This will probably be the biggest technology preview announcement I will ever make whilst at the helm of Astute Graphics. It’s been a long time coming.
Nicholas van der Walle, Founder of Astute Graphics
If you want to bypass the background story, simply jump straight over to astutegraphics.com/tech/
Everybody who has come into contact with Astute Graphics over the past 11 years will have known us for our plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator. Prolific release schedules in that time (16 products to date with numerous major and minor releases in-between) has resulted in rave reviews and a sense of permanence in top designers’ workflows the world over. We’re damn proud of that achievement as a team.
However, several things remain untold. The main story is that since 2012, the majority of engineering R&D effort was spent on software development beyond plug-ins. In many ways, the view of Astute Graphics can be likened to only seeing the tip of an iceberg; the majority has gone unseen.
For several years our non-plug-in work concentrated on what was originally known as “Stanley” internally. A focused cross-platform stand-alone vector design program. Huge progress was made between 2012 and the beginning of 2017 on technologies including its entire “chassis”, renderer and vector design technology based around the humble and ubiquitous Bézier curve.
It resulted in the toughest business decision I have personally had to make – to cancel the project in its 11th hour.
Why? The key factor at the time of the decision was that we had already developed, to a good level of maturity, unique and desirable technologies. It was the development of components including UI and UX that were becoming an increasing overhead, yet in isolation didn’t really add anything new to the design world. In hindsight, with the rapidly changing vector design landscape, including Affinity Designer, Sketch and Figma, it was the best decision to have made.
Wanting to ensure that the amazing engineering talent we had in our team didn’t go to waste, new projects which we expect to come to fruition early 2018 were immediately started. But not every team member changed direction completely. A personal goal was to polish off what was core to Stanley – the finest control and handling of vectors to date.
Building the “chassis” technology
Following years of intensive development, it was the backbone of stand-alone cross-platform application that could claim to be ready first. This chassis became much more than a specialised foundation for a vector design application; it was conceived to deliver flexible performance for many types of application based on cutting edge technology.
Software developers can learn more about this technology development and its capabilities by following astutegraphics.com/tech/application-chassis-technical-features/
Taming the Bézier
One of our goals over the past years was simply to tame the Bézier curve.
As the basis of all the new cross-platform vector design technology was born out of a ground-up new stand-alone design product, the technology itself had to be written from scratch. There could be no reliance on core OS resources or third party licensed toolsets. Neither could we assume that the underlying and comprehensive SDK within Adobe Illustrator was there to support us.
That is why we had to devise solutions to some of the most complex Bézier handling issues including:
- Boolean Operations – also known as Pathfinder or Shape Joining
- Path Offsetting – parallel curved paths
- Curve Fitting – as found in the likes of all Pencil Tools
Such technologies benefitted from those already developed and released for our public products:
- Smart Point Removal – as found in VectorScribe and VectorFirstAid
- Collision Detection – the basis of ColliderScribe
- Extend and Retract Curve – also found in VectorScribe
These foundations could lead to the development of vector construction technologies:
- Path Reshaping – editing shapes beyond conventional Bézier controls
- Variable Stroke Width – currently the preserve of Adobe Illustrator
- Vector Brushes – high quality and truly vector
- Outline Stroke – converting a stroke to a closed path
- Move Points to Tangencies – as found in VectorScribe
If you want a preview of each of these tools, simply visit astutegraphics.com/tech/
All built on a wealth of experience across our team including the development engineers, creatives, QA testers and trainers, each technology is designed for the most exacting designer. We understand the extent of the pressures and requirements placed on professional-grade tools; we’ve been successfully operating in that environment for 11 years with a reputation that speaks for us.
As well as taking Adobe Illustrator as a benchmark, we have also been ensuring that we’re ahead of the game when it comes to newer names including Adobe XD, Affinity Designer and Bohemian’s Sketch. And yet none of these products or their companies are competitors. Developing a complete stand-alone design tool is a complex business – as we discovered the hard way – which is why Astute Graphics is sticking to its core skill of Bézier technology.
Where it all goes from here
Astute Graphics remains more than committed to developing its Adobe Illustrator products. We are in the process of investing the greatest amount ever on ensuring that our tools remain relevant for existing and new Illustrator users.
Instead, our newly-revealed vector design technology is destined for various new roles including:
- Licensing to 3rd parties in public products
- Licensing to 3rd party clients for internal technology workflows
- The basis of future plug-ins by Astute Graphics
- An exciting new approach for Astute Graphics to deploy these tools for all designers regardless of toolset and workflow
We look forward to revealing more as developments take place.
If you are interested in licensing Astute Graphics’ design technology, please get in contact. You could be the first to wow the world with a bright new design future!