Entries in Category Design

Illustrator Template for Avery 5195 Labels

I needed labels for a small prototype run of a new product recently; lacking time to have these professionally made I bought some Avery-brand mailing labels and printed them myself on our color laser printer, finding that with careful design and a decent printer this type of label can produce surprisingly good results.

These 5195-type labels are 0.66 by 1.75 inch; 60 pieces come on an American letter-size sheet of backing paper. Avery provides templates for their label products in Microsoft Word format, which of course isn't good enough. I built a template in Adobe Illustrator instead and laid my design out on that grid. Because there's a small chance someone else in the world will find this useful, I'm writing this blog post and providing the AI template for download here.

My New Résumé, and How to Build It in LaTeX with SCons

I recently rewrote my professional résumé. In accordance with received wisdom I was always careful to limit the story of my working life to a single page, but I've heard too much lately about how this restriction is out-of-date and likely to shortchange an applicant; in my case I had to describe the positions I've held very thinly and leave out some of my minor honors altogether. Some of the layout compromises I was forced to make never sat quite well with me either.

Since I was going to radically change it anyway, I took the opportunity to implement my new two-page résumé in LaTeX instead of InDesign, partially for geek-cred but also to make it more maintainable: for instance, the plain-text source file works well with revision control tools and now resides in a git respository.

Building my résumé from source also solves an irritating little problem I had with my InDesign workflow: the need to maintain two otherwise-identical *.indd files, one with my personal phone number and email address for sending to recruiters, and one without them for publishing on the Internet. If I changed anything in one, I had to make the same changes in the other, and then make sure to export both to PDF. With LaTeX I can pass command-line arguments to conditional statements to make this easy. For even more geek-cred, I can automate all this using SCons and provide myself with “public” and “private” build targets for the two versions of the document.

A New Design

I've redesigned my personal site and blog, and would appreciate criticisms or comments. The layout adapts to a wide variety of screen widths using CSS media queries; try scaling your browser window or looking at the site on your mobile phone to see what I mean.

Inkscape Criticism

First, let me preface this tale of User-Interface Woe with a disclaimer: I am far from an Adobe fanboy. I love open-source software. And of course, like everyone else, I really hate Adobe's prices. But I've learned to use Illustrator and Photoshop pretty well, so now, of course, switching to anything else causes work not-so-much to grind to a halt as to slam into a brick wall while I figure out all of the different metaphors, keyboard shortcuts, and little tricks I need to approach anything like my former productivity.

Trust me, I yearn to cast aside all Adobe products! Which brings me to Inkscape, the open-source vector illustration program. I really, really want to like it as a replacement for Adobe Illustrator. It's one of those open-source apps I install every couple of years to see if it's There Yet. And, yet again, I'm starting to think that it's not. Which brings me to the first problem I encountered on my most recent attempt at mastering Inkscape.

Always Bet on Black

Silver was the New Black, but black is the New Silver. It's true. The pendulum has swung back. Portents of it are everywhere in the consumer electronics industry.

Black lost out years ago because it looked plastic, despite the fact that plastic really looks best in black. So the mainstream started to emulate the high-end brushed aluminum thing, and it worked, for a while. Respectable mid-market home theater gear HAD to be silver. But turnabout was inevitable, really, once you could buy a shiny silver DVD player for $29.99 at Walmart. Then it was obvious that the sexy new silver was mostly the same plastic as ever, tarted up with what amounts to chrome—in some cases even actual chrome. And chrome is the sort of thing that seems like a good idea for about ten minutes. As soon as everybody and their third grade teacher owned a cell phone that looked like it fell out of the Tin Man's ass, we were bound to be back in black again.