January 28th, 2009

Benefits of using Expression Design for Silverlight 2 projects

Working with Silverlight, by Gavin Wignall.

Before I go into detail about the benefits of Expression Design I should make it clear that there are tools and plug-ins to convert files from other design packages into the XAML format.

For Adobe illustrator you can use the AI>XAML plug-in found here with lots of examples to view.

The key benefit for using Expression Design is in the hand over to Expression Blend. At any point the designer can select any number of paths, an area or the entire page and export the selection into XAML. A range of choices are available to tailor naming, layers and fonts so that the XAML is as tidy as possible ready for Blend.

If the designs were created in an image based application such as Photoshop then the designer will be required to recreate any vector based graphics from scratch. This can simply double the workload.

If the designs were created using Illustrator and the above mentioned plug-in then the designer will be able to import their work into Expression Blend. However, not all effects are supported and some additional clean up work will likely be required, especially on large detailed graphics. Some masking and gradient effects for example can be lost during the conversion. This can be probmatic for 2 key reasons, the first, there needs to be additional time set out to check for missing effects/graphics and then to repair them, the second, once these graphics are in Blend they can not be brought back out into Illustrator which means any amendments to the design will require a repeat repair process or to be carried out within Blend.

There are some effects to avoid when using any package to design for Silverlight 2. Layer effects such as Embossed and Drop Shadow are not support yet in Silverlight 2. You can see my work around for drop shadows here.

So in trade for some upskill time up front you can save time on future projects keeping your design process smooth and reliable.

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