Archive for October, 2014

Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: November 2014

October 31st, 2014 No comments
On The Edge of Forever

We always try our best to challenge your artistic abilities and produce some interesting, beautiful and creative artwork. And as designers we usually turn to different sources of inspiration. As a matter of fact, we’ve discovered the best one—desktop wallpapers that are a little more distinctive than the usual crowd. This creativity mission has been going on for almost seven years now1, and we are very thankful to all designers who have contributed and are still diligently contributing each month.

This post features free desktop wallpapers created by artists across the globe for November 2014. Both versions with a calendar and without a calendar can be downloaded for free. It’s time to freshen up your wallpaper!

Please note that:

  • All images can be clicked on and lead to the preview of the wallpaper,
  • You can feature your work in our magazine2 by taking part in our Desktop Wallpaper Calendars series. We are regularly looking for creative designers and artists to be featured on Smashing Magazine. Are you one of them?

On The Edge Of Forever

“November has always reminded me of famous Guns N’ Roses song, so I’ve decided to look at it’s meaning from a different perspective. The story in my picture takes place somewhere in space, where a young guy beholds a majestic meteor shower and wonders about mysteries of the Universe.” — Designed by Aliona Voitenko3 from Ukraine.


Hello World, Happy November!

“I often read messages at Smashingmagazine from the people in the southern hemisphere ‘it’s spring, no autumn!’ so I ‘d liked to design a wallpaper for the northern and southern hemisphere. Here it is, northerners and southerns, hope you like it!” — Designed by Agnes Swart46 from the Netherlands.


My First Fall

Designed by Think Tifferent87 from Seattle, WA.

My First Fall88

Rainy Days

Designed by Alexandra Santos120 from Portugal.

Rainy Days121

A Gentleman’s November

Designed by Cedric Bloem163 from Belgium.

A Gentleman's November164

Movember 2k14

“My support for the movember charity event!” — Designed by Niels Meulders206 from Belgium.

Movember 2k14207


“Why say no when you can say yes? This month has a lot of cool days to celebrate and set the mood for an awesome end of the year! Enjoy!” — Designed by Printsome249 from United Kingdom.


Collect Good People

“The most important thing to enjoy your life is to be surrounded by good people. So, do it!” — Designed by Monk Software294 from Italy.

Collect Good People295

November Ingredients

“Whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving, there’s certain things that always make the harvest season special. As a Floridian, I’m a big fan of any signs that the weather might be cooling down soon, too!” — Designed by Dorothy Timmer307 from Central Florida, USA.

November Ingredients308


“The design of trees has always fascinated me. Each one has it’s own unique entanglement of branches. With or without leaves they are always intriguing. Take some time to enjoy the trees around you – and the one on this wallpaper if you’d like!” — Designed by Rachel Litzinger350 from Chiang Rai, Thailand.


Simple Leaves

Designed by Nicky Somers371 from Belgium.

Simple leaves372

All Lines Point To November

“November often means rain and cold temps, but there’s beauty to be found in that as I found in this moment – the wet lines lead the way.” — Designed by Aisha Souto-Maior386 from Paris based, NY bred.

All lines point to November387

The Rain Through My Window

“I love watching the rain through the window when I stay at home. I like November, cold, rain, walnuts and chestnuts. I think that the Autumn is wonderful!” — Designed by Veronica Valenzuela417 from Spain.

I love the rain through my window!418

November Bird

Designed by Arnold Skawinski438 from Poland.

November bird439

The Family Owl

Designed by Brent Schuddinck477 from Belgium.

The family Owl478


“It’s cold in november, so you have to stay closer. Also: Inktober and American Horror Story” — Designed by Anja Sturm520 from Germany.

November 521

Smells Like Winter

“The last month of autumn, but the beginning of a new adventure” — Designed by Design19565 from Romania.

Smells like winter 566

Join In Next Month!

Please note that we respect and carefully consider the ideas and motivation behind each and every artist’s work. This is why we give all artists the full freedom to explore their creativity and express emotions and experience throughout their works. This is also why the themes of the wallpapers weren’t anyhow influenced by us, but rather designed from scratch by the artists themselves.

A big thank you to all designers for their participation. Join in next month620!

What’s Your Favorite?

What’s your favorite theme or wallpaper for this month? Please let us know in the comment section below.



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The post Desktop Wallpaper Calendars: November 2014 appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

Categories: Others Tags:

Brain Damage: Why Art Directors Hate Freelancers

October 31st, 2014 No comments

Believe it or not, there are some freelancers who are morons, and I don’t mean that in the good way. In the ranks of creative children who see other possibilities, color outside the lines, make their own lines and blended two or three crayons to create new colors to captivate the senses, there were some who experienced something that set them apart from other creative children. While the schoolyard beatings of we “different” children made most evolve inner strengths that made them incredibly sensitive, and insightful adults, I suspect some suffered brain damage.

Categories: Others Tags:

Deal of the Week: 100+ Essential 3D Mockups and Effects to Make Your Product Shine

October 30th, 2014 No comments

Today’s Deal of the Week brings you a whole load of Photoshop templates and effects to professionally show off your designs and other products. More than 100 individual elements are part of the package. Among these, you’ll find 67 professional 3D mockups that allow you to project your designs onto a variety of surfaces. Do you want to present the design of your customer’s new website complete with the device it is displayed upon? The bundle has you covered. Have you just created a new line of shirt designs and needed it presented realistically? The bundle has you covered. Are you creating a collection of promotional gifts with your client’s design on it? The bundle has this, and a whole lot more use cases covered…

Categories: Others Tags:

Maximize Your Creative Energy

October 30th, 2014 No comments
Our brains need time to calm down, so try to stop working several hours before going to bed.

