Good sites for creative professionals

Every morning I make a ritualistic trip to the NetNewsWire icon to get my fill of graphics and Mac-related news and updates. Then I hop over to Safari for an even wider view of the day’s news. The immensely popular sites like PhotoshopUser, PhotoshopSupport and creativepro.com are always worth the visit, but more often than not it’s the smaller blogs and non-commercial sites that really make me set down my morning coffee and move a bit closer to the screen.

Some of these sites you’ve probably heard of, some may be completely new to you. But all of them are guaranteed to have something of interest for Mac users and graphic designers:

Designorati
Designorati boasts a 360-degree view of the creative world, and is the brainchild of Pariah S. Burke and a handful of creative professionals.

Designorati offers a vast amount of information organized under topics such as Typography, Web Design, Photoshop, Creative Culture and In-House Design. What I really like about the site is that it offers such a wide variety of content under each topic. It’s not just news, but tips, tricks, downloads, product reviews, advice and more. And it’s not all written by one person. Each topic has its own editor, so the different writing styles keep it interesting and more personal than some commercial sites.

If there’s one thing I don’t care for about the site, it’s the four-column, link-infested layout of the site. The main content is presented in the widest column, which isn’t nearly wide enough for easy reading, especially considering how small the text is. The other three columns are populated with ads and links—lots and lots of links. In fact, once you’ve visited the site a few times it begins to appear that virtually every page on the site is linked to from every other page in the site. Despite all that, Designorati does offer a well-rounded view of the creative world.

CreativeBits
CreativeBits began as a project of senior art director, Ivan Rasz around two years ago. What started as a small blog written solely by Ivan for the use of a few friends in the business has grown into a community-driven site offering lots of commentary on all things creative.

CreativeBits’ front page is where you’ll find articles, tips, tutorials and commentary by contributing members on a wide range of creative topics including ad industry news and Mac-related topics. There is no submission structure, anyone who registers can have their own blog with stories appearing on the front page. And like any other blog, comments are welcome on each story.

CB also offers a readers forum, a news aggregator, a links list and perhaps the best part, a critique section. Members of the CreativeBits community can upload original design work for critique by the rest of the community. The site also offers many ways to configure what you see on the site, from the colors used, to the content displayed in the sidebar. It isn’t overrun by ads, and is very easy to read and well organized. The site is written in English, but many of the contributors are not from North America (including Ivan, who lives in Bahrain), so the occasional typo or grammatical error must be overlooked.

[Disclaimer: I have contributed articles to CreativeBits throughout its history, but I assure you I’m not shamelessly plugging a buddy’s Web site—it really is a fantastic resource.]

CreativeTechs’ QuickTips
CreativeTechs is actually a Seattle-based consulting firm which offers support to graphic design firms, ad agencies, video houses and photo studios. What makes the site worth visiting, even if you don’t live in Seattle is its QuickTips section, a weekly mix of business news and tips for Mac techs and creatives. For instance, week #86 featured a tip on how to adjust InDesign’s tool palette orientation, and a technical tip on how to convert RealPlayer streams to MP3 for your iPod.

The site is all but void of ads and frivolous links and blinkity-blink graphics and heavy on concise, useful information for Mac users and designers. You can also subscribe to an email version of QuickTips if you want to save yourself a click or two while in morning surfing mode.

InDesignSecrets
InDesignSecrets was developed by David Blatner and Ann-Marie Concepcion and proclaims to be your one-stop shop for all things InDesign. I don’t know if it’s one-stop, but it may very well be your first stop. The blog-style site offers tips & tricks for using InDesign on both the amateur and pro levels. You’ll love the fact that it’s easy to find what you’re looking for, and the pages aren’t splattered with ads. I also encourage InDesign users to take advantage of the InDesign Secrets Podcast & InDesigner Videocast, both of which are available from the Web site, or by subscription through iTunes.

Real World Illustrator
Mordy Golding, author of Real World Illustrator CS2 and Adobe project manager for Illustrator 10 and Illustrator CS, has put together a small but informative blog called Real World Illustrator containing tutorials, tips and commentary about, what else, Adobe Illustrator. The site isn’t huge, you can probably go through every article in one afternoon, but it’s the quality that counts. RWI is also the home of Pen: The Vector Podcast.

GFX-TM
And finally, I make a stop at Trevor Morris’ site, GFX-TM. Trevor updates his site fairly regularly and it’s absolutely loaded with graphics-related news, reviews, tips and more. The News section is a link list of everything going on in the Mac and graphics industry. Be sure to check out the Photoshop section for lots of downloadable Actions and Photoshop tutorials.

[James Dempsey is the man behind the Creative Guy blog, which offers tips, tricks and opinion on a range of design topics.]

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