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The Power of Manipulation

At last, we find Photoshop’s first legitimate way back into a respectable design process. It’s unrealistic we’d completely abandon the visual techniques we’ve mastered for years in favor of code-abstracted design. One of the major reasons we tend to feel more “comfortable” in Photoshop is our ability to stretch, squish, shrink, and reposition elements. Sure, it’s possible to do those things with CSS somewhat easily. However, those manipulations sit behind a wall of abstraction, adjusting values and refreshing to see the results (see Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 The Free Transform tool, the Move tool, and a host of others offer an ease of use that enables the exploration we desperately need—and won’t readily find in a coding-only design environment.

Designing in the browser can’t compete with the benefits of direct manipulation. Don’t underestimate the value of drawing a shape in Photoshop and seeing every step in its implementation. Your brain is processing all the sizes, colors, and positions, looking for the one that feels right.

Sure, there are some disadvantages to the freedom direct manipulation provides. It engenders the “silo” effect, where we designers go solo and play in Photoshop for extended periods of time, discouraging collaboration. Direct manipulation is neither systematic nor object-oriented, meaning the process by which we transform type and shape often doesn’t adhere to a pattern or set of preset constraints.

But exploring in Photoshop sure does help get the creative juices flowing.

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