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Design A to Z - JPEG

Are you puzzled by PNGs, jaded by JPEGS? Do you go googly eyed at GIF’s? Our simple guide to JPEGS and other common digital image formats is here to help!

Two of the main factors to consider while saving digital images are image quality and file size. Typically, high quality images take up a lot of computer memory, however, choosing the correct file format can help you maximise your image quality while minimising file size. File size is particularly important for images used on websites, as anyone with a slow Internet connection will tell you!

One of the reasons there are so many different types of file formats is the need for compression. Compression describes ways of reducing the size of the file. Compression can be “lossy” or “lossless”.


Image saved as JPEG - Size:24k. Note: blurry edges on logo.

When you save a file as a JPEG you can choose how much compression to apply, the more you compress your image the smaller a file it will be, but you will lose image quality. JPEG Compression is “lossy” which means that you lose some of the file information and your image is subtly changed when you save it as a JPEG.

JPEGs are typically used to save photographs or any images with lots of tones or gradients. They are not good with sharp edges, text or line drawings; these can appear blurred unless saved with very little compression.


Image saved as GIF - Size:56k. Note: grainy texture on photo.

Unlike JPEGs the GIF format gives very good results when saving text, logos, line drawings or any image with sharp edges and limited colours. The GIF file format is limited to a total number of 256 colors or less so it does not give good result for images with gradients or a wide range of tones (e.g. photos). GIF files also support animation.


Image saved as PNG - Size:176k. Note: large file size.

The PNG file format was developed to replace GIFs and is not fully supported by very old web browsers. PNGs are non-lossy files. Unlike JPEGs photographic images can be compressed without degrading image quality. The PNG file format also supports transparency (e.g. images with a transparent backgrounds) better than the GIF file format. PNGs are usually larger in size than JPEGs and are best used for text, logos or line drawings or for images that need a transparent background.

Looking for more advice on the best file format to use? Get in touch! We’d be happy to help.

Design A to Z - Illustration

How to illustrate illustration? Well with pictures and examples I suppose!

We all know the saying “A picture paints a thousand words” and it really is true. Illustration has been used for centuries as a tool for visually telling stories. As early as prehistoric cave painting and egyptian paintings, people have been using illustration as a means of depicting day to day life or special events.

Cave Paintings -

Egyptian paintings -

We are all introduced to illustration from a very early age, children’s books are one of the most familiar forms of illustration. If you think back to your childhood (if you can remember that far!) you will probably remember your favourites, mine were Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Pea and Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.

Winnie the Pooh illustration - by E.H Shepard.

Illustration from Peter Rabbit - written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter

Can you remember your favourites?

Illustration is a very useful tool for graphic designers also. After all, it is our job to visually communicate.

There are so many different styles and methods for creating illustrations. Here at curious we can create custom illustrations as part of branding, for a website design or for a wedding invitation. If you would like to commission an illustration or discuss a particular style that you like for a project, give us a call!


Design A to Z - Hosting

This week’s design a-z term is hosting – website hosting that is, not dinner parties!

If you are unfamiliar with web hosting all the technical terms associated with it can be confusing so we’ve put together a simple explanation.

Web hosts don’t serve canapés but they do have computers (called servers) that are connected to the Internet.

Websites that are stored on these computers are visible online to anyone with an Internet connection.

When you pay for hosting you are renting space for the files that make up your website on one of these computers, so that your website can be seen online.

Barring technical problems, a web host operates constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so that anybody in the world can view your website at any time.

As well as hosting your website online you will also need a domain name ( the address of your website – our domain name is - this can be purchased through your hosting company.

We are happy to organize hosting and domain name registration for our clients. Got a question about web hosting? Contact us today!

Design A to Z – Grids

Organisation and structure, do these two words make you smile or cringe? Well like them or not, they are both very important in everyday life and also in the design world.

The best way to organise anything is to plan, and to visually map out the best way of tackling the task at hand. Whether that means structuring your working day into little segments or pockets of time, or drawing up the blueprints for a building. Most projects or tasks benefit from a little forward planning. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail*

A grid is a tool used by graphic designers to structure the information that they need to communicate. It is our job to take information (text and images) and translate it into an easy to understand yet visually interesting end product. The finished product might be a website, a book, a magazine, a poster…

Grids help us to decide where to place elements within our designs. Rather than randomly placing images or text on a page, we design a grid and use it to guide our design decisions. A grid acts like the foundations of a building and the building blocks are the information. Although we use grids to help us to decide where to position information, we are not strictly bound to the grid that we design. Grids are very flexible and provide endless layout possibilities!

To help understand how grids feature in everyday life, take a look at a newspaper. Most newspapers are designed using a strong vertical column grid. These grids consist of a margin and a number of columns with a small space between (this space is known as the gutter). This grid structure is so important to newspaper design that phrases such as “writing a column” have become everyday.

Front page from an edition of The Irish Times.

Grids not only help when we are designing for print, they are very important when creating designs for the web. The most important features of a good website are ease of navigation and clear layout. Both of these are greatly aided by the use of a well designed grid. Our very own website was designed using a grid, we design grids for all of our projects print and web alike.

Sometimes grids are very obvious, like in newspaper design and other times they are trickier to spot. Can you make out the grid that we used to design our website?

*Quote from unknown source, repeated to me by my husband :)

Design A to Z – Foiling

Today we are going to talk about foiling, often referred to as hot foiling. This is another print finishing technique that is used in many different ways by designers and printers.

The type of foil we are most familiar with in day to day life is good old kitchen tin foil which is not too dissimilar from the type that we are going look at, it is thin, shiny and comes on a roll!

To help understand what I am talking about, take out any bank note from your pocket or wallet (if you are lucky enough to have one!) and have a good look at the fancy shiny silver strip or shape on the right hand side of the front of the note. This is a type of foil that is applied to the note after it has been printed. In this instance it is used to verify that the note is genuine. This is a special type of holographic foil that is specifically designed for euro bank notes. It has textures and numbers designed into the foil to prevent counterfeiting. Concert tickets and some vouchers also use a very similar type of foil.

Foiling is also used on book covers, leather products, business stationery, packaging, greeting cards – the list is endless!

This image shows gold and silver foils on black card, image courtesy of design context

The process of hot foiling begins with the artwork that the designer intends to be foiled. This artwork is given to a die making company who etch or carve the negative of the design into a metal block or die. The dies are usually made of magnesium which is a cheap metal and can only last for a short period. Sometimes they are made of more expensive copper which lasts a lot longer and can be used again and again.

The first die shown is made of magnesium and the second is copper. Images courtesy of profoil.

The next step involves the die and the item to be foiled being positioned accurately onto a machine. Just like kitchen foil, the foil used comes on a large roll. The foil is sandwiched between the item and the die. When the heated die presses the foil against the item, it is forced onto the item and the design is created. The pressure used also leaves a slight indentation.

The range of foil colours and textures available are infinite and pantone colours can all be matched, the possibilities are endless!

If you would like to find out more about foiling or if you have a project in mind that you think would suit this technique, give us a call!