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15 Must-Have Apps for College Students

hongkiat.com - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 16:01

College is one of those points in a person’s life that takes awhile to get used to. New classes, new environment, new knowledge… It may be a problem organizing your notes, completing a given project or even keeping yourself updated on general knowledge.

With technology, we’ve got options to make our lives a little bit easier. Here, we’ve compiled 15 apps that will let you easily perform a variety of tasks like keeping your notes, and managing your files, among other things. Just a few taps on your smartphone or tablet and you’ll be ready to tackle this college routine.

1. iStudiez Pro

Are you having trouble remembering the deadlines of your projects or when your next test or quiz is? Sticking to deadlines is a problem that most college students face and seemingly can’t comply with. This app will allow you to input all your important activities in its calendar so that you will not miss another important deadline again.

[Platform: iOS]

2. Complete Class Organizer

Complete Class Organizer will let you manage all your classes. As its name implies, it aims to provide an all-around solution for your studies. This will let you keep track of the deadline of your projects and homework. Moreover, it will allow you to organize your schedule for you to balance your time with every requirement that your professors assigned. In addition, the app will automatically calculate your grades to monitor how you are performing in a particular course.

[Platform: iOS]

3. StudyBlue

Instead of cluttering your study table or room with printed notes, just get the StudyBlue app instead. This will aid you in storing notes and studying them later. You can also use this app to keep references or summaries for your college presentations, so that you will no longer have to carry the old-fashioned index cards or your notebooks.

[Platform: iOS]

4. Advanced English & Thesaurus

Advanced English & Thesaurus is an app that contains a huge collection of lexicons. The database of the app contains approximately 1.4 million words. During the course of your study, you will likely encounter words that you won’t understand and are difficult to decipher. It’ll be tough following a discussion if you don’t understand what a word means. But, if you use this app instead of just sitting their confused, you will surely be able to keep up with the lecture or with your lessons.

[Platforms: iOS | Android]

5. Mindjet Maps

Making a project is very hard, especially if your ideas aren’t well structured or organized. However, with Mindjet Maps, you will be able to manage and map all the information that you have gathered throughout your research. This will allow you to come up with an easy way of putting brainstormed ideas all together in order to quickly generate a desired output.

[Platforms: iOS | Android]

6. Notability

Notability is one of the best-selling apps out there, according to the Apple Store. The $1.99 app can be used to effectively capture visual aids in presentations, lectures in whiteboards, handwritten notes and formulas. The app also comes with an audio recording feature to help you record your lectures. In addition, the app is compatible with a lot file formats, such as, .doc, .ppt, .pdf, .xls and other extensions.

[Platform: iOS]

7. Penultimate

Penultimate will allow you to write notes conveniently on your tablet device. It supports any form of handwriting and even drawings. This is perfect even for keeping formulas of math, physics or chemistry-related subjects. The app is also compatible with Evernote making it more convenient for you to organize your notes. Plus, you can transform your outputs into PDF for further collaboration with your classmates.

[Platform: iOS]

8. The Elements

The Elements app is perfect for every chemistry student out there or for someone who is enthusiastic about the subject. This contains all the elements of the periodic table to provide you with a quick reference for your research or formula making. All the things that you want to know about an element are provided, such as, its atomic number, weight, half-life and others too.

[Platform: iOS]

9. Trello

Trello is a very effective organizer and scheduler. This app will assist you in storing important dates and keeping track of your assignments as well as deadlines. You can also use this app to further enhance your project since it provides engagement from other people and your colleagues. If you are managing a team, this will let you monitor their daily tasks and their accomplishments effortlessly.

[Platforms: iOS | Android]

10. NoRedInk

NoRedInk is perfect for students, writers and even teachers who would like polish their grammar skills. This is a third party web app that allows its users to hone their English language skills through a series of quizzes. Unlike the other kinds of tests that are in multiple choice format, this one will let you manually edit a group of sentences, so that the grammar, punctuation, spelling and other important factors will be corrected.

[Platform: Web]

11. Spotify

Spotify is an awesome app that you may have missed. It will help you escape from the stressful college routine. Specifically, with Spotify you can have access to free music legally from a database collection of millions of tracks. The app is very easy to use; you can set your own playlists with a few taps in through the drag and drop function. Moreover, you can share them with your friends on Spotify, Twitter and Facebook.

[Platforms: iOS | Android | Windows Phone | Blackberry]

12. MyHomeWork

MyHomeWork is also an essential tool that college students may find useful. It helps the user to manage assignments, keep track of projects and classes. If you can’t find yourself sticking to deadlines, this app comes equipped with a reminder feature that reminds you the due dates of your assignments and any projects you were assigned.

[Platforms: iOS | Android]

13. Mint.com

Sometimes, it can get a bit difficult for any college student to manage their finances. If you can’t find your way out, you will always go broke at unexpected periods of time. Maybe you should try installing Mint.com in your smart device. This app will keep track of all your expenses and connect it with your bank account so that you will have a better idea of how your money is spent.

[Platforms: iOS | Android]

14. Instapaper

Instapapar is an essential tool for every college student. It allows the users to save long articles for easy reading later on. Not only can Instapaper allow bookmarking on-the-go for further perusal but it also provides the user with a clutter-free and comfortable environment for reading without any distractions.

[Platforms: iOS | Android | Windows Phone]

15. Alarm Clock Extreme

Waking up early is one of the biggest issues most students encounter during college life. You may get an alarm clock to wake you up but the power of the snooze button is sometimes all too powerful. To avoid arriving late at classes and having to rush in the morning, maybe you should consider installing Alarm Clock Extreme. This app allows customization of morning alarms where you can disable the snooze command, solve a math problem to switch it off or even shake the device to turn it off.

[Platform: Android]

Related posts:

  1. Getting A College Degree Or Self-Learning?
  2. Top 10 Free Note-Taking Apps For Smartphones
  3. 20 Mobile Apps for A Better Driving Experience
  4. 10 Mobile Music Apps For Audiophiles








Design Vs Art – The Difference And Why It Matters

hongkiat.com - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:01

Design versus art. What’s the difference, and how does it affect your career as a designer? We all know there is a difference, and those outside our industry might not be able to see it. Your parents, for example, might refer to you as an “artist” even though you are a professional designer.

How do you tell them, or anyone else who asks, that there’s a big difference between art and design? Are you even sure yourself what the difference is? Read on to find out.

Art Asks, Design Answers

Let’s go back to when you first decided you wanted to be a designer. For me, it was while I was in school. I thought I wanted to be an “artist,” when really, I discovered that my skill set was better suited to design. Why? Because I enjoyed the process of solving problems. I wasn’t as interested in posing unanswerable questions for the world to ponder. I wanted to nail down a system for understanding the world around me.

The bottom line – the main difference between art and design – is that art asks questions, while design answers them. Design is there to fill a need. Art fills no need except its own internal need to exist and challenge the viewer. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. Art is one of the fundamental building blocks of human culture; every culture that has ever existed has its own unique art forms that they leave behind for future generations. Think of archaeologists – what is the most common thing you hear about that is uncovered from civilizations past? That’s right – art. Pottery, architecture, paintings on walls or stones. Art is very important. And so is design.

No Time For Wonder

Art inspires wonder and awe. When you look at a painting, sculpture, collage, or installation, your mind starts to churn with a horde of dazzling new ideas, and you get inspired to ponder all the endless possibilities that have now been introduced to you by the artist and her work. Ah, the magic of art. What an exhilarating, deeply fulfilling experience.

Designers have no time for that. If people are in awe of your design, that’s cool, but it’s not the main reason you created it. You design to make people’s lives better in ways they don’t necessarily see or appreciate, but without which they would be lost. The art lovers crowding around that Van Gogh at the Louvre probably all have their phones out, taking pictures. They aren’t paying attention to their camera apps, but the designer who created it plays a very important role in allowing them to share their experience with their friends.

Art Has No Set Process

Art has no process that can be replicated across the board to achieve an optimal result. There are no rules. At all. There used to be rules about who could paint what, but all of those got dumped with the rise of modernism. Ever since Éduoard Manet started painting prostitutes instead of aristocrats, the art world has been slowly divesting itself of every single rule it once had. Some people are unhappy about this, but that’s the way it is. Anything can be art – a urinal, a tree, a dog – anything. Art has no rules.

There are, however, rules in design. Even if the result is “ugly,” there’s an underlying structure there that solves a problem. There are the physical rules of design: the grid, the color wheel, the rules of composition and layout. Then there are the rules about what the design is supposed to do. What problem are you solving? Is it ergonomic enough? What will the psychological response of the average user be to this particular arrangement of design elements? Will it cause them distress, or will they have a good experience?

These are all rules that designers must take into account if they are to create a successful design. These types of rules may make an artist break out in a rash. But not us designers. We love this kind of stuff. Why? Well, I’ll tell you…

Philosophical Opposites

You can appreciate a design even more once you know why it was made. It’s not just a pretty picture – there’s a concrete reason why it exists and a concrete problem that it solves. Design geeks love to get into the nitty gritty of what makes a particular design work so well. Simply put, designers use the left (mathematical) sides of their brains to create work that resembles something from the right (artistic) side.

Art, as we’ve learned, has none of this structure or reason for existing. You don’t need to understand why a work of art exists or how it was made. All you need to do is appreciate it for what it is. Art for art’s sake, as they say. That’s not to say there’s no value in analyzing art according to the time it was made, or deconstructing the process. It just isn’t necessary in order for you to enjoy it.

Too Much Design Ruins Art, And Vice Versa

Exactly what it says above. Art and design are related, in a general sort of way, but, as we’ve seen today, they are not identical at all. The two are entirely separate disciplines, and things can get very muddled if you merge them too much.

Imagine if you brought home a chair that was in an art installation, and you sat on it. It now has lost its value as art, and is just another chair. Art is much more dependent on the context in which it exists than design is. In fact, I would say that design is the context much of the time.

Again, art and design are both vital to human culture and progress. I love and enjoy them both, but at heart, I am a designer. If you love to provide solutions to problems, rather than ask questions, then you are probably a designer too. If you’re the opposite, you’re most likely an artist.

What Do You Think?

Are you a designer or an artist? What other differences and parallels can you draw between art and design? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Related posts:

  1. 5 Superstitions in Design That Clients Believe In
  2. Why Designing Without A Design Brief Is Like Playing Charades
  3. Who Should Care More About Your Design: You Or Your Client?
  4. Web Design Industry Analysis – Professionals vs. Amateurs [Infographic]








15 Social Media Tools To Help You Publish At The Right Time

hongkiat.com - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 16:01

Do a simple Google search and you will find an abundance of infographics and studies telling you the best time to post per social network. Now there’s no harm in using these infographics or studies as a guideline but you have to admit that some of these tips may be a bit too general or prone to certain environments or geographical factors.

In reality, there are other factors that come into play in determining when is the best time to post and most times, those factors are unique only to your case.

In order to determine the best times (and days in some cases) to post on social media, you will need to take note of the following factors:

1. Industry

  • What industry you are from and the type of information expected of you
  • This will also affect the type of posts (text, photos, videos, links) you should be posting
  • Take note of the frequency of your updates as well

2. Social Media Platform

  • What social media platforms you are using
  • What works best on each platform
  • General practices of each social media like hashtagging and social functions e.g. commenting, liking and sharing.

3. Audience

  • These will be your followers or fans but they can also be casual browsers
  • Cater first to your followers or fans by getting to know them: where are they from, their age group, what do they do and like, and what their online habits are

4. Time

  • Once you identify your followers/fans, you’ll more or less get the time they are most likely to be online.
  • Note the timezones they are in, and their downtimes and off-days.

5. Trends

  • These are normally things you can’t control like breaking or ongoing news or a new trend picking up steam.
  • You would want to post accordingly so that your followers or fans would know that you are current and relatable.

Granted some of these info are not readily available and will require structured analyses over a period of time to properly pinpoint. Keeping up with Internet trends and timezones is also a full-time job on its own, which is why social media management and analytical tools can really help.

