TOOLS ESSENTIAL TO A GRAPHIC DESIGNER

There are many tools that over time a graphic designer will learn are essential to their design process and there are tools a design might realize they need to  be successful. I want to discuss the Top Ten Tools I Think are Essential to your Success as a graphic design and then I will go into some tools that can be helpful to the design process.

FOOD FOR THE BRAIN

FOOD FOR THE BRAIN

Your mind is your most powerful tool when it comes to designing logos or graphic design in general, it is where all the problems solving and creativity happens. It is important to keep the brain healthy and sharp. In order to do this there are foods such as Whole grains, fish,blueberries,tomatoes, vitamin B found in chicken or eggs, nuts that are refereed to as brain food and don’t forget to exercise as well.

SOOTHING MUSIC

Not sure about other graphic designers but listening to soothing music such as classical or blues can set the mood for the thinking process and get the creative juices flowing. For me playing some Mozart or BB King always sets a calming and quite mood that gets me mentally ready for the thinking process after the entail brief.

A COMFORTABLE WORK ENVIRONMENT

Comfortable Work Space

When it comes to any type of creative work it is extremely important to be comfortable in your work space and be in a zen like mindset. There has been times where I had a bad case of writers block, wasn’t feeling anything I was putting down on paper,became frustrated and just couldn’t design because the environment around me was noisy or just plain uncomfortable.  You want to make your work space your own, decorate it to match your personality, get a comfortable chair, make sure their are windows and plenty of natural light if possible.

A COMPUTER

Mac Vs PC

You might find yourself saying, well silly of course I need a computer for graphic design how else am I going to design print material! I wouldn’t be telling you all the tools that are essential to a graphic designer if I didn’t mention a computer but I think this section can become more specific such as which is better Mac or Pc for graphic design? This has been a question that has been around for ages and after some time I have realized that it comes down to preference.

Personally I have always been a fan of Macs but I have use both and see no limitation when using adobe products on either. I just think Macintosh have a reputation, especially since adobe photoshop was created on a Mac which made it a standard in the graphic design field and Adobe is a giant when it comes to the digital art world. It has been used in the industry for so long that it has become a matter of you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It also comes down to whether you have a preference in software that is only compatible on one or the other operation system… In my opinion I like Macs for there overall constructions and find there operating system to be more enjoyable to use but PCs are just as capable of of getting the job done.

SMART PHONE

Over the last couple of years I have found having a smart phone to be a valuable asset to the design process and helps to keep in constant communication with clients or the rest of the inspiring world. I personally have a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 which if you are looking to upgrade to a used or new phone I highly recommend choosing a note 4 or note 5 if you can look passed there being no microSD slot in the 5. My note 4 has been great for taking inspiration pictures on in the wild, design research on the go and digital sketching. The note 4 or 5 has a great 16 mega pixel camera that takes high quality pictures and has a stylus for sketching ideas on the fly.

HIGH QUALITY DIGITAL CAMERA

Now you might be saying if I have a smart phone with a decent camera isn’t buying a stand alone camera a little bit overkill, especially if I am just using it to snap photos of things that inspire or indues creative juice flowing and you would be right to a certain extent if that is all your doing. However if you are collecting images to build your arsenal for future projects or have decided to sell your phone in addition to other graphic design services you offer you might want to think about purchasing a good DSLR. When it comes to print material or web quality matters and a good DSLR is a way to produce High quality images.

When it comes to digital cameras, DSLR camera are always going to outshine a point and shoot camera such as Nikon CoolPix L340 but these camera will be sufficient enough. However if your looking for a camera with superior image quality and looking to design large print material you will want to look at a DSLR such as the entry level Nikon D3300. The D3300 has 24 megapixel resolution and a guide button to walk beginners through the settings. When deciding whether to add a DSLR or point to shoot camera to your graphic design arsenal it all comes down to quality and convenience. Personally I believe my smart phone is a sufficient point and shoot camera so I feel as though having a standalone one would be overkill!

SKETCH BOOK

A sketchbook is essential to a graphic designers toolbox and should be carried at all times. You never know when you might be waiting for awhile, sudden brainstorming or inspiration while out and you will need your sketch book to make a little doodle to reference later. We all know sketch books are part of the thinking process but It can also be very therapeutic to the mind and I find myself in a state of tranquility.

A WACOM TABLET

For those who have never heard of a Wacom tablet, they are input devices that can be used in place of a mouse or work along side it.  These devices are more commonly used in the graphic design world and considered a huge asset.  The wacom tablet you’ll find will replace a pen and paper as well as make working with the pen tool less of a hassle. There are many models to choose from but in my opinion the best Wacom Tablet for graphic design,photography,web design,illustration and video would be Intuos Pro Medium.

TIME TRACKING SOFTWARE

Freshbook is cloud accounting for sending invoices, tracking time,capturing expenses in minutes and report keeping.  Freshbook was featured in Forbes magazine for be “incredibly user friendly” and if your interested in keeping track of your own accounting it is very simple to use. Freshbook saves time and helps organize what would normally be a complete mess.

 A PORTFOLIO

I’ve saved the most important for last, this tool is vital to any graphic designer or artist success. A well rounded portfolio can seal the deal when it comes to landing your dream job or proving to a client your are worthy of their important design project. You might ask yourself what’s in a graphic designers portfolio or how to create a graphic design portfolio? As I far as how to create a graphic design portfolio I will go into that in a later post but for what to put in a graphic design portfolio all I can say is it all depends your content, web, print and/or motion graphics if creating a digital portfolio.

