February 28, 2019

How we fell out of love with Photoshop

Hey, who’s the new girl?

We’re doing graphic design with an accent on digital since 1999 and we’ve been working with Adobe Photoshop for the last 16 years. And we’re pretty good at it. We have a solid creative process that guarantees our clients are happy and proud of their new brand, website or campaign. But how happy is our design team with the tools they are using?

Let’s go back to December 2018. We were really committed to our relationship with Adobe. We knew all our Photoshop hacks, shortcuts and occasional meltdowns. InVision and UxPin were close friends of ours but we still felt that something was missing.

So we ended up thinking: “Is this all? Isn’t there anything beyond Photoshop? Wasn’t our design process too perfect for too long?”. So we decided to spice it up and have a better look at our design tools and see what we can improve or even replace.

When the art boards go over 9000

Fair warning: sometimes, getting used to a tool and letting yourself be completely comfortable with it leads to getting comfortable with its limitations as well. And as our projects became more and more complex, our favorite tools started to show their limitations.

So when did we actually start to see these problems? The first hints started when Artboards appeared as a CC upgrade. The upgrade gave us a better way to view a project fully, not just as separate .psd files. All good for now.

Things got more interesting when libraries appeared and made Photoshop more of a design tool. Just what every creative needs, right? But did all these upgrades make our life easier? What if there are other options out there?

Photoshop didn’t help much with the design — developer relationship either. Developers had to get the information they needed from the tool and most of them didn’t even have an interest in learning it. We can’t really blame them though, can we?

It’s not really a breakup if we still talk

Lately, the options for design software are numerous, so we had to reconsider our tools. Hey, Adobe, it was great while it lasted! We even did a pros and cons list, agreeing that Photoshop is too slow for our fast paced energy and needs and even too bloated with features we didn’t actually need. We didn’t want to change our software just for the sake of changing it. We wanted to update our design process. We didn’t want to follow any trends or short-term solutions and we definitely didn’t want to forget Adobe for good. We just decided to use it for its real purpose — illustration and photo manipulation.

So what options are out there?

Speed, Collaboration, Prototyping, Client design communication and Development hand off. These were the elements that we wanted and needed in a design tool. So we took the winter break to research available options and get away from all the relatives just to create an Excel list with all our options. Sorry, family, our design process is as important as that homemade pie.

Here is our shortlist:

1. Adobe XD — of course, our first option was to stay with the same family we knew. However, Adobe XD still has some performance issues and feels like a lesser upgrade than even Sketch. Again, don’t take it personal, Adobe.

2. Sketch — who doesn’t want to be friends with the cool kid in town? With a larger support of plugins and somewhat a better performance than Adobe XD, Sketch had a fairly big problem: it was compatible only with MacOS. That meant that we also needed the hardware in order to use this software. This didn’t seem like a big issue, if we didn’t feel that Sketch lacks a more modern approach to the design process itself.

3. Figma — with a really friendly free version, less plugins and offering everything we liked in Sketch, the tool proved to be easy to use, performant and with a huge added benefit on real-time collaboration.

And the winner is…

Let’s cut to the chase, we went all in for Figma. Why? Firstly, Figma is a browser based design tool which makes sharing files a breeze. Just send a link to a colleague, client or a friend while you keep working from any computer without having to download the design file and fonts on your device. One creative team happy, checked.

How about prototyping? We can now show the client a much more realistic view of the end result with a real-time and interactive prototype instead of a series of static .png files. One happy client, checked.

What was this all about?

What did Photoshop really lack? The collaboration feature and comment system on which Figma highly relies. After one week of testing Figma, our design team became more in tune than ever. And let’s not forget our development team. Unlike our previous Photoshop system, developers now have the ability to inspect, copy and export any design element straight to their own browser. No more time wasted on exporting elements from the static files or learning Photoshop. One tight creative — dev team, checked.

As expected, it wasn’t an instant love story with Figma neither. As weeks have gone by, we had some reality checks and saw some areas of improvement that we are sure Figma will develop over time. While there is support from the likes of Zeplin, Figma is still very much behind the huge plugin library available for Sketch or even Photoshop. Honestly though, we rarely had a huge need for them so we are still convinced that what Figma lacks in this area it easily makes up in its pros.

The happy end

Let’s not forget an important thing: while having a new awesome toy to play with, what truly improved our design process is the way we do things in High Contrast. We usually pride ourselves as creative early adopters, but we are actually a rational bunch of early adopters: we like to test our options, fall in and out of love with them and make the right decision based on our shared values and styles. In this particular case, we ended up with a more productive design team and a stronger relationship between designers, developers and clients. We might even call it a happy end.