Tools Of The Trade

Here are a number of tools that will provide means to find the information you need, alongside other features and functions that will come in handy to help you post better social media updates, and more effectively. The tools are not listed in any order.

Facebook: Facebook Insights

If you are a verified business, use Facebook’s in-house Insights tool. This competent tool tracks 3 things mainly

  • who visits your page
  • who likes your page
  • how is your post reach doing in terms of engagement.

It goes further by telling you when most of your fans are online and who they are as well as which of your posts have the highest engagement. However it lacks the ability to analyze and track competitors.

Facebook: Fanpage Karma

Fanpage Karma is better than Facebook Insights in that it lets you understand your competitors and fanbase better.

It also tells you:

  • when is the best time to post
  • the best frequency you should post
  • what are the best topics you should be posting on

Similar tool: AgoraPulse

Twitter: Tweriod

Tweriod is a simple tool that compares your tweets with your followers’ tweets.

Based on this analysis, it will tell you when it’s the best time to tweet and it follows the timezone you’ve set your Twitter account to.

Many swear by this tool for its simplicity meaning that it does its job well.

Similar tool: TweetReports

Twitter: SocialBro

SocialBro‘s selling point is in helping you manage your contacts and followers.

It analyzes and tells you your followers demographics, when they are online, identifies influencers, find other users you can connect to and lets you keep a close eye on your competitors. It even allows you to track your interactions for better engagement.

Similar tool: Followerwonk

Pinterest: Tailwind

Tailwind is a comprehensive tool that tells you who, whether a follower or not, your brand’s advocates are.

It also analyzes and tells you what categories are related to you and what your audience is more in tuned to. This will help you schedule your pins for the most effective engagement.

Similar tools: Piqora, ViralTag

Pinterest: Pinterest Analytics

When you get verified on Pinterest as a business, you’ll gain access to Pinterest’s own analytical tool.

Pinterest Analytics not only tells you which of your pins get the most views and clicks but also tracks whether people pin things from your website.

Instagram: Iconosquare

Formerly known as Statigram, Iconosquare offers a slew of features that is hard to beat. You can track your followers, find out where they are from and which post they engage with the most.

You can manage your contests, communication with your followers, and the promotion of your Instagram account to other platforms. It will even help you cross-post to your other social media as well.

Instagram: ScheduGram

ScheduGram may be a paid tool but it’s an investment worth making for its scheduled posting ability.

It even allows you to edit and upload your photos on computer, supports multiple timezones and grants access to multiple users which is extremely useful for your social media management team.

Google+: Timing+

Timing+ simply tells you when the best time and day it is to post things your Google+ account. Just sign in with your Google+ account and select your timezone

The tool will then draw its analysis from all your existing posts. This way you get to see which of your many posts garnered the most impact.

Google+: Friends+Me

Friends+Me not only helps to schedule your posts on Google+ but also cross-post your Google+ updates to other social media as well.

Supported social networks include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr. It also allows for reposting content and scheduling for repost to ensure that your posts gets seen.

Bonus: Cross-Platform Tools

If you are into social media and have to take care of a lot of different social media platforms, perhaps one tool to rule them all is a concept you subscribe religiously to. And if that is the case, we have here 4 more handy tools to help you keep your social network analyses straight.

Bitly

I’m sure you are familiar with using Bitly to shorten your links. The URL-shortening service is also the easiest tool to track your links as well as provide analysis on how people are sharing your links.

It partners with other services like Buffer and IFFFT. Bitly supports posting links on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Buffer

Buffer‘s main strength is in scheduling posts so that they don’t overwhelm your followers or fans. The tool allows you to draft your content and set the time and day for the post to appear.

It integrates with Bitly and offers analysis of your social media activity and tracking. You can use Buffer for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and App.net.

Similar tool: HootSuite

SumAll

SumAll‘s name is apt as it allows you to track and analyze the many social media platforms you have.

The tool provides post and activity analyses for all your platforms and compares them for you to see the correlation between them.

To date, SumAll supports 42 platforms and counting.

Similar tool: Curalate

Google Analytics

Google Analytics not only tracks your website analytics, it also does that for your social media platforms although you may need a third-party widget for it.

The service is free which is a bonus in any book. Some of its features include telling you who your visitors are and where they from are, how to attract more visitors and keywords that lead them to your platforms.

Similar tool: Crowdbooster

Related posts:

  1. 10 Useful Hashtag Tools For Social Media Marketing
  2. 35 Cheatsheets & Infographics For Social Media Marketers
  3. Create Social Media Profile Covers Easily With Social Media Image Maker
  4. 35 Awesome IFTTT Recipes To Archive Your Social Media Data








Web Design Trends: How To Decide What Works

hongkiat.com - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:01

Designers love to complain about “superficial” design trends that they don’t feel have any staying power or contribute anything meaningful to the industry. But are they right?

Today we’re going to talk about design trends and new phenomena that get many designers pumped up, but that can also draw the ire of others who think the design industry is going down the tubes.

Are Design Trends Superficial?

I happen to think that whatever users find “trendy” or cool, even though it may be fleeting, is part of the service a designer provides. It’s part of what clients are paying for. If you’re offering classic, outdated solutions that nobody wants, you are only hurting your own career. Yes, it might be annoying to feel you must bend to the whims of the “masses,” but if those masses are looking for something you can’t give them, they aren’t going to pay you.

Adopting visual trends is simply a part of providing a commercial service. The only way you can really subvert a design trend is by creating one of your own, which allows you to be the thought leader and influence other designers to follow your lead instead. This is extremely difficult to do, however, and the vast majority of designers are followers rather than leaders.

That may seem harsh, but it’s true. You can be convinced that you’re completely original and unique, yet still be a follower of overall design trends, often without even realizing it. Don’t believe me? Just look at the designs for tablets and smart phones both before and after the release of the iPad and iPhone. Those designs were so influential that they virtually eliminated any design possibility other than sleek, thin, and black (or white).

The Nature Of The Beast

Yes, it’s true that trends are fickle, often short-lived things. As we all know, people are quick to jump all over any new trend, causing it to look dated in a matter of months. But, like it or not, that’s the nature of the industry, particularly these days. Ideas spread much faster than they used to, thanks to the Internet. Which means that designers and clients alike are exposed to new trends constantly.

Think of the phenomenon of Internet memes that come and go in waves. One minute, everyone’s buzzing about the latest antics of some celebrity or YouTube video. Then, sometimes just mere days later, it’s old news, and people get tired of it.

Not to say that design trends are that short-lived (usually), but the general idea is the same. Humans are seekers of novelty. Once something is “conquered territory,” it ceases to hold our attention. We start looking for new sources of stimulation almost immediately – we can’t help ourselves.

This tidal approach to trends can seem chaotic and, to the cynical, merely another example of the intellectual simplicity of the general public. It doesn’t mean that the trend was necessarily bad; just that people are quick to copy whatever they think is cool. Monkey see, monkey do, and all that.

But how do you stay abreast of new trends while not running around like a headless chicken, trying to adapt to every new trend you think might get you more clients? There are 3 ways you can go about it, which I will explain.

1. The Puzzle Piece Approach

You can use the constant influx of new trends to your advantage as a designer, adjusting your personal style to fit the range of what clients may be looking for depending on which corner of the web they approach you from. I call this the “puzzle piece” approach – you have the missing piece of the puzzle for every design project you take on.

This isn’t a bad way to do business as a freelancer if you don’t mind the constant switching and adapting. You probably won’t gain the venerable reputation of someone who sticks to their guns, but if you can continue to ride the wave and know just when and how to adapt, you’ll have a long career ahead of you.

2. The True Blue Approach

On the other hand, you may wish to develop a reputation for creating work that always bears your personal mark or style. You buck any and all new trends, and only serve clients who are looking for exactly the type of design work you specialize in. This is a great way to build a solid, loyal client base and following, but there can be dangers here as well. You may find your base getting smaller and smaller as people’s attention is drawn to newer, more exciting trends.

However, if you can stick it out for the long haul, you’ll find that your client base is far more loyal, and usually willing to pay a premium for the unique perspective you provide. Your ability to be a true blue designer is largely dependent on the health of the design market, which in turn influences the amount of business you’ll bring in with your designs. The recent economic troubles around the world have made this more difficult than it once was, but, like design trends themselves, things will eventually come full circle. Patience is the key.

3. The Goldilocks Approach

Personally, I think the ideal approach lies somewhere in the middle. If you’re too much of a trend hopper, you’ll have no credibility as a designer. However, if you’re too absorbed in your personal style preferences, you’ll alienate too large a portion of your potential market. Don’t get me wrong – I’m the biggest believer in niching down your potential pool of clients. But you don’t want to go so niche that you’re unable to grow and expand your career.

The goal is to be flexible. Show your clients and users that you’re not a Luddite, stubborn and out of touch with the world. But also, carve out a space of your own where you can dominate with your unique perspective on design and be seen as a thought leader (even if you’re still following overall trends. It’s okay – it happens to 99% of us).

What Do You Think?

Do you pay attention to trends? How do you handle the job of maintaining the perfect approach that fits your clients’ needs while staying marketable to new clients?

Related posts:

  1. Web Design: 20 Hottest Trends To Watch Out For in 2013
  2. Web Design: 20 Hottest Trends To Watch Out For In 2014
  3. CSS3 Regions – How it Works [Web Design]
  4. 5 Ways “Professionalism Overload” Can Kill Your Design Career








25 Wedding Escort Card Designs For Your Inspiration

hongkiat.com - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 17:01

When it’s your wedding day, you want to make sure that every detail is perfect. The right photographer, the theme that you want and even the stationery will remain in your memory long after you’ve said ‘I do’. Escort cards may just be one of these little details.

The card features the name of a person and the number of the table they will be seated at. The table with the cards, as a rule, are placed at the entrance of the dining area.

Here I’ve put together 25 wonderful wedding escort card ideas to help you get inspired. From simple ones featuring buttons to cards that come with little dinosaurs, there are a lot of creative ones for you to look at. Don’t hesitate to share your own ideas in the comments below too.

CMYK Themed Wedding Invites And More by Lauren Okura

Malibu Calamigos Ranch wedding

Amanda & Alex by Jennifer Giesler

Lisa and Chuck – Lake Minnetonka Wedding

Ally and Joe – Nicollet Island Pavillion Wedding

Real Wedding | Paul + Krista

DIY Beach Wedding | Brian + Deze

Button Escort Cards

Handmade Escort Cards with Hearts

Wedding Works Of Art

Real Wedding | ERIC + Hana

Real Wedding | Rian + Katie

DIY Wedding | Michael + Bri

Sunday Brunch Wedding At Columbus Park Refectory

Arroyo Trabuco Wedding

Elegant Sonoma Wedding Captured by Shannon Stellmacher Photography

Real Wedding: Home Sweet Home

Rustic Midwestern Destination Wedding At Juliane James Place

Modern Smog Shoppe Grey And Yellow Wedding

Rustic Elegance at Dos Pueblos Ranch

Krista & Scott / rain + boats + a wedding

The First “Ultimate Southern” Challenge :: Escort Cards

Colorful Retro-Inspired Palm Springs Wedding: Nicole + Jon

Fun Austin Wedding: Kim + Robbie – Part 2

Western Cape Beach Wedding

Related posts:

  1. 20 Minimalistic Business Card Designs for Your Inspiration
  2. 15 Business Card Designs That Will Leave An Impression
  3. 20 Smashing Examples Of Customized Printed Wedding Invitations
  4. 20 (More) Business Card Designs That Will Leave An Impression








5 Things You Can Do When Someone Steals Your Idea

hongkiat.com - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:01

Theft of ideas happens all the time in the creative industry. When you come up with something fresh and exciting that attracts attention, it’s inevitable that you will be ripped off at some point by others looking to ride on the coattails of your success. And yes, it sucks.

via splitshire.com

Contrary to popular belief, imitation is not the highest form of flattery – it’s simply annoying and makes things that much harder for the up and coming designer to distinguish him or herself from the hordes of copycats.

