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Polaroid rebrand is an instant pick-me-up

Polaroid has reclaimed its original name and drawn on its previous visual identity in a rebrand that sees the instant film pioneer come full circle. Though you may not have noticed the existence of Polaroid Originals in the first place, this arm of the brand is officially no more. The entire company has now unified, in an explosion of colour, under the flagship brand name: Polaroid. To mark the occasion there's also a new camera, the Polaroid Now. 

The Polaroid Originals brand was created in 2017 when Netherlands-based group The Impossible Dream merged with Polaroid. This branch of the business continued to manufacture instant cameras, while Polaroid itself pursued non-camera related products. The rebrand aims to "give clarity to people" by unifying the brand under a singular identity that has analogue cameras at its heart. And the whole thing is a rainbow-filled explosion of cheerfulness we can't stop looking at.

Need a new camera? Check out our pick of the best cameras for creatives. Or if you want to improve your photos, try our tips to boost your photography skills.

Polaroid

The five-colour rainbow spectrum takes on a number of forms across the visual identity

The new designs feature a dripping series of five-colour rainbow stripes under the Polaroid wordmark (which retains the original typography), plus a rainbow swooping down for the new cameras to bounce off.

The rainbow spectrum iconography has been a core part of all Polaroid branding since the 1970s, (apart from a brief spell in the '90s when things went monochrome), and the Originals brand retained it, albeit in a somewhat minimalist version. But the new, unified Polaroid branding embraces the rainbow at a whole new level.

"As this new decade marks a new chapter in the Polaroid story, it’s a moment for us to celebrate that heritage, while keeping our sights set on the future," says Polaroid CEO Oskar Smolokowski. "The new identity for 2020 reflects this, boldly reclaiming the colour spectrum as uniquely Polaroid."

Polaroid

The Polaroid Now comes themed in different colours

The Polaroid Now is an analogue camera for the modern age, with an improved autofocus system, longer battery life and accurate flash. Polaroid's renewed focus on the instant camera has repositioned the brand for a new era, tapping into the instant gratification modern consumers crave.

Polaroid has acknowledged the timing of the rebrand launch, and plans to play a "meaningful role" during the Covid-19 crisis. The company wants to work with its supportive online community through its channels, to create content and share ideas to keep the creative vibe alive. And let's be honest, all that colour certainly helps bring a bit of cheer. 

Unlike recent logo redesigns from BMW and Nissan, Polaroid's makeover isn't all about going flat, which is quite refreshing. This celebration of brand heritage has a cool retro vibe that also feels totally up-to-date. You can check out the video above for Polaroid's logo evolution.

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BBC’s comedy clips are hilariously appropriate

The BBC has launched a series of videos using clips from classic comedies to communicate a simple message to the public: "Seriously, stay at home". The beeb has managed to find impressively appropriate clips from four beloved shows (The Mighty Boosh, I'm Alan Partridge, The Thick of It and Miranda) to tell us all to stay indoors to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Appearing on BBC television and social media, the ads feature humorous scenes on the theme of isolation or staying at home. For example, the clip from I’m Alan Partridge (below) shows Alan preparing for a James Bond-a-thon in his caravan, with a hilariously strict timetable ("1:15 – Goldfinger, strawberry Nesquik, fishcakes"). The ad ends with the text: "Set a routine to get through staying in". 

If you're looking for more advertising inspiration, check out our best print ads ever.

The clip from the Mighty Boosh, meanwhile, features the Isolation song from the episode The Legend of Milky Joe, in which Howard and Vince become stranded on a desert island with only some rather sinister coconuts for company. Boosh fans have no doubt been singing this to each other for days:

Next up is a hilariously appropriate clip (below) from political satire The Thick of It, featuring Peter Capaldi's famously foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker telling his staff: "Right people, listen up. It’s a fucking lockdown right now. This is the fucking Shawshank Redemption, right, but with more tunnelling through shit and no fucking redemption." While the other three clips will appear between shows on TV, this one remains, thanks to the language, online-only.

And finally, a clip from Miranda (below) features her conducting a piece of classical music for an orchestra of kitchen utensils and groceries, after telling the viewer, "previously in my life, I've proved that living alone can be genuine fun". 

The four ads are an entertaining way of getting across a serious message – and ending a comedy clip with the word 'seriously' is a smart way of bringing that home. The appropriateness of each clip is impressive (who knew so many comedies made explicit references to isolation and lockdowns?) but of course, the BBC has a rich history of programming to delve into. 

While not every brand's response to coronavirus has been a success (such as McDonald's recently-deleted social distancing logo), this is a simple but effective offering from the BBC, as well as a reminder that there's lots of classic comedy available to cheer us up while we're all stuck at home.  

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The best Lego Architecture sets of 2020

The best Lego Architecture sets celebrate both the iconic designs of famous buildings, and the modular nature (and even whimsy) of Lego.

The best Lego Architecture sets all make excellent display pieces, sitting on your desk or shelves as a testament to the damn good taste you have in both building design and ways to to while away the hours.

Like many of the best Lego sets for adults, these can be quite fiddly, fitting in ludicrous amount of detail in some places. But in the case of the city skyline series, they're still not too overly involved as builds – you can finish them over the course of an evening, and they won't take up the whole kitchen table.

The Lego Architecture sets of individual locations tend to have a lot more pieces, and take longer to complete, but they also make for satisfying projects to finish, with big and striking results to display.

