Avada News • June 2, 2016
15 awesome tools no graphic design pro can live without
While it was not the tools that made these creatives great, a well-stocked artillery of skills and items certainly helped each of them produce the legendary work that they did.
Graphic designers aren’t any different. While skill and creative thinking are the fundamentals of a successful designer, there are many other elements that you can use to build upon these fundamentals to take you from a good designer to a great one. So what are these extra elements? Well, we have explored 15 different things that designers find to be essential in their creative careers.
For this list, we recruited the help and input of a few designers. Daniel Patrick Simmons, a branding-whizz with a flair for all things typographic; Alex Solomon, a jack of many graphic design trades; Preston D Lee, entrepreneurial web designer and founder of the Graphic Design Blender blog; Dan Nisbet and Jessica Rosengard, the brilliant design duo behind The Graphic Designer Podcast; and Mike Dekker, a travelling UI/UX specialist.
01. A Computer
Now while this first point may seem a bit obvious, nobody can deny that a computer is a crucial tool in just about all creative industries.
Within the design sphere there’s often a pretty avid argument about computers – the longstanding and exhausting debate of Mac vs. PC. Truth be told, despite what many people would like to believe, there is actually no right or wrong answer to this argument.
02. A Smartphone
Where would many of us be without a smartphone? Up a creek with no paddle, most likely.
Not only is a smartphone a great tool for keeping in contact with clients and colleagues, it has also evolved into a means of on-the-go research, organisation and inspiration hunting.
One of the more important features smartphones have that all designers should make use of is the camera. The ability to visually document anything you find inspiring at a moment’s notice can be crucial to the design process.
There’s definitely no shortage of books written for, by or about creative people, so why should your reading list be short?
Designer Daniel Patrick Simmons counts reading as an essential part of his creative process. ”The quintessential book I attribute a lot of my success to is Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”, it taught me to value rest, breaks, and making habits out of my creative work.” Other books he lists as motivational reads are Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” and “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.”
Learning is such an important asset in any creative work, and even more so in the world of graphic design. When software is emerging and evolving, trends are coming and going and the digital world is constantly expanding and changing, keeping on top of it all can feel like a job in itself. For designers, ‘education’ doesn’t just mean the formal or structured learning you get in a classroom setting, but rather the everyday education.
Now, while the profession is called “graphic designer”, it’s important to not get caught up too much in the ‘graphic’ part. Alex Solomon finds that the ability to put down both written and visual ideas onto paper instantly is an invaluable part of his creative process: “From thumbnails and sketches to fully detailed concepts and even taking notes, to be able to draw or write down an idea at that exact moment is huge. Jumping right into the computer can be extremely limiting. There’s just something about the freedom your hand has to move across a blank sheet of paper that really gets ideas flowing.”
It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said “Nobody really does anything alone. For almost every achievement in life, it is essential to deal with other people.” And this is especially true for design, an industry that revolves around communication and cooperation. In such a creative industry, it is pretty easy to view your peers as competitors, but, as Daniel Patrick Simmons notes, working with dedicated and driven people should instead inspire you.
Creativity in the workplace fosters better leadership, problem solving, and promotes teamwork, and ultimately will lead to improved innovation. “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club,” famous creative author Jack London once mused.
There are two types of creativity, technical creativity and artistic creativity. Technical creativity helps you problem solve and create new theories and ideas, while artistic creativity is a form of expression, and is also necessary for psychological well-being. Here are tools to push your creative bounds for both.
Mindtools works on your technical creativity and helps identify how creative you are and create a plan to start thinking differently. An example would be provocation – the tool Einstein used to develop the Theory of Relativity. Provocation is a tool that disrupts linear thinking patterns to find a new and better solution. The example Mindtools uses is driving to work. You typically use the same route everyday, but by creating a new route and using your mind to discover a new way, you’ve disrupted your brain’s thinking pattern, and therefore may think of new ideas.
Brainstorming can be an effective tool in organizing tons of ideas creatively in one place, and refining those ideas over time. Letting your mind free flow even bad ideas from several different angles can allow the brain to process a problem from new direction. Using a brainstorming tool like Brainplots is helpful in revisiting and allowing others to look at the problem as well and giving feedback.
PaintNite is an opportunity to learn how to paint and tap into your inner expressive artist. A local artist teaches a group how to paint a selected piece that is rated on a scale of easy to advanced, and after a few hours the canvas is complete. Painting brings not only creativity but other important office soft skills to your brain. A German study found a group taking art classes had “a significant improvement in psychological resilience” and improved “functional connectivity” in their frontal, posterior, and temporal cortex. According to the study, creating art will enhance self-awareness, reduce stress, and overall has stabilizing effects on the neuroanatomy of the participant. So pick up a brush, head to a local bar, and bring home a masterpiece.
Doodling can be a way your mind stays actively engaged and solves a problem. Even while listening to a leader, professor, speaker, or other engaging talks that require you to listen and think, doodling can be a form of expression and note taking that brings surprising results. Some people are visual learners, and the doodle allows those types of learners to translate words into pictorial meaning. Often during meetings allowing more creative people to doodle the meeting and keep artistic notes as a representation can bring surprising results. Using an app like doodle buddy can allow you to keep the images and express yourself.