I could tell you to just suck it up and move on when it happens to you (and it will, if you’re popular enough), but that’s not very helpful when you’re feeling cheated and robbed, and the thief is off getting paid for your hard work. This is a common problem with a few unconventional solutions, which we will now explore.

1. Let Them Take The Fall

If your idea wasn’t very good in the first place, you’ll soon know from the response your competitor will get. They’ll try to get validation from others, either clients or fans. They’ll be roundly criticized for presenting such a bad idea, or, if they’re really unlucky, others will point out publicly that they stole the original idea from you (which, if it’s bad, is not a good thing).

If your idea doesn’t work for your thief, you now know what to do better. You can tweak your own work and avoid the mistakes they made. If it does work… you now know what to do better. You come up with an even better idea and execute it in a way that leaves people with no doubt as to who the better designer is.

2. Kick Their Ass

Stealing an idea is easy but actually making a design do what it’s supposed to (solve a problem) is hard. When you get ripped off by an inferior designer, it can feel like being hit in the stomach. How dare that hack think he can copy your genius and get away with it? Doesn’t he know how hard you work to develop the perfect design solutions and earn the highest praise from your viewing audience?

You can hit back by being a thousand times better than anyone who would steal your idea. If you’re really committed to making this idea of yours work, you owe it to yourself, and your client or viewers to go above and beyond anything the other party would even think to do.

You’re the better designer, after all. Send them home with their tail between their legs.

3. You’re The Architect

Just because someone “stole” your “idea” doesn’t mean they know what to do with it or how you arrived at the idea in the first place. You’re the architect of your idea, not your copycat. That means you have the blueprint from which to generate a new one (there’s more where that came from). If you have the framework in place for generating even better ideas (which you should), you have nothing to worry about.

Even if you don’t have the framework for generating ideas, you have an entirely different and more fundamental problem than someone stealing your ideas. I’d recommend going back to the drawing board and developing new ways of brainstorming and cataloguing your ideas so that you get the best ones flowing to you when you need them.

4. Keep Your Mouth Shut Next Time

Even if you’re just “talking shop” with another designer, you never know when they’re going to decide that they can steal your idea and get credit for it behind your back (or even right in front of you). Not only does keeping quiet about your ideas until they’re done prevent anyone from stealing them during a crucial moment, it also helps ensure that you’ll actually get them done.

Another thing to consider is the psychology of talking about your ideas to others. Besides simply getting ripped off, there’s another, more dangerous reason that blabbing too much is a bad idea: it decreases the likelihood that you will ever do anything with it yourself.

The more you talk about an idea, the less likely you are to actually finish it, because your brain sees your bragging about it and takes it as a sign that it’s already done. Therefore, it will give the signal that it’s okay to slack off, or give something else a higher priority, and your brilliant idea will end up languishing in the corner, forgotten.

5. A Note About Legal IP Theft

If the person stealing the idea is a client who didn’t pay or a large company taking advantage of your small status, you may have legal recourse if you filed for copyright or trademark protection of your work. If the idea is significantly developed, it might even be worth it to file a patent to protect yourself. See your local IP laws as they vary from country to country.

Just remember that suing people takes money, quite possibly more than the idea is worth at this point in time. Unless you can pay for the legal fees, or you can clearly see that you’re getting robbed of significant profits that are rightfully yours, it’s probably better to just follow steps 1 to 4.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever had an idea stolen by unscrupulous competitors? What did you do about it? Do you think stolen ideas are worth getting upset over, or do you simply let it go with the confidence that you can come up with something even better?

Related posts:

  1. 6 Signs That You Should Kill That Blog Post Idea
  2. 20 Things to Replenish Your Idea Vault (When You Run Out Of Ideas)
  3. Crimes Against Content Makers In The Digital Age
  4. How To Become A Design Thought Leader








20 Things About Jeff Bezos You Probably Didn’t Know

hongkiat.com - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 16:01
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You most likely know of or have heard of Jeff Bezos. After all, he’s the man behind Amazon.com, the largest e-retailer in the world. When you get right to it, he is the man who has revolutionized the way we shop today. He basically paved the way for online shopping and created a trend for other entrepreneurs to follow.

With his net worth currently at $28.8 billion, this places him at No. 21 on Forbes’ World’s Billionaires list. But even a wealthy man like Jeff Bezos had to start somewhere right? In this article, we take a quick glimpse at his life so far. From his childhood to the causes he holds dear, here are 20 interesting things that you probably didn’t know about Jeff Bezos.

The man who raised him wasn’t his biological father

Jeffrey Preston Jorgensenlit was born on 12 January, 1964 to Jacklyn Gise Jorgensen and Ted Jorgensen. They got divorced after only being married for a year. His mother later on married another man, Miguel “Mike” Bezos, who adopted Jeff legally at the age of 4.

Source: Biography.com

Image Source: Achievement.org

Just a boy who adored his grandfather

Jeff Bezos’ maternal grandfather, Lawrence Preston Gise worked as Regional Director at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He played a big role in Jeff’s life and was the one who got him interested in computers.

Source: Wired.com

Image Source: Achievement.org

Jeff was simply fueled by his curiosity

Jeff has a passion for fixing things and figuring out how things work. He was always one step ahead of others, as evident by his desire to be be a “space entrepreneur” from a young age.

Source: Wired.com

Image Source: Biography.com

Inventing and creating has always been his passion

He was always inventing something: a solar cooker, hovercraft, a robot, lasers and an electric alarm; the alarm worked as a security system to keep his siblings out of his room.

Source: Biography.com

Became his high school valedictorian and proved himself to be intelligent

Jeff Bezos was considered an intelligent student as he was his high school’s valedictorian.

He studied physics at Princeton University but later changed his degree for Computer Science and Electrical Engineering instead.

Source: Achievement.org

Image Source: Snakkle.com

How he learnt that kindness doesn’t come easily

In his 2010 Princeton University commencement speech, Jeff Bezos talked about how he made his grandmother cry by telling her off about her smoking.

His grandfather then told him, “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”

Source: Princeton.edu

Image Source: Npr.org

Jeff switched jobs

He was first employed with Fitel, a startup telecom company which lasted for 2 years.

After quitting a stable job at Bankers Trust, he went to work with D.E. Shaw, an investment management firm on Wall Street.

Source: Biography.com


Fell in love with a colleague

Mackenzie (Tuttle) Bezos was his colleague at D.E. Shaw. They got married in 1993 and after a year, they moved to Seattle to start Amazon.com.

Source: WSJ.com

Image Source: Edge.org

They adopted a daughter together from China

Jeff and MacKenzie have three sons including one daughter. Their daughter is adopted from China.

Source: CNN.com

Image Source: Dailymail.co.uk

Quit his stable job to start Amazon.com

Jeff Bezos quit his position as a senior vice president at D.E. Shaw to start Amazon.com.

He rented a house and worked from his garage with his first employee, Shel Kaphan.

Source: Wired.com

Image Source: Geekwire.com

Before Amazon.com, the company had several names

Before he settled on Amazon.com, the company was also known as Cadabra or Relentless.com.

Amazon.com was named after the South American river. And the logo bears an arrow from A to Z, indicating that customers can buy anything from A to Z on the site.

Source: TheGuardian.com

Image Source: Amazon Media Room

Jeff is a believer of small teams

Jeff Bezos believes in the “Two Pizza Rule”: if a team cannot be fed with two pizzas, it’s too large. To him, independent thought should prevail over groupthink.

Source: FastCompany.com

Image Source: MT.nl

The man is still frugal to this day

His frugality showed early on when he founded Amazon.com from his garage, as he turned a wooden door into a table.

Up to this day, the tables in the Amazon office use the same door-desk model.

Source: Businessweek.com

Image Source: Artdaily.org

Generous when it comes to a good cause

When one of his employees, Jennifer Cast asked for donation of about $100,000 for a same-sex marriage cause in Washington, Jeff and his wife donated $2.5 million instead.

Source: NYTimes.com

Image Source: FreedomToMarry.org

Jeff will take out the competition if he needs to

He is a highly competitive man who would not give up hounding competitors with cutthroat discounts just to put them out of business.

His competitior, Quidsi, responsible for Diapers.com, was acquired after Bezos made relentless attacks with heavy discounts and offers to match Diapers.com

Source: SeattleTimes.com

Image Source: WashingtonPost.com

Not one to tolerate incompetency

Not a fan of complacency, Jeff Bezos also does not tolerate with incompetency in his company.

Some direct insults he used against his employees were, “Are you lazy or just incompetent?” or “ We need to apply some human intelligence to this problem.

Source: Forbes.com

Image Source: Flickr.com

Was almost involved in a fatal accident

In 2003, Jeff Bezos had a helicopter accident that gave him minor head lacerations.

During the accident, instead of the life flashing before his life bit, he thought that it would be a silly way to die. He has now sworn off helicopters.

Source: FastCompany.com

Image Source: TheSmokingGun.com

Bought himself a newspaper company

Jeff Bezos made headlines in 2013 when he bought the Washington Post for $250 million.

He wrote in the Post about his intention to keep things the same there but mentioned that future changes were inevitable.

Source: WashingtonPost.com

Image Source: Dailymail.co.uk

The explorer in him is keen on space travel

Ever since he was a child, he was immensely interested in aerospace. In 2000, he started a space company, Blue Origin, LCC with the vision to bring down the cost of space travel so everyone can go into the space.

Source: Forbes.com

Image Source: Blueorigin.com

The next step? Amazon Prime Air

His latest project, “Amazon Prime Air” uses drones to deliver their products and services to customers. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not yet approved the project as the rules and regulations does not allow the use of drones for commercial purposes. Despite that, Jeff Bezos is hopeful to make it a reality within the next few years.

Source: USAToday.com

Image Source: Amazon.com

Related posts:

  1. 8 Non-Governmental Spaceflight Companies Aiming For The Stars
  2. Why Selling The Upcoming Amazon Smartphone Won’t Be A Cakewalk








This Paradox Might Personally Cost You One Billion Dollars

hongkiat.com - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 12:37

So you’ve decided you want to be an entrepreneur. You’ve read all those motivational articles about billionaire entrepreneurs who’ve failed in the past. You feel confident in your resilience. Your thinking goes: "Even if I fail, I will surely keep at it, keep developing new businesses. Success is bound to occur thanks to the law of averages, if nothing else!” You are right, young padawan! Indeed, you are right!

via unsplash.com

You’ve gone ahead and chosen a hot industry (hopefully the mobile one) and you’ve assembled a competent team around you. You’re ready to go!

Well, let me give you one last piece of information before you hit the road. Let me share with you the last piece of the puzzle, the billion-dollar (let’s aim high) paradox nobody talks about. And you’ll never become a billionaire if you don’t understand this paradox! Understand it, use it and big wealth will be one step closer to you!

But first thing’s first: let’s set up a bit of context. We need to analyze how the business game works, understand the hidden shadowy workings of the game and truly comprehend how its players interact with each other. We’ll do this by first listing a few minor paradoxes which all lead to the big one. Ready? Set? Let’s go.

Paradox #1: Entrepreneurs Hate Jobs

Yes, they do. Entrepreneurs are generally not businessmen or managers. Take a typical businessman for a second. He enjoys having a 9-to-5 job. He thrives in that sort of corporate environment. Almost all businessmen love departmentalization. They love to have small plaques on doors with abbreviations such as H.R. or R & D, and they really enjoy working with accountants. That’s business folks for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate businesspeople. And while we all love and need them, I trust that you don’t want to be one. You want to be an entrepreneur, right?

How An Entrepreneur Thinks

In general, entrepreneurs couldn’t care less about that neat, structured corporation paradigm. Real entrepreneurs hate the illusion of security a ‘9 to 5′ job brings.

Entrepreneurs are ‘shouting leaders’. They’re entropic. Messy. Heterogeneous. As a consequence, they all pretty much hate accounting. Entrepreneurs have more enthusiasm (compared to businessmen) for starting new ventures and they’re usually more risk-happy.

