Photoshop Tutorial: How to recreate Instagram's latest filters

Added on by James Cronin.

- How to recreate instagram's latest filters in photoshop.

Back in April Instagram decided to introduce three new filters as part of their “commitment to creativity". The filters were said to be inspired by “weekend adventures outdoors" and are to be used as a tool to enhance subsequent outdoor photography. 

Below are some quick tips to recreate these filters in Photoshop. The example image was taken at the vibrant and colourful Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown, New York:


Lark was intended to be used with landscape imagery. Reds are desaturated while blues and greens are enhanced. The contrast is brought as high as 50% and saturation taken down to -30%.
Highlights and shadows are brought closer together with end values of 20, 1.00 and 230.


Reyes, a very different filter, brings a “dusty, vintage look to your moments". It is best employed on underexposed photos and night photography. The first step in recreating this photo is to add a cream colour fill layer. This time the saturation is brought down to -45% and lightness pushed up to 20. The exposure is increased fractionally and highlights are also made brighter. Increase the contrast now to +50 and bring the overall image brightness down to -10.


Finally, Juno tints cool tones green while enhancing the warmer tones. Whites are made brighter to enhance the subjects in each photo. It's richly saturated and high in contrast, +50. With Channel Mixer, bring reds down to 90% on the red output channel. The last step involves increasing the shadow input level to 30 to darken those areas.

Space Invaders

Added on by James Cronin.

I recently received an email in which the format attracted my attention more so than the content itself. My eyes were instantly drawn to the white spaces and I couldn't stop looking for them as I began to read. Each sentence felt isolated, rather than being part of a whole communication.

It originally used to be common practice when using typewriters to leave quite a significant gap after each sentence to aid legibility. This was however when the type itself was monospaced, meaning that each character had a fixed width and occupied the same space horizontally. 

Since the introduction of proportional fonts and the ability to adjust kerning we are able to produce much more visibly pleasing and more legible text, leaving the double space redundant.

So don't let a double space invade your next email. 

Feed me

Added on by James Cronin.

Back in University I used Google Reader on a daily basis to keep up to date with current affairs in the design industry. But since it’s discontinuation in 2013 due to ‘declining use’, I have struggled to find an RSS aggregator that was up to the same standard.

Recently however I was converted to ‘Feedly’ and found that the grass is indeed greener on the other side. Its minimalist interface is easy to navigate with several different layout options. I’ve opted for ‘Magazine’, it has a nice hierarchy of its content, which allows me to skim through and look for the most interesting articles.

For now I’m enjoying using 'Feedly' but there are other RSS readers out there. Design tutorial and news site ‘Six Revisions’ have put together a break down of the 10 best free readers.  

RSS (Rich Site Summary)
“A format for delivering regularly changing web content” 

Top 5 - Design Writers and Bloggers

Added on by James Cronin.


Adrian Shaughnessy

I wouldn't class myself as a hoarder but I do have an obscene amount of design related books currently taking over my office. They range from large scale anthologies to single-paged zines and Shaughnessy's name appears on more than one. I've been lucky enough to attend a couple of his talks, most recently at the AGI event in London, which he organised along with Unit Editions partner Tony Brook. Shaughnessy among others from my list, also writes for the Design Observer.

David Airey

Airey, a brand identity designer from Northern Ireland, uses his blog as a key feature of his website, optimising SEO to attract visitors and potential clients to his page. The blog covers a range of subjects ranging from architecture to fine art while demonstrating his passion for design and skill at writing. A true representation of his own brand as a designer.

Michael Bierut

Michael Bierut is a leading authority on graphic design today with over 25 years as a partner at the New York office of Pentagram. Along with Rick Poynor, he founded the design observer in 2003, a website devoted to a range of design topics. His book, '79 Short Essays on Design' gives you an insight into how he approaches design but also tells of his views on the culture around the design industry. 

Rick Poynor

Rick Poynor's writing encompasses both cultural criticism and design history and manages to be informative while still being enjoyable to read. He began as a visual arts journalist for Blueprint magazine before founding both Eye magazine and Design Observer. 

Steven Heller

Steven Heller began his career as an Art Director for the New York Times and since then has gone on to write over 100 books on design and popular culture. I recently enrolled on his Skillshare course, 'The Designer's Guide to Writing and Research' which inspired me to get back into writing this blog. 

New School, New Audience

Added on by James Cronin.

- The role of social media in a rebrand.

Since 2010 when US clothes retailer Gap ditched their new logo after an outcry online, brands have been made aware of the power of the modern consumer. Launching a new visual identity will always come with some negative comments because people are resistant to change but with the advent of social media, users can now have their opinions heard.