We’ve heard many personal stories this week of how people in our industry have experienced hard times and how they managed to get out of them. We end this week with an article by Ann Holm, a personal development coach and expert in psychology and brain science. Read on to learn how to reduce stress in your everyday life and prevent burnout and other breakdowns in order to stay healthy and unlock your potential. — Ed.

What does knowledge of the brain and personality have to do with creative work? As a lifelong brain geek, I have taken on the mission to help others tap the secrets of the brain to uncover personal potential. Not surprisingly, everyone can benefit from at least some knowledge in this area.

In fact, I’ve found that people who work in the creative industry in particular seem to be interested in this topic because many of them work alone and have to manage their energy, distractions and time to complete a project, while staying flexible and in the moment to capture the unforeseen creative gems that emerge seemingly out of nowhere.

“Everyone who’s taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”

– Nolan Bushnell, video-game visionary and Atari founder

Oftentimes we have habits that seem to work, so we are unaware that there might be better, more brain-efficient ways to do things. Other times, we feel exhausted and stretched, so our creativity suffers. In this article, I’ll share some facts and insight on brain functionality, as well as tips on how to get the most out of your creative energy. Some of these suggestions might be very different from what you are doing right now.

Multitasking: A Rapid Way To Deplete Brain Energy

Like many web designers and developers, you might work in a small business or even as a single entity. This means you need to master and implement several skills:

  • your creative work,
  • your networking tasks,
  • your administrative tasks.

While this makes you versatile, it can also lead to multitasking or plate-spinning. What is the most effective way to perform all of your roles, while still maximizing creativity?

In the old days, before computers, smartphones, social media and the like, interrupting someone’s train of thought was verboten — and for good reason. The brain is not meant to multitask. In fact, multitasking is a myth. Multitasking is actually task-switching, and it is among the most rapid ways to deplete brain energy. Every time you perform a task, the most energy-hungry area of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, has to recruit a different collection of brain cells to carry out the task you are trying to accomplish. You use different brain networks to work on projects, to respond to a phone call, and to check email and social media.

John Medina, author of Brain Rules1, tells the story of his son trying to write a paper for school with 11 other applications running, including two instant-messaging screens! Every time he switches his attention, his brain has to engage, disengage and reengage somewhere else. Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50% longer to complete a task and makes 50% more errors in the process.

Here are a few tips to avoid the pitfalls of task-switching:

  • Work uninterrupted for a designated period of time.
    Brain research shows that 25 minutes is approximately the amount of time it takes to “get on a roll.” Set a timer if necessary. Do only that one important task during that time.
  • Check email and social media at designated times.
    Email and social media notifications not only create those task-switching scenarios, but can result in a protracted diversion from your intended work.
  • Minimize distraction with internal and external management.

Manage Distractions With Internal And External Management

Distractions can be managed either internally or externally. Internal management requires additional brain energy, sometimes a considerable amount of it. It’s a form of willpower. A classic example is the individual who is trying to lose weight but keeps all kinds of tempting food in the house. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is instructive here.

I am a business owner myself. I coach, blog, maintain a website and develop curricula for leadership-development workshops. I use social media, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. By far, my biggest distraction was Facebook on my iPhone. I have a personal page in addition to my business page, and I found it way too easy to check my latest push notifications. So, I deleted the app from my phone. Now I wasn’t one click away from another diversion.

There are many ways to manage distractions externally so that the brain doesn’t get exhausted in the process. In my college days, I taped myself to a chair to finish term papers, thus eliminating the possibility of wandering off to chat with a friend. Nowadays, I ask myself, how can I make a distraction so difficult to execute that I don’t even consider doing it?

A young client used the following strategy to externally manage his biggest distraction:

“The biggest distraction of my life is my phone. I had a large project due, so I decided to try your suggestion. I took the phone out of my pocket, shut it off, put the cover on backward, and placed it on a high shelf. Amazingly, I got everything done, and I got it done fast.”

Distractions are best managed by eliminating them from your immediate environment — or by making them so difficult to execute that you don’t even consider them.

Here are a few tips on externally managing distractions:

  • Turn off your phone or place it in another room.
  • If you have to take calls, disable Internet access on your phone.
    Some phones have a “do not disturb” function that only allows calls from a list of defined numbers (such as emergency numbers) to minimize disruption to your workflow.

Sleep Well To Uncover Your Potential

“Sleep while you’re dead“ was my philosophy for years. I was a dedicated night owl, often denying that I needed much sleep at all. In truth, only 10% of the population do their best work at night, and few people can get by on less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, night after night.

It is possible that the creative industry has a slightly higher percentage of night owls or those who can get by on very little sleep. However, the chances are high that most people need the same amount of sleep in order to function optimally. Many of us keep going at night because we are too tired to put ourselves to bed.

Our brains need time to calm down, so try to stop working several hours before going to bed. (Image credit: kroszk@2)

Recently, I attended a seminar titled “The Ever-Changing Brain.” I was struck by the impact of sleep deprivation on every aspect of our lives. John Preston, Psy.D, wasn’t talking about simply doing time in bed. He was talking about the deeply restorative sleep that affects our ability to regulate our emotions, solve problems and think creatively. Sleep researchers say that, in the absence of slow-wave sleep, our pain threshold decreases and our cognition and focus are reduced. Depression is a long-term consequence of poor sleep quality.

