Daniel Cureton Williams

Sky vs YouView

What is YouView?

“YouView is an Internet TV service in the UK. Formally launched on 4 July 2012, it is a partnership between three telecommunications operators and four broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5). YouView provides access to Freeview television and TV on demand (catch-up TV) services via a ‘hybrid’ set-top box, connected with a broadband connection and a television antenna. There is no contract and no subscription for accessing catch-up and Freeview content; there is just a one-off payment for the set-top box, similar to the Now TV box from BSkyB.”

YouView TVYouview’s main selling feature is that it lets you rewind television for up to 7 days. So if you’ve missed your favourite programme you can watch it instantly. This works instantly with scheduled programmes but those recorded live take a while to appear.

First a bit of background… I had been with Sky for a good number of years and for a while had felt like I was paying a lot for very little. My monthly bill was just under £50 (£49) to be exact which was for the basic Sky tv package, broadband (if you could call it internet but I will get onto that later) and telephone. I had heard about YouView and decided to look into this as an option as I’d heard great things about this new up and coming service. After searching around I decided that BT offered the best service which would cost me £20 per month for fibre optic broadband and YouView, this was broken down into £15 for the fibre and £5 for YouView. £5 per month seems pretty decent to get a free YouView box which would normally cost nearly £300 and could be cancelled after 12 months so in theory the box costs £60. I’m sure you’ll agree here a much nicer figure to pay for much after internet (38mb compared to Sky’s 4Mb quoted) and tv, the only channel I will not receive is Sky One… but this really isn’t worth £30 per month. Sky did inform me upon cancelled that my Sky HD box would continue to work as a free view box but this is a bit of a stretched truth. I can still view channels but because I no longer have a Sky account I can’t pause, rewind or record… so it’s a bit pointless. I can pay £10.50 per month to be able to use these features… cheeky of Sky if you ask me considering I own the box!

The YouView box arrived. First impression of it is it’s quite pretty and certainly doesn’t look cheap. It’s not quite as aesthetic as Sky’s HD box which currently sits underneath it. The setup is easy to follow and you’re up and running in no time at all. The picture quality is good and the HD channels are no different to Sky’s offering. My biggest issue is the menu… it’s not quite there. It’s usable, but it’s no intuitive. I don’t know if this is because they’ve tried very hard not to copy Sky’s very good menu system or they just haven’t thought it through. It takes a bit of getting used to and I am finding my way around things easier. The other drawback of the YouView box is it’s a bit laggy (buttons can take a while to respond). Some times it’s super fast and other times it just takes that bit of time to react. As a cost exercise though I am more than happy to persevere for the savings each month… and honestly it’s not that bad!

Sky and YouView Boxes

With my package I also get BT Sport HD free which is an added bonus with Premier League fixtures. At the moment these channels can’t be paused, rewinded or recorded as they are internet channels but apparently these features are “coming soon”. My Sky broadband would not have been able to support this as it was truly terrible. It was slow and dropped connection so many times I sometimes turned my wifi off at home and used 3G on my mobile, and no, I don’t live in the middle of nowhere.

On summary YouView is great when used with a fast internet connection especially for the low cost. If you’re happy with paying a lot each month stick with Sky… I have to admit it is still the best. However, I think YouView will very quickly adapt and update to compete at a higher level. For me I was tired of paying the high direct debit each month and receiving little for it. With some of my spare £30 I have purchased a NetFlix account to really make the most of my fast fibre broadband which I would highly recommend… so I now have movies too! I like YouView, I don’t love it yet but I can see it moving forward very fast, very soon!


Saul Bass, Graphic Designer

Hitchcock The ShiningToday’s Google Doodle celebrates the life of graphic designer and Oscar winning filmmaker Saul Bass, best known for his design of film title sequences, film posters and corporate logos.