We've ranked the best Lego Architecture sets here, to help you decide which deserves a space on your desk. What we're looking for is  a mixture of inventiveness in the Lego medium, models that honour the original structures, and choices of buildings that inspire us. (Also don't miss our extra bonus building section at the end of this guide: jump straight to the buildings here).

Also read: The best Lego City sets

The best Lego Architecture sets

Best Lego Architecture sets: Statue of Liberty

This set is a double design masterpiece, not only giving an astoundingly faithful recreation of the architecture at the base of the Statue of Liberty, but also somehow mimicking the flowing shape of her copper cloak in smooth plastic. Standing 44cm/17in tall when complete, it looks eye-grabbing in the best possible way on the shelf. The colours have been carefully matched to the real thing. Plus, if you're going to have an impressive Lego showpiece, it's nice to have one with Lady Liberty's welcoming principles.

Best Lego Architecture sets: San Francisco

This is our favourite of all Lego's skyline Architecture sets because it feels like does the most with the medium. On the left, you have a series of great buildings from the city, including the old of Coit Tower, the modern of the Transamerica Pyramid, and the medium of 555 California Street. Adorably, though, you've also got the steep hill of San Francisco's famous streets, complete with a little red brick evoking the trams.

But the really clever part is the Golden Gate bridge, which has its two towers at different heights, to give a it the look of stretching off into the distance (even going to far as to put the second bridge tower behind the little Alcatraz island in the middle). It looks absolutely brilliant, and brings a smile every time we see it.

Best Lego Architecture sets: Trafalgar Square

It's like, how much more loving architectural detail could you cram into this space? And the answer is: none. From the intricate front of the National Gallery (which has a hidden interior, incidentally, with art in!), to the fountains and sculpture plinths, to the four lions, to the trees and lampposts and double decker buses, all to scale, this set has it all. It looks so busy, in the best way – it looks full. Bustling, even with no figures in it. As mini dioramas go, it's one of our favourites Lego has ever done.

Best Lego Architecture sets: New York

You want great buildings? Here's New York. We've got the second appearance of the Statue of Liberty, this time in clever micro-figure form (without a torch, alas, the only failing of this set). The other buildings look excellent – there's the instantly recognisable texture of the Empire Statue, the Chrysler's iconic peak, and we love the scale you get of One World Trade Center's size. The Flatiron Building is maybe the cleverest design here, using round single-stud pieces at the front to create its wedge shape. This is maybe the Lego Architecture skyline set that best captures the looks of the buildings with little compromise, though there is some very hot competition.

Much like the San Francisco set above, this really has fun with its concept, mixing buildings and locales in a way that's deeply satisfying. Again, it's also a lovely mix of the new (the Tokyo Skytree, Cocoon Tower and Tokyo Big Sight) and the traditional (cherry trees and a pagoda). And with Mount Fuji looking over it all, which is the kind of thoughtful touch that really elevates the best of these sets.

The final flourish is the collection of vibrant, translucent Lego for Shibuya Crossing, bring the jungle of neon to your desk in spirit.

Best Lego Architecture sets: Shanghai

With its orderly and pleasing increase in the size of the building, a rich mix of architectural styles, and a nice set of colours, this has a good claim to be the most aesthetically pleasing of the skyline sets. It certainly comes across that way in photos and from a distance – the only reason it's not higher on the list is that it doesn't look quite as good in person – the joins are just a little too prominent (as compared to the fidelity of the New York set, say).

But it's still an excellent set, for all the reasons given above, and then more if you love Shanghai. Again, the combination of traditional buildings (Longhua Pagoda, Chenghuang Miao Temple), the modern (World Financial Center, Shanhai Tower), and the unique (Oriental Pearl Tower). It's a bit of a shame than Jin Mao Tower didn't make it in, considering its neighbours did, but you can't have it all.

Best Lego Architecture sets: Empire State Building

This thing is monolithic. It's impressive in a way that few Lego sets achieve. It's imposing, at 55cm/21in tall – the tallest Lego Architecture set so far. And it's a beautiful, faultless recreation of the building. 

So why isn’t it higher on this list? As stunning as it is, the clever part of using Lego to mirror the look of the real thing is the ‘grille’ pieces, and this is the same trick used in the New York skyline set further up this list, just on a much larger scale.

Now, obviously, we're not saying you shouldn't get it. If you look at it and desire it, you will not be disappointed one iota. But when the deals are right, you can get two of the skyline sets for the same price (including New York), and we'd be tempted to do that. Though we would still desperately covet it.

Best Lego Architecture sets: Paris

This set absolutely nails its smaller buildings, and we really love it for that. The Grand Palais' clear roof and intricate front are ingeniously made, the Louvre's pyramid is perfect, the little Parisien houses are adorable, the Arc is a triumph, and there's even a hint of Champs Elysees.

The Eiffel Tower is a little divisive – we think it's actually a really impressive bit of Lego engineering to make it look good at this scale, but in real life, it does look a little bitty, which it honestly pains us to say. As with all the sets here, though, not bad by any means – just not quite the verisimilitude of others. We're not convinced by the inclusion of Tour Montparnasse, though – Tour First and Tour Majunga are both much more interesting designs.

