A&E Asks: 5 Minutes with CorelDraw’s Sobia Hameed

A&E talks shop with graphic design expert and CorelDraw Product Manager Sobia Hameed.

Welcome to A&E Asks: Five Minutes with… where one-on-one interviews with industry professionals are featured in a Q&A format. These interviews share the experiences, opinions, and ideas of some of the industry’s best-known individuals.

In these interviews, we’ll discuss graphic design trends and insights, as well as features of Corel’s software portfolio with expert and CorelDraw Product Manager Sobia Hameed.

How has the graphic design industry changed in the past year? In the past five years?

Graphic design is always changing. Trends and styles evolve constantly and technology is advancing faster and faster. When I look at our customers working in graphics production, I’ve noticed that their businesses and areas of expertise are not as neatly categorized as they use to be. The graphics market used to be broken down into more clearly defined segments-that business makes signs, this one engraves, that one does digital printing. This is often no longer the case. Many businesses are branching out and using their graphics expertise to offer a more complete set of services to their clients. Why send a graphics job away when you can serve the customer yourself? I am definitely seeing a trend where many of our customers are moving to be full-service providers and they are using CorelDraw to do it.

What are some popular graphic design influences and trends that seem to be emerging in 2017?

There seems to be an interest in returning to natural materials such as raw-looking stone and wood as well as a movement towards clean lines and a warm, yet modern esthetic. I see our customers continuing to push the limits and create items that are increasingly challenging as well. For example, engraving projects are incorporating more elements like mixed materials and photos.

I also think that some have found remarkable ways to build their engraving businesses by tapping into some of the trends I see today in online marketing and e-commerce. Sites like Etsy have opened up new ways to sell engraved and personalized products to everyday consumers. This has been a pretty exciting evolution for small businesses who are looking for new ways to gain exposure for their products and reach clients around the world.

How are the different Corel programs used in the awards and engraving industry?

It’s important to remember that CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017 is much more than just CorelDraw. You get access to a collection of applications that will help you across all aspects of your job: Photo-Paint for professional image editing; Corel Font Manager for typography and font management; PowerTrace for raster-to-vector conversion; Corel Connect to quickly find useful content; and much more.

What are some of the biggest challenges awards retailers face in adapting to new trends in graphic design?

Like any of us, I think the biggest challenge award retailers face is simply time. Time is money and time spent researching trends is time you’re not spending on a paying job! That said, it can be tremendously valuable to be the shop that stays on top of trends and can offer clients something different from the typical and expected product lines. So I would say it is a balance-ensuring you’re aware of the latest trends will definitely pay off in the end.

What do customers want in their design software? What are the topics they request to learn more about?

Everyone is looking for professional design and output, plain and simple. Along with that comes speed-the need to get things done quickly and effectively.

Our engraving customers want to know how to use CorelDraw to solve problems they face all the time: How do I convert the low quality artwork the client provided to a vector so I can use it in this project? Can I work with any file the client sends me? Can I send out my artwork in the file format required? These are all common priorities and questions from users.

What are some new features of CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017?

There’s too much for me to list here, but let’s cover some of the items I think users in the awards and engraving industry will be most excited about: Essentially, our major updates in CorelDraw Graphics Suite 2017 can be broken down into three key areas. The first is the ability to stream your workflow and make it faster and easier to get your work done. To that effect, we’ve made big changes to shaping curves and objects with redesigned nodes and handles that are easier to see and manipulate. Plus, we’ve enhanced vector previews to help you edit more efficiently by ensuring nodes and curves stand out against background colors in your design. Nodes may be small, but the changes we’ve made will make a big difference in your workflow.

Second, we’ve made updates to ensure that if your business is investing in the latest hardware like Ultra HD monitors and stylus and touch enabled devices, CorelDraw 2017 ensures can take full advantage of your investment.

Lastly, the software has introduced an entirely new drawing technology that delivers a creative experience that’s unlike any other vector application. With the new LiveSketch tool, hand-drawn strokes are intelligently interpreted, adjusted, and combined with existing vector curves, making it simple to sketch and draw vector graphics on a computer. LiveSketch is the industry’s first vector graphics tool powered by artificial intelligence and we are very excited about the creative possibilities of this new innovation.

Which tools appeal to the awards and engraving user? How do they improve design quality and efficiency?

We work closely with customers in the awards and engraving industry and over the years have delivered a number of capabilities that we know they rely on every day. For example, many award makers take on jobs where they have to make block changes or line changes on large jobs-something that could be painstakingly difficult if you had to do it by hand. But with the Print Merge function, it’s easy to import the data you need like names, numbering, etc., from a text file and have the software automatically take care of the placement and layout for each individual item.

Perhaps a customer provides a low-resolution .jpg and the quality isn’t up to the job. With PowerTrace, you can easily convert that jpg into a high-quality and scalable vector.

Finally, I see the construction of models and prototypes to be used in manufacturing. This type of work requires precision cutting when working with a laser. The Contour tool is especially useful for when you need to create complex shapes with a very tight fit.

How does the decision to transition to yearly updates reflect the current state of the graphic design industry and software technology in general? What does this say about the future?

It’s immediately obvious that the core technologies at the center of the graphics industry are evolving and transforming at an unbelievable pace. With each version of our software, we strive to make sure that you are able to take full advantage of these developments. As the pace of technology gets faster and faster, we’ve made the move to yearly releases to help you make the most of these improvements.

What are some resources to stay up-to-date with training, new features, and graphic design trends in light of the rapid advancement in technology and, by extension, Corel’s annual updates?

One thing we’re known for are learning resources. We fully appreciate that every user needs to get into the application and be productive fast. That’s why the first thing you see when you open the software is a What’s New section featuring all the new enhancements. It also provides direct access to training resources through the Learning Center.

In addition to what you’ll find in the product itself, we also share tutorial content on the CorelDraw website, as well as the Corel Discovery Center, YouTube, Facebook, and even Twitter. If want to experience a full training experience, check out the CorelDraw course on Lynda.com, which features hours of video tutorial content from expert Roger Wambolt.

There are also a few easy ways to keep software up-to-date. Customers who purchase a perpetual license of CorelDraw can also sign up for the Upgrade Program where they can pay one affordable yearly fee and be assured of working with the latest version available. Or if you prefer, sign up for a subscription and pay a monthly or yearly fee to get the latest update.

What do you predict for the future of graphic design software?

I am sure we all wish we had a magic ball to lay it all out for us! First, I think technology’s rapid evolution is going to play an increasingly important role in how we interact and create with graphics software. I think graphics software is going to become even more natural and will feel even more like an extension of your own creativity.

What do you predict for the future of Corel?

There is no doubt that the role of visual communications is growing in our daily lives. Corel is in a unique position because our product portfolio-whether it’s CorelDraw, PaintShop Pro, Painter, VideoStudio, or MindManager-is geared specifically to help people express themselves and communicate information in a highly visual way. We’re extremely excited about the possibilities our software will open up for customers across all areas of business. Across the board, Corel will continue to develop the best possible tools to let our users express their creativity. 

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