They generally put more value on how their business impact real people as opposed to cold numbers, quarterly profits or share prices for their investors. As you might expect, investors have a love-hate relationship with entrepreneurs and obviously prefer corporate businessmen to manage their money.

Paradox #2: Entrepreneurs Can’t Handle Growth

While being an entrepreneur is awesome, a paradox tends to occur. Entrepreneurs are less fit to run their businesses in the long run, precisely because of their intrinsic volatile nature. If you’re an entrepreneur, you always want to start something new, grow a new business or invest in a long-shot idea that will change the planet. This sort of approach is tons of fun, but it can, and usually does backfire.

The "screw it, let’s do it” idiom first preached by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson sounds great on paper and works superbly for startups, but it’s not that good when you’re running a medium or corporate-size business. That requires full focus. That requires a safe-player at the helm, somebody who plays the game of business more cautiously.

When you run a big company, there’s dozens or even hundreds of employees and millions of dollars worth of venture capital investment at stake. You can’t really afford to gamble that away. All this amounts to yet another paradox. Even though, after understanding all of this, you would think that entrepreneurs are not the most likely candidates to become filthy rich… the opposite is true.

Paradox #3: Most billionaires in the world are entrepreneurs

Yes, most billionaires in the world are entrepreneurs instead of businesspeople. They’re entrepreneurs who’ve figured out how to transform their businesses from full-time jobs to automated systems. They do this by employing a good businessman for a CEO, standing back and letting that guy run with the ball (hence letting the company grow). Once such an automated business is fully set up, the entrepreneur shifts his attention to another business – that’s how the cycle rolls.

Make no mistake, billionaires hate having a ‘job‘, just like you and me! So, why not hire a businessman who loves doing a job?

Most entrepreneurs who are also billionaires have learned how to deal with businessmen. They’ve learned how to recruit them and place them at the top of their growing start up. They’ve learned how to leverage CEOs and operational management for the sake of automating their businesses. And that’s how entrepreneurs turn their ‘startup job’ into an automated business.

That’s exactly how they become billionaires!

Finding The Right Guy

The only remaining problem you’d have (should you chose this strategy as a path towards billions) is to supervise your selected businessman and make sure he does a great job. It’s a win/win situation. You’ll have more free time to try your luck with another venture, and the businessman gets what he wants: a secure 9-to-5 job.

Keep Entrepreneuring!

While supervising the CEO you’ve selected from the pool of corporate suits, make sure to restart the process. Try to grow as many companies as possible. Throw different things at the wall and see what sticks. If one grows fast enough and you feel you’ve reached the point where your "screw it, let’s do it” type of management doesn’t apply anymore, go head-hunting for CEO-like businessmen to employ.

Sadly, those CEOs will never become billionaires. But you will. I truly hope you will. You’ll soon have dozens of automated businesses, and you’ll be racking in the cash! But hey, it’s not all about the money, right? Or… is it?

Related posts:

  1. 20+ Cheatsheets & Infographics for Startup Entrepreneurs
  2. Why Business Plans Don’t Work For Entrepreneurs
  3. The 101 On The World’s Billionaires [Infographic]
  4. The Billion-Dollar Startups [Infographic]








8 Practical Tips to Secure Your Cloud Data

hongkiat.com - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 18:47

No more having to bring your thumb drives or portable hard disks along wherever you go because cloud-based storage services are here to stay. From Google Drive to Dropbox, these cloud solutions store your data online and provide you with the ease of accessing them at any place and time where Internet connection is available.

via pixabay

The convenience does seems tempting, but uploading your personal data to a cloud provider undoubtedly raises a couple of security concerns. For one, you can never be sure of who else could be accessing these sensitive information.

That being said, we can always protect our data from unauthorized access if we just make some extra efforts. Here are a couple of practical tips to keep your cloud data as secure as it gets.

1. Back Up Data Locally

Rule No.1 when it comes to managing data is to always have a backup for your data. Generally speaking, it is good practice to create electronic copies for any of your data so that you will still be able to access them even when the original is lost or has been corrupted. There are many cloud storage services available in the market today, which means you can set up some cloud accounts for backup purposes.

If you have data in the cloud, you should also manually backup your data in an external physical storage drive or device, like a hard disk or a thumb drive. This also allows you to access the information when you have poor or no Internet connection.

2. Avoid Storing Sensitive Information

I doubt there’s such a thing as real privacy on the internet, so personally I wouldn’t trust storing my top secret files in the cloud. Call it paranoia, but identity theft is on the rise and I just don’t want to risk any of that. In any case, we probably don’t have to look at our most sensitive data through the cloud on a 24/7 basis.

My advice is to keep only those files which you need to access frequently and avoid putting up documents containing passwords for your various online accounts or personally identifiable information (PII) such as your credit card numbers, national identification number, home address, etc.

If you must include these information in your files, make sure to encrypt them before you upload.

3. Use Cloud Services That Encrypt Your Data

One of the easiest way to safeguard your privacy when using cloud storage services is to look for one that offers local encryption for your data. This provides an additional layer of security since decryption will be required before you can be granted access to the data.

Otherwise known as the zero-knowledge proof in cryptographic, this method will even protect your data against the service providers and administrators themselves. While keeping data encrypted in the cloud may be good enough, it would be even better if the cloud service also ensures encryption during the uploading and downloading phases. This can be done using military-grade Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) (256 bits), which services like DrivePop adopts.

With the additional step of encrypting and decrypting your data, you may realise that syncing your files with your cloud drive takes a little while. That said, this is a necessary pain to go through if you want the documents to be accessible to you and you alone.

4. Encrypt the Data Before Putting it on The Cloud

If you choose not to use a cloud service that will help you encrypt the data, you can use a third-party tool to perform the encryption. All you got to do is download a cloud-protection app which will allow you to apply passwords and generate secret key sequences to your files before you actually upload them to the cloud.

Even if you’re already opting for an encrypted cloud service, it wouldn’t hurt to go through a preliminary round of encryption for your files to get a little extra assurance.

5. Read the Small Print of the Cloud Service Provider

Besides storing your data, some cloud services allow you to share your photos and files with others. This definitely sounds appealing, but sometimes these services come with a catch. There might be some fine print that they don’t advertise but will stuff in their Terms of Service (TOS) to make it legitimate.

For instance, back in 2011, Twitpic wrote in their TOS that sharing your pictures on their service gives them the right to ‘use or distribute‘ the pictures. They later apologised but further clarified that they can distribute the securing-cloud-data on Twitpic and affiliated partners, although the final copyright still belongs to the owner of the photographs.

While not exactly a dedicated cloud storage service, Twitpic puts forward a good case for why you should be cognisant of what to expect from your cloud provider, especially with regard to their security and privacy policies. Try to research online to find out if there are any bad reviews or caveats that you should be wary about. This will put you in a more informed position before you go ahead with their services.

6. Use a Strong Password / Apply Two-Step Verification

As the first line of defence against malicious hackers out there, you had better be sure that your password can stand a hacking or cracking attempt. There are tons of tips on the Internet on what makes for a good password. Aside from going for a strong and unique password, make sure to change it frequently and not repeat it across all other online accounts you have.

Alternatively, you may go for the much more secure two-step verification for your login if your cloud service offers the option. In the case for Google Drive, users have to login to their Google account first in order to use the cloud storage service. Two-step verification can be turned on for Google accounts – a verification code sent to the mobile phone gives the much needed added security on top of just your password to be able to access your cloud data.

7. Be Wary of Your Online Behaviour

Sometimes, the security of your cloud data depends on what you do online, especially on public computers or connections. When using a public computer, do you opt to not save your password, and ensure that you logged out of your account after you are done? Saving your password and leaving it logged in exposes you to the risk of strangers accessing your data.

via http://pixabay.com/en/computer-computers-keyboard-338968/

Do you tend to connect open and unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots in public places to log in to your cloud account? Such connections are typically unencrypted, which means that whatever you do while connected can be ‘sniffed‘ by a hacker on the same network. This can even include your login credentials for your cloud account! Just check out this useful article from NoWiresSecurity depicting what these hackers can actually see from unencrypted wireless networks.

8. Protect Your System with Anti-Virus & Anti-Spy

You may be using a secure cloud service provider which you absolutely trust, but sometimes the weakest link happens to be the computer system you’re logging in from. Without proper protection for your system, you expose yourself to bugs and viruses that provide penetration points for hackers to access your account.

Take for instance the presence of a Keylogger Trojan which attempts to track all your keystrokes. By embedding this malicious software to seemingly legitimate files, hackers will be able to get hold of your user ID and password if your system isn’t well protected enough to detect it, and if the login isn’t secured and encrypted.

Related posts:

  1. 8 Best Cloud Storage Providers for Corporate Data Privacy
  2. Top 5 Tools To Secure Your Business Data On The Cloud
  3. Plug – Group and Secure Files From All Your Devices Effortlessly
  4. Secure Your Mac By Setting A Firmware Password [Quicktip]








Dynamic Design: Don’t Get Arrested By The Style Police

hongkiat.com - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 12:55

Designers, put your hands up! Today, we’re busting the widely held myth of the style, that elusive ‘je ne sais quois’ that creative professionals everywhere dream of achieving.

Yes, it’s good to show everyone that you’re an experienced creative who can put your personal mark on everything you touch, but there’s a dark side to style as well. What is it, you ask? Read on and we’ll find out.

Styling The Bull By The Horns

There is a famous etching series by Picasso, in which he drew 12 bulls in 12 different styles. The bulls are arranged side-by-side, and range from ultra-realistic, to ultra-stylized. This classic piece is a very clear example that, in the right hands, any style can be interesting, creative, and fresh.

via teacollection.com

As designers, we need to keep in mind that style is ever-changing. What might be the latest thing one year will be completely boring to clients and viewers the next. Style is a good thing to have, but you don’t want to become so stuck on one style that you fail to see the overall evolution of design as a whole.

This applies to all areas of design, from advertising to fashion, and there are numerous examples of designers who, once their famous style had lost its place in the sun, couldn’t find anyone to hire them.

You don’t want to be one of these designers. But at the same time, you don’t want to be a flaky, ineffective designer either, known for switching up their style far too often. The question, then becomes…

How Loyal Should You Be To Your Style?

There are plenty of good reasons to stick with an overall expression of style in your professional work. It identifies your work as yours to potential clients, for one thing. It also allows you to increase your rates for design work as people begin to request your specific style.

But on the downside, once your style is no longer relevant, or becomes a cliché, your client roster will dry up faster than autumn leaves on the ground. There’s nothing that will turn users away faster than a design that looks like last season’s leftovers. Despite controversial opinions on the subject, this is neither good nor bad: it’s simply how we all react to trends and novelty.

As you gain more experience over the years, it unfortunately becomes harder to adapt your style to the changing times. I’m sure you’ve seen work by a designer you used to admire, but who now seems dated and overexposed. What happened? Did their work suddenly become bad? No – it just got, well, stuck.

Getting (And Staying) Un-Stuck

The more you introduce routine to your brain, the more accustomed your brain becomes to doing that one thing, the the more resistant it will be to trying anything new. This is why it’s so hard to break old habits or take up new ones.

Keeping your brain alert with new experimentation in your free time will prevent you from having to start from scratch once your style starts to fade from popularity. I’ve written before about how important it is to have personal projects – it can’t be overstated enough.

Other than reading, personal work is the most important thing you can do for your design career. And the more you experiment and try new things, the more likely it is that you’ll find yourself at the front of the next trend, rather than bringing up the rear.

Try For Timelessness

No matter what the window dressing may look like, the fundamentals of design will never change. Having a solid understanding of composition, color, layout, and typography will carry you through the whims and whirlwinds of style, allowing you to adapt your design expertise to any visual trick clients may be looking for.

It’s impossible to say, of course, what will become timeless over the years, but if you study the classic examples of design, they will almost always have the basics in common. Strong composition, effective type, eye-catching layout, just the right combination of design elements to get the message across to viewers.

Design is not like art: it’s more objective than subjective. There are certain elements that make a “good” design that we all can see, and if you know what they are, your clients will always trust you to bring them out.

