and other important details. However, page content is generally mirrored in a way that visitors become familiar with the interface browsing through different band websites. The goal is to promote your music in a clear, fashionable manner.

Live Streaming Samples

Once you have some tracks recorded try putting them up online to gather feedback. Popular networks like Bandcamp or SoundCloud offer free audio hosting and streaming services. Plus you can even setup prices for individual track downloads, or let viewers download the files completely free of charge.

Both of these services can work as a free audio streaming host without allowing downloads at all. You as the musician have a choice to decide how you wish to distribute music over the Internet. Offering a few streaming tracks can go a long way towards winning over some new fans. People might gladly purchase your new EP if they recognize a couple songs.

streaming audio band player website ui

If you have the technical ability I would recommend setting up audio streaming directly on the band website. Lots of people browse through Bandcamp and other networks, but your personal site is the place to show off what you can do. You might try embedding music videos from YouTube as a similar alternative. This streaming audio player could be on the homepage or an inner page, but regardless please avoid auto-play. Music playing out of nowhere is very annoying to those who aren’t expecting it!

However you approach this concept, just know it is an easy way to draw some attention. Let people hear what you can do and they can be the judge of talent. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool that can drive up sales quicker than you might imagine.

Unique Personalization

The band’s music should be given a large focus on the website. But fans who check out your site also want to know about the band itself – maybe some brief history, info about the members, your musical themes, etc. Try to give “behind the scenes” access whenever possible. Unique member bios coupled with a short history of the band will yield a very personal touch.

mastodon metal band homepage fullscreen website layout

You should also take into account the website’s homepage and how this comes across at first glance. Could visitors make an educated guess about the band or your music? Can they see your band logo or possibly a photo of the members? Try to be as personal as you can without revealing too much(this limit is different for everyone).

True fans will love to study a bit of history surrounding their favorite music. You might be surprised how curious people can be – and the effects of this curiosity on the band. Personalization is tough because it will be a different process for everyone. Brainstorm how your website can provide a deeper connection to your visitors and don’t be afraid to push new unchartered boundaries.

Gallery-Style Pages

Long paragraphs and blocks of text are nice to some degree. But easily-digestible content usually appears in the form of quick lists or thumbnails. Grid-style gallery pages are perfect for various forms of content on a band’s website.

daughtry band website photos gallery layout

Think about a photo gallery with pictures taken on tour. Different venues might be cataloged into photo albums for a more organized browsing experience. You might also create a discography page including a brief description next to each album cover.

This same gallery theme can be extrapolated to the band’s online blog, using a featured image to represent each blog post. If you build on a CMS like WordPress or Drupal then blogging is quite a simple process. This official online blog provides a release point for updates about your band, new EP/LP release dates, along with anything else you might deem interesting.

Online Purchases

Although this can tie into the concept of digital streaming, merchandise would be a whole separate topic. Fans should be able to purchase digital copies of your music from marketplaces like iTunes, Last.fm, Amazon, or even Bandcamp. But what about fans who would prefer to buy a physical CD of your album(s)?

bandcamp homepage bands music website network

This can earn more money and it’s a way to provide tangible merchandise. Naturally this could extend to similar items like t-shirts, beanies, wristbands, anything relatable. Unfortunately local retail stores won’t be carrying merchandise for non-mainstream bands. A solid alternative would be selling products directly from your own personal website.

WordPress has plugins like WooCommerce that can tie right into the backend. You could build simple pages, blog posts, and online products within the same CMS. The online ThemeForest marketplace has a large collection of impressive music & band website templates. The best themes come with built-in support for selling merchandise in your own personal online shop.

Once the band goes on tour you might also try selling tickets for each venue. If you can’t make time for managing ticket sales it might be easier linking to other specific vendors. Even if you can’t handle the payments yourself, external sites like Ticketmaster still get you sales and publicity. Try to provide some method to visitors who would purchase your goodies in support of the band’s music.

Design Showcase

To understand creative layout design try looking over some prime examples. In wrapping up this article I’ve collected a large handful of band websites featuring many of the ideas listed above. These examples can offer a better sense of design, branding, content structure, backgrounds, and even newer ideas you might try on your own website.