Sleep behavior is largely a result of sleeping habits. Even a few small adjustments can have a profound affect on sleep quality:

  • Exercise regularly throughout the day.
    However, avoid exercising close to bedtime or it will have the opposite effect.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sleeping pills.
    These substances interfere with restorative sleep, especially when you consume them close to bedtime. Sleeping pills can affect your sleep patterns long term.
  • Trend towards calmer evenings.
    Your brain needs time to calm down. Stop working several hours before going to bed, and fill those hours with calm and relaxing activities.
  • Avoid blue light at least an hour before bed.
    The blue light of computer screens and bright sources of light affect our sleep. Avoid them at least an hour before bed. Additionally, you can manage the light of your computer screen with the f.lux3 app.
  • Sleep in a cool room and ventilate before going to bed.
    Sufficient oxygen supply is important for your brain to recover from a hard day of work.

Eat Well And Exercise To Maximize Your Potential

My great Aunt Marian grew up on a diet of fatty meat, dumplings and potatoes. Vegetables were usually cucumbers doused in bacon grease. She smoked for 80 years and loved her scotch. She broke every health rule and yet lived with a clear mind until she died in her mid-90s.

Aunt Marian was lucky and probably genetically exceptional. Current brain research suggests that most of us probably couldn’t pull this off. Although we’re more aware of the benefits of eating healthy and exercising than we have been in the past, the stresses of the modern world and the increasing pace and pressure of our lives affect us more than we might think. Traveling to conferences and clients adds another layer of stress to our lives. We know now that small yet measurable brain declines already happen in a person’s late-20s.

Don't underestimate healthy nutrition. Your brain will thank you.
Don’t underestimate healthy nutrition. Your brain will thank you. (Image credit: Ted Eytan4)

Anxiety is common in developed countries, and the lifetime risk for severe depression is 20%. A hundred years ago, the risk was 1%. Because many creatives work on projects that they’re passionate about, they often don’t realize how much stress they’re putting themselves through and the negative effects this can have on their bodies. Burn-out often occurs after a phase of idealistic passion for something.

Stress is caused not only by the number of tasks we have to complete, but also by emotional events in our lives. This could be the death of a beloved one, a divorce or break-up, or tensions in our family or social circle. We have to acknowledge that our brain needs additional capacity for us to emotionally deal with these problems.

In short, we have to take care of our brains in order to get many years of creative output:

  • Keep weight within the normal range.
    Excess weight, a poor lifestyle and a lack of sleep set off the inflammatory process.
  • Reduce or eliminate sugar.
    Evidence is emerging that sugar is a significant cause of inflammation. Inflammation is system-wide. Therefore, if you feel unwell after eating something, then your whole body, including your brain, could be affected. Keep this in mind when attending conferences and meetings, where unhealthy food is often easily obtainable. Investing some time and money in eating healthy could result in a better creative output later on.
  • Supply your body with omega-3 fatty acids.
    Many supplements don’t work. However, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been proven to benefit the brain.
  • Exercise regularly.
    Exercise improves blood flow to the brain. Exercise not only will bring about creativity in the moment, but will benefit the brain in the long run.
  • Build and maintain relationships and interests outside of work.
    This is important to avoiding depression and burn-out.
  • Don’t underestimate the effects of emotional events.
    If an emotional event happens in your life, take some extra time out so that you’re brain is able to effectively deal with it. For example, go for a walk outside or a bike ride or meet up with people who can help you through this situation.

A Real-Life Example

Recently, a client confessed to me that she was staying up well past 1:00 and 2:00 am because she was a night owl. When I asked her what she was doing at that hour, she said she was “researching” various topics on the Internet. As we discussed this further, she conceded that she was really just surfing the web and couldn’t fall sleep any sooner. I explained that when we get very tired, we lose some of our willpower to move away from what we are doing and head off for a good night’s rest. She agreed to try an earlier bedtime and to turn off her computer screen at least 30 minutes before that. I further suggested she use the Sleep Cycle5 app to get solid data on her sleeping patterns. Ten days later, I received this email:

“I’ve been using the Sleep Cycle app most nights since we talked and I’m shocked. I knew that I often didn’t get as much sleep as I should, but I hadn’t realized just how bad it was. If the last week and a half is any indication — and I have no reason to think it’s an anomaly — I rarely get eight hours’ sleep on a weeknight. I hadn’t realized just how much time I’m wasting online before I go to sleep on a regular basis. This is a huge thing to work on. Thank you for this wake-up call.”

Several months later, she continues to report better sleep and better results in her work. It’s not that she doesn’t do any more night benders, but she is more aware of her need for sleep and how it affects her work.


No matter what a person’s career is, we are all first and foremost human, and we have evolved with a certain physiology that is not altogether compatible with modern life. Our ancestors walked up to 20 kilometers a day and focused on one thing at a time. We woke with the sun, slept when it was dark and ate the available natural food. Our lives today are vastly different from the conditions that mapped our ancestral brains, and yet modern living has not significantly changed our basic neural framework.

The main take-away is to be open-minded about how you might be compromising your own success and productivity by relying on habits that run counter to how we are wired to live and thrive. Experiment with some of the principles described in this article and see whether a few small changes make a big difference in your overall productivity.

These are only a few suggestions to help maximize your potential. Feel free to share your own tips and strategies below in the comments sections.

Other Resources

(al, ml, il)


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Colorful Autumn: 20+ Free HTML/CSS, PSD and GUI Templates (October 2014 Edition)

October 29th, 2014 No comments

Two months and it’s Christmas. Leaves are falling; the world dresses up in colorful clothing. This is the right time to let your website or whatever project you are currently creating follow. Just like last month and a whole bunch of months before we collected the best free HTML/CSS, PSD and GUI templates from around the web with a release date from October. So this is the freshest material you can get. My personal favorite is the Material Bootstrap 3 theme as it brings together one of the most versatile frameworks with Google’s latest design guidelines known as Material. The future is now…

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Let’s Talk About It

October 29th, 2014 No comments
Anxiety: one of the most prevalent mental health problems in the industry.