If you remember to keep your brain supple and flexible, and always keep the basics in mind, the idea of having one, unchanging style will start to seem more and more passé.

What Do You Think?

What are your thoughts on style? How important do you think it is to a designer’s career and potential for success?

Related posts:

  1. How To Explore Design Projects Out Of Your Comfort Zone
  2. Developing Good Taste In Design
  3. Who Should Care More About Your Design: You Or Your Client?
  4. Why Don’t People Want To Pay For Good Design?








Makeup Magic That Leaves You In Awe

hongkiat.com - Sat, 08/23/2014 - 15:01

A little bit of make up can go a long way when it comes to transforming someone’s appearance. Some girls use it to cover their blemishes while others use it as a form of self expression. Laura Jenkinson, who is from the UK, is a makeup artist that takes it to another level altogether. How so? Well, using her makeup skills, she uses different parts of her body as a canvas to create kooky and impressive works of art.

Armed with various techniques and different sorts of inspiration, she brings to life her own ideas and some pretty recognizable cartoon characters from our childhood. Occasionally, she even uses props to make it more believable. From a grazing cow to Pumbaa from the Lion King, you’ll be amazed at her awesome makeup skills. Take a look below at just some of the work she’s done and if you want more, you can check out her Facebook page here.

Related posts:

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  2. Cartoonize Your Face With IMadeFace iPhone App








8 Non-Governmental Spaceflight Companies Aiming For The Stars

hongkiat.com - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 17:01

Space is big. Really big. And until recently, space exploration was a domain that only involved world governments, as they are the ones that had the capabilities and resources to undertake such a task. Even then, only a select few can go launch to space, again, due to the time and money it takes to train them.

Today, however, we are seeing several non-governmental agencies and companies that aim to bring space travel down to the civilian level, using the advantages that private industry has to offer, such as less bureaucracy and a profit motive. In this post, we will show you 8 non-governmental spaceflight companies that aim to do just that and get you into space and among the stars.

1. Scaled Composites

Founded by Burt Rutan, an aerospace engineer with a reputation for designing strong, lightweight aircraft with unusual designs, Scaled Composites aim is to create experimental and concept aircrafts and provide fabrication for other vehicles. Its claim to fame is winning the Ansari X Prize, which offers $10,000,00 for the the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space, with their spaceplane, SpaceShipOne.

The spacecraft was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and he would later partner with Rutan to start a new spaceflight company. Scaled Composites was acquired in 2007 by Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defence company, with Rutan leaving in 2011. It is now working with several others to develop new spacecrafts to progress civilian spaceflight.

2. Virgin Galactic

What pie doesn’t the Virgin Group have their fingers in? Starting of with music and then wildly going to nearly every type of venture imaginable, it’s no surprise that Sir Richard Branson would finally set his sights towards the stars. Virgin Galactic is a spaceflight company with aims to provide spaceflights for tourist, science missions and launching small satellites.

They are currently in their testing phase, with their current space plane called SpaceShipTwo, built in conjunction with Scaled Composites. The space planes are launched from a very large plane, as this will give it a higher initial speed and altitude when compared to launching from the ground. George Whiteside, Virgin Galactic CEO, hopes to have commercial services up and running by 2014.

3. SpaceX

Founded by Tesla Motors CEO and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, the goal of SpaceX is to reduce space transportation cost, which will help with their their main objective to help humanity colonize Mars. The idea came about with Musk’s idea to build a cheap, reusable spacecraft, similar to the aeroplane.

SpaceX has already accomplished a lot, such as being the first privately funded company to launch and recover a spacecraft and the first company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. The company today has contracts with several governmental and private entities, NASA being one of them. Ultimately, the end goal of Musk, and by extension, SpaceX, is to colonize Mars, with him quoted as saying that he "would like to die on Mars, just not on impact".

4. Blue Origin

Blue Origin is the brainchild of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com. Similar to SpaceX, its aim is to develop technologies that will enable people to get into space cheaply and reliably. The idea for Blue Origin stems from Bezos dream to colonize space and preserve Earth, a dream he’s had ever since he was a teen.

The company relies on the idea of incremental improvement and builds on prior advances. It’s even the company motto, Gradatim Ferociter, Latin for "Step-by-step, Ferociously". The company is known to be tight lipped, but they have performed test flights with two vehicles, Charon and Goddard. They are currently working on the New Shephard, a reusable vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing manned rocket.

via The Museum Of Flight

5. Stratolaunch Systems

Founded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan, Stratolaunch Systems is a aerospace company that specializes in air launch to orbit, which basically means launching stuff to space from an aircraft.

They have not yet made a test flight as they are currently developing their air launch system, the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft. Once completed, it is projected to have a wingspan of 385ft (117m), which would make it the largest airplane to fly, by wingspan. As a comparison, the current holder of the title is the Hughes H-4 Hercules, a.k.a. the Spruce Goose, with a wingspan of 320ft (97.5m).

6. Space Adventures

Cofounded by Eric Anderson and several other entrepreneurs, Space Adventures provides space-based tourism to civilians, offering activities such as orbital spaceflights, atmospheric space flights, cosmonaut training and other related activities.

So far, only 7 clients have participated in the orbital spaceflight, famous among them including, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, Richard ‘Lord British’ Garriott and Cirque de Soleil cofounder Guy Laliberté. The company hopes to soon offer a lunar spaceflight, which will involve circumnavigating the moon.

7. Planetary Resources

Cofounded by Eric Anderson and fellow Space Adventure cofounder Peter Diamandis, the long term goal of Planetary Resources is to "expand Earth’s natural resource base" by developing technologies that will enable asteroid mining.

The company already has a list of big and well know investors including Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron and Perot Systems chairman Ross Perot Jr. Currently, the company is developing low cost space telescopes which will be a first step as it can be used to survey near-Earth asteroids.

8. Bigelow Aerospace

Bigelow Aerospace was founded by Robert Bigelow, a real estate entrepreneur and owner of Budget Suites of America hotel chain. He actually created his real estate empire specifically to fund his aerospace ambitions, as at the age of 12, he viewed the mushroom clouds from the atomic tests near his home town. He then vowed to create a future for man in space and will choose a career that will help him fund such an endeavour.

Currently, the company is developing inflatable space habitats, already launching and testing two modules, Genesis I and II, as well as a private orbital space complex, the Bigelow Commercial Space Station.

Related posts:

  1. 10 Co-Founders Of Tech Companies Who Began As Designers
  2. U.S. vs China: Major Tech Companies Showdown
  3. How Open Source Companies Stay Profitable
  4. Falling Stars & Meteors Wallpapers [Wallpaper Wednesday]








How To Make Your Content Hard to Replicate

hongkiat.com - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 13:38

Did you know that the Internet has approximately 3.3 billion indexed pages at the moment–and counting? That translates to a mind-boggling 33 billion links to web content, assuming each page has 10 entries. Let that sink in.

If you’re a reader, that’s way more information than you can consume in a lifetime. If you’re an online content creator, that’s at least a million times larger than the competition you probably had in mind when you first turned to the Internet to make a living — granted, that figure includes every piece of content on every single niche on Earth, but still…

via Ed Gregory

That’s why, as a content creator, it’s no longer enough to be "unique" on the Internet. If that’s the case, then adding a single bullet point to someone else’s blog post, or adding one more tidbit to someone else’s infographic, is all it takes to stand out on the web (because hey, repurposed content is still technically "unique").

No, you must be inimitable. You must:

1. Create Ultimate Guides

Creating an ultimate guide is an almost(!) foolproof way of keeping readers hooked to your content. That’s because the word "ultimate" indicates that your guide is a one-stop article on everything your target readers need to know about your topic.

That said, you must keep a few caveats in mind when you create this type of content. First, make sure your "ultimate guide" lives up to its promise. That means you can’t afford to leave out even a single crucial detail about your topic, lest you end up short-changing your readers.

Second, it won’t hurt to write more creative headlines once in a while. Third, ultimate guides are great for the most part, but as with anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad.

2. Support Your Points With Expert Opinions

To spice up your ultimate guide, or any other type of content for that matter, add a liberal dash of expertise– whether it’s yours, or someone else’s.

If it’s someone else, find a person who’s truly knowledgeable about the topic you have in mind — rather than someone who only has a casual, passing interest — and interview him/her. You can fish out experts-slash-potential-interviewees through friends, family, acquaintances, and even your social media contacts. It’s better if you try to build a good relationship with your interviewee first, but if you’re pressed for time, you can set up the interview as detailed here.

If you are your own expert, on the other hand, you obviously have it much easier. All you have to do is discuss your topic of interest in a clear, informative, and engaging manner for readers who don’t know any better, and you’re good to go.

3. Write Detailed, First-Hand Research

Aside from expert opinions, you can use scientific research to buff up your content. You don’t need a science degree, or even a private laboratory to conduct scientific investigations. If you’re inquisitive, analytical, resourceful, and persistent enough, you can do it just as well as the people who make a living off it. How else do you think early scientists went about their work without modern tools?

In fact, you may be conducting scientific research right now, without even realizing it! If you like generalizing based on personal observation, or you tend to ask "Why?" questions about everything, you can dig deeper than anyone else into your topic of interest, share the details with the rest of the world, and satisfy your (and everyone else’s) curiosity.

For example, let’s say you want to know how much freelancers earn in general. You can uncover this by asking your freelancer friends to answer a survey or posting questions in forums where freelancers usually hang out. Their answers may not necessarily reflect the views of freelancers all over the world, but it’s a good place to start if you want to make solid points in your blog post / infographic / video / podcast about freelancer earnings.

4. Tell Stories

If there’s one form of content that can hold people’s attention better than any other, it’s a story.

Since ancient times, people have used stories to make sense of the world, to pass down knowledge through the generations, and to entertain. Stories are memorable because, while they all follow the same basic pattern (i.e. beginning > conflict > climax > denouement > end), each of them is unique in their own way. That’s why there aren’t really any "good" or "bad" stories; only stories that you can relate to, and stories that you can’t relate to.

Therefore, if you want to present your content as a story, make it unique and relatable at the same time. You can read this article for more details on how to become a better storyteller.

Why Bother with All This?

As you can see, all of these require much more effort than a quick Google search. It would probably be better for your content production levels to not do any of these at all. But if you truly care about your readers, and about transforming the Internet into something more than a cesspool for recycled content, shortcuts aren’t an option.

Related posts:

  1. Top Tips & Resources To Creating Content People Want To Share
  2. How Emotionally Engaging Content Can Help Your Business
  3. 6 Signs That You Should Kill That Blog Post Idea
  4. The Researcher’s Guide To Successful Freelance Content Writing








Top 10 Free Windows 8.1 Security Apps You Should Get

hongkiat.com - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 17:01

Windows 8.1 might have enhanced its built-in security features compared to its predecessors, but you might still need third-party apps that are optimized to help you secure your sensitive data to get the job done right. To that end, we will be listing 10 Windows 8.1 security apps that are primed to keep your images, messages, email and data in general, safe from prying eyes.

There are apps that help you encrypt data for transfer, password generators, hash generators, deletion software (that really wipe out your deleted data, making them exit no more) and more options to help you secure your data online.

NOTE: Download links provided in this article opens the app’s page on the online Windows Store. If you’re using Windows 8.1, then it also opens the app’s page in the Windows Store application on your system.

1. DirectPass

DirectPass is a password manager from the security company, Trend Micro. It’s not just a password manager though, there are many more tools in the same package – password generator, password rating tool, form filler, secure browser, secure notes tool, anti-keylogger and cloud sync tool. It’s even available for other popular platforms: Mac OS X, iOS and Android.

Aside from storing and managing passwords, the password rating tool informs you about unsafe passwords. The secure browser offers a security-enhanced browser for sensitive financial websites to keep you safe from phishing and other attempts to intercept your financial transaction.

Cloud sync tool backs up and synchronizes all your passwords, notes and form-filling information to the cloud and makes them available on your other devices.

