From The Archives: Illustrating Steve Jobs

I can honestly say it’s the cliché of clichés when I say we see the late Steve Jobs as a source of inspiration in our lives. He truly lived what one might call a ‘full’ life.
So I was particularly struck by a photo of his during one of his last keynotes. It was him holding his hands in a ‘namaste’ thanking the audience in his traditional black turtle neck tee. And I don’t know what got into me but I decided to make a Steve Jobs illustration.

Steve Jobs - Pixel Drop Studios
The immortal Steve Jobs

Illustrating Steve Jobs

What followed that was a gruesome 18 straight hours in front of the computer. Blood shot eyes and multiple coffee cups later this is what we had to show.

This essentially had me drawing individual patches of colours on illustrator up close.

Steve Jobs illustration - Pixel Drop Studios
Each patch is drawn individually

The subtle variations of the colour patches together formed the final picture. Sorta of how pixels work to form a picture, only this time, it has more of an oil painting feel to it.

Steve Jobs Illustration - Pixel Drop Studios
The color on each patch is manually added

It involved a lot of overlapping of the patches . You can see the individual patches in the working drawings of it. Those are really a lot of patches.

Steve Jobs Illustration - Pixel Drop Studios
Those are a lot of patches

And of course his immortal words are a part of it. You can check out the project on our Behance HERE.

As Jobs said “Here’s to the crazy ones”.

Steve Jobs Illustration - Pixel Drop Studios
The final version of our Steve Jobs illustration

Well, the Jobs illustration turned out to be a really fun and eye straining venture. So I decided to make it into a series of Tech Legends. I’ve set out on a course to make illustrations of all the top tech titans of this era. After Jobs, we’ve got Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Zuckerberg in the works.

Here are some of the works in progress.

Bill Gates Illustration Pixel Drop Studios
Bill Gates Illustration
Sergey Brin and Larry Page illustration - Pixel Drop Studios
The Google Boys – Sergey Brin and Larry Page

I’ll have to be honest. This has been in limbo for quite some years. I’m hoping that writing blog on it will kind of force me into going ahead with this and work on completing the series

oh and if you would like a print copy of the Steve Jobs illustration, feel free to drop a mail 

Lunar Calendar 2017

I think having physical desktop calendars are a bare necessity of life. At least for me! It helps to have a hold on your coming days and those that have gone past.
The Lunar Calendar 2017 was just a simple calendar design project. We just wanted to try something simple and straight to the point.

My fascination with the Lunar Calendar came up with my hobby of late night walks. It still amazes me how much difference moonlight makes. On a full moon, even away from the city, the whole night is so serenely lit up. It’s almost magical. Whereas on a new moon, almost pitch darkness. Your eyes really struggle to adjust.

Lunar Calendar 2017 Pixel Drop Studios
Each date is shown to be with the corresponding moon phase

The Lunar Calendar is just that. It shows the phases of the moon every fortnight. Each date is shown to be with the corresponding moon phase. A full moon day will have the entire moon face behind the date and a new moon will have none. Simple and to the point.

I found it a helpful case as I have a copy of it on my desk and plan my nightly ‘sojourns ‘ accordingly now.

Lunar Calendar 2017 Pixel Drop Studios
Lunar Calendar 2017

Check out the pdf of the entire year’s calendar provided herewith. Print out a copy for your desk or wall. Hopefully it’ll help you too!

Download The Lunar Calendar 2017

From The Archives: Thermo Clock Android App

So this is turning back the pages of time when we had just started out. The Thermo Clock Android App was probably our very first venture into app development. We wanted to test the waters as they say.

The idea of the app came while looking at the various methods to depict time besides the standard format (analog and digital). We basically had to show a quantity variation and decided to use the stardard thermometer as our guide.

Thermo Clock Android App Pixel Drop Studios
A Thermometer design is pretty good to depict quantity

Thermo Clock Android App

Taking the standard mercury thermometer, we assigned every hour as the number and added  divisions within the hour. Four divisions of 15 mins or Twelve divisions every five minutes, that was left for the user to choose.

Thermo Clock Android App Pixel Drop Studios
Every hour is divided into Four divisions of 15 minutes or Twelve divisions every 5 minutes

Initially its a greyed out number, then gradually the ‘mercury’ inside it rises which shows the passage of time. Half the number filled meant it is half an hour past, a quarter filled means 15 minutes had passed and so on.

Thermo Clock Android App Pixel Drop Studios
Rising mercury shows the passage of time

The concept was to find a rather relaxing method to track time. (inspired by the Pomodoro technique). Just a simple timer – Set the time and you get an alarm at the end of it, that’s it. A timer that keeps you away from distractions.

