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From Concept to Context

Digital, Graphic Design, Type / Typography

Posted by Mark Sinclair, 29 October 2013, 16:21    Permalink    Comments (7)

A mock-up publication produced in Context, complete with foiling

Joshua Distler, the US designer behind the LiveSurface image template library is today launching Context, a new application that offers designers the chance to see their latest projects rendered on objects in real time, as they work...

When Distler launched LiveSurface in 2006, with a series of just 25 images, it was in response to an emerging demand from designers who wanted to show new concepts in as realistic a light as possible.

Aside from shooting actual objects and placing artwork onto them, or scouring photo libraries for pictures of blank packaging, there was little out there to help accurately convey how a new design might look in the real world – and certainly with as little fuss as LiveSurface required.

The Context application has a 'live view' window which renders a designer's work in real time

As I wrote last November, the success of LiveSurface over the following years even engendered a related debate about the role this kind of image-creation was playing in muddying the waters between designers' 'real' and conceptual projects. (More about the article Shooting Blanks, here.)

Distler later mentioned that he was working on a new project that would change the way that designers worked yet again – and that's where Context comes in.

Unlike LiveSurface, it is a program that links directly with Illustrator and enables designers to see just how concepts that they are working on will look like within a range of applications.

Banner signage mocked-up with LiveSurface's Context application

The 'ink effects lighting' tool can adjust reflections

Instead of exporting a flat design and placing it onto a blank template (a billboard, poster or bag, for example), Context fits the design to the particular product while the design itself is being worked on.

And as there are more than 350 'surfaces' available within the Context program, this should enable designers to get as close as possible to the look of a final product.

A mock-up publication

What's really clever is that the multiple layers can control a whole range of external elements, such as shadows and reflections, or suggest processes like screenprinting and embossing. It can even convey the sense of depth unique to a particular foil stamp.

Designers can also share an 'editable surface' via email. Good news for clients, perhaps, who can tweak elements (see, that logo can go bigger), but certainly a collaborative element to the software that should help speed up the dialogue during any project.

Badge designs created in Context

Distler has released a promo film for Context, which can be viewed below, and from that it certainly looks like a slick, well-produced system for getting design work as near to a physical reality as possible.

Cutting the need for wasteful printed mock-ups is a great leap forward and Context looks like something that can only help convey designers' concepts to clients, and indeed help shape a client's feedback to designers.

More details on Context are here, while a trial version can be downloaded here.

The November issue of Creative Review is available to buy direct from us here. Better yet, subscribe to make sure that you never miss out on a copy – you'll save money too. Details here. Creative Review is also available for the iPad



A new level of design!
Mai-Linh Pham
2013-10-29 19:42:44

Fantastic tool not only get in functionality but the amount of time you could save putting together a portfolio or mock-ups. I want!
2013-10-29 22:10:16

I've been a beta user of this software since its inception and I love it not for its ability to hoodwink viewers as to the reality or not of an application but as the perfect way to provide clients with sometimes limited mental visualisation capacities or understanding of techniques etc to really grasp how a finished piece could look without prototyping before production. I love a trip to the bookbinders as much as the next designer and I'm not saying it replaces proofing etc altogether but it is hugely powerful time/cost saving means for designers and creators to accurately render finishes such as embossing and foiling not to mention the fun you can have showing off your latest logo on the side of a building... however irrelevant.
James Williams
2013-10-30 13:59:30

"Designers can also share an 'editable surface' via email. Good news for clients, perhaps, who can tweak elements…"

Yeah - that's a good idea… Are You Bonkers!!!! :-)
2013-10-31 11:34:21

Is this not just for people who can't use photoshop?
2013-11-04 23:32:38

Im not saying this is a bad idea, or wont save time but it is another death knell in the overall end of design, as a job at least; which is going the way of photography, illustration and I dunno, DJing, in the sense of taking all the hard work away, lowering barriers to entry and not really existing anymore as a job. Have you noticed how every second person you meet is a graphic designer, in London at least. My only gripe is that I didn't come up with this idea. The ship is sinking and all that will be left is a few select agencies with a rich history (Pentagram etc), design students, and then a billion freelancers working for pocket change. Get out now, do web or UX, code or better still if you are a young person thinking of studying Design. DONT DO IT. Study maths or computer science or I dunno, medicine. You'll still be able to make design in your spare time and as you wont need the peanuts to survive you'll be able to be as creative as you want
2012 Grad with chip on shoulder
2013-11-05 13:06:30

@2012 grad wcos

I know it seems depressing, but the other side of everyone being a designer is that it forces those who really want to do it and are actually good at it to get better. In the long run design as a whole gets better and the gap between amateurs and auteurs never really closes.

Just because anyone can get hold of a paintbrush it doesn't mean everyone's competing for space in the Tate.
2013-11-05 13:54:56

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