Bass was born on 8th May, 1920, in the Bronx, New York. He later studied part-time at the Arts Students League in Manhattan before attending night classes at Brooklyn College. He made his way to Hollywood during the 1940s doing print work for film ads when he got his big break collaborating with Otto Preminger to design a film poster for his 1954 film Carmen Jones. Preminger was so impressed with Bass’s work that he commissioned him to produce the title sequence as well. This was Bass’s first opportunity to create a title sequence which he thought would ultimately enhance the experience of the audience and compliment the mood and the theme of the movie in it’s opening moments. Bass was “one of the first to realise the creative potential of the opening and closing credits of a movie”.

Bass’s career took off and he became widely known in the industry after creating the title sequence for another Preminger film, The Man with the Golden Arm. Bass used the controversial subject of a jazz musicians struggle with his heroin addiction to create a strong, much talked about, visual.

Hitchcock VertigoSaul Bass then went on to work with the infamous Alfred Hitchcock, inventing a new type of kinetic typography (a technical term for moving text) for the film North by Northwest, The Shining, Vertigo and Psycho working alongside John Whitney. It was due to this revolutionary and innovative work that Bass become known as a graphic designer. He was quoted as saying his main goal for the sequences was to:

“try and reach for a simple, visual phrase that tells you what the picture is all about and evokes the essence of the story.”

Bass went on to design title sequences for more than 40 years, and experimented with various diverse film making techniques including cut-out animation, fully animated movies as well as live action sequences. Towards the end of his career he was rediscovered by the acclaimed directors James L. Brooks and Martin Scorsese who had always been fans of his work. For them he created works for the films Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence and Casino.

It could be argued that all modern opening film title sequences that create a mood or atmosphere can see the legacy and work of Saul Bass and his groundbreaking work.

Bass was also, but not quite as famously, credited with some of the most recognisable logos still today. These included YMCA, Bell System, AT&T, United Airlines, Continental Airlines and Quaker Oats.

Saul Bass Logos

To summarise, what a career. To work with some of the world’s most respected directors, create groundbreaking and innovative work and still have your work recognised long after your career has ended. I’ll leave you with another Saul Bass quote which I think is great:

“Design is thinking made visible.”


Iconic Icons

As you may or may not know I am a massive fan of Macs. I’ve been using an Apple computer for over 9 years now ever since I had enough of constantly replacing PCs that would either fail or get clogged up with virus or dll errors. Since that day I have never looked back.

Making the switch from PC to Mac is quite an intimidating step especially as people are still quite scared of the dreaded fruit themed computers. People’s usual comments are along the lines of:

“You can’t right click.”
False, you can. Infact, Apple’s Magic Mouse is far far better than any mouse I have ever used.

“I need to use Word, you can’t get Office for Mac.”
Again, False! Microsoft’s Office suite has been available for Mac for as long as I can remember.

Anyway, I’m deviating here. What I love about my Mac is the quick navigation of programs and their visual icons. Each is simply found and is well categorised and easily recognisable as to what it does.

The original interface elements for the Apple Macintosh were created by Susan Kare in the mid 1980s and, although they may have been updated slightly, are still present on today’s Macintosh computers due to their easily recognisable and iconic graphics. Here are some comparisons between Susan Kare’s and todays examples:

Mac Icons

Kare first joined Apple through software programmer Andy Hertzfeld, who she knew from high schoool, and had the title “Macintosh Artist”. She was recently asked about her design influences whilst working at Apple:

“I was so lucky to get to work in the Macintosh group with great colleagues and talented programmers. That experience introduced me to interface design development and how I might be able to contribute as a graphic designer to the overall user experience. It also gave me practice in aiming to communicate big concepts in small spaces.”

During her time designing for Apple she was responsible for most of the typefaces and icons used throughout the original Macintosh and subsequent computers alongside much of the marketing material. However, her most famous works will always be the typeface Chicago Sans and the “Happy Mac” icon that greeted early Mac users when booting up their machines.

That’s a nice claim to fame!


