Design and Publishing Notebook

All Posts (newest first)

Starting the Gradual Move to Affinity

When Adobe decided to go the subscription route for their “Creative Cloud” applications in 2013 they fractured their loyal user base. Six years later this seems like a good time to move to the Affinity apps. Read more…

Nine Months with Hugo — The Experience So Far

Nine months in, how’s Hugo travelling? Surprisingly well in fact. Lots to learn along the way. But no roadblocks so far. That’s a big plus and somewhat unusual for a CMS. Hugo is proving a remarkably flexible and deep piece of work. Read more…

Is Glyph Scaling a Good Idea in Book Typesetting?

Glyph Scaling allows the InDesign Paragraph Composer an extra variable to play with in determining an aesthetically pleasing set of line breaks and hyphenations for each paragraph. But on low resolution output devices (such as publish-on-demand laser printing systems) this can produce noticeable changes in the widths of vertical strokes in glyphs. Be warned. On a recent book project I decided to use Glyph Scaling as a justification parameter in addition to my long-standing practice of allowing subtle letter-spacing adjustments, and of course basic word-spacing adjustment. Read more…

Using Ruby, Builder and Premailer to Create a Modular Email System

Do you need to streamline the process of creating HTML marketing emails? This idea was recently explored in an article by Brian Graves on the Smashing Magazine website titled “Improve Your Email Workflow With Modular Design”: www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/08/04/improve-your-email-workflow-with-modular-design/ He says: “With the ever-growing number of emails to send, getting them all out the door can seem a little overwhelming. By putting in place a solid email design workflow, you’ll be able to regularly ship engaging and mobile-friendly emails with ease. Read more…

Using TEX for Scripted Generation of Beautiful Documents

If you were a franchisor seeking a reliable way to find quality franchisees, you might turn to an online tool offered by one of my clients, the Franchise Relationships Institute. In a nutshell, the tool collects data and prepares quite complex reports as PDF files. The system was put together by programmers. Good at programming. Not so skilled at generating good looking reports. Very few programmers are also competent graphic designers. Read more…

Using Font Events to Refine Font Parameters When a Web Font is Not Available

Useful article on the Typekit blog from 2010 about using font events to refine font parameters when a web font is not available: blog.typekit.com/2010/11/02/font-events-fallback-fonts-and-styles-2/ A reference to the Code Style website is mentioned: As nimbupani pointed out in the comments, there’s a much better resource for choosing fallback fonts available at Code Style. They have data on which fonts are installed across Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. Use their very helpful font stack builder tool to see the percentage of users on each platform that each font in your fallback stack will cover (see this example). Read more…

Yet Another Post About Adobe and Creative Cloud

Another comment posted on John Nack's blog. [Let's assume that doesn't happen & think creatively about other approaches. --J.] (from John Nack) John, saying “Let’s assume that doesn’t happen” is a serious statement — that there’s no going back on this by Adobe. Wow. This change to subscription only fundamentally changes the relationship between Adobe and its customers. It shifts control of the relationship from the customer (who chooses if and when to pay money to Adobe) to Adobe (who chooses if and when the customer can use their tools). Read more…

The Need for Competition to Adobe

From John's previous post on this topic: [Let's assume that doesn't happen & think creatively about other approaches. --J.] The lack of practical alternatives to the key Adobe apps has allowed Adobe take control of the customer relationship by attempting to enforce a subscription-only scheme. It's time for some small, nimble and innovative software companies to step in and challenge the Adobe monopoly, in the same way that Adobe stepped in and challenged the existing publishing/typesetting monopoly in the 1980s. Read more…

More About the Adobe Creative Cloud Only Decision

Another comment added to John Nack’s blog, which can be found here: http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2013/05/shouldnt-loyal-adobe-customers-get-a-discount-moving-to-creative-cloud.html I have been reading these comments and thinking about this for a couple of days now. What makes “Creative Cloud only” an unacceptable option for me is becoming locked into a perpetual “Adobe tax”. If I stop paying the tax, I lose access to the work I have created using the Adobe tools (which is my “property”, not Adobe’s). Read more…

Feedback to Adobe About Their “Creative Cloud Only” Decision

I made the following comment on John Nack’s Adobe blog: There are apparent benefits of the CC model, such as frequent updates and access to any and all the Adobe products you require. However, the downside is the lock-in to a permanent regular payment (monthly, yearly, whatever). Small businesses often have fluctuating fortunes. What is affordable this month may not be affordable next month. The preceding comment about it being like dealing with the mob is pertinent: “It sure would be a shame if your tools were to stop working. Read more…