Goo Goo Dolls

goo goo dolls band website layout

Stone Sour

stone sour band website layout

In Flames

in flames death metal band website

Givers

givers band website homepage layout

3 Doors Down

3 doors doors band website

Samiam

samiam band website homepage layout

Third Eye Blind

third eye blind band website layout

Three Days Grace

three days grace website homepage

Stone Temple Pilots

stone temple pilots band website design

Red Hot Chili Peppers

red hot chili peppers band layout

Matchbox Twenty

matchbox twenty band homepage design

Puddle of Mudd

puddle of mudd website design

Ween

ween rock band website layout

Maroon 5

maroon 5 website design homepage layout

Disturbed

dusturbed metal band website homepage

Slayer

slayer metal band website homepage

Cryogen

cryogen death metal band homepage layout 2014

Kreator

germany metal band kreator homepage website

Gin Blossoms

gin blossoms band website

Counting Crows

counting crows website band layout design

The Cranberries

the cranberries band website layout

Rage Against the Machine

ratm rage against machine design homepage

The Strypes

the strypes band website design

Green Day

green day band website homepage design

Bowling for Soup

bowling for soup band website design

Smash Mouth

smash mouth band website layout homepage

Staind

staind alternative rock band website

Bad Religion

bad religion homepage band music website

Simple Plan

unique band homepage website simple plan

Iron Chic

nyc iron chic rock band dark website design


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Tags: design

February 07 2014

16:11

Smashing Book #4: Behind The Scenes


  

If you’re a graphic designer, you will often have to work with off-the-shelf material created by others — for instance, combining ready-to-use fonts with images from a photographer or stock website. Also, you’ll often have to follow the branding already developed by someone else. It’s OK; it’s a part of the job, and you shouldn’t be bothered by it.

But the part of a project that almost every graphic designer likes and is proud of the most is something that you can do from scratch, something that you have control over and can sign off on confidently: illustration. It’s why I love illustration projects so much. You can show your individuality in every detail and create every stroke of the artwork, trusting your vision and fully exercising your skills.

Given this love of mine, it’s no surprise that I took on illustration duties for the Smashing Book #4 without hesitation, despite it being quite a large and lengthy project (20 illustrations). I pulled myself together and started working, promising to myself that no matter how hard it turned out to be, I would find the time and internal resources to complete the project.

I’m very keen on the traditional way of drawing — by hand, using paper, pencil, watercolors and so on. Of course, I’m not against using computers when necessary — especially nowadays, when we have drawing tablets and pens and all of that other digital stuff that mimics hand-drawn work. But it seems to me that there is still no substitute for the charm of a well thought out and elaborate handmade drawing.

My process for transforming illustrations into vector files is a little complicated and sometimes long, but it’s the only way to capture my drawings down to the smallest details. Retracing every line of the illustration as a curve using the Pen tool (in Adobe Illustrator, in my case), I am able to really feel every line and make the drawing as close to perfect as possible.

I began each of the 20 illustrations with many ugly sketches, trying to grab hold of an idea. I’m not able to think first and draw after. The two processes are one for me: I draw while thinking. I’ll waste piles of paper and use any surface at hand to capture an idea that suddenly comes to me. Reviewing the sketches now, I’m intrigued by the evolution of the ideas and the birth of the characters.


Looking for ideas. (View large version)


(View large version)


The evolution of a character from start to finish. (View large version)

Then, I made detailed drawings in pencil, which became the prototypes of the vector images. The more developed the drawing, the easier it was to create a vector image. When the pencil drawings were ready, I scanned or photographed them, and then painted with the usual brushes in Photoshop. These were the prototypes that I submitted for approval.

To color the sketches, I’ll choose one of the basic brushes with a sharp edge and just paint over the scanned image on a new layer. “Multiply” mode is on for this layer to make the texture of the drawing visible. Then, I’ll create one more layer for shadows (with “Multiply” mode enabled again).


Adding color to the sketch. (View large version)

This is a fast and easy way to estimate the color spectrum of the final illustrations (I’ll sometimes do several color sketches). I sent the colored sketches to the Smashing team for approval of the direction and concept of the illustrations.

The colored sketches retain a kind of watercolor effect. I love that this quality can be achieved so easily.


