Quickly making animations from Illustrator Layers

I produced comic like animations that should help explain the products of my dad's company eFlipchart better. I started off from the companies few small jpeg files, but decided to use Adobe Illustrator to modify and build off them.

The first question was: How do I create vector graphics from existing jpegs?

This is easily done using the live trace function under the options menu. I found a useful tutorial here Thanks a lot!

I created 30+ layers, each one containing the information for one frame of my animation. I named them 01_Intro, 02_SomeInfo, and so on. Next, I wanted to batch convert them into individual gifs, to then batch insert them into PowerPoint to create my animation with voice over. To save each layer as a gif file, I first have to make sure that all of the layers that I want to save are shown (Eyeball symbol in Illustrator). This may look a little confusing, since all of the layers are overlapping:

In order to export gifs from Illustrator, just like in Photoshop, I go to File > Save For Web and Devices.... Here, I have the option to save the individual layers (On the right hand side, there is a tab called Layers, which needs to be selected (see image below)).

Simply keep the default settings in the layers menu. Click save and specify folder location and prefix for the gif files. Illustrator will create a folder called "images" by default, in which it places all of the images according to the layer name. Hence it's good to numerate the layer names in Illustrator.

Next, I want to insert the gif files into PowerPoint to create a presentation, which I can manually adavnce, as I record my voice over it for the animation video.
And guess what, even PowerPoint has an option to batch import all of my images into different slides, of course in the desired order. Simply open a new PowerPoint presentation, go to insert>PhotoAlbum. I selected all of my images, then selected that I wanted to position one image per slide, and press OK. Et voila, now I can record my animation with a software such as Camtasia, and lay over my voice comments. Read More......

How to make Stick Animations

I am currently creating a set of short simple videos that will describe the services of the web based comunnications agency eflipchart to their potential customers.

After a short search on google, I came across this easy-to-use stickfigure animator called Pivot.
Pivot Stickfigure Animator is a unique software, that allows you to create stick figure animations easily and without any artistic skills. You can move the sections of the sick figure and easily create a chain of animation frames that can be previewed as you go. You can use more than one stick-figure in the animation, and even create your own stick figures using an easy to use visual editor that lets you assemble objects out of lines and circles. In addition, you can optionally set animation size, speed and more. The result can be saved as animated GIF file. Fun and easy to use, surprisingly well featured.

For more information and a free download, click here Read More......

Innovation driven design vs consumer focused design (product design)

Reading up on innovative concepts and strategies in product design, I came across an article publiched by Julia Hanna, associate editor of the Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin.

Consumers appear increasingly willing to make purchase decisions based upon their emotions about a product—how it looks, or sounds, or makes them feel using it. But the traditional design process based on user experience goes only so far in creating radical innovation. Harvard Business School visiting scholar Roberto Verganti is exploring the new world of "design-driven innovation." Key concepts include:

* Innovative product design is risky, but provides competitive advantage to companies that understand how a product "speaks" to customers.
* Little theory exists to point the way for companies that want to create a successful design strategy beyond the traditional user-driven design process.
* Companies often adopt one of three design strategies: launch and see, see and launch, or wait and see. Innovators may often be in the see and launch category.
* Innovators understand and build off each other's ideas better than the imitators do.

The article titled Radical Design, Radical Results is posted below.

Here is the extended entry, where I prattle on about things.

When furniture designer Herman Miller presented a prototype of its sleek, mesh Aeron chair to a consumer focus group, many asked if they could see a finished, upholstered version.

Innovative product design can be a risky proposition. Yet as consumer purchases become increasingly driven by emotion, the competitive advantage gained by how a product "speaks" to a customer is clear. Just think about how Apple began its resurrection in 1998 with the unthinkable design of computers made of translucent blue, orange, and pink plastic, the original iMac.

Despite the importance of industrial design, little theory exists on how companies might go about creating a successful design strategy. In a recent article, "Strategies of Innovation and Imitation of Product Languages," published in the Journal of Production Innovation Management, HBS visiting scholar Roberto Verganti addresses this shortfall as part of a larger research agenda investigating how companies manage to succeed in this particular arena. Verganti coauthored the article with Claudio Dell'Era, his colleague at Italy's Politecnico di Milano.

"Researchers have been investigating technological innovation for decades, but we know almost nothing about how companies manage design innovation," Verganti says.