Best Lego Architecture sets: Dubai

The only reason this isn’t higher is that, again, it’s one that looks better in pictures than in real life. The Burj Al Arab is fantastic, as are the Jumeirah Emirates Towers. The Frame feels like a bit of a cheat given that it's simply a Lego door frame finished in fold, but you can hardly fault the result, so touché.

But while the Burj Khalifa is a show-stopper in pictures or from across the room, it looks a little bitty as you get close. The construction of it quite ingenious, and we hold our hands up (as ever) to the skill of Lego’s designers, but we just find other sets here more pleasing in practice.

Best Lego Architecture sets: London

While the miniature versions of all the buildings here are excellent, we can’t help feeling that while many other sets celebrate buildings old and new, here we’ve only got some (admitted) classics, and with just the London Eye representing the new. You might say that the Paris set does this as well, but that has more buildings in it, whereas this is limited to only four (we're counting Nelson's Column and the National Gallery as one). A Lego Gherkin or Shard feels like a slam dunk.

Still, this is one that actually looks better in person than it does in pictures, though, so if you like what's visible here, definitely don't hesitate to buy – it also tends to be one of the cheapest here. 

Fun note: if you were lucky enough to grab the Creator Expert Big Ben and Creator Expert Tower Bridge when they were available, and the Trafalgar Square from further up this list, you could recreate most of this little setup in giant scale. You would need to devote half a room to that, though.

Best Lego Architecture sets: Las Vegas

We love 50 per cent of this set, but the other half leaves us relatively cold compared to the other skylines in this list. Listen, Bellagio and its fountains? YES Luxor's ridiculous, opulent monuments? YES. Las Vegas sign? YES, OF COURSE.

Wynn Encore? Hmmm. Stratosphere Tower? Like, okay, but in a city of bonkers buildings, it's not the most interesting design. And isn’t the Freemont Street Experience really more of an indoors thing? 

We know recreating Frank Gehry's Lou Ruvo Centre this scale would be… challenging, to say the least, but we just feel that there are more inspiring buildings in Las Vegas, even if the brown look of the Wynn is certainly recognisable. It’s still more than worth it for that lovely Bellagio front, and its little fountains.

Bonus! More beautiful real Lego buildings

These may not technically be Lego Architecture sets, but if you have an interest in Lego making beautiful versions of real buildings, these can't be ignored.

Best Lego Architecture sets: Taj Mahal

This is of the most famous Lego sets among collectors, because it was the largest set ever made in terms of number of pieces for a long time – until the Lego Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Millenium Falcon beat it a couple of years ago.

It's a huge set that goes to great lengths to recreate the curved windows and domes, and transparent elements give light the right 'glow' through it. If you've got the space (and the time – it's a real monster of a build), this is a great exploration of how bitty pieces come together to form a beautiful final result.

Best Lego Architecture: Old trafford

Stadiums have always been places that include incredible structural engineering, and often wear it on their metaphorical sleeves, and that's the case here too – not only does this 1:600 scale set pack in details that are important to fans of Manchester United, but it includes all the visible architecture that makes this 110-year-old marvel hold together.

We admit, it may not carry quite as much majesty for non-United fans, but the care that's gone into its details is still a marvel, from the players' tunnel to the statues to the careful placement of every beam, to the mini team coach that sits outside.

Buy Lego Creator Expert Old Trafford from the Lego Store online for £249.99

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A guide to Spark AR: Create and share AR effects

The idea of augmenting reality (AR) has been around for decades, but it’s only recently becoming an increasingly mainstream technology with tangible uses, from entertainment to marketing. The tools for building AR experiences are constantly developing, and now platforms such as Spark AR Studio are bringing easy-to-create AR to the social media generation. 

Here, Lorna Burrows, Head of Content at Immersive Studios, takes a look at how Spark AR is changing the face of augmented reality. For other useful kit for your web design toolbox, see our roundup of the best web design tools around.

What is Spark AR?

Spark AR

Spark AR is now open for all to try

Spark AR is a studio tool from Facebook that allows users to create their own AR effects for mobile. First launched in 2017, Facebook continues to add capabilities to the platform – most recently, adding in analytics for Instagram and Facebook campaigns. Compatible for Mac and Windows, the AR platform is comparable to tools such as Sketch or Photoshop – only this is for augmented reality. 

Prior to this summer, anyone could use Spark AR Studio to create custom AR effects, but if you wanted them to go live on platforms such as Instagram, you had to belong to the beta programme. However, now everyone can have a go at creating their own AR effects and publishing them online.

What can Spark AR do?

Spark AR

Spark has a host of features and learning guides

Spark AR enables you to create your own AR effects for mobile using a suite of tools – from patching to animation. What’s more, you don’t have to be a technical genius to be able to use it. It allows you to: 

  • Create your own AR effects, with or without a technical background 
  • Import your own 3D files and sounds 
  • Build with or without code 

With a host of features and learning guides, it’s a good tool for professional creators (such as studios like ours), as well as personal users. For example, Spark AR enables you to insert your own 3D objects into a project, change their properties and add interactivity, logic and animation. However, if you don’t have your own 3D models, Spark AR provides a vast range of ready-made 3D objects in the AR library. 

Why is this important?

Spark AR

AR technology is becoming more accessible and fun

Platforms like Spark AR demonstrate how mixed-reality technology is becoming more mainstream – more accessible, useful and fun. Spark AR enables you to create anything from a face filter to interactive AR games, and social media gives it a wide-ranging audience. Meanwhile, the importance of marketing via social media goes without saying. Instagram has over 500 million daily users and is ever-growing in popularity, with advertisers reporting four times as much engagement on Instagram as Facebook.