Many of us struggle silently with mental health problems and many more are affected by them, either directly or indirectly. It’s {Geek} Mental Help Week1 and we would like to help raise awareness with a couple of articles exploring these issues. – Ed.

Talking about mental health can be awkward and embarrassing, but it really shouldn’t be. Mental health is just an illness, like any other. When we talk about mental health, we do so in hushed terms. We whisper, “Don’t mention it, he or she isn’t ‘all there.’”

I believe this approach — sweeping the problem under the carpet, hiding it from view, or stating, “Let’s not talk about it” — is a problem. Mental health is an issue. It affects our industry, in particular and confronting it head on is important. We need to talk about mental health more openly, and I’m happy to be one of a growing number of people in our industry who are helping to bring this subject out into the open, where it should be.

Mental health is an issue, it shouldn’t be a stigma. If more of us address it, openly, we’ll be able to address some of the problems we face collectively. Our industry is, in many ways, unique in its approach. We share what we learn, pooling our knowledge for the betterment of all. We can apply this approach to greater issues, like health, particularly mental health, and in so doing win the battle of the mind.

A Broken Elbow

Four years ago I broke my elbow. I left my house, on the west coast of Ireland, intending to take a short cycle ride and, barely a few minutes from my front door, managed to throw myself over the handlebars, bounce down a steep hill and break my elbow into what felt like a million pieces.

It was a stupid mistake. I wasn’t wearing a helmet — note to self, that’s never a good idea — and when my body, frail as it was, impacted upon the tarmac and gravel, it suffered immense trauma. Covered in cuts and bruises and bleeding profusely, I tried to pick myself up off the ground, only to discover that my left elbow was, I’m sad to say, almost beyond repair.

Fortunately, my wife, Cara (who — it has to be said — has supported me for an inordinate length of time), happened to be following behind me moments later in a car. She pulled in, gathered me up and took me to the hospital. I’m not a hospital person (I have a real phobia of hospitals), so this wasn’t the greatest day of my life, but I was soon taken care of and dispatched to Belfast, where I was admitted to yet another hospital for an operation to fix my broken elbow.

Unfortunately, all of this coincided with my end-of-year student assessments. I work as a senior lecturer at the Belfast School of Art, and my students, after many years of hard work, were just about to graduate. It was a difficult time, but, thanks to the generous support of my colleagues, I was able to assess my students from the relative comfort of a hospital bed, all thanks to technology. (iPhones are just the ticket when you’re assessing students from afar.)

I returned to work a fortnight later, my arm nestled in a sling. I wore that sling like a badge of pride.

A Broken Mind

Barely two years later, I would find myself in a hospital again. This time, I awoke in a hospital bed feeling exhausted, disorientated and ashamed. The day before, I had tried to kill myself. I didn’t wear that like a badge of pride. Indeed, outwardly, you wouldn’t have seen any evidence that I had even been in hospital at all.

I suffer from depression.

I find myself all too often overwhelmed by life, questioning the point of it all. I wonder, “Is there an easier way out of this?” The answer, for me at that time, was simple: It’s time to exit.

At that time, with my elbow on the mend, my mind was in a terrible place. I couldn’t see the point of anything; I could only see a way out. Try as I might to rationally address my worries, my mind was cast adrift, and my thoughts were illogical. I had had enough. The rational — or, rather, irrational — solution was to end it all.

I am married and I have two wonderful children. I love my wife, Cara, and my children, Ross and Caitlín, dearly. They mean the world to me. When I look back on that time, I am ashamed of myself. I was ready to leave; I had had enough.

These words are the hardest I’ve written. They are almost impossible to write and to share. How can you state that you were ready to abandon your family? That’s the worst thing anyone could put down on a page.

Anxiety: one of the most prevalent mental health problems in the industry. (Image credit: Amen Clinics3)

When I feel great, I feel great. The world is my oyster, and the world is filled with opportunity. I am filled with hope, and I see the boundless possibilities that life offers. When the fog hits me, however, I cannot think rationally. The world is a black place, somewhere I wish to leave. Rationally, of course, I understand the devastation my choice will incur, but my mind is nowhere near working in what we might call a rational manner.

At that point, there is no badge of pride, only a badge of shame.

Managing A Mind

My last year has been one of change. I’ve regrouped and focused on trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve also resigned myself to the fact that I cannot be all things to all people. The edges of my day had blurred: 9:00 to 5:00 had become 8:00 to 6:00 and, not long after, 7:00 to 7:00 (and worse). This kind of ever-increasing workload, where the balance between work and life switches, is not uncommon.

I’m sure we’ve all spent evenings or even whole nights just “catching up.” At the risk of stating the obvious, this is extremely unhealthy. We need to wake up, look at ourselves and ask, “Is this what life is really all about?”

Over the last two years, I’ve read a great deal to try to understand how the mind works. That journey has been an interesting one, and I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve found books to be the most helpful. Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety4 is excellent, as is Viktor Frankl’s incredibly moving Man’s Search for Meaning5. Both are well worth owning.

If you can afford to buy just one book, however, get Steve Peters’ The Chimp Paradox6. Peters’ ideas on mind management are invaluable, and if he can help athletes win Olympic gold medals, then he can most certainly help you.

Books are great — as an educator, you’d expect me to say that — but we in this industry share something greater: a strong sense of community. Unlike in many other industries, we share our knowledge freely. Let’s share our knowledge about more than just design and code. Let’s share it about the issues we face in life.

You Are Not Alone

I’m not alone in writing about the issues I’ve faced. A growing number of others have, too, many of whom have been inspired to share their experience as a result of Geek Mental Help Week7. Geek Mental Help Week affords us all an opportunity to address these issues head on. We work in an industry that is relentless. Keeping up with change can be a challenge.

