Design courses for non-designers… and designers!

Hands-on design class

Hands-on projects help attendees to understand design concepts.

I recently created a one-day design fundamentals class at the request of one of our clients. It was based off a presentation that I gave at the Graphics of the Americas seminars in Florida, and in both cases it was both successful and fun. American Graphics Institute has added it to their regularly scheduled courses, so now you can take this as part of the graphic design courses offered at AGI. This class is for folks who are involved in any type of design role: marketing, UX design, print design, web design, and many other roles.

Even if you are an art school graduate, this design class offers a great refresher on history and how “modern” design of today is a product of over 100 years of influence from events and influential thinkers. It’s not all lecture – you’ll get practical tips on how design techniques and history can guide your work to help you create successful and appealing designs in your work.

In this class you’ll spend time building designs, not with software tools, but with your hands. You will have the opportunity to practice with space, proportions, typography, and color. The result is that you will discover how the organization of your layout affects information hierarchy.

Come join us for a fun and inspirational day of learning design!

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What is UX Design?

UX Design encompasses the design of all aspects of a service that impact a user of a product, system, or device. Within the realm of technology, such as apps, websites, and devices. In this context, UX Design involves all aspects of how an individual interacts with these services. The interface, graphics, design, physical interaction, and even the help system all are part of the user experience. Components of UX Design include:

Visual Design: This includes the overall aesthetics of a website, app, or device. The look and feel of the interface are often managed by a user interface designer, who has experience with graphic design or visual design. This incorporates elements such as typography, layout, and appearance.

Information Architecture: The structure and organization of information so that it supports the ability of the intended user to easily locate, find, and use the service, website, or app. The ability to easily locating and manage content is an important part of information architecture. Content strategy is an important part of information architecture as well. This incorporates organizing documents, images, and metadata.

Interaction Design: Determining what works best for the users and meets their expectations is the role of interaction design. Interaction designers are often responsible for the layout of an interface, using interaction patterns that are sensible and logical for the user, integrating user research into the design, and keeping the interface consistent.

Usability: Can the intended user achieve their intended results with the system. This is sometimes grouped into the category of functionality, asking whether a system, app, or website can perform its intended tasks. Accessibility is a key part of usability, and is defined by the ease of use and intuitive understanding of a website, app, or system. A system that doesn’t have a steep learning curve and can be used right away is considered accessible. Accessibility can also refer to the ability for users with impairments or disabilities to access a system.

If you’re interested in learning more about user experience design, the UX classes at American Graphics Institute provide an introduction to the fundamental principles of UX design.

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Rapid Prototyping for UX Design

Rapid prototyping is an important UX principle that I share in the UX courses I teach. It’s such an important topic, that I’m now teaching a dedicated rapid prototyping course. Too many people get far too invested in designing their final apps or websites before they have created a rough, sketched version of the user experience. When this happens, stakeholders tend to get committed to their ideas and designs before they have been tested.

Instead of investing time and resources in designs early in the UX process, rapid prototyping allows you to quickly and easily sketch your concepts and test scenarios. If things don’t work, you aren’t too invested and can easily start the process over, or adjust the portion of the UX that doesn’t work.

The Rapid Prototyping UX course is a one day course, and is being offered in Boston, Philadelphia, and online. It uses both analog and digital methods for creating prototypes, and is designed to help make your prototyping process faster and easier.

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UX Training Classes

I’ve just returned after teaching a UX training class for clients creating apps and websites. I’m balancing my time between teaching UX design and working as a UX designer on a number of modern, responsive websites.

While I enjoy the balance between delivering UX training and working as a UX designer, I get to see the benefit the UX training in every project on which I work. I use the UX design process that I teach in the classroom in almost every UX design project in which I’m involved. It helps bring clarity, focus, and an emphasis on the needs of the user to every aspect of the website or app that I’m helping to create.

If you’re in the area, we have upcoming UX training classes in Boston and also UX classes in NYC that have some open seats in them.

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Adobe Training Resources

Now that there are more than one million Adobe Creative Cloud users, I’ve assembled some Adobe training resources to help you get the most out of the Adobe CC apps and keep your career in the fast-lane with the skills you need:

Live Adobe Classes: You can enroll in any of these Adobe training classes with a live instructor in the classroom with you, or with a live instructor online from American Graphics Institute. These courses cover all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps, including Photoshop, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and also After Effects. Most classes are held monthly, and there are public open-enrollment classes for individuals and options for private training programs.