Spark AR enables brands to be both more creative and more engaging, while taking advantage of detailed metrics, including total impressions, captures and shares – giving insights into how their audience responds to AR. At Immersive Studios, we’ve been creating AR experiences for clients for over four years now and tools like Spark are both significant and exciting in that they are bringing AR quickly and easily to the mass market. It shows how the technology is evolving – both in terms of ease and capability, as well as audience and user demographic – meaning AR is naturally becoming more widespread. 

Spark AR is an efficient and versatile way to create AR experiences and it widens the playing field – allowing anyone with an interest in AR to access essential functions. For us as a business, it gives us more tools for our arsenal. For those interested in visual effects and 3D experiences, it gives you a platform to explore for yourself.

This article was originally published in issue 253 of 3D World, the world's best-selling magazine for CG artists. Buy issue 253 or subscribe to 3D World.

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Apple gives Final Cut Pro X free for 3 months

Creatives all over the world are adapting to a new way of life, and the support flooding in from the design community is awe-inspiring. Finances are a cause of concern for many at this difficult time, and in an effort to help, we've seen a number of services offered for free (here's our round up of free resources currently available). 

Apple is the latest company to get on board, currently offering Final Cut Pro X free for 90 days – voted by us as one of the best video editing software programmes around. Final Cut Pro previously came with a free 30-day trial, but Apple has extended this amid the Covid-19 outbreak. All you need to do is fill in the form to get access to Final Cut Pro X (version 10.4.8) for your Mac; simply enter your name, email address, click download and voila! Users already on a Final Cut Pro trial are eligible to extend to the 90-day offer too. 

In addition to this, Apple is also due to launch, for the first time ever, a free trial on its music production suite Logic Pro X. Set to go live in the next few days, there's no word on when either of these trial offers will end, however the word is Apple will switch back to a 30-day trial for both apps after a limited period. 

An Apple statement read: “We hope customers who are home and looking for something new to master will try out these free trials and start making some awesome new beats with Logic Pro X or create some amazing videos with Final Cut Pro X."

This offer could potentially help creatives make some big savings over the next few months, which will come as very welcome news. If you're in need of some new hardware to get going with this software, you can save on Apple devices too with these unbeatable prices: 

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6 ways to make money from home as a creative

If you're looking for ways to earn money at home as a creative, you're certainly not alone. These uncertain times are affecting every part of our lives, and creatives everywhere are worrying about the impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on their finances. Cancelled events and commercial shutdown have had a particular effect on creatives, so you may want to find an alternative (or extra) source of income until life returns to normal. 

We've put together a list of ways you can use your creative skills to earn yourself money without leaving the house. We've shelved any ideas that would require the post office, too. Read on for six ideas that could help you make money from the comfort of your home.

For more ideas to keep you busy, you can make sure your graphic design tools are bang up-to-date, or check out these free online resources for artists and designers.

01. Sell snaps to stock websites

If you have an image library packed full of stunning photos that haven't seen the light of day, you could put them to good use. Stock websites will pay you for your photographs, which could be anything from holiday snaps to wildlife photography. There are a bunch of different stock photo sites to approach, with commission rates averaging at about 25% (some more, some less). Try Getty Images, Shutterstock and Dreamstime to get you started. It's not a way to make income to live on, but many photographers find it a fun way to make some extra money each month. 

Note: We aren't encouraging anyone to head out with their camera in search of new shots, this only applies to photos you've already taken that are gathering dust in the depths of your computer. 

02. Sell digital prints on Etsy or Instagram

Make money from home: Etsy

Creatives sell digital content on Etsy

Etsy isn't just for selling crafts, you can also sell digital files for download. Creatives can take advantage of this by putting their graphic design talents to good use and selling prints and illustrations digitally. You could offer different formats, such as wall posters that can be printed out, or offer selections of beautiful cards for people to send to their loved ones. 

Instagram is also a great place for selling your digital art, using Shopify, the online shopping platform. A beautifully curated Instagram feed is a great shop window, and the more engagement and followers you have, the more you're likely to sell. Cast your net further by following our tips to boost Instagram engagement

03. Start teaching online classes

There's been an explosion of free content online in recent days, aimed at kids and adults stuck inside. But you don't have to keep it all free. Creatives have a wealth of desirable skills that people at home will be keen to learn, so why not create content for online education websites like Udemy or Skillshare

You can sell your courses to the people taking advantage of all this inside time to learn new things. All you need is a decent smartphone camera to film yourself teaching. There are thousands of courses already uploaded, which cover creative topics from photography to web design, and you could join the mix. Just make sure you think about what unique insight you can offer. If you find the idea a little daunting, check out our public speaking tips.

04. Set up a Patreon

Make money from home: patreon

Patreon enables supporters to subscribe to your work

Patreon is a fundraising platform that supports artists through regular and reliable income from supporters. In exchange for benefits such as exclusive content, involvement in your creations or insight into your creative process, supporters pay a monthly subscription. It creates a wonderful sense of community and benefits art-lovers and creatives alike. If this is something that interests you, you can find out how to get more out of Patreon in our article.

