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Splash Screen and Desktop Icon Design Techniques, Tips & Tricks used in the FreeHand Software Identity

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Designing FreeHand’s Splash Screen

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The next part of the project was to create a splash screen for the software using elements from the cover design. I designed the splash screen directly in FreeHand which gave me the freedom to use layers and object oriented elements. Since the splash is displayed on screen rather than printed, I had to rasterize the PostScript drawing into a pixel map. To do this I saved individual components as Illustrator 3 files from within FreeHand. (FreeHand 7 and later can do this directly) I separated the image into parts such as the figure, the figure shadow, the title block, the guidelines, etc. Next I opened each new file in Illustrator and saved each as Illustrator 3 EPS files.

The resulting files I then opened in Photoshop to rasterize them. I positioned each component on separate layers within Photoshop 3. This allowed me to create soft shadows and layer the items the way I wished. I then flattened the final Photoshop image and saved it as a 24 bit PICT file. I then opened the PICT in ResEdit and pasted it into the proper dialog box resource for direct use by the Macromedia software engineers.

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Designing Desktop Icons for FreeHand

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Creating a Family of Icons

The final portion of the project was to design the desktop icon sets for FreeHand. I first chose a few key elements to help define the entire family and strengthen the overall software identity across the icons and cover illustration. I decided to use the elements of the pen tip from the cover illustration in conjunction with a multicolored pen stroke. The pen tip alludes to the technical illustration capabilities, as well as being an action oriented tool. The pen stroke alludes to the creative aspects of FreeHand as well as being an element from a drawing.

The Application Set

Once I settled on these elements, I split the family into two distinct groups. One group was for the program itself and components of the software. I decided to base this group around the action diamond that Apple uses to denote a generic application. This group consists of the FreeHand Application file, Xtra files, Help file, and Color Palette files.


The Document Set

The second group I based around a generic page icon since these denote actual drawing files. This group consists of the FreeHand Drawing file, Template file, EPS file, and Edition file.


Designing Desktop Icons & Splash Screens
for Macromedia Director & Extreme 3D

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Macromedia was so pleased with the desktop icons that I designed for FreeHand, that they then asked me to redesign the icons for their flagship product, Macromedia Director, as well as create an extensive new set for their brand new product, Extreme 3D. They also asked me to create a 3D splash screen for their Macromedia Script Editor.

DreamLight PixelPalettes in Icon Design

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When I design icons, I use DreamLight PixelPalettes with Macromedia Director. While there are specific icon design tools available, I feel they limit my freedom. I prefer to work in the Macromedia Director paint window where I can spread out on a page and create many variations as I explore the icon design. I then paste the resulting images into an icon editor to package them into an actual icon resource or file.

DreamLight PixelPalettes (available in the DreamLight WebShop) give me easy access to icon colors directly on the page. The “legal” colors are the colors that will be dimmed by the Finder when the icon is selected, as well as the colors that will be tinted by the label menu in the Finder. I often break the rules and use a few “non-legal” colors in the design. This has the effect of making part of the icon glow when selected in the Finder. In the case of the FreeHand icons I used this technique to make the guidelines and the pen stroke glow when the icons are selected. If the proper colors are not considered during the design, the icons will turn messy when selected. There are many icons out there today that do not highlight properly because the designers used incorrect colors.

For a more modern example of our large scale true 3D icon design for modern operating systems see the identity we created for our very own DreamLight SNUB-Launcher.

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