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Tools are awesome – if you read MakeUseOf, you probably agree. But the latest isn’t always the greatest – rather, the greatest is whatever helps you get the job done, saves time, and just plain works. One good way to find those excellent tools is to see what an actual person uses in their daily life to get stuff done.
Read on for a detailed review showing how Corel’s Creative Director gets work done.
Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Greg Wiens, and I am a designer and Creative Director for Corel Corporation in Ottawa, Canada (ed. note: We’ve previously interviewed Corel on digital art). It is my second go-around at Corel, and a lot has changed in technology since I originally started here in 1992. Working for a software company that develops software for designers, I not only have access to some of the most cutting-edge technology, but also to the engineers who are creating it. It’s kind of nice to know that I can just walk over to the development team down the hall if I want to discuss an idea for a design tool or workflow improvement. Primarily, my responsibilities include the design of the product packaging, online materials and campaign requirements needed to sell them. I am also responsible for the overall quality of customer-facing creative. As a traditional artist, I enjoy my days (and some nights) scribbling in my many, many notepads and bringing these ideas to life on a PC.
As you go through a typical day, what hardware do you use, and when?
Being a company that primarily lives in a Windows world, I am at home on my 3.20 GHz PC with 16 GB of RAM, running Windows 7 Enterprise, a Wacom tablet, and the can’t-live-without-workspace-expanding dual monitor setup. My primary monitor is a 24” Asus, with a 19” ViewSonic sidekick. This makes a world of difference with the type of layout work I do, using the main for creative, and the other for open content documents supplied by our talented copywriters.
Of course, my life wouldn’t be complete without my iPhone. Not only is it the first thing I check in the morning, browsing my work email, but I use it when my body is at rest and my brain is awake. It has taken the place of my notepad for those midnight brain dumps, especially since my wife didn’t like it when the lights would routinely come on at 3 am. I record voice memos and then email them to myself in the morning. When I first started doing this my wife thought I was talking in my sleep. When I play them back, sometimes it sounds like it, too. It’s comical to listen to them in the morning—mumblings of random thoughts that seemingly go in circles. The worst is when I’ve done this 4 or 5 times in a night and then try to connect the dots. Definitely makes for some entertainment back at work!
Recently, I purchased an iPad and have found that it has been an eye opener (literally) using it to display artwork in meetings. To be honest, as I have an iPhone, I thought having an iPad would be a bit redundant and silly—yet another gadget to add under my arm—as I go day-to-day, meeting to meeting. My old IBM T60 laptop was becoming a dinosaur and very difficult to use to pitch ideas with such a lack of display quality. The iPad’s retina display with 2048×1536 resolution really does make the imagery sharp and much more appealing. Also, I have heard a lot about Keynote and although I haven’t officially used it yet, I am excited to know I can bring presentations files of almost any format into it, and use my iPhone as a remote to move from slide to slide. This is something I am going to try this week!
What software tools couldn’t you live without?
As I mentioned I do work on a PC, for a software company that makes creative tools for designers. Being a designer for many years, and using many products from Illustrator to Microsoft Paint (ok, kidding), CorelDRAW has been my go-to product since version 3.0 (it’s now on version 16). The features and commands may sound different than Illustrator (I work on “pages” not “art boards”, I don’t “convert to outlines,” I “convert to curves”), but it is a life saver for creating the artwork and page layouts, allowing me to do many of the things that other products couldn’t do until recently. With artwork that is set up on die lines (specific trim specs) and involves embossing and foil in some cases, object layers and multiple pages are crucial to efficient execution and file preparation. And the publish- to-PDF options are unmatched.
Another tool that may sound a little trivial, but something I definitely use almost on an hourly basis is the Snipping Tool that’s part of Windows. Being a Creative Director, I review a lot of creative work and need to provide feedback quickly. Although marking up PDFs is great when you want to add a lot of notes or comments, the Snipping Tool allows me to respond in an instant. It’s basically a capture of anywhere on your screen that allows you to highlight, scribble or comment on it, then copy/paste it back into an email. You can save it as an image as well, but for simple tasks, this works for me.
For sharing information, I have starting using Google Docs. We have switched to Gmail for work, and being able to open a Google Doc, comment, add my own thoughts helps keep everyone up to date. As well, since I do deal with large files with people across the globe, I use Google Drive to transfer files. You get 5 GB of free space, and can give whoever I need to, access to my files at any time. It is, of course, similar to Dropbox, but I just like the fact, now that we’re on Gmail, that it’s all available from one source.
Are there any tools you have a love/hate relationship with? Why?
Actually, I love my Wacom tablet as I have the ability to use the mouse on it for most of my work, but the pen does come in handy for more intricate masking or detailed, illustrative work. Being left handed, I use the mouse with the button setup for a righty. My index finger goes across the mouse to the left button as the main button. Are there any other left-handers that do this? I realize I can set up the mouse for “normal, left-handed use”, but I tried this and didn’t like it. I have grown accustomed to using it in this crossed-over, angled-mouse kind of way and seem to be getting hand cramps on a regular basis now! Mind you, I guess I can’t blame the tablet or mouse—it could be my 45-year old hand telling me to switch to the “normal” way. Then again, being normal is not something I’ve ever been good at.
I do love the iPad and iPhone, however one of my pet peeves that most of us with an iDevice share is the lack of support for viewing Flash-enabled web creative. Apple just doesn’t allow it. I know they have their reasons (crashes, battery life, etc.) but the Windows tablets figured it out, didn’t they? Also, with iTunes, I love how they’ve updated the UI to give you better views like Library view or Expanded view, but I still have yet to understand the whole syncing process and what’s going on behind the scenes! It’s filling up in my computer with “stuff” (like registry entries, extra tools, etc.) and at the end of the process I’m always left wondering what just happened.
Anything else you’d like to add?
With so many choices out there, and the fact that software platforms seem to be less important as far as sharing content, I feel lucky to be in this day and age where we have these options, especially where my iPhone, iPad, PC and the cloud” can all work to my advantage. As I type this I see that a meeting request has popped up on my iPhone so I’m off. Time to get back to convincing clients that creative thinking is not an oxymoron.