[Get it here]

2. Boxcryptor

Most cloud storage providers have opted to not provide file or disk encryption options for your sensitive files. Boxcryptor is a silent, behind-the-wall file encryptor you can use to overcome that disadvantage for your cloud storage. Boxcryptor provides fast and easy encryption, and its unlimited version is available for all major cloud storage providers, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, SugarSync, Box.net and many others.

Its free version only supports Dropbox but there’s also a “Boxcryptor Classic” which supports Dropbox and Skydrive. Moreover, it’s also available for other platforms: Mac OS X, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.

[Get it here; Get Classic here]

3. Keeper

Keeper is an innovative password manager software, with a multi-layered security approach and that’s why, you can simply trust this software for protecting your logins and passwords. It can handle all of the login forms because of its user-interactive password capture mechanism. Your login data gets organized in folders and can also store an attached note.

Auto-Logout feature automatically logs you out after a specified time so that no person can access your sensitive information while you’re not around. Self-Destruct feature automatically destructs (deletes) the offline password database after 5 failed login attempts. Keeper offers a free service for one offline device. Its premium version offers more features such as cloud backup and sync, data sharing option, web access and many others.

[Get it here]

4. Private Hub

Private Hub is your private secrets keeper, where you can store all sorts of super-sensitive data. It is an encryption program which encrypts your personal data and protects them from prying eyes. It keeps your data secure and safe from unauthorized access.

It has a simple interface and its opening screen displays the list of things which can help you lock up: photos, videos, passwords, accounts, notes and files on your system. It is opened using a master password. Without it, nobody – not even you – can access the locked data. Even if someone get his hands on the encrypted data, he won’t be able to view or open the data without the correct password.

[Get it here]

5. My Personal Crypto Pad

My Personal Crypto Pad implements the OpenPGP data encryption standard into a metro-styled application. It’s developed to solve the two basic problems of computer security: data integrity and data security. Data integrity means verifying that the data is actually sent by the sender and the received data is the original data; data security means providing only authorized access to the data.

My Personal Crypto Pad enables people to check data integrity using digital signatures and secure their data using encryption. You need to create keys and then use those keys to sign or encrypt data and files. It can be tricky at first but the app can improve your online security once you get the hang of it.

[Get it here]

6. Secret Tidings

Secret Tidings is a data security tool which implements steganography to protect your data. Steganography – which means the art of hiding – is a mechanism to secure data by hiding it inside pictures. The idea behind this mechanism is simple – hide the sensitive data inside not-so-sensitive data and thus prevent it being seen. Secret Tidings can be used to create unassuming pictures which you can lock (and unlock) messages and images in, using a password.

The generated picture can then be easily shared or sent via email to a recipient and the recipient can view or unlock the sensitive information inside it using the correct password. This creates two levels of security – one, obscuring the fact that there is a sensitive data being hidden, and two, password-locking the access to it.

[Get it here]

7. HashMe

HashMe lets you create hashes using more than a dozen hash functions. It’s very hard to check the integrity of a file that is transferred over the Internet. Integrity here refers to whether the received file is exactly the same as the sent file or if it had been altered halfway through the transfer by a cracker. The best method to check for integrity is by use of hashes.

HashMe supports creating hashes for text as well as files. Some of the popular hash functions supported are MD5, SHA1, SHA256, RIPEMD, Whirlpool and Tiger. HashMe can be used to check integrity of files sent over email or shared through online storages. It can also be used to check the integrity of downloaded files where the file’s hash is given.

[Get it here]

8. TXTcrypt

TXTcrypt, as its name implies, is a text encryptor. It serves a simple function: to work as an encryption tool which lets you send secret messages to a recipient. It has a pretty simple and straight-forward interface and you can use it to send secure messages via SMS, email or instant messaging services.

TXTcrypt can be used to encrypt textual data and messages with a password. Then the encrypted message can be sent to anyone and nobody else can see the real message even when using any known snooping method. The person with the password will be the only one capable of deciphering the encrypted message and viewing the original, plain message.

[Get it here]

9. Shredder8

Shredder8 is a secure-delete software, packaged as a metro-styled application. It solves the problem of deleting old yet sensitive data. Any digital data, if simply (or insecurely) deleted, can be restored from the disk using a data restoration/retrieval software.

Shredder8 can be used to shred sensitive files or create free space on your storage disk with a thorough data wipe. It supports many secure-delete algorithms such as U.S. DoD, Russian GOST, British HMG IS5 and German BSI VSITR.

[Get it here]

10. Advanced Password Generator

Advanced Password Generator solves the problem of creating strong passwords. No matter how strong the security measures your system has, if it has a weak password, it is an easy entry for people who intend to breach the system and your data enclosure.

However, creating strong, random passwords that you can remember for a long period of time is also hard and time-consuming. Use Advanced Password Generator to generate strong passwords for you. It’s a quick and easy-to-use program. Otherwise you can opt for these other password generators and managers.

[Get it here]

Have we missed any of your favorite security app for Windows 8.1? Let us know at the comments section.

Related posts:

  1. 7 Android Apps to Create and Manage Passwords
  2. 10 Tips To Tighten Security On Your Android Device
  3. 10 Free Crypto Apps To Help Protect Your Online Privacy
  4. Top 20 Metro Apps for Windows 8








10 Most Asked Questions About Linux

hongkiat.com - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 12:01

You have probably heard of Linux as the free alternative to Windows and OS X. It’s one of the most popular free PC operating systems out there and chances are, you are already using it without realizing. Did you know that your Android phone is powered by Linux? It is an incredibly versatile piece of code that can fit the needs of almost any user.

If you are looking for something different to try on the desktop besides Mac and Windows, you should really give Linux a try. Not only is it free, it is extremely customizable. Similar to Android on the smartphone, you can customize Linux to your heart’s content. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In order to get into Linux, there are probably a few things you should know first before diving in. In this guide, we will cover what you should know about a Linux operating system on the desktop.

1. What Is Linux?

When someone mentions Linux, it’s always in conjunction with another name, e.g. Fedora Linux, Ubuntu Linux, Android powered by Linux; the list goes on and on. What exactly is Linux anyway? ‘Linux’ refers to the Linux kernel, which is a program that interfaces between the application software and the hardware of a computer. What they all have in common is that they all use the same kernel as the interface between software and hardware. In cases where the computer is referred to as ‘running Linux’, it is running an OS with Linux as the kernel.

via Wikipedia

Some of you may encounter some people insisting that it be called GNU/Linux. This refers to the fact that most of the operating systems that uses Linux gets a large portion of their code from the GNU Project, without which, the Linux kernel itself cannot function. Calling it GNU/Linux is a way to give credit where credit is due. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer all operating systems using the Linux kernel as Linux.

2. Why Is It Free?

Most people know Linux as the free operating system, free here meaning free of charge. That’s right, free of charge, but it also refers to free speech. What this means is that the source code for Linux is available for everyone to view, study and modify, along with sharing their changes with anyone who would like a copy.

Compare this to Windows and OS X which, while still popular, are closed source, cannot be studied and cannot be distributed freely. This open nature is one of the main reasons that Linux derived operating systems have been successful, with many people and companies creating their own derivative versions of Linux.

3. What Is A Distro?

A ‘distro’ refers to a distribution of the Linux Operating System, where a person, group or company builds upon Linux and releases it under their name. Examples of popular Linux distros include Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE, among others. While all of them use the Linux kernel, they are all different with what software they include. From the the default software to even the user interface and experience, no two distros are alike.

via Linux Mint Tumblr Page

Each distro brings something different to the table, offering up specific features for specific user sets. However, for a beginner, it is best to start simple, with a distro that offers a simple user experience for people that are new to Linux. The most recommended Linux distro for beginners would be Ubuntu Linux, as it is relatively easy to set up and use and has a lot of support.

4. Will My Hardware Support It?

It used to be that hardware support for Linux was spotty at best, with many components and peripherals not working properly or not working at all. Fortunately, most of that is in the past with the majority of Linux distros being able to run on modern hardware with little to no problem. So chances are your hardware will be able to run it.

via Tom’s Hardware

I say ‘little to no problem’ because there may be times when you might run into an issue or two. While the Linux community have done an amazing job in making sure that the OS will be able to use your hardware, it may still not run. You will have to shoot down for a troubleshooting guide or hope that the manufacturer has provided a proprietary Linux driver for the hardware.

5. Can I Try Before I Install It?

The great thing about most Linux distros is that you are able to try them before installing what you like on your computer. Linux providers provide you with an easy way to try out the OS by way of a Live CD. Download an ISO, burn it, and from there you can boot from the disc so that you can try out a distro before committing to it.

via NotebookNotes.com

If you decided not to install Linux but the idea of carrying a spare OS around with you sounds useful (and really there are many cases where you might want one), you can create a Live USB. Just like a Live CD, a Live USB is a bootable USB drive that can boot Linux on most computers. This way you can have the Linux experience without installing over your computer’s OS.

6. What Is A Desktop Environment?

As you may have noticed when looking over all the various distros, not all Linux Operating Systems have the same look. This is because they are using different desktops environments such as GNOME, KDE, Unity, etc. This is similar to Aero for Windows 7 or Aqua for OS X; they govern the overall ‘look and feel’ of the operating system and the way you use them, having different features and ways of getting things done.

via Wikipedia

The most popular of the desktop environments and the one’s that most distros ship with are GNOME and KDE. As with everything about Linux, if you don’t like something, you have the freedom to change it. If your chosen distro comes pre-installed with an environment that doesn’t suit your taste, you can install your own preferred one instead.

7. Can I Run My Old Windows/Mac Apps?

There is currently no way of running any of your Mac apps on Linux but there is a way to run some of your Windows apps. This is done through the use of a program called Wine, which will allow you to run some of your Windows programs on Linux at native or near-native speed. Not all of your apps will run though, and even when they do, you may encounter some incompatibilities, such as graphical glitches or features that are not working.

via Invasao

Wine is free to download and install but new users may find it difficult to use. In which case there are third party tools that make using Wine much easier to use and are preconfigured to make running certain Windows software much smoother on Linux, a prime example being CrossOver Linux.

8. How Do I Get Apps?

Now that you have a fresh install of Linux, naturally you will want to look at the apps it has to offer. Installing apps on Linux is a different experience compared to Windows or Mac. Unlike the two, where you have to hunt down an EXE or DMG, on Linux you will have to search through your distro’s repository to find what you are looking for.

via Wikipedia

Most of the distros make it easy by having a GUI for you to navigate; Ubuntu easier still by creating their own app store. Sometimes you may not find what you are looking for in the repository, in which case all you have to do is add another repository that contains the item you seek. Updating is also easier due to the repository system, as the OS can find and update all of your installed apps in one go, instead of one at a time.

9. How Do I Get Support?

Just like when you first started using Windows or OS X, you have a few things to learn when starting to use Linux. The good thing is that nowadays Linux is pretty simple to figure out in terms of how to install and use, as most distros have focused on ease of use for the end user. If the majority of your computing task is relatively simple, i.e. web browsing, word processing, chances are Linux will pose no trouble at all.

via Ubuntu

However, there may be times when you need a little help with your operating system. Never fear as Linux has a large fan base and community ready to help you on any issue that you may encounter. Most of the time, troubleshooting Linux will not be that hard, as many can be resolved by typing in something in a command line, of which the community will help you with step-by-step.

10. Can I Still Run My Old OS?

So you’ve installed Linux and while you feel it’s a great OS, you find that there are some things that are just better on your previous one. Usually this pertains to games and and other apps you cannot run on Linux or Wine. The good news is that you can still have the open goodness of Linux alongside your favorite OS. This is done by either using a virtual machine or dual booting.

via VirtualBox

With virtual machines, you get the best of both worlds, running Linux and your default OS at the same time. You could either run Linux or your OS in a virtual machine, depending on which you use more, as this method can eat up your systems resources. On the other hand, you have dual booting, where you run one OS at a time but can switch between them with a reboot. Either method is great depending on what you need and you can switch to Linux without worrying about getting access to your favorite OS.