Thermo Clock Android App Pixel Drop Studios

The Thermo Clock was primarily aimed as an Android timer. We were going through our old work and thought to check if the idea resonated with anyone out there. Do let us know if you guys think it’s worth pursuing.

Damn, all this just takes us back to the start…(ala coldplay)

 

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We are alive

We know that we have been quiet off lately, and some people have even asked us if we’re still alive.

We are alive, and can assure you that the silence is because we have a lot on our hands. And just to soothe your worries, here’s what is happening at the moment:

We have not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 projects in works! Now we can’t spill out all the details about them, but here are some slices of information.

We are alive - Pixel Drop Boys
Yep. Thats us

Project 1

Quote Codes – We have been working extremely hard on this for the past good year. The bulk of the work is done. What we’re doing now is some in-game mechanics, some animations, a little intro, bug fixing and sound engineering. We would be opening this for beta testing soon so please do sign up if you are interested to test our cool game.

Quote Codes - upcoming iOS game for 2017

We’ll keep you posted on a release date and we have documented the entire journey from Design to Code which we would be sharing– The game will be out in the second half of this year exclusively on iOS

In the meantime go check out the pages from the game and don’t forget to follow them!

Facebook Page

Twitter Page

Instagram Page

Project 2

The Game Quantum – reworking this and coming out with a more refined, more enjoyable version of our first ever game is one off our top priorities. More details in the coming weeks!

Project 3

The WOW Signal – This is a space exploration video game. A topic that makes us jump from our seats. We are in the concept/designing stage of this and will start development in June. More updates on this then!

Project 4

Tuta Tuk Tuk – Embarking new territories on this. We are traditionally 2D artists and developers but have challenged ourselves with doing the art of this in isometric. Currently in Prototype stage, we would be opening this for a closed Beta stage by the end of May!

 

DIY Midori Style Traveler’s Notebook

A notebook is an excellent companion to bring along with you. In our case, as designers it is almost a necessity. I’m the kind of person who enjoys journals and notebooks and often find myself over spending on moleskin and various other sketchbooks. This was the case for everyone in our team. Every person was carrying multiple different books for different projects.

We wanted to reduce the clutter and have something that would allow us to be more organized and consolidate everything together so we don’t have to carry a thousand different books.

Midori Traveller's Notebook Pixel Drop
Midori Traveller’s Notebook

Doing a bit of research online we read about the Midori Traveller’s Notebook. A Midori is a notebook system – a journal system which basically consists of a leather cover and an elastic cord into which you can place multiple books at once. It is a very interesting system that has gained immense popularity over the past few years and the perfect solution to our problem.

You can buy the official Midori from Jet Pens for $50 but we decided to turn this into a fun little DIY project as a break for everyone in our team.

DIY Midori Style Traveler’s Notebook

1. To start things off, you need to get the leather that would make the cover of your Journal. Try to get a high quality leather that would age well and last for years. Dharavi in Mumbai is one of the largest leather markets in the country. A quick trip helped us get some good quality leather.

DIY Midori Style Traveler's Notebook Pixel Drop
Dharavi Leather Market

2. Next you need to decide the size of your Midori, I suggest using universal sizes so you can easily find books or even simply staple a few sheets together and put them in.

DIY Midori Style Traveller's Notebook Pixel Drop
Cut the leather in the size you want.

We decided to make in 2 sizes – A5 and A6. Make sure to measure the leather at least 15% bigger than the size of the notebook so the books don’t come out when folded. For example, if you you choose A5 which is 148 x 210 mm, cut out your leather in size 170 x 235 mm. It’s ok if your leather is a little bigger, you can always trim it off in the end!

3. After cutting the leather, you need to now make 5 holes in the center seam for the elastic cord.

DIY Midori Style Traveller's Notebook Pixel Drop
Make the holes in the leather as marked above

The first hole will be right in the center of the seam, followed by 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom.

4. Now it’s time to put the elastic in. Take a long enough piece of your preferred elastic cord and divide it in half. Take the loop half of the cord and insert it in the the middle hole leaving the loop to come out of the other side.

Push the loop end of the elastic through the center hole

Make sure that the loop is about the width of your book so it can act as a lock when you close the book.

Keep the loop the same as the width of your book.

 

5. Now put each end of the elastic through the holes on each side and then though the remaining holes on the other side as well.

Push both ends of the cord through each side to form a bind

6. Finally now tie off the ends together to create a holder for the book to slide in.

DIY Midori Style Traveller's Notebook Pixel Drop
Tie off the ends and insert the book

7. To add in additional books, simple take another piece of elastic cord. Wrap it around the spine of the 1st booklet and tie a knot. Then you can slip a booklet in on each side!

This is perfect if you want to have separate books for different projects.

