Tag Archives: print

Creation Requires Inspiration!


‘Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity’

We’re a creative bunch here at HL Studios, and for today’s blog post, we thought it best to give you an insight into what inspires us on a daily basis when it comes to our work…with a twist.

Each set of images has been chosen by one of our members of staff, see if you can guess who’s is who’s. The images are linked back to the HL Studios ‘about us’ page.

This person chose artists that fall into a realm of what can only be described as ‘prog modern fantasy’ as their inspiration, in their words…”M C Escher, Chris Foss (wow!), Roger Dean, Theo Aartsma (Big wow!).”


This member of staff is clearly inspired by more traditional high fantasy artists, they have chosen Eyvind Earle, Hidemi Kubo, Brian Froud and John William Waterhouse.


Next up is a creative who finds joy in the bold and the brave, in their words “My inspiration comes from the flow and form found in design. I admire structured design, especially corporate identity. My influences are: Designers Republic, Banksy, Phillippe Starck and the wonderful world that is deviantart”.


Our next entry is from someone who takes their inspiration from the wonderful world of media as a whole…”design to me is the colors and shapes used in graphic effects for tv, web and print”.


The next entry has rather a lot of inspiration, they have listed them all here…”Sin City, 300 and graphic novel style art – not that awful manga sh*t. Coraline, Nightmare before Christmas, Morph and anything animated with models. Mexican Day of the dead celebrations and paraphernalia (am I sounding like a serial killer yet…?!).
Packaging. I’m an absolute sucker for great packaging design. Mobile phone boxes, the little hole in Maltesers boxes, Cadbury’s egg n spoon desserts, Mikado sticks… am guessing I should add food here… FOOOOOD!
The English countryside & the seasons. Photography and photo manipulation apps, take my phone everywhere and take pics of everything. And oooh I love a good sign as well…”.


Our last entry draws their inspiration from both modern and vintage forms of artwork, their list includes Lucian Freud, vintage movie posters and books from the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the clean cut designs we find on the world wide web.


We hope you have enjoyed looking at our inspirations as much as we have enjoyed collating them!

How many did you guess right…?!

Love, the HL Studios Creative Team.

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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in design news


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How publishing for different devices impacts design

Guest blog courtesy of Christopher Bladon – Design Oracle, HL Studios for Bookmachine.


Many design companies, like us here at HL Studios, come from a print or web-based background and have had to do some serious upgrading (of software, equipment and especially skills) to keep up with the multitude of digital devices available on the market today. Designing for these devices is quite complex, as each device has different characteristics that impact on the user experience.

Every digital project we undertake has different problems to overcome. In an ideal world we would start from a blank document and produce content for a single digital format, but as no single job is the same we frequently find ourselves dealing with legacy print documents that are required in multiple formats for multi-channel publishing. This situation is unlikely to change anytime soon and may never merge into a single universal standard.

Our starting point is always the format required – ePub, PDF, MOBI/PRC, AZW, IBA (iBooks Author) or stand-alone app. Usually the client dictates this, but in consultation one format may work better for the end user, especially if a more visually attractive media is needed. Thankfully, when multiple formats are required most layout software allows for the export of different formats, with the minimal of changes to any files. IBooks Author is slightly different. At the moment there is no direct way of importing InDesign or Quark files into the program – there are some work-arounds to this, but none of which are entirely satisfactory, as yet. We are working with our programmers to create an InDesign plug-in that can export directly to iBooks – which we hope will make the process of conversion smoother.

The next important thing to think about is the orientation – Landscape or Portrait, Fixed or Fluid – this may have implications on the construction of the document. Re-flowable and re-sizeable text aside, an ePub file has the issue of what to do with design features such as chapter headings and chapter openers. In a print-first workflow where the design features have been commissioned with the printed book in mind, there is an inevitable conflict between preserving the ‘look’ of the book and retaining the usability of the e-book.