Related posts:

  1. Elementary OS Luna: The Linux Distro That Works Like Mac OS
  2. Migrating From iOS To Android: 10 Most-Asked Questions
  3. Migrating From Android to iOS: 10 Most-Asked Questions
  4. Wine + 6 Other Apps To Run Windows Programs On Other Platforms








5 Things Your Brand Must Have Besides A Logo

hongkiat.com - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 09:01

Lots of people, many designers included, think a “brand” is just a nice looking logo. Wrong. So, so wrong, designers. A brand is about a lot more than simply a logo, or a stationery set, a cool t-shirt, etc. As a branding creative director, I’ve accumulated a bit of knowledge about what, exactly, goes into a successful brand that users truly connect with.

Today, I’m going to take you through the 5 essential things I believe a brand needs other than a nice looking logo, which is also important, but it’s also sort of a given, right?

1. A Mission

The brand you’re designing has to have a reason for existing. If it doesn’t, run far, far away from that project. A mission doesn’t have to be anything especially complicated. It can be as simple as a dream or an ideal that the founder had to reach out to more people through their business, or perhaps they want to continue a family business started by a parent or grandparent.

But, if the business owners have no motivation or guiding principles that inspire them to work hard on their business, how are they going to expect you, the designer, to do the same?

Some entrepreneurs have lost the “spark” they once had, that motivation that made them start the business in the first place, and they are looking for outside help to try and get it back.

That’s all fine and good, but you usually don’t want to be in a situation where you’re the only one who’s passionate about the business. What tends to happen is actually the opposite of what the client hopes: their “meh” attitude will actually infect you too, and you’ll soon be dreading going in to work every morning.

2. A Target Market

You don’t just create a branding strategy because you want some cool looking stationery. Your client’s brand needs to have a target audience, people who get the main message and will respond positively to it. This legwork will likely already be done by the client, but not always. Sometimes, it will be your job to be market researcher as well as designer.

How do you go about researching a target market? First, you have to know something about the industry. If you don’t, now is a great time to familiarize yourself and do some rooting around. Talk to potential users of the product or service and get a feel for the kind of people they are. What are their likes and dislikes, their expectations when using a website, software, product, etc.

3. Something Of Value

Brands provide value. Usually, this value is of an emotional nature – making people feel happy, safe, secure, entertained, etc. The actual product itself may not be worth much, financially speaking, but there is a lot to be said about people’s perception of a brand. If a user believes that something has value, then it does. This is both a good thing for designers – and a bad thing.

On the one hand, it means that you only need to come up with that one, great design that really connects with a large number of people and your reputation is basically set. On the other hand, it means that you need to be discerning about the exact kind of value you choose to provide your users.

4. Trust

More accurately: users have to Know, Like, and Trust your brand’s message if they are going to continue to value it and support your client’s business. These are the basic fundamentals of branding that every designer needs to be aware of. It’s not just your client’s responsibility; if you’re going to build a niche and have only the best clients on your roster, you have to become a mini-brand expert yourself.

First, people need to know the brand exists. That’s where marketing and spreading the word comes in. Next, if people don’t like a particular brand, they aren’t going to use it. This may be a matter of simple perception.

The bread on the bottom shelf may taste the same as the top shelf bread, but people are going to assign a lower value to it regardless. Or, it could be that they genuinely don’t like the product or service. There’s nothing you can do about that – no brand can please everyone, nor should they try.

Finally, if people don’t trust the brand, then all the fancy logos in the world aren’t going to fix the problem. This is more a problem with your client, and how well they convey trust, not only to their audience, but to everyone who works for them – including you. If you don’t trust them, there’s no way users will.

5. Genuine Communication

A brand needs to speak its target market’s language. If it comes across as phony or artificial, people will pick up on it immediately, and the brand will be a source of ridicule. This is related to trust – people have to agree with your message and trust that you know what’s best for them.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the social news site Reddit. The Reddit community is famously selective – not just anything can make it onto its coveted front page. Many marketers have tried to crack the code, failing miserably because they don’t understand how Reddit works and what Redditors value in a brand. Because Redditors have the power to “downvote” posts, it creates a purely democratic experience that proves the sincerity of any marketing attempt and keeps brands honest.

What Do You Think?

What else do brands need to have (other than a logo)? How important do you think it is for designers to have a solid understanding of brand creation?

Related posts:

  1. When Does Brand Design Actually Matter?
  2. 5 Brand Engagement Tips For Pinterest
  3. Showcase of Beautiful Airline Logo Designs
  4. Logo Parodies With Slogans That Say What You Think








Should You Hire A Web Designer Or Use a Web Builder?

hongkiat.com - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 16:01

Web builders are basically a magic toolbox for non-web designers. What was once out of people’s reach can now be grasped with just little effort. But there are things that web builders can’t do that web designers can. The question now is, should you hire a web designer to make your website for you or just use a web builder and build it yourself?

Web builders like Wix, IMCreator, Weebly, and Jigsy have helped millions of people create websites easily, even without Photoshop or coding experience. For people with small website needs, these tools are of great help. There are many web builders that have popped up in the last couple of years and people can just drag and drop and launch their sites within a day. In the same fashion, there are literally millions of talented web designers out there, and their numbers are growing by the day.

It can be confusing, especially when you are new to owning websites, but both web builders and web designers have their pros and cons, which you should weigh carefully before making a decision.

The Beauty of Web Builders

For those who do not speak the same language as web designers, web builders are a gift to them. There are lots of free web builders out there with hundreds of templates to start from and everything is very simple.

No coding, no FTP handling, no domain name registration and nameservers, and all the other technical stuff. Once satisfied, users can simply publish their websites and voila, it’s up and running.

1. Drag and Drop Features

The web building site’s main attraction is their ability to enable regular users to create websites with just a few mouse clicks. By simply dragging elements to a canvas, users have control over how they want their websites to look like.

2. User-Friendly Systems

Editing a website is easy too. If users want to change fonts, colors, and even images, all they need to do is click and apply the necessary changes. No editing of HTML and CSS files.

Another note-worthy thing about web builders is that they are built in a way that is easily understood by people of all ages. Take Weebly as an example. Once users sign up, they will be greeted by a step-by-step website creation guide. All they have to do is choose from a wide range of options.

This user-friendly guide can be found at most web building sites.

3. In-House Features And Support

Web builder companies understand that many of their users aren’t technical people, so they all have a team of people who are on stand-by just to answer people’s questions and help them with their troubles.

Why You Should Probably Hire a Web Designer

While web building sites appear to be all sunshine and rainbows, they can easily lead to a big mess when not enough preparation is made. Problems like transferring websites to a different host, limited features, and design redundancy are just some of the common problems that you might experience in the long run. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Transferring files Might Be A Problem

Take Wix as an example. Since Wix websites are built using their specialized system, hosting the same websites on a different server is close to impossible. It would mean anyone who wants to migrate will have to recreate everything from scratch.

Other web building sites like Weebly allow transfers from their host to another web server. But features like forums and their own blogging and shopping systems won’t be included with the transfer, including everything that is native to their system.

If you hire a web designer who can provide all of the features mentioned above, you will have your own hosting account and won’t have to think about transferring your website from one server to another. And you won’t be limited by the features and flexibility.

Your immediate needs will definitely increase as your business or audience grows. This is the problem with every web building site, they won’t be able to keep up with your needs as your website’s traffic grows. With a great web designer, you can ask for features that are otherwise hard to come by on web building sites. Features like an image slider, a user poll, fancy navigation, a robust image gallery, and other things that you might need.

Web builders (Potentially) cost more

The average price to use a website building service would cost around $100 per year for premium services. Domain name and hosting included. Most web builders have monthly subscription plans, which helps you to spread the cost. But in the long run, it might cost you even more.

To give you an idea, web builders generally cost around $100 per year. But if you want additional features, you can either purchase add-ons from the web builders themselves or via third-party providers, which usually range from $10 to $50.

Now, suppose you hired a web designer to build your website for $3,000. A one-time fee of $3,000 and a monthly hosting fee of $7 (for a decent hosting). Initially it will cost you $3,084 on your first year, and just $84 on the succeeding years. But the steal here is that you can ask for tons of features and things you want to be included on your site.

Another thing that could potentially rack up the cost for web builders is when it’s time to move on to another hosting service. And trust me when I say that if a website becomes half as successful as intended, a transfer will happen 100%. Especially for e-commerce sites. Aside from paying someone to do the transfers, there will still be several issues to address such as replicating the features that were left on the web builder’s system amd updating everything that needs updating because web builders aren’t exactly known for rolling out quick updates among other things.

Which Should You Go For?

If your needs are simple, and will most likely be so for years to come, spending a few hours building your own website via a web builder is practical. This is because usually catalog websites don’t need a lot of fancy features. Just a gallery, a place to include text, and other simple stuff. The same is also true for restaurant websites.

But if you need to open an online store, a news website, membership sites, forums, and similar heavy-featured websites, I highly recommend looking for professional services. This way you will save time, money, and energy.

Related posts:

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  3. 20 Beautiful UI & UX Designer Portfolios For Inspiration
  4. How To Become A High-Demand Designer (And Get the Good Clients)








15 Examples of How Technology Innovates Fashion

hongkiat.com - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 12:01

It was the great Coco Chanel who once said, “Fashion changes, but style endures.” Well, regardless of your thoughts on the matter, there’s anothing thing that changes along with fashion. It is technology. With the amount of innovation happening these days, it kind of makes sense to bring the two together. After all, technology opens up so much more possibilities.

By combining style and functionality, there have been a few people who have taken fashion to the next level. From coats that can turn you into a mappable hotspot to dresses that will make you reconsider that little white lie, we’ve gathered a collection of 15 ongoing projects that could just be turned into reality.

We can’t say for certain if they’ll actually catch on but these futuristic fashion styles do look pretty awesome.

CHBL Jammer Coat

This coat is designed by an Austrian architecture company, Coop Himmelb(L)au and you can use it to disappear. Nope, it is not Harry Potter’s clock of insivibility. What happens is that the metallized fabrics block radio waves and makes the wearer untrackable from modern devices. It works great in a sense that your credit card information will be safe but this also means that you won’t be contactable via phone.

via Coop-himmelb(l)au

Rain Palette

Since acid rain remains a threat to public health nowadays, the Korean-born, London-based designer Dahue Sun had invented a natural cabbage dyed dress that could act as a pH indicator when rain falls onto the fabric. To take it even further, it even comes with a smartphone app that allows people to scan and upload colour changes to a cloud based database. This will update the rest of the world with real-time environmental data about the rain.

via Materiability

BB. Suit

Designed by Borre Akkersdijk, a Dutch textile developer, this prototype is basically the opposite of the Jammer Coat because it is embedded with copper wires that enable WiFi, GPS, NFC and Bluetooth that will turn you into a mappable hotspot with MP3 streaming capabilities. All those wires won’t hurt though as there are two layers of cotton to protect the copper wires inside, thus making it comfortable to wear.

via Adafruit

Karma Chameleon Project

What if your energy could be harnessed and used to change the display of a specific fabric? A group of researchers at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada have managed to weave electronic components into pieces of fabric to do just that. The result is illustrated in the picture below and as you can see, it’s something really cool. They’re even looking at other applications for this fabric as well, such as for charging and medical purposes. As more research is being conducted, this won’t be in retail stores any time soon.

via Bravenewgear

Gaze activated dress

This dress knows when you are looking at it. Embedded with eye-tracking technology, the dress responds to the human gaze. Gazing at the dress activates tiny motors which moves certain parts of it. One of the dresses is covered in tendrils of photo-luminescent threads that dangle from ruched fabrics while the other one is made up of glow-in-the-dark threads which forms a base layer.

via Urdesign

Intimacy 2.0

One look at the details of this dress and you can already tell just how provocative it’s meant to be. Throw some technology into the mix with opaque smart e-foils and the dress is taken to the next level. Oh did we mention that it becomes increasingly transparent when your heartbeat increases? This is one that makes a statement fashion wise and via its message of personal space too.

