Every medium has it’s tools and every tool has it’s quirks. Like us though, it’s those quirks that either form strong attractions, mild apathy, or even sometimes loathing towards the… tool itself. Once you find the right tool however, things start to just “click”. It might not happen at first mind you. As sometimes there’s a slow burn to the attraction, revealing itself in small flickers rather than plumes in a flame.

But like most things, you’ll know it when you see it.

Throughout my time here at Automattic, I’ve had the freedom to choose the tools that work for me. Some of them have been short lived, albeit fun experiments; while others kind of snuck up on me. At first they were very hard to get used to, almost to the point of losing their place on the task bar, but over time I’ve grown to appreciate them and dare I say; even looked forward to their updates.

Some of the immediately appealing tools of late have been gems like Figma, Atom, and Graphiql; but by far the slowest burn award has to go to Adobe Illustrator. To date, no tool has been so hard to actually learn (not even sure I ever will) and at the same time, so instrumental to my day-to-day of late.

Part of this recent revelation however, can be directly attributed to one particular setting Edit > Preferences > User Interface > Canvas Color.

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Seems simple, but Canvas Color made this tool “click”.

But why?

Recently on team VIP, I’ve been doing a lot of marketing style work. This started with the brand refresh we talked about in June, which expanded quickly with the launch of a rebooted vip.wordpress.com, and has now even included an AdRoll campaign soon to launch. I’ve found this particular type of work to be very experimental in nature as everything is so subjective and as such I’ve been leaning illustrations to convey many concepts.

Illustration is a fascinating and fairly new medium to me, however. It’s so much less about following particular rules (other than doing your best to adhere to our style guide) and so much more about experimentation until you find something that “clicks”. It’s in that pursuit where this “Canvas Color” setting really came into the limelight.

When you switch that setting to “White”, all of sudden it feels safe to use all the space on your monitor. Sure the current favorite piece of work might still sit within the artboard bounds, but then again, there’s all this space available to play with.

Wondering what that might look like with a slightly different color palette? What if this was aligned over here? Or how about this angle? Oooh, how about that same thing, but flipped? Ah, this is close, but it needs something else.

For some odd reason, those questions don’t feel destructive or permanent anymore. I can question as many as I have space for (which is a ton) and even save concepts that I more than likely will return to based on some future experiment. It feels great.

Examples

I’ve been using this setting for a while now, but it all started while trying to get a feel for VIP’s new logo.

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So messy, such artboard.

That’s the file where this attraction began and it’s filled with some pretty not great stuff, but that’s the process: you have to try it. Because what if? To give some examples from this month however, we’ve been working on getting our first AdRoll project out the door and here’s some choice boards from the project.

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Palettes are hard.

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Learning to ad.

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We need how many sizes?

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Need a break. Oh right we’re low on swag.

Incoming

There’s always be time to iterate, but at some point things need to see the light of day. And while those things will never be perfect, we put them out there. We’ll learn from them, and in trying to make better things, find new tools and settings to stoke the flames.

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Incoming to sidebar near… well maybe not you, but some people.

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Landing page teaser.

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For the glampers out there.

Posted by Adam Becker

2 Comments

  1. I’m in love with ‘Freedom to Publish’ design

    1. I agree. Definitely going to need a few of those mugs Adam!

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