Adobe Training Books: The Digital Classroom book series includes a number of good options for self-paced Adobe training, including Photoshop Books, Dreamweaver books, and other Adobe CC books. Of course I recommend my Adobe Photoshop CC Book.

Recorded Online Adobe training videos: If you prefer to learn from video tutorials, you should try the Adobe training tutorials at They include Photoshop tutorials as well as Dreamweaver tutorials, and InDesign tutorials.

Free self-paced Adobe tutorials: American Graphics Institute also offers written self-paced Adobe tutorials covering most of the Adobe CC apps.

The training options available for you to learn to use the Adobe Creative Cloud apps have expanded greatly over the past few years. You’re now able to learn at home, in your office, or in a traditional classroom. If you haven’t ever taken a live online course and you aren’t near to a training center, you should consider this option. You’ll learn from a live expert instructor, at AGI this is often the author of one of the Digital Classroom books, in a small online group. You can see the instructor’s screen and ask questions, just like in a live class – the only difference is that you can save the trip to the classroom.

Investing in training is an important professional development effort, and you’ll not only find that you can work more efficiently, you’ll often find that you can get new work and qualify for more interesting and exciting projects with the skills that you’ll be learning in the classes you take.

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Upcoming UX Training Classes and Workshops

If you’re interested in user experience design for the Web or apps, I’m leading several UX courses over the coming weeks, including a class this coming Thursday and Friday in Philadelphia. You can find complete details and registration information here:

The workshops cover an overview of UX design, the workflow and planning processes which are critical to a successful UX, design principles, storyboarding, wireframing, validation, and much more.

These are fun and interactive classes, and help you think about the user experience in new ways, whether you are undertaking a website redesign, launching a new site, or creating a new app. My classes tend to be filled with a mix of designers, developers, business analysts, and product managers – and benefit anyone that’s involved in the design and development process.

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UX Design Class in NYC

I’m teaching a UX Design Class in NYC next week, June 17-18, at American Graphics Institute and there are a few open spot remaining. The course is titled Introduction to UX Design Principles and is perfect for designers, developers, business analysts, program managers, and anyone that needs to help better understand UX and communicate design requirements to a development team.

Our UX classes are held at American Graphics Institute in midtown, and easy to get to from Grand Central Station – hope you can join me for this fun, interactive, and rewarding class. Full details and a course outline are available at the link above.

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Photoshop Tutorial: Cropping an image using rule of thirds

There are many methods for cropping your image in Photoshop; in this Photoshop Tutorial we focus on the easiest method, but we crop with the use of a grid to help create a more dynamic image. If you want to follow along, find this image here.

  1. Select the Crop tool. When the Crop tool is selected, you see a selection indicator around the image and four corner markers. You can just click and drag on these corner markers to crop the image, but in this lesson, you will learn to create your own new custom cropped area.
  2. The purpose of cropping this image is to allow it to proportionally fit into a 4 × 6 area, and also to create a closer crop around the boys’ faces
  3. Note that when the Crop tool is selected, you have additional options available in the options bar across the top of the window. Click once on the Select an aspect ratio drop-down menu and select 2:3 (4:6). A crop area is created, but you will adjust it.
Select the ratio for 2:3 (4:6).

Select the ratio for 2:3 (4:6).

  1. Note that when you click and drag on the corner of the crop area, the aspect ratio of the crop remains intact. Also note that a default grid that represents the “rule of thirds” appears. You will use this grid to create a more dynamic crop.
  2. Switch the proportions of the crop area to be horizontal by clicking the Swap height and width button located in the Crop tool’s options bar.

    Swap the height and width of the crop.

    Swap the height and width of the crop.

About the rule of thirds grid

The rule of thirds is a guideline that photographers and designers use to create more dynamic layouts and imagery. According to the guideline, important elements of the photograph should be placed on or along the lines, or at the intersections of the lines.


Example of an image before and after the rule of thirds crop was applied.

  1. Click the upper-right corner marker of the active crop area and click and drag down closer to the taller boy’s face. Ignore the guidelines that appear for now.

    Click and drag to reposition the upper-left of the crop area.