A year ago in my journal, fsck, I wrote8:

I believe, as an industry, we focus all too often on the headlong excitement of endlessly moving forward. That’s fine, but there’s a flip side. Relentless progress brings with it relentless pressure. It can be difficult to keep up, and the pressure to stay on top of everything can at times prove debilitating.

That remains the case.

Our industry is constantly evolving. It’s developing at an unprecedented rate, and it is intimidating at times. New technologies emerge yearly, monthly, weekly, even daily. Maintaining a knowledge base that is fit for purpose is incredibly time-consuming.

Keeping up is hard, and sometimes the stress of trying to stick with the pack (a pack that always seems to be pulling away from you) is frustrating. The older I get, the harder I find it to keep up with the pace of progress.

No one can do everything; we need to remind ourselves of that from time to time. AngularJS, Ember.js, Node.js; Bower, Grunt, Yeoman — I have no idea how any of these things work, and that’s fine. I have a skill set — I’m essentially a creative director and a mentor — and I’ve slowly come to the realization that my skill set is more than adequate.

I hope, as an industry, we can learn to let go a little. A wonderful world exists inside the machines we work with, but — equally — a wonderful world exists outside of those machines. Look up. Step away from the computer. Go for a walk in the park. That’s where you’ll witness what life is really all about.

We are all struggling. Even those who seem to effortlessly accumulate knowledge are struggling (though they might not admit it). Together, we can confront the challenges we face, as we do so many other challenges. Let’s not forget that.

(al, ml)


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When Flowers Start To Bloom, It’s A Sign That SmashingConf Oxford Is Coming Soon!

October 28th, 2014 No comments
Yes, we're coming back to the UK: SmashingConf Oxford 2015 will be as practical as usual, taking place in March 16–18th. Get your ticket!

Crafting a good front-end is no piece of cake. When tough budgets and ambitious goals interweave, you need just the right expertise to make just the right decisions. That’s why we create heavily practical Smashing Conferences, and the upcoming SmashingConf Oxford 201531 isn’t going to be an exception.

Yes, we’re coming back to the UK: SmashingConf Oxford 201531 will be as practical as usual, taking place in March 16–18th. Get your ticket.4

About The Conference

We don’t care about volatile trends, but we do care about things that work and don’t work in real projects, and why, and that’s exactly what the event will be focusing on. With practical talks, lots of networking, jam sessions, a personal, intimate atmosphere and spectacular surprises (lasers5, anyone?), this is a conference you probably won’t want to miss. A valuable, affordable community event for designers and developers who love their craft. Seriously.

No fluff, no basics, but real actionable insights that you can apply to your work right away. First speakers are already announced6, including Jake Archibald, Zoe M. Gillenwater, Tom Giannattasio, Natalie Yadrentseva, Richard Rutter, Paul Lewis and Peter Bilak. And we’ve got a few hands-on Front-End + RWD workshops7 as well, you know.

£289 / €349
Get your ticket.198350 tickets available, and they’re selling fast.

First Confirmed Speakers

We thoroughly curate every single talk and work alongside our speakers to make sure that each presentation fits nicely within the overall theme of the conference. For the Oxford conference, we’re very happy to welcome the first confirmed speakers:


  • Jake Archibald
    (Front-End, Google)
  • Zoe M. Gillenwater (+ workshop)
    (Front-end, Flexbox)
  • Tom Giannattasio
    (Front-End, Macaw)
  • Natalie Yadrentseva
    (UX, Data Visualization)
  • Seb Lee-Delisle (+ workshop)
    (Creative JavaScript)
  • Richard Rutter
    (Web typography, Fontdeck)
  • Meagan Fisher
    (Front-End, Visual Design)
  • Paul Lewis
    (Rendering Performance, Google)
  • Lorna Mitchell
    (PHP, Open Source Evangelist)
  • Peter Bilak
  • Rachel Simpson
    (UX, Google)
  • Yoav Weiss (+ workshop)
    (Responsive Images Group)
  • Polle de Maagt
    (Creative UX, KLM)
  • Christopher Murphy (+ workshop)
    (Designer, Educator)
  • Bruce Lawson
    (Opera, Standards)
  • Mystery Speaker
    (Someone you definitely know.)
  • …more speakers will be announced soon!

Seven Valuable, Hands-On Workshops

Conference talks are one thing, but a full-day hands-on workshop another. Why not add a practical workshop on top of your conference experience and come back to your office with a bag full of useful findings, learnings and perhaps even skills? Well, that’s what our workshops are all about! And we’ve got a few pretty, pretty good ones prepared for you:

Get your ticket.198Conf + Workshop ticket? You won’t be disappointed.

Fair Pricing: £289 / €349 For Two Full Days

We want to make sure that the conference is affordable for everyone, and this is reflected in the pricing for the event. The regular price is £289 (€349) for two full days (incl. UK VAT 20% and all booking fees), but if you are quick, you can snap one of the 50 early-bird tickets20.

Besides, if you get a workshop ticket, too21, you save £100 off the conference + workshop price. Student discounts (25% off) are available on request as well. Quite smashing, isn’t it? We thought so!

Location And Hotels

Of course we didn’t choose Oxford randomly. It’s perhaps the quintessential English city: a gorgeous maze of winding streets, ancient college buildings, eccentric traditions and some very fine hostelries. Every inch of the city centre is packed with history, and no route you choose will disappoint. Made famous by its world-class university, Oxford is just wonderful for exploration and inspiration. And open areas by the flowing Isis river, ponies grazing and some of the best sunsets out there are within walking distance. It’s very, very lovely in Oxford.

