tools: guide to a novice designer

So you want to be a designer? Here’s a run down on things you need.

It’s not really important to have the latest hi-tech hardware or software, but it is necessary to get the best in class of what you can afford.

Let’s get started.

  1. You will need a computer (of course) and a fast one at that. Whether to choose a desktop or laptop is totally dependent on you – you can either pick a PC or a Mac depending on your budget (most of the software required for designing is available on both these platforms).

I personally prefer Mac due to its long-standing history with designing, it delivers the complete package: retina display, brilliant speed with faster flash storage, longer battery life (on my MacBook pro) and user-friendly features of the OS X. Since I use both iMac and MacBook Pro, it helps me integrate my work seamlessly across my devices and I can carry my work anywhere.

  1. Software. You may have wonderful ideas and imagination; but in designing, just that is not sufficient to bring your ideas to life – you’ll need the assistance of various software tools, and trust me – it does not come cheap.

For any designer, one of the go-to products is the Adobe Creative Cloud. It includes all your essential tools – Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat Pro, Dreamweaver, etc. It is available for purchase as a package or individual software depending on your requirement (with various annual/monthly/prepaid subscription options). It is vital you make your decision to subscribe based on the requirement/usage of the tool before purchase.

Apart from the Adobe suite, I also use other tools, such as:

  • FontExplorer X Pro for Font Management
  • ColorSchemer Studio 2 – Great color scheme creator and coloring tool

Since the software will become an extension of you and your work – you may want to scan the market for your-type-of-software before deciding.

  1. Peripherals are as important as your computer itself. Many-a-times, it becomes important to have one or more of these computer appendages for you to deliver the work. Depending on the kind of work you do, you may need (as I do):

Mouse: for obvious reasons

External hard drive: to automatically back up your work. Min 1TB recommended

Bamboo CTL-470: a basic drawing tablet that gets my work done. It gives you everything you need for simple collaboration or sketch work. However, if you are heavy on handy-work illustrations and require much fancier features – I suggest you review and opt for higher models.

HP Photosmart 6520: an all in one printer that is resourceful. It prints, scans, faxes and is economically sound for cartridge replacements. There are other models to choose from, but this one has an edge while printing on glossy paper to review your work.

  1. You may not be a photographer, but every designer needs to own a good camera. Documenting ideas, shots for your work, collecting of images for your textures/background – all of these require a camera at your disposal.

While many opt for high-end DSLR, Sony, Canon, etc., I prefer using my iPhone to take great pictures. Pixel depth, auto-focus and rich color capture makes everything look better. Also, my phone is rarely out of my sight – I always have it on me whenever I need it.

  1. Notebook. As a designer, ideas may strike anytime. It is always useful to carry a notebook or a diary with you to write down notes, make a sketch or just brainstorm on your own. It’ll be a brilliant reference tool when you start to get down-and-dirty while designing. As an artist I prefer to use handmade paper notebooks or simple plain diaries to get my juices flowing.

Last, and the most important of all, your imagination; creation and execution of your idea or concept is the single-most important skill you’ll need to garner, without which none of the gizmos are good enough.

Hope you find this post helpful. Watch this space for more.


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