Google Maze

Today I came across an interesting little website/app combination from our friends at Google, it’s called Google Maze.

The idea is you visit any website on your desktop and you can then explore the website via a pinball type maze. Pretty impressive yes, but what Google have done that is clever is enable you to control the movement of the pinball by syncing your mobile phone to your browser and tilting your device to control the movement and speed of the ball as you navigate across buttons, images and text collecting points and adding to your score.

Chrome Maze

Why? Basically because it’s fun and they can! We are all aware that Google is huge and the money at their disposal is astronomical but I for one am glad that someone out there is doing things like this. You may think it’s just a bit of fun but this is very clever stuff and it’s great to see that people aren’t just solely creating things to make money. Sure, Google will in some way make money from this (be it a profit or a loss for their effort in creating such a game) but the fact that they are willing to create these ‘fun’ things is great.

It’s up there with the Google Doodles. If you have been hidden in a cupboard for the past few years i’ll explain what Google Doodles are. On certain special calendar (things like Christmas, Halloween, Bonfire Night) Google changes it’s logo on it’s search home page with an interactive ‘doodle’. This is normally either a game or an interactive animation of some kind both linking and informing about the date in question. The Doodles run only on that day and are always the topic on conversation and start of a smile around offices everywhere. A fantastic bit of fun so brighten up your day whilst normally learning a bit more about the date in question.

Google Doodle

Google also has some fancy animation ‘secrets’ built into it’s website. If you are unaware of the Google Barrel Roll try heading over to www.google.com and start typing into the search box “Do a barrel roll” and see what happens… hold on to your seat!

I love finding out about new ideas Google have released and seeing what fun creations they will come up with next, so keep an eye out and you might find something that will make you laugh, keep you engaged or just teach your something you didn’t know in a fun way.


Spring Walk

Today we went for a nice walk in Delamere Forest, one of my favourite places. It was so still and peaceful as shown by the reflection in this water.

Delamere Forest


Sketch iPad

Paper App IconI have recently added a fantastic app onto my iPad which I love!

It’s called Paper, a drawing, painting… creativity app that lets you create beautiful images in a sketch book style presentation. Yes, you may require some basic artistic skills however, where the app works well is the effects it offers run smoothly with fantastic effects so even if you can only draw a stickman you could create a beautiful ‘watercolour’ sketch using various techniques for colour and shading. The tools available are quick and simple to use and will allow your creative juices to flow.

I had read about this app before purchasing it and I was a little wary of it’s price tag having used drawing apps before and finding them a bit average. However, Paper lets you install a free version where you can have a ‘quick play’ with the different effects the paid version offers… if you like drawing/sketching then you will not hesitate in upgrading and parting with a few of your hard earned pounds for this well made app.

Paper App ToolsI have created a few of my own masterpieces and find it useful for even basic tasks such as taking measurements for DIY projects, a bit elaborate yes but I am forever losing pieces of paper where I make notes so saving them in the Paper app is ideal! I would recommend Paper and think this is one of the best apps that I have seen made available for iOS devices… yet!


Snow snow everywhere

Recently in the UK we have had a covering of snow which has led to either fun times or inconvenience depending on how you feel about the white stuff. Yes, the country does seem to grind to a halt and yes, getting anywhere does take twice as long… but in my opinion this is well worth the fun the snow brings.

Stanley the Snowman

I love walking along and coming across a lone snowman who has popped up along a random road, in a garden or in a field. I love the way they all have their own individual look and input from the people who have made them.

I have recently read about Stenley, a 17ft snowman who has popped up in County Durham. Karen Kindmarch spent hours creating Stanley for her 16-month old granddaughter and he has a traffic cone for a nose, plant pots for eyes and buttons. A fantastic effort in my opinion.

SnowmanThe child in me has created a snowman in our back garden however, he seems to have been on the beers and is leaning over a lot… I can’t actually believe he’s still in one piece as you can see from the picture to the left!