DIY Midori Style Traveller's Notebook Pixel Drop
Warp a piece of cord around the spine to add another book

So there it is! our own version of the Midori Notebook is ready. It is absolutely easy to make and ingenious enough to help you maintain all your notes into 1 proper system.

DIY Midori Style Traveler's Notebook Pixel Drop

App Animations with Lottie by Airbnb

We have all heard of (or even used) Airbnb at some point – a giant that has dominated and revolutionized the travel industry for the past few years. So, it came as a pretty big surprise when last week, they released Lottie, an open-source tool that helps add animations to native apps. We decided to try our hands on Lottie by Airbnb and give you guys some quick impressions.

Lets start with the basics:

What is Lottie?

Lottie by Airbnb

Lottie is an iOS, Android, and React Native library that renders After Effects animations in real time, allowing apps to use animations as easily as they use static images.

Why Lottie?

Lottie by Airbnb

Animations are awesome. It enhances the user experience of an app. Animations make your app “cool” but implementing them is really hard. Most of the time, developers use generic animations or are limiting its use due to technical difficulties. Using Gifs or videos are inefficient and heavy. Manually creating curves, and re-making animations on code is extremely time consuming and hard.

According to the engineers of Airbnb – that’s all about to change thanks to Lottie. After a year of in-house development and testing, Lottie will allow designers and developers to use animations, without having to fiddle with image files for countless screen sizes or thousands of hard to maintain code lines.

How to use Lottie?

Lottie only works if you use After Effects to create your animations. It is based on Hernan Toririsi – BodyMovin extension.

Step 1.

Download and install BodyMovin by Hernan Toririsi. There are quite a few methods to do this as listed on BodyMovin Github page but here is the easiest of them all.

a. Download the Zip file from the link

b. Extract content and get the .zxp file from ‘/build/extension

how to install Lottie by Airbnb
Run bodymovin.zxp

c. Download and Install ZXP installer from aescripts.com and run the extension file.

How to run Lottie by Airbnb
ZXP Installer
Step 2.

Now that your done setting up. Its time to run After Effects.

a. Open your AE project and select the bodymovin extension from Window > Extensions > bodymovin

bodymovin lottie Airbnb
Bodymovin Extension

b. A Panel will open with a Compositions tab. On the Compositions tab, click Refresh to get a list of all you project Comps. Select the composition you want to export. Select a Destination Folder and then click Render.

bodymovin Lottie Airbnb
Render with Bodymovin

c. Look for the exported json file in the Destination Folder

STEP 3.

After you finish rendering of animations, its time to load them up on your app. Depending on the platform of your choice, download the Lottie Library for iOS, Android or React Native and install based on the platform.

Since the animation is a JSON file they are quite small in size therefore reducing the load on your apps. The Animations can be played, resized, looped, sped up, slowed down, and even trigger based on interactions. 

 

All-in-All Lottie has been a welcome surprise by the folks at Airbnb. We are still tinkering with it but are pretty excited by the possiblites. For now it only supports solids, shape layers, trim paths, alpha mattes and masks in After Effects but updates are expected.

We really hope that this sets off a trend of animation tools from the big players. They are hard to write!

App Prototyping with Adobe XD

So last time we talked about the benefits of Sketch App for initial designs of an app. Things were going fine for us. We designed on Sketch. And then we would try to figure out our app flow. This would involve getting screens arranged in their order of sequence and sharing the pic between us which always turned out to be horrible and confusing.

Quantum iOS app Flow
Imagine having more than 20 screens here

Or otherwise it would be going old school. Taking printouts and physically figure it out on a white board. All these methods lacked one essential component for any successful design – feedback from initial testers. How can we make the users get the sequence – we had to rely on their understanding rather than them experiencing it. We could only be sure they understood it, if they held it in their hands and get a first hand experience. Figure out where they could go wrong, how we could minimize or negate that possibility through better design.

Then Adobe hit back with Experience Design (XD).

Adobe XD was exactly what we were looking for. XD allowed us to make real prototypes on real devices that we could give to real users. This brought out a great clarity to us and the users. It greatly simplified our process. Changes could be made in the initial stages itself.

Just take a look at what our whole artboard looked like in XD:

The Game Quantum on XD
Adobe XD interface
The Game Quantum on XD
Linking each screen to create the prototype

Don’t get intimidated by these images. It is far more easier than it looks. All you need to do is link the various buttons in the screens based on your app flow – Its just drag and drop and literally takes less than 10 mins!

 

Prototyping with Adobe XD
Linking the screens together is just drag and drop

Hats off to the Adobe guys for getting this product out in the market. Mind you, the product is still in beta, but damn it’s awesome.

