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Communication Design

A Year with the ADAA, Part 1: Judging the Adobe Design Achievement Awards

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 24, 2017

Over the past year, Guild member and designer Theresa Whitehill of Colored Horse Studio has had a unusual relationship with software giant Adobe: that of both judge and mentor in their 2016 student Adobe Design Achievement Awards. As judge, Whitehill had the opportunity to review work by design, illustration, and film production students from around the world, working last August in tandem with a team of peers.

Q: How did you decide to take on the judging gig?

I looked into the ADAA program, and was really flattered to be asked. The commitment didn’t seem to be too much— only one weekend. Also I’ve been immersed in Adobe products since Photoshop 2.5, but never had the opportunity to interact with the company on a personal level, so I was thrilled to do so and see Adobe campus.

But although the commitment is for one weekend at the Adobe campus, it’s a long schedule – 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a couple breaks, lunch, and dinner. It meant traveling for two hours from my rural studio and overnighting with family. So it wasn’t a light commitment; I had to really want to do it.

Q: What was it like arriving for the first day of judging?

I had to leave my studio in St. Helena at 4:30 a.m. to get to the Adobe campus on time, and was greeted with coffee and pastry in the kitchen. I was overawed to meet the other judges. These were people like art directors with major companies, video producers who worked with MTV in its inception, people who worked in conceptual development. But I realized coming from a book design and book arts background that I brought a unique perspective. Additionally everyone was really generous—that healthy ego you find with creative, talented people. 


Once the judging got started, it was like jumping off a ski jump. But there was so much great discussion during the judging process... Anytime you’re put into an environment with like minded people, you get to bond and know each other’s mind.


Q: Was there good communication between the judges while reviewing the student work?

When you combine the breadth of experience of all the judges, the judging becomes very comprehensive. Judging makes you articulate things you may not have realized you know. But at the same time, having other judges with different experience helped me check my reactions. For example, sometimes I’d be blown away by a student’s work, and another judge would point out that it’s actually quite derivative.

Q: What was the judging process like?

On the first day, the 14 judges were split into groups to judge in our own areas of expertise. In my group, we evaluated submissions in photography, illustration, and graphic design (fine art and commercial) I initially picked my top three candidates for each area, and later in the day, met with the other judges in my group. At that point, we started comparing each others’ choices, and selecting the group’s top three choices. 

On the second day, we continued evaluating the submissions to select the winners and honorable mentions. We also had discretion to address submissions which didn’t seem to fit a particular category, and could make recommendations to Adobe to add categories of work. The award process is very much a living being; as technology and schools develop and abandon disciplines, the categories of work can change. The result is the ico-D and Adobe are learning as much from the judges as the judges are about the work. (Note: ico-D, the International Council of Design, co-produces the ADAA with Adobe.)

By Sunday afternoon, we had made our final choices, and the groups met to review the winners of each category. That meant groups which were still questioning a choice could ask the entire body of judges to weigh in on the selection. Ico-D was great to work with; they were present to ensure that the judging adhered to standards for best practices, followed guidelines, and was fair.


I said to another judge that sometimes I felt professional jealousy because the presentation quality was so high.  I was also amazed at the extraordinary illustration talent—it felt like a privilege to view it.


Q: Were you impressed by the student work? What surprised you the most?

Overall the work was really impressive. Some projects were clearly underdeveloped but others were so professional. In fact, I said to another judge that sometimes I felt professional jealousy because the presentation quality was so high.  I was also amazed at the extraordinary illustration talent—it felt like a privilege to view it.

I was struck by how about 85% of the projects seemed to assume a limitless budget for printing, etc. I ended up gravitating to the projects that assumed that a client (fictional or otherwise) might also have a budget, so that the project was developed with limits in mind.

Q: What do you think was the best takeaway for the student winners?

The students who put together almost seamless projects may not have the ability to show their work to someone who can help them. This awards process can give recognition to students who may not have the time, opportunity, connections, or resources to promote themselves. On top of that, there are the tangible benefits, such as the trip to the AdobeMax conference, or the mentoring opportunities.

Q: And what did you get out of the process?

Once the judging got started, it was like jumping off a ski jump. But there was so much great discussion during the judging process. Even judges who didn't talk much would speak up and pull us back to the core mission. Anytime you’re put into an environment with like minded people, you get to bond and know each other’s mind. I also learned a lot about myself. It gave me the opportunity to step outside of my environment and look back at my career. And I’m so grateful I got the opportunity to contribute.