Come and learn amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford!24
Come and learn amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford! (Image credits25)
One of the historic workshop rooms in the City Hall of Oxford.26
One of the historic workshop rooms in the City Hall of Oxford. (Image credits27)
The view of the stage in the main hall.28
The view of the stage in the main hall. (Image credits29)
Yummy Smashing Cat cupcakes!30
Yummy Smashing Cat cupcakes! (Image credits31)

Just like last year, we’ll set up an open-stage session a day before the conference, so you can publicly speak about your own experiences and discuss what worked and hasn’t worked for you. We’ll also put a list of all attendees on the website, so you’ll know beforehand who is coming and perhaps even organize a trip to Oxford together.

Sponsors, Dear Sponsors

We pour our heart and soul into creating a friendly, memorable and inspiring community event for everybody involved. Our goal is a valuable community event with practical talks, neatly packed with lots of learning, sharing and networking opportunities.

We keep ticket prices affordable for everyone, and we’re happy to welcome sponsors to help us make the conference smashing in every possible way. If you’re interested in sponsoring the event, please drop us an email at cat@smashingconf.com32.


So here we go! More speakers will be announced soon, and since it’s a Smashing conference, you should expect a few surprises, but we’re not going to reveal them just yet. If you have any questions, send us an email at — we’d love to assist you in every possible way and would be humbled and happy to welcome you to Oxford in March!

Ah, and make sure to bring an umbrella with you, of course. But that goes without saying, doesn’t it? Cheers!


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Feeling Stuck? Design What You Don’t Know

October 28th, 2014 No comments
Being stuck means no movement, and no movement means that the creative waters of our minds grow stagnant.

Many of us struggle silently with mental health problems and many more are affected by them, either directly or indirectly. It’s {Geek} Mental Help Week1 and we would like to help raise awareness with a couple of articles exploring these issues. – Ed.

Where is it?! It has to be here somewhere. It use to be so easy. What happened? Somewhere, somewhere, somewhere. That idea is somewhere. It’s here, it has to be. This is where I’ve always found it. But there’s nothing. The only shapes I find here are well worn and boring, dints still obvious even with fresh paint. Oh so boring. So boring and so often used because they’re just “fine.” Too easily used. Too easily reached for and offered up as if they were new again.

Didn’t this used to be easy? Didn’t fresh ideas arrive without being asked for? Why did I have to wait until the last moment to even notice, wait until moments before these old dented ideas have to be presented?

Wasn’t this a passion? Wasn’t this a calling? Wasn’t this something I sprung from bed every morning to race to the studio to do?

Now it’s none of these things. Now it’s different. Now it’s quiet with muted color. Now it’s something I just do. No, it’s worse. Now it’s a job. It’s not my work, it’s my job.

It’s a job, and the ideas don’t arrive like they used to. I keep designing what I know. I’m stuck.

What Stuck Is Really Like For A Designer

Sound familiar?

We often think about being stuck as not having anywhere to move. But for a designer, this is what stuck really looks like. It’s emptiness followed by panic, days before a concept or first proof is due.

It’s reaching for old familiar ideas, ones used far too often simply because they’re reliable, even if they make for boring shapes. Whatever solutions might be offered up to the client’s problems are often interchangeable. Client names and logos could be swapped and the difference would be indistinguishable.

Without being creatively stretched, our skills take little time to silently atrophy. Before long, memories of excitement become all too distant. The misguided hope that the next project will be better starts to kick in, but the same situation is repeatedly found, so the same solutions are repeatedly used.

Being stuck means no movement, and no movement means that the creative waters of our minds grow stagnant. (Image credits2)

Luckily, this can be solved with the most boring and obvious of things.

What Causes A Designer To Feel Stuck?

The longer we work, the bigger our box of tricks gets. We start to learn what will work for a client almost every time, what most clients don’t like, what most clients are fine with.

When desperate, we rely on those tricks in place of exploration and research, just to get the work finished and out the door. But before long, we are relying on them too heavily, then perhaps completely, rendering our creative legs useless as we find height atop of our empty little tricks. Alternatively, such stagnation may settle over us because of arrogance. We might allow our ego to fill up the space in our brains left for new knowledge and consider ourselves full.

We might think that we’re done with our education because we’ve graduated, won an award, gained some recognition or simply found a job. We forget how our skills developed in the first place — within a storm of unknown outcomes and a thousand wrong solutions. We forget that we need to understand and challenge our limits, that learning means being willing to be wrong and to try again, over and over.

We stop learning; we get bored. We fall into a rut and get stuck. What we need in our work is a little novelty. No tricks, no work made up of shortcuts alone and no ego — no, none of these — we just need some curiosity.

Want To Get Moving? Design What You Don’t Know

Writers are often given the advice to “write what you know.” Weaker wordsmiths would consider this justification to simply write what’s in their head. Their ego will suggest that they already have within them what’s needed for the next great novel.

Smarter writers, the ones who take their craft seriously, understand that to write what they know means to know many things, and to know many things means to deliberately subject themselves to a barrage of experiences. It means visiting the country in which a short story is set to understand the culture found there, not just relying on weak memories or a few Google searches. It means calling the local pharmacy to ask a few questions about how certain drugs work in the body if it’s central to how a main character dies.

It’s to put yourself in unknown places and routines so that you can find new sources from which to draw inspiration. The advice should almost be “write what you don’t know.”

I’ve always been amazed by the similarities between writing and design. They’ve often felt like two sides of the same card to me, and the advice for one often translates well to the other. So, what of the advice to write what one knows? What good is this for the designer?

Design what you don’t know.

A blatant copy, but it makes our point well. Design what you don’t know. Find your limits, push them with education and experience, and perhaps avoid that burnout and stagnated-career feeling.