Learning to Typeset and Layout Books in the 1970s

My first direct exposure to the world of design and publishing was being handed the task of typesetting and laying out a 300-page book. I had no prior experience of typesetting and laying out a book. This was in the late 1970s. The small publishing house where I worked had a Compugraphic direct entry typesetting machine. “Direct entry” meant the machine had no permanent memory. It was rather like an electronic version of a hot metal Linotype machine. Read more…

Differences Between Picking Web Fonts and Picking Print Fonts

I recently had two occasions to select fonts, one for a website project and the other for a printed book design project. This experience highlighted the differences between the two mediums as they currently stand. For the book project, I was testing a series of fonts for the body text. In this case the requirement is good readability. The candidates were Adobe Garamond Pro and Adobe Arno Pro, two fonts which I already had in my collection. Read more…

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Last week’s Business Catalyst “Town Hall Meeting” from Adobe was encouraging. After a year of near silence since the Business Catalyst merger with Adobe we at last had a chance to see the faces and hear the voices of the team behind BC. Their explanations of why progress with BC has been so slow were credible and frankly, not surprising. This is the typical growth path of a new system. Read more…

Limitations of Templates and Content Holders

One of the puzzling things about Business Catalyst is why tried and tested software designs successfully used in open source content management systems (and hence readily available to mimic) have been completely ignored. This approach has led to a lot of pain for Business Catalyst developers. Take the example of templates. Anyone who has built other than trivial websites will know that templates often have common elements. There is an overall page design with specific customisations for different sections of a website. Read more…

Blog Templates Not Quite Right Yet

The recent addition of separate templates for blog posts in list and detail views is a small but useful improvement. At last we have a way to distinguish the context in which a blog post is being presented. Prior to this change, exactly the same overall page template, overall blog template and individual blog post template were applied in both the list and detail views. This meant it was impossible to customise the appearance of blog posts in either context. Read more…

So Many People, So Little Result?

Today’s announcement from Business Catalyst of SEO Friendly URLs for Products and Catalogs is a welcome step forward. What puzzles me though is why progress on the Business Catalyst platform is still so excruciatingly slow. We were told late last year, after the acquisition by Adobe, that the engineering team was to be expanded five-fold. Assuming there were at least three on the engineering staff prior to the Adobe deal, that means there would have to be at least fifteen now. Read more…

Hierarchical Attributes in Website Structure — Part 1

This is Part 1 of a proposal for adding hierarchical attributes to Business Catalyst website structures. The website structure is considered as a tree of nodes onto which attributes can be attached. Nodes inherit attributes from ancestor nodes. A pre-existing example of such a system (the Frontier Website Framework) and its benefits is presented. The Legacy of Frontier Long before Business Catalyst was even an embryo, more than ten years ago in fact, one of the first practical content management systems (CMS) was hatched from the fertile mind of Dave Winer, a software entrepreneur from California. Read more…

Using Textmate to Edit BC Pages and Templates

Using a code editor to edit the content of pages, templates and layouts is simpler and quicker than using the Business Catalyst web interface. To do this I’m using the Interarchy FTP client to view the website hierarchy. Recent additions to BC have provided access to templates and layouts as virtual folders in the site hierarchy. Previously these could be accessed only through the “Admin” menu and then clicking through a series of links. Read more…

Blogging in BC Needs an Overhaul

The Blog module in Business Catalyst, like most of the system, is adequate for basics. However it is nowhere near as flexible as dedicated blogging systems like WordPress and the like. In setting up my first blog with BC, the limitations are appearing pretty quickly. One example: The subtemplate used to display an individual blog post within a whole series of blog posts on the “front page” of the blog is exactly the same template used to display an individual blog post on a page by itself (i. Read more…

What Business Catalyst Needs from Adobe

I wonder how far Adobe looked into Business Catalyst before deciding to bring it into the Adobe stable of products a few months ago? Business Catalyst claims to be an “Online Business Building Tool” and, yes, it offers a wide variety of functions in a single online tool. But this very diversity is also its undoing. It is broad, but it is also shallow. And it is immature. The shallowness is revealed to the web developer as soon as they start to use the system in earnest. Read more…

About this Blog

After studying and graduating in Electrical Engineering from Monash University, I joined a small publishing organisation where my work with typesetting equipment kindled an enduring interest in graphic design. This has been my main area of work for over 30 years. For much of this period I have operated my own graphic design business. Fortunes have fluctuated but at its high point in the mid 1990s we had a staff of four people … and this was in a Queensland country town. Read more…