Brands can often use a rebranding exercise as an opportunity to engage with the consumer and use it as a form of promotion. How then can a brand engage with a hostile audience? Well a few months ago, New York University ‘The New School’ responded to the negative reception of its rebrand by getting its designer, Paula Scher of Pentagram, to respond to ‘mean tweets’.

“Holy crap the typography is so jumbled. Looks like Star Wars had an affair with Comic Sans” @MD_DC

While acting as a form of promotion for the school, it also provided an opportunity for Scher to defend and even explain her work. An opportunity most designers are not always lucky enough to have.

Everything was gRand

Added on by James Cronin.

- Everything is Design: The Work of Paul Rand

During my four month stay in the States I managed to get to the 'Everything is Design' exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. It was a showcase of the exceptional career of one of America's greatest designers, Paul Rand (1914 - 1996). He is regarded as one of the most influential designers of the 20th Century working with clients such as IBM, ABC, UPS and NeXT.

He began his career as an art director on Madison Avenue during a period that is said to have revolutionised the advertising industry and inspired TV Drama 'Mad Men'.

The exhibition itself included over 150 pieces of his work but also sketches, notes and development work which gave a great insight to his working methods and design process. It is only open for a few more weeks so if you are near by I can't recommend it enough. 

Slick Swiss

Added on by James Cronin.

- Process v Portfolio Schools

There are several ways in which design can be taught, with two main schools of thought ranked highest among design professionals. I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced both and have put together a short comparison:

Swiss / Process

 ‘Swiss’ schools are built on principles originally developed in Basel, Switzerland, and tend to focus on the design process rather than the outcome. The course at Teesside University where I studied for my bachelor’s degree followed this method of teaching, championing ideas and experimentation.

The first semester consisted of exercises and experiments with different media while actively avoiding any work on computers. We were challenged to look for design around us, have an opinion on it and its role in today’s society. That’s not to say that the end portfolio was neglected, rather that the journey to the finished piece was just as an important part of our learning.

One fault however with this method of teaching was that projects were often not relatable to real world briefs. Too much emphasis was put on experimentation and idea generation with no real time constraints.

Slick / Portfolio

The exact opposite can be said for ‘Slick’ schools and their way of developing young design students. The course I have just graduated from in the States consisted of several very short briefs. This may be due to the fact that it was actually a short course, but we were often given one-day briefs, which mirrored more the working environment in an actual studio or agency.

With quick turnarounds however there became less time devoted to developing an idea. Focus was instead turned to developing software skills to a professional standard, allowing us to ‘mock-up’ these quick projects. Unfortunately this method for me missed out on what I thought was one of the most beneficial parts to my degree back in the UK. Liaising with printers and paper suppliers while producing a project was a very useful exercise, one which I profited from when I got my first job.

While coming to an end of my time on the course in New York I decided that the formulaic approach to design taken by these slick schools felt at times rather arbitrary. I don’t always take the same route to a design solution, so creating a set of rules to follow each time didn’t work for me but it may for others. It also took some of the enjoyment out of the process as I began to feel I was merely contributing to consumerism rather than creating work that was thought provoking or problem solving.

Some employers would prefer to see a polished book as it makes it easier to imagine that graduate working for them in the future, others are more interested in the ideas behind each piece. I've learned a great deal from both experiences, each serve a purpose and I feel a combination of the two has resulted in me being a more rounded designer. Being both slick and swiss seems to work for Federer but for me, at this point the Swiss has the advantage.  

North by North East

Added on by James Cronin.

- "There are three responses to a piece of design - yes, no and Wow! Wow is the one to aim for."

The words of New Yorker, Milton Glaser, that brought me to leave one North East coast for another in search of my own 'wow'. After graduating in the UK I was looking for the next step to develop as a designer and came across a short course in Manhattan, focusing on software skills and a portfolio rather than idea development.

While in my final year I discovered a great book written by Michael Bierut, entitled '79 short essays on design'. He discusses the different ways in which Graphic Design can be taught, siting two main categories: process schools and portfolio schools. Both schools of teaching have their pros and cons and are often compared, it's an interesting debate, one which requires it's own blog post.

However, I'm now lucky enough to have experienced both schools of teaching and feel that can only have benefited me when it comes to my future design career. The next few posts are going to be predominately about New York and my time enduring one of its coldest winters in years, so brace yourselves, posts are coming.

Brand Extension

Added on by James Cronin.

Strong brand names are able to move into other areas once brand equity and recognition are established. 'Brand Extension' is the term used when referring to a successful brand name launching a new product. A good example of this is how Fairy extended from a washing up liquid household name to become a washing up powder brand too.