January 15, 2019

The kids are all right

Not another agency year in review

2018? It’s been emotional, chaotic, challenging, awesome

Let’s start with a confession: we didn’t write this to get likes and shares and comments. Not this time. We wrote it because we like throwbacks, because it feels nice to give some credits and because it gives us a boost to rock on in 2019. We wrote this one mostly for us but we’ll let you peek at our year in review. Here we go, some random facts and memories from our 2018.

Each year in December we take a two weeks holiday. Last year, just before leaving to shred the slopes and trek the mountains, we made this short compilation of our best 2018 projects, and it does feel good seeing a year of work in just a few seconds.

This is how one year of hard work and well-deserved fun looks like in 51 seconds.

More people, more concerts, more fun

Marius, Andrian and Simona joined us in 2018 and quickly passed the initiation process. Rock concerts + mountain hiking + office cooking. We’re good.

We traveled more, we attended more concerts and almost all the festivals around, we read more, we tried new sports, we held creative workshops, we got inspired. We ended 2018 in the best shape we’ve ever been.

We just love interns

Interns are fresh, curious, energetic, intrigued, confused. They challenge us, they annoy us, they motivate us. Best and worst employees ever. In 2018 we reached a new record: 21 interns. No other explanation required.

Even if you don’t call, let me just say “good job!” for the fun environment you’ve created at the workplace and for the marketing campaigns used to promote it. It really made you stand out as a company. (Candidate, with love)

Pro processing processes

2018 was the year of changing and improving processes, of trying new tools and finally understanding how to use the old ones, of learning how to work better with external teams.

Ahoi Frisbo!

Frisbo, one of our most important client and probably the coolest startup in Romania, got its second investment round and this accelerated its growth. Way to go Frisbo! #muchlove #startuplife

UX/UI for Frisbo, the efulfillment platform

Hey F64, what’s up?

We’re big photography fans, some of us with a serious pedigreethey are the biggest photography shop and community in Romania, we should work together, right?

Oh, but their site looks so old school. Let’s pitch some impressive stuff and they’ll just get crazy to work with us. Draft a new design. Send convincing email. Get a new client. Done. And so we launched the new F64 blog.

Design and development for F64 Blog

Innovators much?

Later on, in between cocktails and pool parties we just got into the RINF TECH challenge. How about completely changing their positioning from outsourcers to innovators, going through a long process of analysis, strategy, new visual identity, new website, new everything. It took a while, but look at them now!

RINF TECH’s new awesome logo
RINF TECH identity

We have a crush for startups

When Zitec told us they are about to launch a team management app and needs some help with the branding, we popped the champagne. Several months later, we proudly launched the Mirro brand — positioning, naming, visual identity — and had another party to celebrate it.

Mirro naming and logo

Hello God, it’s us, your favourite digital agency

One thing is for sure in this industry: you can hardly get bored. Last year we worked with the Conference of European Churches and set them up for the 2018 General Assembly held in Novi Sad. If that’s not cool and unexpected, then we don’t know what cool and unexpected is.

Take that 1951 brand and make it scream “2020”

Here’s a hobby we practice from time to time. Work related, of course. We take national, famous brands that have local roots, we break everything into pieces and then we put them back together with a new positioning and look. We did this for Farmacom (active in the industry since 1951!) and we are ready to take over their online presence this year.

We love nature and nature loves us

Living in Brasov, we know we’re privileged, we can be up in the mountains in less than an hour and we want to enjoy this for at least the next 4537 years. So one of our proudest moments was launching actionez.ro — a platform where you can report issues that threaten the environment — a WWF project.

Actionez.ro web design and development

The kids are all right

Outside the projects boards. Outside the clients ideas.

There’s a thing about internal projects: there are no limits. Just go wild with that design, f*ck the grid. Wanna write the copy in Spanish? Ok, do it. Wanna glitch the website to hurt users’ eyes? Do it.

Pack your things

Move to Brasov was a breath of fresh air. Literally. We had breakfast on Tampa mountain to make sure we got the perfect photo for the project. It was a recruiting campaign (was it, really?) and we got looots of CVs and good vibes.

April Fools?

If it’s not daring, it’s lame. So we made it daring. We made fun of us on our 404 page and let everyone else do it. It’s easy: just mix some agencies’ cliches with random words and you’ll see our point.

Demisol love

We finally managed to launch a website for Demisol, our own coworking space. To make it even more challenging, we went through a full rebranding process and made a new logo, spread posters downtown and got some awards for it.

Demisol — the free coworking space in Brasov, Romania.

The best garden party this city ever had. Period.

And we organised it. And it was free and open and fun and… Just check this out.

High Contrast Garden Party

What’s next

2019? It’s going to be tough, overwhelming, ambitious, bold. We are in the best shape we’ve been so far. Let’s do this.

We would love to keep you posted with job openings, party announcements or industry insights once in a while.

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Copyright © 2002 - 2021 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 - 2021 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 - 2021 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 - 2020 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 - 2020 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

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