The colored sketches. (View large version)

Once the sketches are approved, I start the most important part of the work. I paste each scanned pencil drawing into an Illustrator file and trace it. I’ll put the pencilled prototype on the bottom layer and lock it. Then, I’ll look at my illustration carefully and divide it in my mind into several areas, creating a separate layer for each area. Working with layers is very convenient if the image is complicated and has many small details.


(View large version)

You can lock or hide layers that you are not working on to focus on the areas that you are. From the screenshot below, it is obvious that every kite will have layers and that the background will have several layers. I also separated each animal into different layers; for example, one layer for the body, one for the head (usually including the eyes and nose) and one for the limbs (legs, wings and so on).


Creating separate layers. (View large version)

There is no trick to tracing an image by hand. Just take the Pen tool and trace the contours of the sketch. I usually choose a bright color to mark off the contours well. The process is boring, but once you’re skilled at it, it doesn’t take much time. It can almost be meditative, sitting and calmly tracing element after element as your thoughts drift away.


The outlining process. (View large version)

I’ll usually use the Live Paint Bucket tool to divide a shape into several color areas. I draw lines that will be the borders between colors, and then select the group of shapes and enable the Live Paint Bucket tool . By clicking on each shape with the tool, I can assign a unique color to it. By the way, if you use colors from the swatches, you can find the appropriate tool by clicking the left and right arrows.


Using the Live Paint Bucket tool. (View large version)

If an element of the illustration doesn’t have a defined shape and needs a bit of improvisation, then I’ll use the Blob brush . Working with this brush on a drawing tablet is a real pleasure.

You can configure the settings of the Blob brush by double-clicking in the Tools panel. I’ll usually set it to the biggest brush to make the pressure of the pen as sensitive as possible. With several assured brush strokes, I’ll draw the background and the bushes, using random colors according to my feeling and then choosing more appropriate colors later. I’ll also draw the branches of the bushes with the Blob brush. If I need to correct the shape, I’ll usually use the Erase tool.


Using the Blob Brush tool. (View large version)

Here’s a tip if you ever have to transform a regular line into a ribbon flapping in the wind. I’ll use the Width tool to make the stroke weight variable. Using this tool, select the dot on the line where the stroke weight is to be changed, and drag the auxiliary lines until the ribbon looks the way you want.


Creating a ribbon from a line with the Width tool. (View large version)

Now, the image is ready for coloring. Yes, it looks weird without colors. But you need just a few minutes to fill in the shapes and get the image close to being complete. To complete the kite image, I added some small flowers on the bushes with petals flying up into the wind (using the Blob brush). I also added shadows using Multiply mode.


The outlined and finished illustrations. (View large version)

The technical work was not the hardest part for me. I’ll often spend much more time on sketching and developing the ideas. Now that the Smashing Book #4 is complete, I can say that the most difficult part was devising a “plot” for each chapter title. When I got the plan for the book and read the titles, I was at a loss.

Some of the titles are quite conceptual, suggesting obvious metaphors. But others are concrete and related to code, and those were hard to illustrate (especially with cute animals). When my imagination gave up, the guys from the Smashing team were ready to pitch in some inspiring ideas. So, this creative project was genuinely collaborate, and I think we were on the same wavelength.


Smashing Book #4, a new book for front-end designers and developers.

I believe both parties have taken only positive emotions from the project. Holding this hefty book now in my hands, I would have done some things differently — I’m never completely satisfied with my own work. Overall, though, I’m happy with the result.

So, enjoy the Smashing Book #4. It contains so much useful stuff. (Believe me, I know.)

(al, il, ea)


© Anna Shuvalova for Smashing Magazine, 2014.

11:00

Responsive Images: Still Waiting for a Standard? Try Rwd.Images.Js Instead!


  

Responsive Images is a topic far from resolved. Will it be the picture element as proposed by the W3C or will it be the srcset attribute as proposed by WHATWG in the end? No matter what time will bring, responsive images are a problem that needs to be solved today and not sometime in the future. No wonder that JavaScript is the remedy of choice. There are quite a few scripts targeting responsive imaging, quality varies though. A brand-new script by Matt Stow from Australia shows the potential to become the best available client-side interim solution…

February 04 2014

11:00

The Pattern Library: Free Seamless Patterns for Your Designs


  

The Pattern Library is a fresh new project by New Yorker Tim Holman and Claudio Guglieri from San Francisco. The two, who both don’t stem from where they are currently located, established a repository of seamless website backgrounds called “The Pattern Library”. The concept of the site matches the content – it’s extraordinary…