via Fashioningtech

The Unseen

How about clothing that responds to the weather around you? This jacket is treated with liquid crystal to make it respond to friction. Lauren Bowker does this by combining textiles and ink technology. A gust of wind or a ray of sunshine would have an effect on this beautiful piece of clothing, as indicated by the picture below.

via Wired

Living Pod

Ying Gao, the same Montreal fashion designer responsible for the Gaze Activated dresses, also created these dreses that look like they’re living and breathing. The folds of the dress curl and unfurl when exposed to light and the rate at which it moves changes with the light’s intensity as well. What’s great about this piece is how natural it moves.

via Fashioningtech

Wearable solar fashion

This is a handy one for the minimalists out there. Crystal solar panels are integrated into leather flaps on the jackets shoulders and waist so they can be revealed when there is sunshine and hidden when not in use. When worn in the full sun for an hour, it can store enough energy to charge a typical smartphone for up to 50% in capacity.

via Dezeen

Bubelle emotion sensing dress

This prototype by Philips Design gives us a look into the future of fashion where clothes does not merely to protect, but also reflect our emotions making it a forward form of communication. The first layer of the dress contains biometric sensors which projects emotion which comes in the form of colorful lights onto the second layer, the outer textile. It is both stunning and functional.

via Crunchwear

Holy dress

his garment punishes its wearer whenever a lie is told and is not invented for those who are weak in conscience. It has a speech recognition system, which constantly checks for lies. The dress will light up when you are talking, growing with intensity as the likeliness of a lie increases. If you have the guts to lie, it lights up and flickers while stunning you with an electric jolt as a repercussion.

via Melissa Coleman

Paparazzi lover

The name says it all really. Embedded with 62 LED lights that are sensitive to camera flashes, this dress lights up when it is photographed. This is a great way to remind the paparazzi who the real star is… the dress!

via Onascimento.com

DareDroid 2.0 Cocktailmaking Dress

Compared to the rest of the dresses, this one rewards another person and not the wearer of the outfit. If you’re interested in a refreshing cocktail, all you’d have to is play a touch screen version of ‘Truth or Dare’ and a combination of medical technology, customized hardware and human temperament will ensure that you get that well-deserved drink. However, get too close and the dress shuts down on you.

via V2

Smoke dress

At first glance, this dress will intrigue you merely by the flirty sparks. In essence, it is operated by a micro-controller-based, battery-driven sensory system that can detect when people are near you and releases smoke if they invade your personal space. How’s that for a warning sign for people to stay away?

via Toptenz.com

Robotic Spider Dress

Combining robotics and fashion, this dress has 6 robotic legs perched on the shoulders which responds to nearby movements. This piece of fashion also deals with the theme of ‘personal space’. It attracts the attention of those who are curious whilst protecting the user wearing the garment at the same time.

via Fashioningtech

Related posts:

  1. 10 Upcoming Technology That May Change The World
  2. From Toilet Roll To Paper Art: 12 Amazing Examples
  3. 9 Minority Report Inspired Touchless Technology
  4. 10 Futuristic Technology That May Come True Very Soon








How To Best Manage Your Direct Report

hongkiat.com - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 09:01

Today, we’re going to have a little crash course in creative direction. After you’ve been designing for a while, you may find yourself in charge of another person on your team, whether it’s another designer, or a programmer, a copywriter, or other professional.

There’s just one problem: you’ve never been in charge of a team member before, and you have no idea what to do. Today, I’m going to dispense some vital information on having a direct report that I wish someone had told me my first time in the director’s seat.

Be Consistent With Meetings

You want to communicate to your report that you value his or her contribution to the project. The best way to do this is to make an effort to brief them regularly one-on-one and update them on the status of your project. If you just send your report an email when you need them to do something, this sends the message that you don’t really care about them as a worker.

A lack of communication from you tells them they are simply a means to an end, and this attitude can kill morale faster than the time it takes to press ‘send.’ You also want to establish good habits for communicating in general, whether to your team members or your clients. Everyone appreciates being included in the development of a project, and you want to make sure you don’t lag behind on your updates.

Analyze, Then Create Your Blueprint

The easiest way to have a happy employee is to be genuinely curious about what their needs and desires are. During your one-on-one meetings, ask them questions, not only about what they need to do, the task currently in front of them, but also about what they want out of their career.

This may seem frivolous, but I promise you it isn’t. You can get a lot of mileage as a manager out of knowing what direction your employees wish to go. That way, you can help guide them towards being as fulfilled as possible, which in turn will assure that they do the best work they can while they are working for you.

Let Them Vent

There’s a lot to be said about getting things off your chest, and this applies to a direct report as much as it does to you. Your report will inevitably have concerns and issues with something related to their job, and whether it’s your fault or not, you have a responsibility to listen and attempt to make things as painless as possible for them.

Note that just listening is often enough to placate someone’s complaint. You don’t have to have all the answers, and most reasonable people aren’t expecting you to. Sometimes, just a friendly ear is enough to restore morale and get someone excited again. If your report can see you as a human being who cares about their feelings, it can only improve your work relationship all around.

Give Them Feedback

This one’s a no-brainer, but still something missed by many a supervisor. All employees need to hear how good of a job they’re doing. I’m not just saying this as a platitude – it’s actually been proven to improve morale and decrease turnover. If your report knows how much you value their contribution, and they feel they are being treated fairly, there will be no reason for them to complain or quit.

Also important is constructive criticism. Not mean-spirited jabbing; I mean respectfully pointing out what’s not working so that your report can correct themselves. This kind of criticism will motivate them to improve their skills and impress you, rather than making them bitter and silently wishing for your death each time you walk in the door.

If your report is working with others aside from you, talk to those people as well. The more everyone has a clear understanding of what everyone else is doing, the more harmonious the entire department or business will run.

Set A Clear Direction

Employees are human. And as humans, we all complete our tasks much more efficiently when we have a clear idea of what is expected of us. When a client gives you a project, it’s almost always easier to finish it if you have a clearly outlined brief, complete with guidelines and restrictions as to what you can and cannot include in the final piece.

A direct report needs the same kind of guidelines to be efficient at his or her job as well. What do you want to accomplish this week? What do you expect to see from them by the next one-on-one meeting? Be clear and not vague; you want to lay down a foundation for regular completion of deliverables that your report can stick to.

You can’t expect anyone to be able to read your mind. And yet, this is one of the most common sources of conflict between a manager and employees. Everyone’s going around expecting others to somehow magically divine what’s going on in their heads. If you do that, then stop it. Be clear about what you want, and your direct report will respond in kind.

Keep Them In The Loop

We’ve already discussed the importance of keeping your report informed about the status of the project you’re working on together. However, a continual stream of information that could possibly affect them is just as important, whether it’s directly related to the project or not. For example, news from the higher ups about possible downsizing or direction changes in marketing or the brand’s message. Your report needs to hear these things as much as you do.

You don’t have to inform your report of every minute detail. In fact, it’s good to practice self-editing; people only need to know what’s important, and you droning on about the boring details of your manager’s meeting isn’t going to be of much use to your report. Rather, give a clear and concise snapshot of “the view from 100 feet up,” and make sure they are kept abreast of any vital developments. The last thing you want is for your report to hear some important news from someone other than you.

In Conclusion

Being “the boss” can be an incredibly rewarding experience, if done correctly, allowing you a far greater amount of creative control over a project that you might have otherwise. Also, it can be very fulfilling to have a hand in steering a successful creative team to new heights. Remember that respect and trust flow both ways – you and your report need to have a mutual understanding and high opinion of one another to produce the best work you can.

Related posts:

  1. How To Manage Your Team With Praise, Incentives And Autonomy
  2. Manage Your Project Easily With Your Team Using Solo
  3. 10 Job Roles Freelancers Take Up (And How To Manage Them)
  4. Sync Your Project Files & Manage Team Communication With Fleep








10 Websites To Create Animated GIFs For Free

hongkiat.com - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 17:01

Whatever your mood or fancy, somewhere in the online world, there’s probably a GIF out there to showcase how you really feel. But what if you don’t find that exact GIF that you want? Why not create your very own customized animated GIF then? You don’t need to be an expert to do it and no technical skills are required in creating one.

Here we’ve compiled a list of websites that allow you to create an animated GIF online, easily and for free. All you need to do is get your images (or photos) prepared, upload them, do a little bit of customization (if you want), hit the generate button and off you go. Take a look and have fun in creating your own animated GIFs.

1. Loogix

To use this site, you’d need at least 3 images to make a GIF. However, you can always add more as it allows for up to 10 images to be uploaded. It supports 5 different frame speeds as well. In addition to regular GIF creation, Loogix allows for optional effects such as Blur, Guggle or Motley to be applied to the animated GIF.

Other service(s) include:

2. Picasion

Picasion is quite similar to Loogix in the way it operates, though the look of the site is slightly different. In addition to uploading your images via your desktop, this site allows you to import photos from Flickr or from a Picasa web album, if you like.

Other service(s) include:

3. Gickr

In the same way as the others, Gickr also lets you upload a minimum of 3 and maximum of 10 images for your GIF creation process. What makes this different is that you can create not only custom GIF sizes but also custom speeds (for up to 10 seconds) for your animated GIFs. Gickr also supports the importing of images from Flickr and Picasa.

4. MakeaGIF

Sometimes it could take awhile for your images to upload onto one of these GIF making sites, makeagif.com makes this process a lot easier. You can select multiple photos by simply holding the control or command key. This particular service also has a gallery of funny animated GIFs that you should definitely check out too.

Other service(s) include:

5. GIFMaker.me

GIFmaker.me is a handy site for creating GIFs as it supports images in GIF, JPG and PNG format. It comes with a scrolling panel that gives you better control over the animated GIF’s canvas size and the animation speed too. Best of all, it comes with a preview panel so you can get an idea of how the animated GIF looks like before you give it the go ahead.

Other service(s) include:

6. ImgFlip

Imgflip is another site that can help you create GIFs and it supports JPG, PNG and GIF formats. It uses a simple scroll panel to allow you to control your GIF’s delay time, width, height and quality as well. You can drag images onto the site and rearrange the sequence before creating your final product making this quite user-friendly. However, the GIFs created come with a subtle imgflip.com watermark, which can only be removed with a pro account.

Other service(s) include:

7. GIFPal

GIFPal is a decent site that has a lot of the functionalities of ImgFlip but with a better interface to work with. It comes with a lot of different effects that you can add on to the GIFs. It also lets you take control of the brightness, hue, contrast and saturation of your GIF. It also has a gallery of animated GIFs that you can explore although do take note that some of the images are NSFW (Not-Safe-For-Work).

Other service(s) include:

8. BlogGIF

BlogGIF is a fun site that allows you to do more than just put together a regular animated GIF. It is also made up of various other features such as adding effects to your GIF and even creating your own GIF slideshow. In addition, you can also decompose one of your favorite animated GIFs into several frames with a handy online tool. And if that’s not enough, if you want to channel your inner Spielberg, you can even try the Webcam GIF function that lets you capture pictures with your webcam and create your very own mini movie.

9. GIFUp

Like the various other sites, GIFUp provides the basic functions that you would need to turn your images into a GIF that’s easy to use and share and can be compared to Loogix and Picasion. The navigation of the site is fairly simple, so you shouldn’t have problems in creating your own GIF’s. You can upload your chosen images from your desktop, Flickr or any regular website that you’d like. This is a decent option for when you need it.

10. MemeCenter’s GIF Maker

If you’re a big fan of memes then you probably know of MemeCenter. The good thing about the site is that it probably has the best UI overall, which makes it a lot more convenient when you want to create a GIF. The MemeCenter’s GIFMaker allows you to insert additional text and even brush strokes into your GIF to give it a more personalized touch.

Related posts:

  1. Create GIFs Directly On Chrome with MakeGIF
  2. Drag-And-Drop To Create Beautiful Websites With IM Creator
  3. 20 Animated And Interactive Infographics You Have To See
  4. 5 Best Websites To Send Fax For Free








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