Design is a very personal thing, and everyone works differently. However, as with any industry, there are a number of universal truths in the design sphere—including the kind of tools and resources that make life a lot easier and more enjoyable!
Here’s a quick list of what we believe any good designer should have and use on a regular basis.
The right software
Software is the bread and butter for any designer. Our top pick is, of course, the Adobe Creative Cloud. It’s a little bit pricey, but if your budget can stretch that far, it’s worth it. The package contains everything you could need to design, illustrate, develop, animate, and more. For affordable options, we’ve heard great things about Affinity Designer and Photo (Serif) for photo editing and professional graphic design, and Sketch for Mac (these are both a one-off payments rather than a monthly fee as with Adobe).
The right hardware
Next comes hardware! It’s vital to have:
– A large, good quality monitor, complete with external colour calibrator to ensure your colour perception is true to life at any lighting level (one good option is from Spyder5).
– A computer with lots of memory and a fast processor, according to your personal preference
– A good drawing tablet and stylus (we recommend Wacom)
– A way to back up your data! Whether you use remote tools (such as the Cloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive) or physical ones (such as an external hard drive), this is vital to ensure that you never lose that vital client project data and have to start from scratch the night before a deadline.
The right references
Inspiration is key to good design. While we in no way advocate mimicry, browsing the work of other designers and artists can be a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing. Fill your desk with design books, magazines (everything from travel to interior design to techie and food titles), old projects you’re especially proud of, magazines or artwork that make you happy—anything that helps you feel inspired. It’s also a great idea to keep a colour wheel for reference, and some paper swatches. If you work a lot with print products, one good option for colour matching is Pantone’s colour reference library—this is expensive, but can make a real difference in ensuring that the colours you choose are the ones you end up with on paper.
If you need references for infographics and icons, our Editorial Designer Agnes recommends Shutterstock, Freepik, Gettyimages, and thenounproject. For general inspiration and quick colour matching ideas, our Senior Digital Designer Ken recommends creativebloq.com and behance.net.
The right tools and apps
If you’re a professional designer, you also need to consider practicality. When working on different projects for multiple clients, it’s all too easy to let something slip. Keep on top of it all with time tracking apps—these are worthwhile whether you work by the hour or not, as they can help you to re-evaluate your rates if you actually take longer than predicted on a particular project—project management apps such as Trello, and colour-matching apps such as Sip, which speedily store common and key colour hex codes so you’re not constantly hunting for the same information.
The right working environment
Different designers work in different ways; some prefer to be casually surrounded by noise and chatter, while others require near-silence and a strict structure. Figure out how you work best, and adjust your surroundings as far as your boss will kindly allow. Ensure you have a large, comfortable desk, an ergonomic chair with lumbar support, a keyboard wrist rest, and good lighting. Last but not least, try to surround yourself with positive, inspiring, and talented colleagues or peers that you can share your questions and knowledge with, and continually learn from.
We’d love to know what tools and resources you find indispensable! Do let us know in the comments below.