Graphics Design Expert Al Ward
|For this issue of News from
National, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P. had a chance to
interview a world expert in the area of graphics
design and IT. Whether you are new to the game or
old pros, you will find useful information in the
books and in the comments from this global
Interview: Al Ward, Contributor to the book "Inside
Q: Some in the audience are considering long-term
careers in design, graphics, and computing. What
personally prompted you to enter the field?
A: If you had asked me 5 years ago what I’d be doing
now, graphic design would not even have hit the
list. What led me to this was seeing these great
text and image effects on websites and wondering how
they were created. Text is fine, but how did they
set it on fire? Turn it into ice? Wrap it around a
globe? Thanks to Adobe Photoshop, I soon had the
answer. As for becoming an authority in my area of
expertise, I’m of the opinion that there is always
more to learn, and as such am a student just like
everyone else. I found that I enjoyed what I was
doing, stuck with it, and after awhile people
started taking me seriously… it was as simple as
Q: Where do you see graphic design software
development heading in the next two years?
A: The natural progression of software is to make
things easier for the customer. I see more
automation, generation of 3D objects and scenes on
the fly, and Flash style animation that isn’t slaved
to vector graphics.
Q: What top ten technologies should graphic design
professionals be watching for in the next two years?
A: I’m not convinced there are 10 technologies that
will change the world in the next 2 years, or 10
years for that matter. I’d keep my eye on multimedia
software… and there is a definite need to develop
digital camera processing that reflects the quality
of standard photo processing. 3D rendering is going
to play a big part in graphics development over the
next few years also, but whether this happens in 2
years I can’t say.
Q: List 10 reasons, why would you recommend your
A: The top reasons for buying "Inside Photoshop 6"
which I did not author but contributed to, are the
authors, the content, the editors, and the
publisher. What can I say? The format is easy to
follow, the step by step instructions teach
effectively without talking down to the reader, and
New Riders is known for producing quality manuals
for instruction. Though I’ve never met the authors,
I’ve read their work for years and used Inside
Photoshop 5 in my own work, so it was a great honor
to be asked to contribute to this book.
Q: Can you describe your role with your company and
how you plan to shape the company one year and two
years into the future, and in the long term?
A: Right now I and my wife are the company.
Everything we develop - I create add ons for
Photoshop and distribute them through my website,
Action Fx Photoshop Actions Resource at
– comes out of my brain. I’m finding my focus
turning to writing and teaching as things progress,
and hope to continue in this vein. As long as
software exists there will be a need for
instructors, writers and developers of macros. I
love to do this, and foresee doing this for as long
as I’m allowed.
Q: What are your top 10 tips for the professional
from your experience base and your book (“useful”
and reality-based real world checklist) including
which resources (book, utilities, tools) to use and
any advice of where to obtain these tools?
A:Do the following:
Q: For those relatively new in the field and for
seasoned veterans, which areas should they target
for future study, what are the high-growth areas?
- Love what you do…and do it well.
- Learn one program at a time.
- Create a website to showcase your work.
Someone will notice… and as in my case, it may
change your life.
- Network with others in your area of
interest. Though I compete with a lot of authors
and developers, I’m on a friendly basis with
most and I never look at it as competition. I’m
here to help whomever may need it, not to sell
more product than the next guy. My focus is the
end user, and as a result of trying to do my
best for them my business has flourished.
- Take yourself seriously! I have the problem
of being self critical almost to a fault…and as
a result become less productive and creative.
- Keep an eye open for trends…then create your
own! When people started developing ‘Industrial’
style graphics for websites, the trend started
appearing everywhere. Be at the top of the
- Use the media available to you… Message
boards, news groups, newsletters, etc.
- Be able to walk away from something that
just isn’t working! Take a breath, a walk, a
nap, read a book!
- Buy some fish! I have this 30 gallon fish
tank next to my monitor, and those guys really
mellow me out when the stress and strain get out
- For Photoshop Users, I’d strongly recommend
joining NAPP. You can find their website at
http://www.photoshopuser.com. An excellent
free resource by the same people is
A: Working with subtle effects. Take a look around
the web…the websites that really catch the eye
generally use subtle changes in color, shadings, and
tasteful use of gradients.
Q: What changes do you see for the future of
graphics, computing, conducting business, and the
use of the Internet?
A: The primary change I see forthcoming is the end
of the free ride we have had where the government is
concerned. With all the money exchanging hands
online, it is only a matter of time before they
figure out how to stick their fingers in the pie.
This may not be a graphics related topic but
definitely effects those who are in the business of
Q: Many analysts are predicting a transition in
design and graphics that could last years for many
companies. What are your predictions?
A: I never predict… that is setting yourself up to
be wrong! Let’s just say that, whatever the trend,
the serious designer needs to stay abreast of
developments as they happen. Keep an eye open for
new waves of effects or design. This is a self
preservation issue…you need to keep yourself
Q: Can you provide five book extracts that best
reflects the tips/pointers in your book and provide
a compelling reason to thoroughly study your work?
A: I only contributed to the work, and as a result
am not contractually able to reveal any contents.
I’d say visit my articles on Planet Photoshop at
http://www.planetphotoshop.com or read my column
in Photoshop User Magazine. You can also check out
my work on Action Fx at
I primarily work with automation, but when we
re-launch Action Fx in December the site will deal
with all aspects of Photoshop, as well as 3rd party
additions to the program. Why study my work? Check
out these sites…the work speaks for itself-
hopefully in a flattering light
Q: Consider this a blank slate for you to make
additional free ranging commentary about the IT
field and your specialty.
A: Since I started taking myself seriously as a
designer, I’ve been able to quit my day job, feed
and clothe my family, and be free to take off and go
fishing at the drop of a hat. In short, by
continuing in what I love to do and trying to be
good at what I do, I’m actually happier than I’ve
ever been. Ignore the nay-sayers… they are a dime a
dozen. Someone will think your work has value,
regardless of the 20 who don’t. It only takes one
phone call or email from the right person to change
your life…ask me, I know!