Without a doubt, the most important tool in my tool belt is my desktop PC. While some designers prefer to work on laptops, for the content I work with, very few portable options are both affordable and run super smooth. At current I’m working with a i7 desktop with 32GB of ram and a dedicated 16GB video graphics card. If you really only work with images. This machine might be overkill but I require the power for
processing and editing 4k stock video. Industry designers are being asked to take on more and more media types these days and at the top of that list is video. Just ensure what ever machine (PC or MAC, no preference) you work with is capable of handling with complete ease the media you work with most. Working on a machine that is lagging or processes slower then you can work is extremely frustrating.
External storage is so important these days. Not only for the ease of portability but mostly to backup your work. While digital storage has improved over the years, hardware failures cannot be avoided and will happen eventually. It’s good to keep an external drive that regularly backs up your data, there is nothing worse then losing potentially years of work.
Tablet and stylus
While not every graphic designer is also a great illustrator. Many of us are. I’ve only recently purchased a tablet to draw with. I’ve worked with a Wacom type tablet for years and this is just the next evolution of that. It’s become a very important part of my tool kit. Much how a notepad used to be. I love to take notes on it, jot quick ideas, make check lists, even show presentations. Rather then carting around a laptop, I’ve started only bringing the tablet to meetings. Most of all I use it for illustrating. I have a Galaxy S4 with S-Pen and I have to admit it feels very similar to real drawing. The Wacom tablets really never gave me that sensation. It’s really quite satisfying. If you enjoying sketching it’s an absolute must to have a drawing tablet in your tool kit but honestly even if you don’t draw, I would recommend getting one just for the versatility.
The reason this is important is mainly for testing. Sometimes designs have to be responsive, as is the case for web pages and emails. You want to have a device that is able to deliver a modern experience. If you have an older phone and use it for all your testing, you may find after the fact on new devices with higher resolutions that the design no longer looks as intended. It’s much easier to make designs backwards compatible but extremely difficult to design and build for a newer device that you can’t test with.
High end Camera
Remember earlier when I said video in king. Being able to capture the highest quality video and photography has never been more important. While some designers feel having a subscription to a good stock service like our library, Adobe Stock, iStock or Shutterstock is sufficient. I feel it’s counter-intuitive if you want to produce completely original work. It’s never been more accessible to capture your own media to work in your projects for significantly lower costs. I’ve been capturing most of my own media with a DJI Osmo Pocket and it’s really changed my life. It’s the only device I’ve been using for both 4k video and photos for about 4 month after moving from a Canon DSLR. This device is incredibly portable, some people don’t even recognize it as a camera initially. In fact at first glance I was skeptical too but I’ve never been more impressed by a camera.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Okay, so if you’re a Mac user. You may have additional options here. For instance Final Cut Pro is a dream to work with. I’m not knocking Apple specific software, I just happen to prefer a Windows PC environment, so I am going to speak to that. Adobe Creative Cloud is right up there with my PC. I literally couldn’t create any of my work digitally without it. Sure I’d still be able to illustrate the old fashioned way but without these vast collection of tools I’d be scrabbling to find comparable software with the same ease of use and inter-connectivity. With the introduction of the cloud storage you can work on the go on a mobile device and then when you get to the studio pull up the same creative right where you left off on your Mac or PC. With Adobe’s Creative Cloud you really don’t require any other software for virtually all types of media. Although I personally feel the subscription is a bit steep, to go out and source equivalent one time purchase software would be so expensive up front and who knows if it will be “future proof”. I love that Adobe Creative Cloud is always up to date with it’s latest and greatest features.
This is a welcome addition to my tool kit. I think I pay about $6/month to have access to the suite. While you don’t absolutely need this, I feel like its made a lot of things more simplified. Anyone who has a gmail account can attest to the simplified email, contacts, calendar etc. If you own a domain as I do for esprocreative, you can also set up your Google suite address to that domain. (ie: firstname.lastname@example.org) It reads as a bit more professional then the standard @gmail.com account.
So what do you think? Do you have more tools in your kit? I’d love to hear about them, always on the hunt for ways to optimize my own.