Lucozade have also managed to successfully extend their brand from a children's health drink to a sports and energy drink and now even bottled water.

Lucozade are able to achieve this extension because their brand name has become recognisable and trustworthy for consumers. From the point of view of retailers and consumers there is perceived less risk with the new product if it carries a familiar name. They associate the quality of the brand with the new product.

Branded Content

Added on by James Cronin.

Red Bull

After a recent trip to Monaco to watch the Formula One World Championship, I realised how strong the Red Bull brand is and how saturated the world of Formula One racing is with Red Bulls logo and brand identity.

The Red Bull driver, Mark Webber, led from the start and controlled the race before winning the Monaco GP for the second time in three years. A result that can only do good for the Red Bull brand.

The Product

Red Bull has become the worlds most recognisable and profitable energy drink and that is down to Dietrich Mateschitz's marketing and brand vision.

He said that while the brand is supporting sport culture it also works the other way around. The message through various forms of advertising, events and sponsorships is an 'invitation to be active'. Red Bull is supporting a way of life.


To promote their public image, the Red Bull marketing team have used related content such as viral videos of extreme sports which portray the companies philosophy while subtly increasing brand recognition.

By using content it's target audience would want to see, Red Bull can engage with the viewer and gain trust in the brand and the product. The branded content is not seen as an advert but rather a message from Red Bull telling consumers about their athletes, achievements and next projects.

Marketing is not just a department within Red Bull, its a part of the brand itself. Its part of Mateschitz' bigger vision.

Olympic Design

Added on by James Cronin.

Today saw the release of Great Britain's Olympic uniforms designed by Stella McCartney. McCartney, former Creative Director of Chloé , rekindled her collaboration with Adidas to create these Union Jack inspired kits.

It's the first time a leading fashion designer has designed the clothing for a country's team across all competitions for the Olympic games.

"The first place to start on a project like this is to look at the Union flag, for me it's one of the most beautiful flags in the world and it was important for me to stay true to that iconic design but also to modernise it and present it in a contemporary way. Ultimately, we wanted the athletes to feel like a team and be proud with the identity we create."

The designs themselves have come under some scrutiny for the way in which the Union Jack has been altered. The red has been taken out and replaced by turquoise, allowing the red to then be added as an accent on the collars and shoes.

You can view the full collection on the Team GB website below:

Reflective Report

Added on by James Cronin.

The 'Professional Development' module is coming to an end and I thought it was best to reflect on what I've achieved through the module and areas that need improving in the future:


  • Developed new skills, not just on the PD1 module but also in ADC.
  • Increased awareness of the design industry and certain areas of design such as Advertising.
  • Discovered how important 'professional practice' is to a designer. Paying attention to detail for example is essential when submitting a piece of work or sending out a CV.
  • Taken risks and opportunities to develop as a designer.


The weakest part of the PD1 module has been the physical self promotional item:

  • Not enough time was taken to get it up to a professional standard (time/project management)
  • Strong original idea but not developed enough to a final solution


I've put together a list of goals that would help me develop as a designer and avoid errors that occurred during PD1:

  • Develop the promotional item concept in PD2
  • Incorporate the "James - Ambigram Logo" into the physical design
  • Look into professional printing options (for example
  • Think more about the packaging of the self promotional item
  • Continue to blog in free time and keep up to date with current events in the world of design
  • Start the next project with more consideration for time management and planning (a more regular timetabling system)

Importance of a Deadline

Added on by James Cronin.

Parkinson's Law

Parkinson's Law is a quote from Cyril Northcote Parkinson and it was first published in 'The Economist' in 1955. It states that:

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

I think this is particularly true in the context of Graphic Design, as I feel a design is never really finished. It can always be worked on, improved and evolved. In the run up to a deadline, its essential to manage your time well in order to make your work the best it can be.

Why is a deadline so important?

  • Makes you budget your time
  • Alows you to work out what's most important
  • Once time is limited, you need to spend it wisely
  • Gives you incentive, a goal to work towards
  • Schedule improves productivity
  • Increases work ethic and discipline
  • Creates a sense of accomplishment
  • Doesn't allow for procrastinating
  • Prevents overload of work


Added on by James Cronin.

In a few days time I will be heading off to Barcelona to partake in the Erasmus exchange programme for 4 and a half months. I applied for the course during 1st year and had to first be accepted by Teesside and then by Bau, their partner University in Spain. I had heard about the programme from friends already at University and as soon as Paul Denison came to talk to us about the opportunity I applied. Its an opportunity to develop as a designer, which I wasn't going to turn it down. Thats why I'm at university in the first place, to become the best designer I can and hopefully one day, have a job I enjoy! Bau, Escuela Superior de Diseño

Bau is a design school, not far from the city centre of Barcelona. It focuses on Graphic Design but also offers night schooling and a masters course.