05. Make and sell fonts

make money from home: font

Create and sell your own fonts

If lettering is your bag, why not create your very own font to sell? There are a few different routes to take with selling your own fonts. First, you could approach a type foundry like YouWorkForThem. They will work with you to refine your fonts, complete font families and provide customer support, as well as other services. They will then give you a cut of any sales made. 

Or, you could sell your own font through a font retailer like MyFonts. They won't provide any service other than a platform to sell your fonts, but they do only accept fonts of a certain quality. 

Find out more about the font-selling process here.

06. Get yourself ready 

This is also a great time to get all those jobs done you haven't quite got round to. Putting the work in now may mean increased revenue later. Creating a stunning website, for example, which is ready to go for when the world is back up and running (you can find a top website builder with our pick of the best). Or working on that portfolio (for help, see tweaks you can make to bring it up to date for 2020 and some brilliant portfolio examples). 

Or, set about creating pieces you can sell later. Whether you're an artist, designer or maker, these days spent inside can be fruitful, meaning you'll have a stock of creations ready to sell in days ahead. 

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Adorable iPod tribute smashes Kickstarter target

We all love a bit of nostalgia every now and then, and retro product designs are a surefire way to have us hankering for simpler times. That's no doubt why Classicbot's latest Kickstarter campaign has been a runaway success. iBoy is a tribute to "the beloved iconic mp3 player that changed it all" (we think we know which one Classicbot means), and while the desktop accessory doesn't play music, it does feature an adorable smiling face, and removable arms and legs – because why not?

The iBoy figure is the brainchild of Classicbot designer, Philip Lee. It is 100 per cent free of electronic parts or functions, but the clickwheel is both rotatable and clickable, making it "the perfect fiddle toy for when you're bored or stressed". 

And the optional magnetic arms, legs and earphones allow for a variety of poses. Classicbot is kind enough to offer a few suggestions (below). The original iPod remains one of Apple's most iconic designs, despite having long been replaced by products like the iPhone and iPad (check out our best cheap iPad deals in you're in the market for a new tablet).

Classicbot

We don’t remember our iPod being able to do this

While iBoy's original Kickstarter target was £7,400, it's on course to smash a stretch goal of £20,000. If it hits that target, Classicbot will offer a brand new colour option (below), based on the famous red and black U2 Edition iPod released in 2007. Those who have already pledged for iBoy will have the option to swap their order for this edition.

iBoy U2 edition

iBoy’s U2 Edition

Classicbot was born out of "a soft spot for product designs from the '80s and '90s", and the iBoy isn't the only one of its retro Apple-based collectibles. Check out its website to find other nostalgic figures based on models such as the iMac G3 and even the original Macintosh. Now if you'll excuse us, we're off to search the attic for our original iPod. 

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Master the most in-demand coding language in the US for just $30

If you're looking to beef up your resume, make a career change, or expand on your coding foundation, it may be time to start learning the most in-demand coding language in the US with The Absolute Python Programming Certification Bundle, now only $29.99. 

Wanting to up your web design game? Try our roundup of the best web design tools around.

Familiarise yourself with Python

Every new skill starts with acquiring the basics. With over 130 lessons and content available 24/7, you'll start your programming journey with an introduction to Python training. You'll learn the fundamentals of Python and soak up basic concepts such as how to manipulate strings in Python, learning flow control and file processing on the platform, and so much more. With real-world exercises, you'll be able to practise what you learn comprehensively. 

Enhance your data analytical skills

Are you looking to use your Python skills for data analytics? If so, this course is for you. With access to over 40 lessons, you'll start by learning how to use Jupyter Notebook, a leading tool for writing, testing, and sharing quick Python programs that are essential in analytical positions. This course will also teach you how to use NumPy, a library for Python that makes working with arrays and matrices much more efficient, and pandas, a software library, which facilitates analysing and manipulating data. You'll also master simple data visualisation techniques with Matplotlib, a plotting library for Python and NumPy, and put your newly acquired skills to the test.

Go from beginner to expert

You've got the basics down, and now it's time to amp it up. Designed to take students to the next level in Python expertise, this course will teach you advanced techniques in the map and filter lambda functions, sorting, expressions, databases, object-oriented coding, and more. With over 90 lectures, you'll be exposed to hands-on exercises that will take your skills to new heights. You'll even be rewarded with a certification of completion, bringing valuable skills to your résumé. 

Usually $600, you'll learn the leading general-purpose language that is Python for only $29.99! Bring on the learning with The Absolute Python Programming Certification Bundle and start up a career as a developer from the comfort of your home. 

*Prices subject to change.

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Mesmerising paint-mixing videos provide some much-needed calm

The world is a strange place right now, and creatives across the world are finding ways to adjust to the current way of life imposed by social distancing. But while it's great to use this time to throw yourself into a new project, there are moments when all we need is a calming distraction from the world around us – and we've found just the thing.

Photographer and painter Walker Boyes has begun posting an incredibly simple series of videos to his Instagram page, in which he mixes paint. That's it. As Boyes says in the first video's caption, seeing the colours slowly transform is "just something enjoyable to watch" – and sometimes, that's all we need. We've been staring at the first clip, SUNSHINE (below), for hours.

Inspired to pick up your own brushes? Check out our must-know painting techniques.