Seek Out Your Limits, Know Them, List Them

Do you know what your limits are? Do you know what you don’t know? Do you have them in front of you? It’s not enough to have a vague idea of what you’re not comfortable doing. You have to make a list, to plan your education and your efforts.

A list: That’s our not-so-obvious obvious solution.

Such a list can provide an enjoyable stability and direction. It’ll stop you from stumbling through ignorance, wildly throwing your arms out hoping to clutch some knowledge to keep from falling again.

Go wild. This is your fantasy list; this is all the things you ever wanted to learn about your profession. Leave nothing out, include big and small, and cover the whole gamut. Write fast and with passion.

Patterns will emerge, little groupings and relationships. You’ll see what little classes you can structure for yourself, and you will play both student and teacher. You’ll be lucky for it — being both will make you better at both. Add to it every time something comes up during a project that you avoid because it confuses you, anything that makes you genuinely nervous to think about. Be specific. “Make website responsive” isn’t specific, but “How do I target specific resolutions?” is.

The benefit of getting granular isn’t just that it helps you avoid easily stumbled-upon distraction, but that it gives you things to test and to develop a very short feedback loop around. It let’s you test-break-repeat. We have to seek out the difficult and uncomfortable if we wish to grow. This is what has to be on our list — not the things we know how to do well already; there’s little to learn in practicing such things repeatedly.

In practice, concepts are defined, given shape, can even be manipulated, all while being tested. Don’t fall too hard into the trap of reading without doing, of adding items to the list without ever crossing them off. Make sure as soon as you have even the roughest idea of how something might work that you start trying to make it do so.

You have to do things, even when you do them poorly — especially when you do them poorly. Like those well-considered writers who know their stories well because they’ve lived them, because they’ve focused on what they don’t know so that they could write about such things like it was old knowledge — like them, we need to focus on designing what we don’t know, what we don’t understand.

Push Your Limits To Never Feel Stuck Again

All it takes is one thing from our list to lift a project from dull to interesting. Just one tiny thing. The first project you do might only benefit from your learning one small thing, but the second will be improved by what you learned previously and the new task that you’ll tackle for it.

One new thing per project. Some might consider it selfish to use clients’ projects as a means to give yourself an education, but I think it’s a perfect testing ground. It will give your daylight hours more meaning, something to bounce out of bed for.

Personal projects are a great place to learn, too, but the energy available to us outside of our normal office hours is fleeting. If you’re to work on client work anyway, why not derive more benefit from it than just a bit of money?

Cross off the items on your list as often as you can, as quickly as you can, with as much fury and energy as you can muster. It might not feel like much, learning one small thing at a time, but it’ll add up quickly, and it’ll give you a fun little challenge to solve every day. It’s a wonderful thing to experience.

Joyous Ignorance And Worlds Of Possibility

When we’re learning something new, we feel as if a world of possibility has opened before us. We’re wonderfully ignorant of any boundaries. But as we learn more, we make that world smaller. No wonder we can sometimes feel uninspired and stuck.

We rely too easily on what we’ve learned that we don’t add to our mental “need to learn” list. But it’s in lists that we can escape that stuck feeling and once again expand the world of opportunities. Exploring othis list gives us new glasses through which to see the world before us, enabling us to open new doors and gain new experiences. Boredom has never been found when exploring exciting new worlds.

This is all a bit circular. It sounds as though I’m suggesting that shortcuts, which is really knowledge well known and experienced, aren’t to be trusted, and so what you should do is focus on what you don’t know until it’s… well, a shortcut.

The truth is that nothing is wrong with shortcuts. It shows experience and knowledge. The problem occurs when one relies on the same set of shortcuts, the same set of tricks, never adding to their set of skills. For whatever reason, once our skills reach the point at which they are no longer challenged by our clients’ requests, we tend to let them stay where they are.

Few clients are sophisticated enough to know how complex our work can be, so they ask for simple solutions. Our human-natured desire to find the easiest path gives our ego the excuse it needs to simply let these sleeping dogs lie. Why try harder? But before long, the ego that granted us the easy path starts to gripe when we walk down it too often. Somewhere in the pit of our souls, it begins to cry havoc that we aren’t being used for worthy problems.

Vibrant Waters Of The Creative Mind

The waters of the mind stagnate when no new currents of knowledge pass through them. The silt, which is movement made visible, falls to the bottom when undisturbed. The waters sit still and before long are rendered lifeless.

Only through knowledge and new experiences will the waters once again come alive, allowing a vibrant crop of new species, new ideas, to grow and call your mind home. It’s only through the introduction of new ideas that our mind can transform from stagnant pots of water into vibrant ecosystems.

This requires work, a constant and caring tending — not great movements once a week, nor month, nor year, through hollow and meaningless retreats, self-development programs or committees or, worse, the occasional reading of a how-to article, quickly forgotten.

No, only through gentle stirrings daily will the waters of your mind remain lively and fruitful.

How does this work start? The short version is easy enough:

  • List everything you want and need to learn.
  • Read just enough to start experimenting with these listed curiosities.
  • Always find a place in your current project to apply a new experiment.

Write your list, tend to it regularly, and the waters will never go still. If you’re lucky, you might never find yourself stuck and bored, browsing your library of those faded and dented shapes.

(al, il)


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Categories: Others Tags: Swiss Knife for the Creation of Presentations, Infographics, Banner Ads and More (Comment to Win)

October 28th, 2014 No comments is a recently relaunched and re-branded service loyal Noupe readers already know. We’ve covered the service under its former name EWC Presenter in August of 2013 already. At that time, our conclusion was entirely positive. We recommended to put PowerPoint and Keynote aside, and use EWC Presenter instead. A lot has happened behind the curtain since then, so we thought it would be time to revisit a service we had enjoyed at first encounter. Are we still fans? Well, the name is way better than the wooden EWC Presenter. And else? Read on…

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You Are Not A Machine. You Are Not Alone.