Below: Teresa Whitehill in her studio.

photo © Adrienne Simpson. Used with permission.

Teresa Whitehill in her studio

Creating Unity Through Color Editing

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 22, 2017

How often have you faced this challenge? You have a disparate selection of images—they may have very little in common in terms of subject matter, color palette, or composition—and it’s your task to create a cohesive and effective layout using all of the images. Proper color editing of webpage images is a step most web designers overlook. Yet ignoring this crucial step can result in a webpage which is unbalanced, misdirecting the viewer’s focus and resulting in an unpleasant (if not confusing) user experience.

In her blog post titled Color Editing for Web Page Design, Photoshop & Color Specialist Martha DiMeo walks through a case study of a website’s homepage to demonstrate how editing color can be the solution to create unity and visual flow. In a recent project, she needed to combine four disparate images on a webpage. The images had previously been color corrected to be used separately, in either print or email, but didn’t work cohesively when placed together.

DiMeo’s process to reconcile the images involved carefully evaluating the combined images, and adjusting each to create rhythm and harmony. The result is a harmonious image that allows the viewer to absorb the web page with ease. To read how DiMeo identified the problem areas and adjusted the color balance, read the full article.

Martha DiMeo color editing for webpages


This article originally appeared on CQ Blog, Martha DiMeo’s blog on her website ChromaQueen.com. 
© Martha DiMeo. Paintings © Meldy Phaneuf. Color correction images © Martha DiMeo. Used with permission.

NEA Granted a Reprieve; Arts Advocates Gear Up for the Longer Fight

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 12, 2017

NEA logoArts advocates were appalled when the budget proposed by the Trump transition team called for eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, along with steep cuts to other cultural and social programs. On April 30th, Congressional leaders came to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government through September. The House Appropriations Committee FY 2017 Omnibus Summary lists a full $150 million each to the NEA and to the National Endowment for the Humanities, an increase of $2 million. In an email to the Los Angeles Times, an NEA spokesperson wrote that the funding increase matched a request made by the agency in February 2016.

Americans for the ArtsWhile the news is a welcome reprieve, arts advocates are not breathing easy – the administration has proposed defunding the NEA entirely in 2018Americans for the Arts has orchestrated a comprehensive campaign: they've been conducting an online petition through their Action Center, their Arts Mobilization Center publishes updates on federal funding for the arts, and they’ve conducted a print ad campaign, “The Arts Put America to Work,” which highlights the 4.8 million Americans employed in the arts.

That last statistic that is supported by data. In April, the NEA released the results of a study conducted with the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The study showed that total arts and cultural industries in the United States employ 4,802,813 individuals at a compensation of $355 billion. Of that amount, core arts and cultural industries (“originators of ideas and content associated with the creation of arts and culture”) employ 950,997, at a compensation of $68 billion. The study results are posted online with an interactive map which permits viewers to see the economic contribution of the arts state-by-state.

Below: Clicking onto each state on the interactive map on the NASAA website pulls up data for that state.

NEA BEA map

Urban Outfitters Loses Appeal of Copyright Infringement Case, to the Tune of $530,000

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 07, 2017

Urban Outfitters lost its appeal of a district court jury decision that found the company guilty of willful infringement, and has been ordered to pay $530,000. A small Los Angeles fabric supplier to the apparel industry, Unicolors, successfully sued Urban Outfitters for copyright infringement in district court. Urban Outfitters appealed the decision, and on April 4, the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the district court’s ruling. The court ruled that Urban Outfitters had willfully infringed of one of Unicolors’ copyrighted fabric designs. The court published the ruling, a step the Kali Hays described in WWD as unusual and indicative of the court’s intention that lower courts look to the ruling for guidance in similar cases.

At issue is a palm frond design which was originally created by Milk Print, LLC. Unicolors bought the intellectual property rights to the pattern, which they then modified slightly for printing on bolts of cloth by changing the size and color palette. The final design was registered with the Copyright Office. (Unicolors is aggressive in protecting its copyrights, having registered thousands of patterns and designs.) In 2010, Urban Outfitters developed a dress which used a textile with a that textile design. Unicolors noticed, and sent the company a cease-and-desist letter, followed by the lawsuit.

During the original trial, Unicolors provided evidence showing that Urban Outfitters maintains a library of thousands of fabric swatches, collected from vintage goods and some purchased from design studios, including Milk Print. The samples are used by Urban’s designers for “inspiration” upon creating new fashions. Unicolors argued that Urban’s failure to check on the copyright status of the swatches used by its designers showed that the company acted with “with reckless disregard for the possibility that the fabric it sampled was protected by copyright, and such conduct is sufficient evidence of willful infringement…”.