And it seems that the calming clips are just the tonic for viewers on Instagram. "So satisfying!!!" says one follower, while another adds, "So much better than anything to do with Covid-19. Bless you!!!" The simple videos are even inspiring others to follow suit: "These videos have inspired me to finally break out the oil set I bought two years ago. I've been to intimidated up until now!" says @rogers.spencer. We love the latest video, FOREST GREEN:

As well as painting and photography, Utah-based Boyes also works with embroidery. A series of flower studies can be found on his website, and they're almost as meditative as the paint-mixing videos. Little things like this are keeping us calm right now – take a look at some of the simple pleasures we can't wait to revisit when things are back to normal. 

Embroidery

We feel calmer already

We're loving seeing examples of creativity in the face of adversity right now, from a huge collaborative artwork by French illustrators, to free drawing lessons for kids stuck at home. But right now, all we want to do is watch Boyes' colours slowly transforming into other colours. So if you need another moment of calm, here's one more for good measure: 

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Get great visual feedback, even from non-creative folk

Between the coding team and clients, website development goals can become lost in translation. A significant issue with traditional web development is the communication loop (and breakdown) between software engineers, designers, product managers and their clients. 

Unless the client is skilled and confident in using QA or bug-tracking-specific software, which is necessary for the website’s hardcoding and front end styling, it can be a struggle to collect feedback, issues and change requests. 

It’s rare that a customer possesses deep programming skills or is as technically literate as the dev team. Even if the changes and alterations appear small, most clients are unlikely to provide technical information such as browser, OS or a conveniently annotated screenshot. You’re more than likely to receive a long-winded email or spreadsheet highlighting the issues. 

Unify your feedback 

Track all feedback easily with BugHerd

To empower clients and customer experience specialists who don’t live and breathe coding, or possess deep tech knowledge, there’s BugHerd. An innovative web development tool from Australia. BugHerd allows users to easily flag changes and feedback directly on a webpage, to with developers or designers. It is just like adding sticky note to refer to the specific issue. 

With BugHerd, the feedback loop is made much more intuitive with visual annotation. How many times have you seen a suggested update or styling change, but found clients struggling to comment on it in a way that is easily replicable? 

BugHerd solves the problem by allowing you to visually select and input feedback. It gives developers and designers a unified and smooth feedback structure from clients or product managers. The visual bug tracker is like an overlayer fault-finding system, which sits on your website or development project, ready to be a trigger into action when required. 

Identify a fault and the BugHerd feedback tool immediately pings it to a relevant project Kanban board, ready to be assigned to a developer. There’s a sidebar tracking tool enriched with status, dateline, file attachment and comment functions. Every task includes full metadata such as browser, OSS and selector data, plus a screenshot that may be annotated. 

Bridge the communication gap

Ease communication with BugHerd

What makes BugHerd so powerful is its bridges the gap between developers and other members of a website development project. Client or customer experience specialists can provide valuable input without experiencing the frustration of having to master a new software interface. It’s almost like a translator between tech and non-tech people. 

Web development teams need to concentrate on creativity and problem-solving. They don’t need the burden of additional software plugins, updates and installing admin. BugHerd’s unique feature is that it requires negligible onboarding (less than five minutes) and no install. 

If you seek a true click-and-suggest feedback tool, BugHerd is it. Having the ability to seamlessly accept and process feedback on the smallest detail, at every stage of the web development project, creates wonderful workflow streamlining for your team and clients. 

Websites are visual and their feedback stream, during the developing stage, should also be. Constructing feature-rich websites which look spectacular in their styling and exceed client expectations, involve powerful software and skilled coding. But asking the correct questions and incorporating the feedback to create them, should be far simpler. Which is why you need BugHerd. 

Visit the BugHerd website to find out more.

Source: codebloq design

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All the highlights from Vertex 2020

Now in its third year, Vertex is the conference for 2D and 3D artists, and is organised by our sister titles ImagineFX and 3D World. This year, all tickets quickly sold out. So what drew over 1,200 artists to London’s Olympia Conference Centre on 27-28 February? With so much going on, it’s difficult to know where to start…

There were opportunities to receive feedback on your work from top professionals, including portfolio reviews (see our inspirational design portfolios here if you missed it) and a Bring Your Own Animation meet-up. There were life-drawing classes, and live art battles. There were workshops on everything from character design to lighting. And of course, there were must-see talks from some of the creative industry’s biggest names, and must-see stands from a range of top sponsors.

Highlights included Pixar technical artist Dylan Sisson revealing the mind-boggling secrets of Toy Story 4 and Onward, Tom Reed delving into creature design for The Lion King, and artists Karla Ortiz and Lois Van Baarle (aka Loish) sharing key insights from their own careers (read our exclusive interview with Loish here). Ortiz, for instance, told the audience: “It’s okay to doubt yourself. We all do. You’re not an artist unless you want to quit at least once.” (Discover more of her tips here.)

The highlight of Vertex, though, was how open and friendly everyone was, allowing artists and speakers to freely mingle, learn from one another, and progress their careers. Indeed at the talk How to Get a Job at ILM, supervising art director Jason Horley revealed that a recent hire was recruited after they’d chatted at 2019’s Vertex, where she was advised to develop skills in 3D tools. If that’s not a reason to grab a 2021 ticket, we don’t know what is. You can see the full showreel from Vertex 2020 below.

Next year’s event is expected to be a huge success, so don't miss out on your chance to attend. Register your interest at vertexconf.com

This article originally appeared in issue 186 of ImagineFX, the world's leading magazine for digital artists. Buy issue 186 or subscribe to ImagineFX.