February 03 2014

07:30

January 31 2014

11:00

Not Up For Creative Cloud? 10 Professional Alternatives to Photoshop CC


  

Photoshop CC is no longer for sale. You can only rent it and pay a monthly fee to be allowed to use it. This does not appeal to everybody and I personally know more former Photoshop users who reject that licensing model than those who embrace it. As I was a regular updater anyway, the new mode of operation saves me money. But I can understand all those who only updated every three or four versions and would now have to shell out a lot more money than before. All of these will be eager to find a valid alternative to Photoshop CC. We took a look at ten of the best competitors…

January 28 2014

15:29

Top Gadgets for Designers

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Designers are very creative people and always strive for unique experiences, services and products that deliver high quality and remarkable experience. There are dozens of gadgets available in the world but only the best ones end up on the desks or pockets of creatives.

I have collected some top-notch gadgets that are delivering extreme quality, solving problems, entertaining you and simply making your more efficient. Check out these outstanding gadgets for yourself or get one for your friend or colleague.

Draw iPhone Case & Stand

Top Gadgets for Designers

Classy looking leather case for your iPhone from Hard Graft. This iPhone case also transforms into the perfect stand so you can use your iPhone as a bedside alarm clock, music or movie player.

Wellograph

Top Gadgets for Designers

Wellograph is an extremely beautifully designed activity tracker, a heart rate monitor and a running watch in one that delivers live, insightful information about the wearer’s activity through simple infographic interface.

Coin

Top Gadgets for Designers

Coin simplifies your life by solving a very common problem – bulky wallet filled with too many credit cards. Using Coin you’ll be able to put all your cards into one.

Canon Lens Mug

Top Gadgets for Designers

Most of designers like photography and coffee. This creative cup design is a 1:1 simulation to the Canon Lens. When you get this creative cup, you will love it so much.

Intuos Pro

Top Gadgets for Designers

Intuos Pro Large Professional Pen Tablet is a top-clas “toy” for any digital designer. This innovative pen tablet combines Wacom’s finest pen capabilities with intuitive multi-touch gestures and much more.

Nexus 7

Top Gadgets for Designers

Mobile devices are getting better, faster and more powerful. Nexus 7 tablet is a very powerful tablet which allows you to enjoy full HD movies, read books or even design.

Beloit 12 Speakers

Top Gadgets for Designers

Beloit 12 Speakers from Bang & Olufsen is wireless and portable music system for your digital devices. Timeless design and amazing features.

Pebble Smartwatch

Top Gadgets for Designers

Wearable tech is one of these words you are hearing more often these days. Pebble smartwatch is one of the most popular gadgets with smart apps, personal customization and more.

Transporter Sync Private Cloud

Top Gadgets for Designers

Your very own private cloud. Just like Dropbox but 100%. Automatically sync all the files you choose between your computers.

Fitbit

Top Gadgets for Designers

Flex wireless activity & sleep wristband is another great gadget that will improve the quality of your life. Designers tend to work a lot in front of a computer what is not very healthy. Fitbit will help you exercise by making it a gamified process.

Cable Fondler

Top Gadgets for Designers

Very simple and beautiful solution for managing your cables easily and effectively. Keep the cables you want on your desk at all times. Suits many common cable types.

iPad Air

Top Gadgets for Designers

Apple iPad Air is one of the most advanced tablets in the world. Extremely powerful entertainment and work gadget with and ability to extend its features by millions of apps.

Digital stylus for Paper iPad app

Top Gadgets for Designers

Elegant digital stylus pen with a natural look exclusively designed for an award-winning iPad App Paper will give you freedom for expressing yourself on digital screens. Compatible with other tablets too.

iBamboo

Top Gadgets for Designers

iBamboo is an electricity-free speaker made from a single piece of bamboo. The natural resonance of the bamboo amplifies the sound produced by the built-in speaker in the iPhone 4/4S and the iPhone 5.

Slate Mobile AirDesk

Top Gadgets for Designers

Slate Mobile AirDesk is cut from a block of pure, premium bamboo. Simply create your portable work desk by putting a laptop, mouse, mobile phone or tablet on this ultra lightweight, super strong desk.

Tags: Tips design
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