    Click and drag to reposition the upper-left of the crop area.

  2. Now click and drag from the lower-right corner. This time, as you position, pay attention to the guidelines. Try to position the crop area so that the center of the taller boy’s face is directly in the middle of the intersection of the guideline in the upper-left area.

    Click and drag to reposition the lower-right corner of the crop area.

    Click and drag to reposition the lower-right corner of the crop area.

  3. Uncheck the Delete Cropped Pixels check box that is in the middle of the Crop tool options bar. By unchecking this box, you will not delete any image information, and will be able to reposition your crop at a later point.
  4. Once you have the crop area surrounding the two boys, with the intersection of the taller boy in the guideline, and the smaller boy’s face aligned with the third vertical gridline, click the Commit check box or press the Enter or Return key to commit the crop area.

    The finished crop area.

    The finished crop area.

  5. Keep in mind that even though using the rule of thirds is only a guideline, it can provide you with some direction when cropping your image. If you do not like seeing the gridlines, or would like to use another grid, you can turn it off, or choose another by selecting the Set the overlay options button in the Crop tool options.

    You can turn off the grid lines, or select another from the Crop tool options bar.

    You can turn off the grid lines, or select another from the Crop tool options bar.

  6.  To see how the existing pixels are still stored, switch to your Move tool. You will move your image area, and then immediately undo that move so as to not change your cropped image.
  7. Using the Move tool, click the image area and drag to reposition your image area. Notice that, since you unchecked Deleted Cropped Pixels, the pixels still exist. Use this feature when you are not sure if you will need to reposition an image inside of the cropped area.
  8. You can press Control+Z (Windows) or Command+Z (Mac OS) to undo your repositioning. If you made several moves, you can choose Windows > History, and go back several steps by clicking Crop in the History panel.

Go back in History to undo your moves.

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Create a perfect circular border using shapes in Illustrator

  1. image05If you are looking for a quick and easy way to build a custom border try this technique that uses any shape you want, along with the Rotate tool.
  2.  Take the shape that you want to use as a circular border, in the example The Symbols Library Menu was clicked, and the Nature symbol library was selected. The leaf was then dragged out of the Nature panel onto the artboard.

    You can use existing symbols for ready-to-use objects.

    You can use existing symbols for ready-to-use objects

  3.  Next, a circle is created that will determine the dimensions of the border.
  4. Using the Selection tool, select the shape (leaf in this example), and then Shift click to add the circle to the selection.
  5. Click on Horizontal Align Center to centered the shapes on top of each other.

    Select the circle and your shape and choose Horizontal Align Center

    Select the circle and your shape and choose Horizontal Align Center

  6. Deselect by clicking off the selected objects, and then select the circle; apply No fill, and No Stroke to the circle.

    Make sure that you cannot see the circle by choosing No fill for the stroke and fill.

    Make sure that you cannot see the circle by choosing No fill for the stroke and fill.

  7. Press Control +Y (Windows) or Command+ Y (Mac OS) to see your artwork in the outline view.
  8. Select the shape that you want to create the border from, not the circle.
  9. Select the Rotate tool, and then Option+Click on the center point of the circle. The Rotate dialog box appears.
  10. You now need to decide how many shapes you want to repeat around the circle. The value you pick should be able to be divided into 360 degrees. In other words, if you want to have twenty leaves, you would divide 360 by 20, which equals 18. By dividing your number of shapes into 360 degrees, you can be sure that your item is spaced evenly when you rotate it around the circle.
  11. In this example twenty leaves are used, so 18 is typed into the Angle text field.
    Alt/Option+click on the center point of the circle with the Rotate tool selected.
  12. Press Copy to see the first leaf appear. Now Press Control/Command + D to repeat that transform until the shapes come full circle back to the beginning.
  13. Press Control/Command Y to see your results.


    When completed, you have a perfectly spaced border.

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Resizing your selection (not your image) in Photoshop

I see users struggling to get just the right rectangular, or elliptical selection in Photoshop. Then painstakingly trying to add or delete the selection to get it just right. If this sounds familiar to you, try this great little feature. Choose Select > Transform Selection. Handles appear around your selection, you can then grab an handle (anchor point) to resize your selection, or hold down the Control (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) keys, and then click and drag an anchor point, to distort the selection.
Press the Confirm button in the Options bar when done.
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