February 23, 2006

Illustrator Interview: Sandee Cohen (aka Vectorbabe)

So I have small story to tell. It starts with my stumbling upon a particular chatroom in AOL (not THAT chatroom, get your mind out of the gutter) where several folks would chat about Vector Graphics. I "met" several people in that forum then (I think I was like 19 years old) including Gary Newman (NewMango), Ted Alspach, Sharon Steuer, and Sandee Cohen. A short while later, I attended an event in NYC at Apple's Market Center in the Citicorp building (for those who know the NY skyline, that's the skyscraper with the slanted roof) which was being given by Sharon Steuer. At that event, I met Sandee Cohen. And my world began spinning around Illustrator, and to date, it hasn't stopped spinning.

So it's only natural that I turn my interview towards Sandee herself -- er, Vectorbabe, as she is known in these here parts...

What was the first vector application you ever used?

If, by vectors, you mean object-drawing, then that would have been a product called “Lightspeed” which was “married” to its own printer. It was a color drawing, image, and text layout program. We used it at Ogilvy & Mather, where I worked, to do comps for the client. It didn’t have a Pen tool, though. So I don’t count it as a “real” vector program. I didn’t get to try Illustrator till much later. I asked the woman in charge of computers for a new program to learn and she threw Illustrator 88 at me saying, “Here, try this. No one understands it.”

Having been intimately involved with both FreeHand and Illustrator, what's your take on the future of both of these applications?

FreeHand has some great features. Sadly Macromedia let the code just float along and there are many problems with it. The PDF export is awful. Transparency is a total fake and doesn’t work for CMYK output as well as Illustrator. Adobe has already indicated a direction for FreeHand in that I didn’t see it on the list of programs being developed for the Intel Macs. Of course it still could be updated, but I doubt it. That’s not to say the die-hard FreeHanders won’t be upset. If you think there was a Quark/InDesign feud, FH/AI is total war!

If you could make just one feature request for AI, what would it be?

Oh Mordy, do I have to tell you this again? I’ve been preaching this one for almost five years. It’s a way to take the single page artboard in Illustrator and use rectangles to designate certain areas as “pages”. (Very slimilar to slices.) Then these pages would output as individual pages for print or as PDF files.

But if that one is totally impossible I want Illustrator to have Layer Comps (and everything associate with them) as well as having InDesign read Illustrator layers and layer comps.

What one thing most annoys you about Illustrator?

Not enough integration between AI and ID. I want AI to open ID documents (or pasted objects) without mungling the text. Without creating all those extra bounding boxes. And without totally screwing up the text and paragraph styles.

What’s your personal preference, Mac or Windows?

Mac. Only because I’ve used it longer.

What’s playing on your iPod right now?

Books and Podcasts! Audio books from Audible.com include I listen to books constantly. My favorite author, who I discovered through Audible is Jasper Fforde, author of the Tuesday Next series. But I also listen to political books, bios of scientists, shakespeare, Douglas Adams. I listen to the Ricky Gervais podcast, Harry Shearer Le Show, Left Right and Center, and some ABC News podcasts.

What one thing has most inspired your own personal work?

I’m not really a designer or illustrator, but if I could draw, I would love to be in the style of Jules Feiffer, the old cartoon artist for the Village Voice. He could create a great illustration with the absolute minimum of lines. I envy that.

Where did the idea for Vectorbabe come from?

Hah! Everyone wants to know that. I’ve always positioned myself as liking the vector drawing tools better than pixels and Photoshop. One day someone told me that Katrin Eisman, the great Photoshop retouching expert, had claimed “Photoshop Diva” as her web site. Right off the top of my head I said that if she could be Photoshop Diva, I was Vectorbabe. There are errors made by the guy who did my site. There’s no capital b and no space.

What one tool currently in Illustrator has outlived its usefulness and can be killed (besides the Flare tool)?

Rounded Corner rectangle. The rectangles it creates have dead corners that can’t be changed later. A better way to create rounded cornered rectangles is with a Graphic style that applies the Round Corners Effect. Then the size of the corner can be adjusted.

As a famous teacher and presenter, what is the most outrageous question you've ever been asked on stage or in class?

This isn’t an outrageous question, but it’s a question that really hits home as to what teachers and authors are all about. Bear with me, there’s a story involved.

I was teaching at the New School in New York City. These are adult ed classes. It was the first day of class and I had just done an quick example of the things we were going to learn in Photoshop. I had applied a Gaussian Blur with a value of 3. A student raised her hand and asked “How did you know what amount to put in the Gaussian Blur box?” Rather than get into all the stuff about resolution on day one, I said it was based on the type of image and years of experience. She raised her hand again. “Is there a book on experience?”

That one question has become my goal. To teach and write the book on experience.


Newmango said...

I remember those days on the AOL/Adobe Forum, too. At that time, my job had me working until 8 pm here in California. Every Tuesday night Sandee and Ted led an AOL chat room dedicated to talk about Illustrator, and it was generaly attended by 15 or 20 people. It was the busiest part of my day, but I always tried to carve out a few minutes to participate, if just to lurk.

Sandee Cohen said...

Ahhhhh, Gary, yes those were the days.

We were all much younger. Of course, we also all pretended to know a helluva lot more than we actually did.

Glad to see you and the rest of the bunch on newslists and blogs like this!

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