The government has even advised us to all go out and build a snowman to help prevent flooding! The compression of the snow causes it to take a lot more time for the snow(man) to melt which reduces the volume of water draining into the surrounding land.

An interesting yet fun initiative from the government, one which also means I am doing my bit for our country, to help reduce flooding!


RGB vs. CMYK

Computer monitors emit their colour as RGB (Red, Green and Blue) light. Although all colours of the visable spectrum (colours that we see) can be produced by merging these three colours, monitors can only display a limited range of the visable spectrum.

However, when printing this cannot be applied as inked paper absorbs or reflects specific wavelengths. In printing we use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). Cyan, Magenta and Yellow pigments serve as filters, reducing different amounts of red, green and blue from white light to produce a selective range of spectral colours. Similarly to monitors, inks also produce a colour range that is only a subset of the visable spectrum, although the range is not the same for both.

What does all this mean, is basic terms it means that artwork displayed on a computer monitor may not match that in a print.

Why is this an issue for Graphic Designers?

When designing for print it is a lot easier to then transfer the artwork to screen as you have that colour in front of you and the colour does not change (ignoring variations in light). However, on screen there are several factors that affect what the colour produced is, factors to take into account are the brightness of the screen, how well the screen colour is collaborated as well as the quality of the screen, an LCD screen will have a much richer colour output than an old CRT screen.

We, as Graphic Designers, have to match these as best as possible to create great end results. Useful tools that aid in this are colour books, the main manufacturer being Pantone, who also provide color codes in both CMYK and RGB where available as not all colours can be matched in both CMYK and RGB.


A Whole New Year

As you are probably well aware, it’s a whole new year and the normal thing to do is set yourself a New Year’s resolution!

I do have a resolution that I am hoping to accomplish and to be honest, it’s a bit of a common one… to eat better and have a healthier lifestyle. I am quite open in saying I eat a lot of rubbish. Snacking is my downfall! But I do enjoy eating healthily and enjoy feeling the benefits of it. I’m not really bothered about the weight loss side of my resolution it’s more the health benefits of it.

I also plan to do a lot more regular exercise, including football, running, circuits and swimming. All of which I really enjoy so it should’t be bad at all and well attainable so watch this space…


Colours and their importance

Colour is the fundamental design approach to reach and grab your target users. It’s key in a design’s non-verbal communication and creates the all important physical and mental reactions of the user. Colours, if used well, can instantly convey the right tone of the site as well as convey key important messages to the user. Colour can be used to bring out all kinds of emotions whether it calms, excites  or gives the a user the all important feeling of trust. Because of these reasons colour is a fundamental tool to create powerful Graphic Design.

One of the first things to look at when starting any new design project is to look at a colour scheme. It is fundamental to do this right, and designers, guided by the main principles of colour theory, and of course professional experience.

The Theory

Most people choose colours according to their own taste and end up with something that features the colours that they think look good and work with each other. This is fine if you have a good ‘eye’ and you can successfully choose colours that compliment each other. However, not all people succeed in their choices.

There are basic theories in colour which are very clear and easy to understand. It is easiest to start with the Colour Wheel.

The Colour Wheel

The Colour Wheel

Invented by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666, he took the bar of colours, or spectrum, created by the passage of light through a prism and transformed it into a circle dissected into various segments, each segment a different size according to his calculations of it’s wavelength and it’s corresponding width in the spectrum.

The Colour Wheel is used by many designers and artists across the world. The Colour Wheel allows you to pick the colours that compliment each other. The wheel is made of 6 basic colours: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple. There are also mixes of the basic colours that are in addition to these.

The theory is that two colours opposite each other on the Colour Wheel will be harmonious. As well three colours equally spaced around the Colour Wheel in the shape of a triangle or any four colours from the wheel that form a rectangle. These colours should compliment each other regardless of the rotation angle of the shape when selecting the colours.

Further Reading

You can read more into colour and in detail the differences between RGB and CMYK.