For their study, Verganti and Dell'Era focused on the Italian furniture industry, using a database (Webmobili.com) to classify 2,000 objects by shape, color, surface, and material. They also divided the corresponding sample of 100 manufacturers into innovators and imitators, identifying a company as an innovator if it had been selected for or received the coveted Compasso d'Oro, a prestigious international prize awarded to groundbreaking design products.
Uncertainty increases

Verganti says that design innovation often involves a high degree of uncertainty in terms of market success.

"It's very hard to understand what people want," he says. "If I make a car that can brake in 10 yards instead of 50, that's a quantifiable advantage that is easy to understand. But if I decide to create a computer out of translucent, colored plastic, it's much more subjective. People will love it, or they won't."

Focus groups and market research can help to define a product, of course, but Verganti has found that design-driven innovation is not user-centered. Instead, it comes from within the organization. "Rather than being pulled by user requirements," he wrote recently, "design-driven innovation is pushed by a firm's vision about possible new product meanings and languages that could diffuse in society."

"Apple is a company that is pushed by a vision," Verganti says. "Steve Jobs has said that the market doesn't always know what it wants. Companies that do radical innovation do not listen to users; they eventually value market feedback, but first they propose things to the users."

In the face of this market uncertainty, Verganti has found that companies adopt one of three different strategies:

* Launch and see. The company launches a variety of products, and then measures market reaction to each, relying on the selective capability of consumers to determine which products to focus on.
* See and launch. The company employs some sort of research process and then launches products based on its findings.
* Wait and see. The company allows others to experiment with various products, observes what is most successful, and reacts accordingly.

In Verganti's study of the Italian furniture industry, one would expect those who wait and see to have the least amount of variety in their product line. After all, if the imitators decide to stand back and observe what is most successful, wouldn't they choose to copy just a few, choice products? Conversely, it would seem that the innovative companies would probably have higher levels of variety in their products because of the experiments they conduct.

Instead, the results showed just the opposite.

While the cost of experimentation in the furniture industry is relatively low, Verganti and his colleague found that the innovator companies actually used a see and launch strategy, conducting research in order to understand what sort of product language might be most successful. (This research is less of the focus-group variety and more of a broad-based assessment of cultural trends and scenario building.)

"Companies that do radical innovation do not listen to users."

"Innovators avoid proposing a wide range of product signs and languages as a way to protect brand identity," says Verganti. "They tend to adopt strategies that allow customers to easily reconnect specific product signs to their brands."

In contrast, imitators show a greater variety in their product portfolio. They observe what innovators do and how the market reacts. But the feedback they receive is initially so ambiguous, with several languages coexisting, that they eventually imitate everything.

"The confusion that this creates in the market is called semiotic pollution," Verganti says. "Imitators can be successful if they wait four or five years to determine what they should produce. But in the beginning it's not clear which product is the winner. So when it comes to product languages, imitation is a very expensive strategy."

Another key finding is that the innovators' products tended to be more homogeneous as a group. "It seems that the innovators understand and build off each other's ideas better than the imitators do," Verganti remarks. "They innovate in a circle; it's a similar dynamic to what occurs in a visual arts movement like Impressionism."
Lead or suffer?

Do these findings have implications beyond the design-heavy world of the Italian furniture industry? Regardless of the product in question, Verganti believes that companies need to consider the importance of design.

"In every industry, sooner or later, there is a radical change in the language of its products," he says. "So the point for companies is, do they want to lead the change, or do they want to suffer the change?"

Verganti will present some of the secrets of strategy and process behind successful product language development in a book to be published by HBS Press in late 2008 or early 2009.

"It's a fascinating topic on many levels," he says. "Many of the Italian furniture companies I've studied are as small as 80 employees. They don't have the marketing muscle or distribution power of larger entities. Yet they're world leaders in the field."

Is Verganti a consumer of design himself? "If you come to my house you will find a lot of semiotic pollution," he laughs. "Having many different styles in one home is actually a trend, though; people today want to have their own look."

And that, of course, makes it even harder for companies to discern dominant trends

Read More......

pimping my blog

I am brand new to this whole blogging thing. There's a looot of stuff out there to really customize it.

When trying to figure out how to display my LinkedIn profile in this blog, I came across a post in the blog from Joitske Hulsebosch from the Netherlands who summarizes how to do just that. Read more here. Read More......

1st entry

Hmm, I wonder what this will look like. Because I've been viewing them so much lately, I will upload one of my favorite pictures that Moni and I took when driving in Scandinavia last week. Visit the Norwegian Fjords! Read More......