Careers: Interviews
Graphics Design Expert Al Ward

For this issue of News from National, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P. had a chance to interview a world expert in the area of graphics design and IT. Whether you are new to the game or old pros, you will find useful information in the books and in the comments from this global authorities.

Interview: Al Ward, Contributor to the book "Inside Photoshop 6"

Q: Some in the audience are considering long-term careers in design, graphics, and computing. What personally prompted you to enter the field?

A: If you had asked me 5 years ago what I’d be doing now, graphic design would not even have hit the list. What led me to this was seeing these great text and image effects on websites and wondering how they were created. Text is fine, but how did they set it on fire? Turn it into ice? Wrap it around a globe? Thanks to Adobe Photoshop, I soon had the answer. As for becoming an authority in my area of expertise, I’m of the opinion that there is always more to learn, and as such am a student just like everyone else. I found that I enjoyed what I was doing, stuck with it, and after awhile people started taking me seriously… it was as simple as that.

Q: Where do you see graphic design software development heading in the next two years?

A: The natural progression of software is to make things easier for the customer. I see more automation, generation of 3D objects and scenes on the fly, and Flash style animation that isn’t slaved to vector graphics.

Q: What top ten technologies should graphic design professionals be watching for in the next two years?

A: I’m not convinced there are 10 technologies that will change the world in the next 2 years, or 10 years for that matter. I’d keep my eye on multimedia software… and there is a definite need to develop digital camera processing that reflects the quality of standard photo processing. 3D rendering is going to play a big part in graphics development over the next few years also, but whether this happens in 2 years I can’t say.

Q: List 10 reasons, why would you recommend your book?

A: The top reasons for buying "Inside Photoshop 6" which I did not author but contributed to, are the authors, the content, the editors, and the publisher. What can I say? The format is easy to follow, the step by step instructions teach effectively without talking down to the reader, and New Riders is known for producing quality manuals for instruction. Though I’ve never met the authors, I’ve read their work for years and used Inside Photoshop 5 in my own work, so it was a great honor to be asked to contribute to this book.

Q: Can you describe your role with your company and how you plan to shape the company one year and two years into the future, and in the long term?

A: Right now I and my wife are the company. Everything we develop - I create add ons for Photoshop and distribute them through my website, Action Fx Photoshop Actions Resource at – comes out of my brain. I’m finding my focus turning to writing and teaching as things progress, and hope to continue in this vein. As long as software exists there will be a need for instructors, writers and developers of macros. I love to do this, and foresee doing this for as long as I’m allowed.

Q: What are your top 10 tips for the professional from your experience base and your book (“useful” and reality-based real world checklist) including which resources (book, utilities, tools) to use and any advice of where to obtain these tools?

A:Do the following:
  • Love what you do…and do it well.
  • Learn one program at a time.
  • Create a website to showcase your work. Someone will notice… and as in my case, it may change your life.
  • Network with others in your area of interest. Though I compete with a lot of authors and developers, I’m on a friendly basis with most and I never look at it as competition. I’m here to help whomever may need it, not to sell more product than the next guy. My focus is the end user, and as a result of trying to do my best for them my business has flourished.
  • Take yourself seriously! I have the problem of being self critical almost to a fault…and as a result become less productive and creative.
  • Keep an eye open for trends…then create your own! When people started developing ‘Industrial’ style graphics for websites, the trend started appearing everywhere. Be at the top of the curve.
  • Use the media available to you… Message boards, news groups, newsletters, etc.
  • Be able to walk away from something that just isn’t working! Take a breath, a walk, a nap, read a book!
  • Buy some fish! I have this 30 gallon fish tank next to my monitor, and those guys really mellow me out when the stress and strain get out of hand.
  • For Photoshop Users, I’d strongly recommend joining NAPP. You can find their website at An excellent free resource by the same people is
Q: For those relatively new in the field and for seasoned veterans, which areas should they target for future study, what are the high-growth areas?

A: Working with subtle effects. Take a look around the web…the websites that really catch the eye generally use subtle changes in color, shadings, and tasteful use of gradients.

Q: What changes do you see for the future of graphics, computing, conducting business, and the use of the Internet?

A: The primary change I see forthcoming is the end of the free ride we have had where the government is concerned. With all the money exchanging hands online, it is only a matter of time before they figure out how to stick their fingers in the pie. This may not be a graphics related topic but definitely effects those who are in the business of graphics.

Q: Many analysts are predicting a transition in design and graphics that could last years for many companies. What are your predictions?

A: I never predict… that is setting yourself up to be wrong! Let’s just say that, whatever the trend, the serious designer needs to stay abreast of developments as they happen. Keep an eye open for new waves of effects or design. This is a self preservation issue…you need to keep yourself marketable!

Q: Can you provide five book extracts that best reflects the tips/pointers in your book and provide a compelling reason to thoroughly study your work?

A: I only contributed to the work, and as a result am not contractually able to reveal any contents. I’d say visit my articles on Planet Photoshop at or read my column in Photoshop User Magazine. You can also check out my work on Action Fx at I primarily work with automation, but when we re-launch Action Fx in December the site will deal with all aspects of Photoshop, as well as 3rd party additions to the program. Why study my work? Check out these sites…the work speaks for itself- hopefully in a flattering light

Q: Consider this a blank slate for you to make additional free ranging commentary about the IT field and your specialty.

A: Since I started taking myself seriously as a designer, I’ve been able to quit my day job, feed and clothe my family, and be free to take off and go fishing at the drop of a hat. In short, by continuing in what I love to do and trying to be good at what I do, I’m actually happier than I’ve ever been. Ignore the nay-sayers… they are a dime a dozen. Someone will think your work has value, regardless of the 20 who don’t. It only takes one phone call or email from the right person to change your life…ask me, I know!

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