Design Behind the Scenes – Adobe Illustrator

tetris

Does anyone remember Tetris?

I used to have it loaded up on my Macintosh SE and I would play late into the night. I found myself dreaming about it as if I were actually inside the game. If you missed the days of Tetris, I have heard that Minecraft has a similar effect on people.

Adobe Illustrator pulls me inside in the same way. I feel as if I am stepping into the page. Once I enter the program, a world is opened. It is a world with its own language and its own rules. Fill. Stroke. Outline view. Zooming capabilities to 6400%. It uses fascinating alerts such as vanishingly small. And, yes, I dream in Illustrator.

I have been using Illustrator since it was Illustrator ’88 (which was actually version 1 – 1.6) back in the days of MacPaint and Aldus Freehand. Programs such as MacPaint were so fun and immediately accessible, that they caused quite a distraction for me. It was like fingerpainting with a mouse.

640px-Macintosh_SE_b
“Macintosh SE b”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons Photography by Danamania 07:35, 5 March 2006

But once I caught a glance of an Illustrator file, I became intrigued.

What are all of these numbers? What is that little x in the middle of the shape? Why does a shape need to be “closed” in order to print properly? Adobe Illustrator is simply coordinate geometry in action, complete with x and y coordinates. In fact, the zero defaults to the lower left, just as if one were working in the first quadrant of a grid. Pull out your number two pencil, boys and girls, and let’s graph some lines.

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Viewing the file

I liked it.

It gave me a feeling of satisfaction, like I had to be an expert to use it. Before long, Illustrator became my program of choice. I became a go-to person on the job, and within a few years I became a trainer. Now I use it every day to create the materials for this site.

Every afternoon as I lift my head from another three hours in Illustrator, I once again enter the real world. But wait? Is the dining table really at a 90° angle from the wall? Shouldn’t I rotate it just a bit? And can’t I just select all and delete some of this clutter? Ah. If only I could.


This is not a product endorsement blog, but if I love something, I am definitely going to talk about it. Adobe offers a free 30-day trial of the program. If you would like to try your hand at it, visit their site.