For its part, Urban argued that they had no knowledge that they were infringing, and that it’s unreasonable to expect the company to “exhaustively investigate whether any particular fabric design is protected by a copyright registration.” The court dismissed this argument: “Regardless of how difficult it may be to determine whether particular designs have been registered with the Copyright Office, a party may act recklessly by refusing, as a matter of policy, to even investigate or attempt to determine whether particular designs are subject to copyright protections.”

Intellectual property law firm Knobbe Martens covered the case in an article on their legal blog. They caution companies using existing designs: “The best practice would be to use only those works where either the author is known and permission has been received or it is clear that the work is not protected by copyright.”

The court decision can be downloaded from the Fashion Law Institute website.

Photo: public domain.

Urban Outfitters

Fake Flash Player Targets Apple Users and WP Engine Clients

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 05, 2017

Fake Flash Player updates which mask malware have been around since MySpace was hot; Adobe was warning the public not to download the Flash Player from sources outside their download site back in 2008. But despite the publicity, the malware-installing fake downloads persist. Currently, a fake Flash Player scam is targeting visitors and users of the popular WordPress hosting platform WP Engine by taking advantage a common typo of the company URL.

If a webdesigner or WPEngine client accidentally inserts an hyphen (“wp-engine”) into the URL of their development site on WP Engine, they are immediately taken to a page with a pop-up screen warning them that their Flash Player is outdated. The screen apes legitimate warnings that appear when Flash Player truly is outdated. If the user clicks onto the update button, rather than being taken to the official Adobe Flash Player download page, they’ve initiated the installation of the malware onto their computers. To confuse users who suspect something is amiss, the installer also downloads a genuine version of the Flash installer. 

The irony is that WPEngine is rated one of the most secure web hosts for WordPress websites, and takes great pride in their robust security settings. (WP Engine customers needn't be concerned that the webhost has been compromised. The website is never accessed, since the malware redirects from the incorrect URL pulled up from the typo.)

The particular brand of malware installed is appropriately named scareware. The infected computer is overrun with pop-up ads warning of an infection and prompting the user to install malware masquerading as anti-virus software. Going into the Applications folder and deleting the fake Flash download appears to solve the problem. However, once the computer restarts, the pop-up screens appear again, and the fake Flash installer reappears in the downloads folder. Doing a reinstall of the browser prevents subsequent appearances of the pop-up windows, but the malware will reside in the system until an antivirus program such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is run.

The Intego Mac Security Blog ran a comprehensive article on fake Flash update scareware last year. According to Graham Cluley of Intego, the scareware manipulates the computer users fear of infected computers to trick them into downloading the fake Flash Player. Johannes Ullrich of SANS Institute reported that the scareware installer took advantage of a valid Apple developer certificate. That permitted the malware to bypass recent OS X defenses which permit only programs downloaded from the official App store or identified developers to be downloaded. (Ullrich pulled together an informative video which shows what happened when he downloaded the fake Flash player.)

Downloading the Flash Player from only the official Adobe website is common sense, and websites which ask users to legitimately update their version of Flash will direct users to this page. The fake Flash Player download continues to be used by scammers. This February, Intego reported that a fake Flash Player is being used to install a sloppy new malware, “MadDownloader.” MacDownloader attempts to steal the users keychain information – passwords, usernames, PINs, etc. – by tricking the user into believing adware software needs to be removed from their system. Although the malware was so poorly designed as to pose little risk, chances are the developers will release an updated version. If a user suspects their version of Flash may be updated, they should check the status via their Systems Preferences or, better yet, permit Adobe to automatically update the program.

As for WP Engine customers: just be sure to not include a hyphen in the domain when you're typing in the URL for your development platform. If you forget,and that persistent “Flash Player outdated" screen appears, simply quit out of your browser. If. you haven't downloaded anything, chances are you’re fine. (You can always run your anti-malware software just to be sure.)

If you accidentally type “wp-engine” into your address bar, you’re taken to a deceptively official-looking Flash update screen.. Note the URL is dllmacfiles, not the Adobe Flash download site. The intercept is quite aggressive; a persistent popover window prompts you to install the fake Adobe Flash Player. The fake download screen even includes reassuring verbiage telling you that dllmac is distributing an “install manager.”

fake flash screen

If you click “cancel,” a popover window asks you if you’re sure you want to leave the page. Clicking "Leave Page” averts any problems.

fake flash download are you sure screen

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