Lessons are taught in both Castillian and Catalan, with some teachers also working in English. Bau have a different approach to modules and work in a similar way to American universities. They have up to 20 classes available and allow the students to choose between modules and projects.

Studio P52

I'm going to be staying a couple of minutes walk away from the school in a student accommodation which was set up by some ex-students. The old warehouse has been converted into a studio with bedrooms on the upper floors and workspace downstairs. I'm moving in at the same time as 4 other students, all with different creative backgrounds ranging from film production to professional singing.

I think this creative environment which I am going to be joining can only help me develop as a designer and as a creative person.


Above is a screen shot of where I'm going to be living for the next few months. The A is the design school, which doesn't look too far from the beach. The centre of town is about half an hour walk to the left.

I'm really looking forward to this next part of my time as a student and can't wait to get going.

Recent Events

Added on by James Cronin.

This week, Wikipedia took its English-language site off-line as part of a protest against anti-piracy laws in the United States. If you tried to log on to the site on the 18th Jan, you were greeted by a statement from Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia: "Imagine a world without free knowledge."

This message began to spread through social networking sites and became known as the "blackout". Wikipedia were protesting against SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).

I thought this topic was interesting because it directly affects Graphic Design and the course I am on today. What SOPA would result in would be a loss in free public information, from blogs to sites used for inspiration.

Reference Book

Added on by James Cronin.

Potential Employers

Throughout the PD1 module I have researched into potential employers in my chosen specialism areas, advertising and branding. I've put together a reference book which contains evidence of research and a shortlist of agencies I aspire to work for. The list contains international/London based contacts as well as others outside London.

This book is also for personal use and runs alongside information captured in this blog detailing the application process and thoughts on how to approach these agencies.

Each page follows a designed format to aid navigation:

  • Name
  • About
  • Contact
  • Website
  • Personal Thoughts

Alongside this information I have included representation of their work, which I have collated. This research process has inspired me to one day collaborate and design for a top agency.

What are they looking for?

Added on by James Cronin.

While looking at the job vacancy ads on the links in the previous post I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the recurring themes/traits/skills that an applicant must have:

  • enthusiastic
  • hardworking
  • interest in the area they are applying for
  • fast learner
  • ability to work to a deadline
  • react to short notice tasks
  • work under pressure with high workloads
  • express a keenness to work with a team
  • work independently
  • working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite
  • push themselves to the limit of their capabilities
  • design experience
  • open minded
  • passion for craft
  • resourceful

One line I thought was interesting on a job advert found on was:

"The agency is keeping an open mind on level of experience. Strong creative and attitude is more important."

Which shows that a good portfolio and professional skills in the interview can get you that job.

10 Design Job Sites

Added on by James Cronin.

As part of the Professional Development module we are required to start thinking about work experience and applying for jobs. Below is a list of 10 useful sights that help designers find jobs in the design industry:

  1. - advertises some of the best jobs in several design disciplines
  2. - "the catalyst that puts together people and companies to create a real spark"
  3. - institute of practitioners in advertising
  4. - provide links to graduate internships
  5. - develop student and graduate placement programs
  6. - source of jobs in web design, branding and other design disciplines
  7. - alows you to search for available jobs and also has a good careers advice section
  8. - alows you to search available jobs via location as well as discipline
  9. - nicely designed site and are run by a team of designers
  10. - our own uni site has a great careers section

Using these resources will be essential when it comes to looking for a job or internship during the summer. From reading the guardian and the Creative Review blog I regularly see updates on job availabilities but dedicated time must be taken to fully navigate each site to find the right job.

5 More Design Blogs

Added on by James Cronin.

When I started this blog I put together a list of five blogs I visit daily. Below I've created a new list of some blogs I have found recently which I think are really interesting. It would be useful to analyse the blogs and discover what makes each one work so that I can apply those ideas to my own. David Airey "A brand identity designer working with clients across the globe." His site has a dedicated section for design students.

Design Notes "Multidisciplinary designer, writer and educator Michael Surtees tries to explore people’s daily experiences and observations with design."

Designers Journal "Is a collection of jottings, doodles and graphic design & creative eye candy from around the world."

It's nice that INT aim to "champion great creativity", by publishing exciting practitioners both on their website and in their magazine.

September Industry SI try to focus on quality rather than quantitiy and prefer to post biweekly rather than daily. It contains a carefully curated selection of contemporary graphic design.