October 27th, 2014 No comments
I realized that I was not a machine able to work 24/7. I realized I had times of insane productivity and then periods where I needed to rest; that I could not expect to churn out high quality work without stepping away from time to time.

Many of us struggle silently with mental health problems and many more are affected by them, either directly or indirectly. {Geek} Mental Help Week1 starts today and we would like to help raise awareness with a couple of articles exploring these issues. – Ed.

It was pouring with rain and I found myself driving. I didn’t know where I was going. I just needed out of the house. I needed to escape. After what felt like an age I found myself parked outside my parents’ house, just staring at their front door. Eventually I got out of the car, rang the doorbell and burst into tears the moment my mum answered.

Me, a grown man. A respected figure in my field. A success. Standing on the doorstep of my parents’ house, crying to my mum like a small child. This was the breaking point for me, the minute I finally realized I had depression. In fact I’d been depressed for over a decade. Burnt out. Used up with nothing left to give.

It had started back in the late nineties when I took a job with a dot com. I had a boss who was a bully, plain and simple. He shouted, he threatened, he manipulated. I stood up to him, but it drained me. Every day was a battle.

He was replaced, but the next guy wasn’t much better. He used to put me in a room with the company’s investors and make me present to them. He knew I was a good presenter, so when things got tough he would wheel me out. But he would sit next to me through the meetings kicking me under the table when I said something he didn’t like.

In time, the dot com bubble burst and I found myself forced to make people redundant. People I knew. People I considered my friends. Worse than that was having to make redundant people I didn’t know, people who worked for companies we had acquired. When you have to make a friend redundant at least they know you find it hard, that you don’t want to do it. When you fire a stranger, you are just an evil hatchet man.

From bad experiences, good things grew. Following the dot com company folding, I and two colleagues set up Headscape, the agency I run to this day. I love Headscape. I love the people I work with. But the stress didn’t dissipate – if anything, it increased.

I remember standing in a newsagent’s, wasting time before a big pitch. I was terrified. Terrified of not winning the work, work we needed as a company to survive. The last thing I wanted was to have to make people redundant again. I was so worried that I vomited, right there in the middle of the shop.

I love working for myself but every month is a roller coaster. Either we have too much work and I fret about delivering, or not enough and we worry about going out of business.

Then there is the pressure to keep up. The day I read Jeffrey Zeldman’s book Designing with Web Standards was one of the most terrifying of my life: the sudden realization that the table-based design I had built my career on was about to go away; that I would need to relearn my entire skill set.

Not that this was the end of the changes. The demise of Flash, the rise of user-centred design, content strategy, the mobile web, responsive design. The list goes on. Always something new to learn. Always the pressure to keep up.

Even now, twelve years into Headscape, things are hard. Like many agencies right now, we had a bad first half of the year. The sector feels like it is changing again, and so once again the pressure is on.

But this time is different. This time I will not end up on my parents’ doorstep in floods of tears. Because along the way I have learnt something. I am not a computer. I am not a machine. I am a human being.

We demand too much of ourselves as web professionals. We lie to one another, all living in a consensual delusion we build together. We talk about digital being our passion. We tell each other how great our jobs are. We work every hour in the day either in the hopes of getting bought by Google, or because we have convinced ourselves we enjoy it. Maybe we do and maybe we will be bought by Google, but is it healthy? I can tell you from experience it is not.

I realized that I was not a machine able to work 24/7. I realized I had times of insane productivity and then periods where I needed to rest; that I could not expect to churn out high quality work without stepping away from time to time. (Image credits3)

I realized something else, too. I realized that I could be human with my colleagues, that I didn’t need to pretend to be a machine. This I discovered when I told my co-founders I was burnt out; they understood and helped lighten the load. When I shared my depression online, nobody laughed at me or thought I was weak. Instead they thanked me for allowing them to talk about their struggles.

In fact, I found huge support from total strangers, people who suffered or were going through the same difficulties as me. Far, far more than I ever could have guessed, based on the way we talk online. If you believe what we post online, we are all happy, successful and rich.

And I had one final revelation. I realized I wasn’t a machine stuck in a preprogrammed routine. I could change things. I started looking after myself both physically and mentally. I found friends outside the web. I took regular walks, found other interests, and spoke up about my struggles. I even stopped working long hours, screw the consequences. As it turned out, I just learned to work smarter. Long hours are not a badge of honor, they are a sign of failure, pure and simple.

As part of my job I meet hundreds of web designers every year, either at conferences or as part of my work within organizations. Many are contractors who never get a holiday and worry about being able to pay the bills. Others are in-house web developers so beaten down they are resigned to being trapped in their organization forever. And yet what do you read online? You read about successful startups, acquisitions, and competitors with their amazing client lists.

You might think this all sounds rather depressing but, you know, it isn’t. It is meant as an encouragement, that if you are struggling you are not alone; that there is not something wrong with you, there is something wrong with the industry.

This post gives you permission. Permission to stop being a machine and become a human being. Permission to spend some days in your pants watching daytime TV rather than working. Permission to be honest about your fears and stresses. Permission to tell somebody you are struggling and get help.

For those of you reading this thinking “Well, my work is my passion and I am happy” then good for you! But it won’t always be like that. There will be times when it gets tough. They won’t last forever but they will happen. I ask you to remember one thing when those times come… You are not a machine. Allow yourself to be human by cutting yourself some slack and getting help.

If you’d also like to get involved, please don’t hesitate to submit an article4 and share your experiences. We’d sincerely appreciate it.

(il, og)


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The post You Are Not A Machine. You Are Not Alone. appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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