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8 simple pleasures we're looking forward to in safer times

They say you don't know what you've got till it's gone, and many people are finding that now that they are having to stay inside, the banalities of their previous daily lives are more appealing than ever. 

And while the things people are missing about life before coronavirus will vary from person to person, we bet there are some that creatives in particular will be craving. Below, we've listed some of the activities that we can't wait to do once this is all over. 

Note that we are speaking from a position of complete privilege, we could of course be able to live without the things below, and we understand why it's important not to do them right now. But in future, we'd really like to enjoy them if they are available, please. In the meantime, we'll just be here trying to make the best from working from home

If you're stuck for ideas as to what to do with your time, then don't miss these free online resources for designers and artists. And make sure your studio is kitted out as best as it can be with our roundups of the best desks and best office chairs

01. Going out for a coffee

Getty Images coffee cup

We just can’t make such pretty patterns at home

If you've stocked up on some decent coffee, then we're not saying that staying in to enjoy a good caffeine hit doesn't have its benefits, but you still just can't beat going out for a cup.

At this point, we don't even really care if its not the best cup of coffee ever brewed. We'd just like to be in a café surrounded by plants, people on laptops and breathing in the smell of freshly baked bread while we cradle a cup of Joe. Obviously, if we could have a friend or two to talk to while we're at it, that'd be even better. 

02. Physical contact

Those who live with other people are probably okay on this front, depending on who they're co-habiting with, but spare a thought for the people living on their own. Self-isolation or lockdown may mean that lone dwellers might not touch another human being for a good few weeks yet. Save us a hug for when this is all over?

03. Supermarket shopping without the panic

We know we're still allowed to go the shops (at the moment), but doing so isn't exactly a pleasant experience right now. Apart from the half-empty aisles, everyone has a slightly harrowed look in their eyes, and we can't help but feel bad if we happen upon any sort of tissue-related good, let alone pick it up and buy it.

Remember the glory days when all you used to worry about in the supermarket were unexpected items in the bagging area? Take us back there, please. 

04. Real-life meetings

people in a cafe laughing

Meetings in a café = even better

Okay, we never thought we'd say we miss meetings, but there you go, we do. We're all for staying in contact via the internet, and yes, there are a host of tools that make it super-easy to hold meetings online (we're looking at you, Zoom), but things are just easier when you're physically in the same room together. 

You can do novel things like pore over a magazine or a piece of paper together, or even look at the same laptop screen. Plus, there are sometimes snacks.

05. Cultural pursuits

Does anyone else miss the luxury of going to see a really bad film at the cinema? A really good film would be lovely too, with popcorn, ideally. We also wouldn't mind taking a casual stroll around an art gallery, or perhaps catching something at the theatre. Hell, we wouldn't even mind watching a bad busker. 

Meanwhile, check out our best online art galleries for some stay-at-home inspiration.

06. Group exercise

Daily exercise has literally never seemed so appealing, we find ourselves saving it up like tokens to spend before the sun sets. But real-life group exercise… remember that? While we usually try and inch away from our sweaty gym-mates, the thought of being surrounded by them suddenly seems more appealing. 

Imagine being able to talk to someone else while you do an activity together, or receive real-world corrections from a teacher or instructor on your technique. To some of you, this will seem like a nightmare, but if you've got the bug for exercising with others, then you'll know what we mean. 

07. Design events

Audience at Vertex

Events like 2D and 3D art conference Vertex now seem like a lifetime ago

Too many of our favourite design events have been cancelled recently. We love nothing more than a good creative event that brings people together. Even though some of these events have gone virtual, we miss the chance encounters that happen when people meet in real life. Those chats you have while you're waiting to see the next speaker, or queueing for a drink, plus the chance to meet our design idols in real life, of course.

08. The pub

Last but not least, if we could all just depart to the pub at the end of the day to chew the fat about what's happened (or even better, not happened) that week, that would be marvellous. Clutching a glass of wine on your own – even while on Zoom – just isn't as good. We'll have some chips on the way home, while we're at it, thanks. 

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6 of the hottest gadgets for designers

Gadgets are an ever-present temptation for most of us, but we reckon that right now, many of you could use a new toy to buck your spirits up a bit. These are weird, uncertain times, and while gadgets won't make everything better there's always something you can buy to make your life a bit easier.

That's why we've gathered together this little selection of great gadgets; none of them are essential, but any of them could easily improve things while you're working from home, as well as helping to keep you on an even keel mentally. Read on for six life-enhancing slices of tech.

01. Oculus Quest

6 of the hottest gadgets for designers: Oculus Quest

The Quest is the all-in-one VR platform you’ve been waiting for

A VR headset is an increasingly must-have piece of kit, but it's easy to be put off by the need for a reasonably powerful PC or Mac and the potential for cables everywhere. While the specs required for VR don't feel quite as exotic as they did when the Oculus Rift first launched, cables are still a big part of desktop-powered VR, and until recently there wasn't an option that worked wirelessly while delivering experiences of the same quality as wired VR systems.

However the Oculus Quest comes beautifully close. It's an all-in one VR system, so it doesn't need a computer driving the visuals and there's no need for cables, and it's a joy to use with a wonderfully sharp display. While it's targeted at gamers, there are some great creative apps available such as Tilt Brush, Gravity Sketch and SculptVR; if you fancy dipping a toe into the VR waters to escape the real world for a bit, this is the perfect entry point.