There are however a few things missing in Adobe XD:

 – XD does not give you the ability to animate individual elements. For ex: you won’t be able slide in a single button separately on the screen. It only allows screen transitions for now.

 – XD does not support Photoshop import. Yes, you read that right. Currently, the software only allows vector imports. This can be a big problem if you already have your app designed in Photoshop.

 

But since the software is still a work in progress we are hoping they would add additional features. Oh and the whole thing is just under 80 MB. Kudos Adobe! 

Adobe XD can really become the de facto prototyping tool. The Windows version of the software was just release in beta sometime back. In the end it will all depend on how much Adobe decides to charge us when they come out with the full version.

All in all, there is no denying the fact that there is a new player in the prototyping wars. And this newbie happens to be the oldest of them all.

Adobe XD is currently available in beta free for Mac and Windows HERE

 

If you are looking for some quick tutorials. These are our top picks. 

How to Use Adobe Experience Design CC By Terry White

How to Create a UI Prototype By Rafiq Elmansy

Design with Sketch App

We have always used Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop for the initial prototyping of our app designs. Though a bit of an overkill, we were familiar with it and hence stuck with it for a long time. Then a friend introduced us the Sketch App. And it just blew us away..

Sketch app

Firstly, it’s less than 50 MB installed on your hard disk. 50 freakin MB. Can you imagine that? Adobe Illustrator is more than 1.5 GB and Photoshop is well over that. We became a believer right then. Of course don’t get us wrong. Illustrator is still one of the best when it comes to making accurate drawings that involve stylus inputs and Photoshop is the king of digital image manipulation.

Sketch vs Illustrator vs Photoshop
Photoshop vs Illustrator vs Sketch

If you google you will find a million comparisons between Sketch, Photoshop and Illustrator but believe us Sketch wins when you are looking at getting started with the initial screens of the app and it wins in Web Design because of its superior grid layouts, ability to export all layers separately in one go and get CSS attributes for your designs!

Design with sketch app Pixel Drop Studios
iOS Ui Template in Sketch

And the templates included are so much handy. They have templates and export options for almost every iOS device screen size, Web Design and most popular Android ones. It is a match made in heaven for studios like us.

design with sketch app tutorial Pixel Drop Studios
Pre-Installed Templates in Sketch

So Sketch has now become our de facto software for building our initial designs.

It is available for download from their official website. You can first download a Trial version and then purchase the licence if you like from HERE.

If you are really interested here is a small list of awesome free tutorials that will help transition to the software. Note that some of the tutorials are of Sketch 3 while the latest version available right now is Sketch 4 but be assured that the learnings in them still apply!

For Readers:

Official Sketch User Manual

Marc Andrew – Sketch App Tutorial Series

Sketch Tutorial for iOS Developers – Robert Chan

Sketch for Beginners – Sebastian Gabriel

For the ones who prefer videos:

Sketch Tutorial Series – LevelUpTuts

Introduction to Sketch for Web Design – CharliMarieTV

Sketch for Beginners – Patrick Benske

Pixel Drop Studios Branding

We love Behance. Back in college days it was our only source of inspiration for design and it’s a great place see the works of so many amazing artists from all around the world. 

Few days back we decided to Reboot our tiny studio and redo the entire branding and identity. You can check out the new Branding of our studio on our Behance Page HERE.

Pixel Drop Studios Branding

If you like it please do not forget to give an appreciation!

2017 Plans

Hi all! Hope you had some great holidays.

After the Reboot of our Studio we took a tiny break and now we’re back in the office.Pixel Drop Studios Pratik and Joseph - 2017 plans

This is what’s happening for 2017!

Finish Quote Codes. We have had a bumpy road on this but finally we are now moving in the right direction. The bulk of the technology is done. What we’re doing now is some in-game mechanics, some animations, a little intro, bug fixing and fine tuning. We’ll keep you posted on a release date and we have documented the entire journey from Design to Code which we would be sharing– The game will be out in the first half of this year.

In the meantime go check out the pages from the game and don’t forget to follow them!

Facebook Page

Twitter Page

Instagram Page

Besides Quote Codes we are doing some exciting collaborations and working on a few cool things

• We’re collaborating with Ranganath Krishnamani an amazing artist to work a secret project that is very close to our hearts (more details on this later!)

• We are also collaborating with some amazing people overseas for a wacky little game called the Last Drop that is based on this awesome saying by a very wise old man – “You can shake it, you can fling it, you can beat it against the wall.. But when you put it in your pants, that last drop will always fall” (We leave the rest to your imagination :p)

The Game Quantum! reworking this and coming out with a more refined, more enjoyable version of our cute little game is one off our top priorities. More details in the coming months!

• Some Android related stuff is also planned!

• And probably a lot more cool stuff for later this year.

Alright, 2017 – here we go.