My Notebook

My notebook is where I keep random notes, experiments and bits of research. Some of these become full posts in time, others stay here for prosperity.


Affinity Designer’s vector brush tool

Affinity Designer’s vector brush tool

Affinity Designer on iPad is a neat piece of software. It’s where much of my work starts life, although I might use the desktop version for finer finishing details like kerning and pixel placement.

This is an experiment with the Vector brush. I rotoscoped an image I took a year or so ago. The aim wasn’t to create photo-realism, rather to test the accuracy of the tool and a style I was playing with.

There was a second objective. In a year or so I’ll go through a tech refresh, which will probably mean replacing my iPad and MacBook Pro with a single, 2-in-1 laptop. I wanted to test whether Affinity Designer was a reasonable replacement for Adobe’s Procreate.

There’s a few problems with it, not least it sometimes decides where it wants to place nodes rather than where I want them. Being able to go back and edit the line is a bonus though.




Experiment to create a perception of shadow and light. Part of my ongoing quest to fight back against “flat” design in illustration.


Someone inside Huffpost thought this was “good design”

Someone inside Huffpost thought this was “good design”

I can’t imagine the conversation that took place when someone said, “Yeah, let’s have the video fly out and start playing automagically”. It’s not like we haven’t distracted them enough with the crowded adverts, subscribe box and the fixed top menu.

Don’t be like Huffpost.


Choices – an experimental illustration

Choices – an experimental illustration

I’m still evolving my illustration skills. They’re a bit weak, but things are getting better.


Alternative to a Bar Chart

Alternative to a Bar Chart

Bar charts can be a bit boring. I wanted to create something with a bit of movement in it. The angle each circle runs to is in correct proportion to its value, using the UK’s €24 as a baseline at 270 degrees.

The numbers are taken from a report. I’m not 100% convinced they’re right, but they are what they are. In any event, my aim wasn’t to represent specific numbers, rather test the design.

I think it stands out, and they’re not too difficult to create. Could be a useful addition to the toolkit.


Experiments divider for Instagram

Experiments divider for Instagram

My Instagram account was a mess. I chucked all sorts of rubbish on it: photos, illustrations and graphic design got equal billing. Mind you, I treated it more like a dumping ground than a serious social network because it is rubbish. It’s one of the reasons I deleted it (Facebook’s ownership was a bigger one)

When I shared my poster experiments I decided to segment them clearly in the timeline. So I created a mock bit of XML to carve them out. Everything works backwards, so I had to share the end of the experiment tag first, and the start last.


Excluding categories from your blog in WordPress

If you want to suppress a particular category from your WordPress blog it’s quite easy to do. All you need is the following snippet of code:

function exclude_category_home( $query ) {
// I exclude a specific category from the home page.
if ( $query->is_home ) {
$query->set( ‘cat’, ‘-139’ );
return $query;

add_filter( ‘pre_get_posts’, ‘exclude_category_home’ );

The function tells the index query to omit category 139. On my blog, 139 is the “notebook” category where I keep my random thoughts and notes that don’t fit well in a blog structure. I suggest you use the ID as its more reliable than trying to infer it from the category name.

To find your category’s ID, edit the category in WordPress and look at the URL:


The bit in bold (tag_ID=139) gives you the ID.

“add_filter” tells WordPress to call the function before the loop.

I’ve put this code in my site’s plugin so it doesn’t get lost the next time I change the theme.

It’s a useful piece of code if you do article spinning or want to keep certain things off your blog.


Bumbling Boris Johnson

Bumbling Boris Johnson

I think this style of cover comes from a piece on Barack Obama. I wanted to mimic it, just as an experiment in using text masks.

Seeing as he was all over the news, I grabbed an image of Boris Johnson via the FCO. The headline I thought was provocative given how divisive he is.

Putting it together didn’t take long, probably because I was in mimic mode. It’s good to do quick, keep-the-skills-fresh type experiments like this from time to time.


UK Advertising spend grows (again)

UK Advertising spend grows (again)

Looks like UK plc pumped even more money into advertising in the first half of 2019. Overall spending was up 17% and mostly there were winners. Search stays top, although video display advertising has seen the biggest boost.

Source: IAB.


My name is Ross

My name is Ross

Experimenting with using opacity and oversized text.


Promo image for a post on “Article Spinning”

Promo image for a post on “Article Spinning”

I wrote a post on Article Spinning. TL; DR: it’s where you take an article and change bits of it for different keywords.

It needed a promotional image, so I sat down and cooked this one up. Idea is hopefully self-explanatory. Think I’m still finding my way a little coming up with the way I’d like to present my images. They’re still a little random.


Influencer hero image

Influencer hero image

Created this one for a piece on Influencers that started here and migrated over to my business website, then came back again.

I used rotoscoping on a base image, then dialled back the detail to create something more abstract and illustration like. Finally I made changes to the colouring until I had something original.

Thing is, I can’t remember which image I used or where it came from. Guess that shows how homogenous Instagram’s become.

About Ross A Hall

Business researcher and writer. I help people form and deliver competitive strategies.

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