02. Airpods Pro

6 of the hottest gadgets for designers: Airpods Pro

They’re not cheap but the AirPods Pro live up to the hype

When you're working from home and trying to avoid distractions, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones is a must. And while Apple's AirPods Pro don't quite match a pair of full-size cans when it comes to noise cancellation, the results you get from them are really quite remarkable, especially when you consider how lightly they fit in your ears.

They also deliver fantastic sound quality, with lovely deep bass and sharp higher frequencies, all managed by Apple's adaptive EQ, and as they're water and sweat resistant, they're good to take out for a walk or a run, even if the weather's looking questionable. And unlike standard AirPods, they're a lot less likely to fall out thanks to their silicone ear tips.

03. ReMarkable 2

There are plenty of tablets for drawing and note-taking, but if you love the old-school feel of pen and paper then you likely feel that they come up short. In which case, the ReMarkable could be just the thing you're looking for.

It's an E Ink tablet that's designed to feel like using a pen and paper; use it for note-taking and writing and it'll convert your written words into text, and it's also the perfect surface for sketching. Unlike other tablets it's not intended to be a replacement for a computer; there's no web browser, email or social media, just the ability to sync your notes and documents via wi-fi, and of course to load up with free ebooks. The standard ReMarkable is on sale now, but the thinner and more powerful ReMarkable 2 is available for pre-order and might be the better option.

04. UGREEN 6-In-1 USB C Hub

6 of the hottest gadgets for designers: UGREEN 6-In-1 USB C Hub

Turn a USB-C port in to a bunch of handy connectors

You can never have too many USB ports. No matter how many USB ports you have on your computer, there'll always come a time when you have to work out which accessory you need the least so that you can unplug it and charge your phone. It can be bad enough on a desktop computer; if you're on a laptop then you can find yourself in a constant state of port management.

Which is why a decent USB hub is an absolute must-have gadget. This slimline 6-in-1 model from UGREEN plugs into a USB-C port and gives you a 4K HDMI output, a USB-C charging port and two USB 3.0 ports, as well as SD and TF card readers. It doesn't mean you won't ever run out of ports, but you'll be able to plug a lot more into your computer than before.

05. Fitbit Charge 3

6 of the hottest gadgets for designers: Fitbit Charge 3

The Charge 3 is the best all-round Fitbit right now

Let's face it, you're stuck at home right now and probably not getting enough exercise. And while you might well have an Apple Watch with all its built-in health apps, that's not an option for everyone, so a dedicated fitness tracker could be a really useful gadget to have right now.

For the best balance of build, features and price, it's hard to beat the Fitbit Charge 3. Available for just £89.99 from many stores at the moment, it's a slimline fitness tracker with a decent-sized display, and it's completely waterproof. It features automatic exercise recognition and it'll monitor your heart rate 24/7, let you know how many calories you're burning, track your sleep patterns and much more besides. If you don't want to be out of shape when we all get out of lockdown then this is a brilliant tool to help you stay on the right track.

06. Roomba 980

6 of the hottest gadgets for designers: Roomba 980

Also works as a cat taxi

It's not easy being at home all the time, and it's all too easy to let things slide. Any help you can get in keeping things clean and tidy is a bonus, so maybe now's the time to get one of those robot vacuum cleaners you've always had half an eye on.

The Roomba 980 from iRobot works on all manner of floor types, it can cope with pet hair and large debris such as spilled cereal, and it'll navigate its own way around your home, happily going under furniture and around clutter. If it's running low on power it'll recharge and then resume where it left off, and you can even hook it up to an Alexa or similar. Bottom line: it gives you one less thing to worry about, and the sight of your brave little Roomba doing its thing never gets old.

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McDonald's apologises after tasteless logo change

Brands are continuing to respond to the spread of coronavirus, with many using their platform to highlight the importance of social distancing. Last week, McDonald's shared a minimalist ad in which its two famous golden arches became separated – and the internet was not impressed.

The ad, created by agency DPZ&T, appeared across all of McDonald's Brazil's social media accounts to convey the idea that we are "separated for a moment so that we can always be together". However, after a fierce backlash, the altered logo and accompanying social media posts have already been deleted. It's safe to say this attempt won't be gracing our best logos list. 

McDonald's

We’re not lovin’ it

While speculative creative efforts (such as Jure Tovrljan's iconic logos reimagined for the age of coronavirus) have gone down well online, it seems it isn't enough for corporations to make fun, creative tweaks if they aren't backed up by actual action.

 Twitter users were quick to blast McDonalds's seemingly opportunistic effort. "Shame on everyone turning this pandemic into an award brief" said @rafapcolombia, while @VanLigon simply asked, "How about pay your workers a living wage?" Perhaps @LaurelLu puts it best:

Not only has McDonald's Brazil removed all trace of the tasteless ad, but it has also apologised. A statement to the New York Post, said: “As a brand that operates in nearly 120 countries, we share a collective responsibility to help our communities in times of need. We apologise for any misunderstanding of the intent to remind our customers and communities on the importance of social distancing during these uncertain times.”

We hope this will be a lesson to other brands considering a quick, tokenistic response to the current situation. Fortunately, many brands are making an effort to help those who are struggling, such as Adobe offering two free months of Creative Cloud. While McDonald's has made some successfully bold creative moves in the past (such as these minimal, type-only ads), it's safe to say this was a supersize mistake.

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Source: codebloq design