Another good practice is to ensure the correct usage of stylesheets. Tags and stylesheets enable efficient single source, multi-channel publishing. And the most effective technology for employing tags and stylesheets is xml. Using an xml workflow or book production smoothes the transition from print to digital.

Size becomes an issue (don’t laugh) if you pack an e-book full of all the exciting interactive features available. Most digital marketplaces have strict guidelines on the maximum size allowed for each document.

There are many other things to take in to account, for instance black backgrounds enhance glare on most devices and font choices become irrelevant when using formats like ePub. We also need to design with the finger in mind. An adult finger is larger, but a young child’s finger is less accurate, so it’s important to ensure that any design works for all potential users. Links need to be large enough to click. Allowing for the navigation features on each device is important, for instance, the iPAD has a pop-up navigation bar at the top (44px) and a toolbar at the bottom (40px); any clickable feature in an e-book needs to be clear of this area. Other devices have similar navigation bars that need to be designed around. We have found that leaving an area of about 50px around all sides usually covers most tablets or smartphones.

The initial construction of a print document has the greatest impact on the conversion into an e-book, so good practice in a workflow is essential. If you would like tips on how to do this successfully, feel free to contact us at HL Studios, be it just for an informal chat or to arrange a full professional presentation.

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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in design news


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Outsourced support for educational publishers


As our society’s educational needs multiply, there’s a never-ending stream of demands to create and develop new courses, to help with education and training of ever more students. In addition to the demand from schools and colleges for educational material, there is now a growing demand for adult education. As the pace of change accelerates, there is an increasing realisation that people need to improve their skills all the way through their careers, taking account of changes in their profession, or planning a complete change as their old industry moves into its twilight years.

At the same time, the new technologies are creating new opportunities and challenges, making it possible to deliver education remotely and in flexible ways. First Amazon’s Kindle, and then the Apple Ipad, have created new ways to deliver electronic material and coursework. Added together, these issues mean that educational publishers face a significant number of changes in the way they work, and an increasing demand for relevant content to support the burgeoning demand for modern education.

For a start, traditional publishing, which involved crafting books and printed coursework has been overtaken by demands for other media. Gone are simple illustrations, now it is possible to include animation and video, even virtual three dimensional objects with interactivity for students. Online formats are now used for delivering courses over the internet, while tablets require downloadable documents that are legible and work well on each of the individual machine’s formats. Often the design skills that work well to deliver a printed format book do not produce such good results when translated to a new digital format, so that it can be advisable to seek design expertise with more specific experience in this area.

The pace of work has also changed considerably. No longer will businesses place long term contracts, allowing educational publishers to plan their staffing and workload months ahead. Instead, timelines have shortened, and projects will be awarded much nearer to their publication deadline. In these circumstances, it makes sense to plan a more flexible publishing operation; something that has led to the creation of companies such as HL Studios, which can deliver on-demand specialist support to mainstream publishers. The company has a studio of project managers, designers, page layout artists and illustrators enabling the HL Studios team to efficiently handle projects for print or digital, delivering a quick turnaround with great quality control. Using its own software, HL Studios can provide digital books with video, images and activities embedded on a page.

Not only can this arrangement cover the peaks in output that may be required, they also ensure that it is possible to draw on a talented pool of people, many niche specialists, rather than rely on an in-house team that may be missing essential new skills in such areas as the latest digital design. As a result, a growing number of specialist support suppliers have developed their operations to plug into the needs identified by educational publishers, as they meet the needs of developing material that is not only published as a text book, but may at the same time need to be on a CD or DVD, appear as an online course accessed via the internet, or have elements that can be downloaded as an app or readable document for tablet readers.

The pace of change is unlikely to diminish, and one thing is for sure, within the next few years there will be new, ever more interactive formats appearing that will demand creativity and expertise to exploit. This will continue to provide a challenge for educational publishers; if you’re reading this from one of their offices, then why not call HL Studios now to see how we can help you.

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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in design news


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