OTHERS

There are many other important tools that a graphic designer should keep in mind such as books, education, peers or community feedback, inspiration (art galleries, museums, design websites, online design communities, failed projects, etc.) and remember please give THE HUMAN MIND a break!

16 Comments

  1. Doug

    July 6, 2016

    Wow, you really do love graphic design. I like the way you take steps to prepare mentally and physically. I’m a PC guy myself but my wife loves her Mac. I agree with you about a good quality digital camera. Smart phones have come a long way but they’re not that good yet. Keep up the good work!

    • Salvatore Jenkins Jr. author

      July 7, 2016

      It is just fun and fulfilling to see a thought come to life… As I said personally I have always been a fan of Macs but I have no issues with Pc and I haven’t used one more over the other except in grade school which was Mac… I have designed on PCs as well as Macs for years. Cell phones will get there some day, but for now they are pretty good… I use my Note 4 to record videos for youtube and it is great quality but could be better.

      I’d like to see others thought on this Mac or PC, might run a pole…

      Thanks Doug for your valuable input!

  2. Jerry

    August 11, 2016

    I did some freelance graphic design work some years ago and boy things would have been much easier if I found this post then. For anyone reading this list now, these are essential tools to have to make your life A LOT easier as a graphic designer. Thanks for this informative list.

    • Salvatore Jenkins Jr. author

      August 12, 2016

      Always glad to here my posts were informative and I wish I would have wrote the post some years ago but I’m sure it will be of some help to someone new to the graphic design profession!

  3. Netta

    August 19, 2016

    Hey Salvatore:

    This was a most satisfying read. I am glad that you count our body and mind as important tools for Creatives. I think we do often forget when we are in the middle of some all-engrossing project that we do have to maintain our “vehicle”. It’s easy to lose hours (sometimes even days) when a work is going well (or doing a big-time sink).

    I’m intrigued by that Freshbook tracking program. I have never really tracked the time spent on the art or writing projects I do, mostly because I think I’m afraid of knowing just how LONG something like that takes. I’ve always figured that the time runs for as long as the thing is not done and not right. Sometimes everything comes together and it’s a snap. Other times it just refuses to come real and you put in a LOT of time. I wonder if time-tracking would persuade me to give up on a thing faster.

    What do you think? Would tracking the time spent on a project be a benefit or a detriment to your process?

    • Salvatore Jenkins Jr. author

      August 21, 2016

      Thank you for commenting and I am glad to shed some light on time-tracking software. Time tracking can be useful in any profession not just in graphic design or other freelance work. Time tracking can help you in many ways one being able to determine why you took at certain amount of time on a project and what part of the process you need to work on to complete the project much sooner.

      Time tracking can also help when billing a client, keeping you organized and goal oriented. I can’t see any reason why it would be detrimental to the process or why it would convince someone to give up. I don’t like to think of it as giving up, rather I like to think it was making a smart decision to bring a project to an end when it is no longer beneficial to you or the client but keeping track of time spent wouldn’t be a reason for me to quit.

      Good question! Hopefully I have explained why time tracking can be a very important tool for logo designers / Graphic designers as well as other professions.

  4. Richard

    August 19, 2016

    Hello Salvatore

    I would call myself computer literate and since joining Wealthy Affiliate I have a better understanding of designing website. Your website has taken me to the next level for acquiring tools as a web designer, Technology is a wonderful thing but we need to keep up with modern trends if our business is to succeed. You have a wealth of information for web enthusiasts who wish to enhance their website and improve their website
    Good Job and all the best
    Richard

    • Salvatore Jenkins Jr. author

      August 21, 2016

      Thank you for reading my post and for the comment. I am always glad to here someone took away useful information after reading my design posts and I will strive to continue writing post with valuable information for new designers!

  5. Nasim Sahar

    August 21, 2016

    Your post is very informative. Tools you listed for graphic designer are awesome. Our brain develops when we eat healthy food and indulge in healthy activities. Soothing music take our brain to alpha level. This is the state of mind when it is more creative. Graphic design is a tool to bring our imagination to life. It gives a third dimension to our perception where reality blends with imagination creating something very beautiful. Your post is awesome. It provides a good food for thought and very helpful for graphic designer with a slight cons that there were few spelling mistakes in your post.

    • Salvatore Jenkins Jr. author

      August 31, 2016

      I like to thank you for commenting and also apologize for the delay in response! I agree Graphic design is a tool that brings our imagination to life and it allows us to express our creativity as well as our words with imagery! Humans are very visual and Graphic Design is a very important part in conveying a message. I have been meaning to proof read my posts and clean up any spelling errors or grammatical mistakes.

      Are there any tools you think are essential to graphic design that wasn’t mentioned in the post?

  6. Renato

    August 21, 2016

    Great post, very educational. You certenly know what you are talking about. Some of the things you write I have never thought about. I will use you guidence with my web design adventures in the future. I like the layout of your website as well very clean and to the point. will bookmark your site for future reference. Thank you so much

    • Salvatore Jenkins Jr. author

      August 22, 2016

      Thank you I am glad to here the information contained in this article was of educational value and the information will guide you with your future web design projects. Thank you and I hope to write more useful article and continue to help those such as yourself with their design projects.

      To stay informed of future post you can also follow me on:

      Personal google+ page: Sal Jenkins Jr.

      We Deem Channel Google +: We Deem Channel where I share my post from Logos & Simplicity and my other site My Tiny Point of View as well as other useful videos from my Youtube channel.

      Look forward to chatting in the future and maybe even working on a project together. I am always here to lend a ear or help in anyway I can.

  7. Paul

    August 31, 2016

    Hey Salvatore
    This wasn’t what I was expecting when searching for graphic design tools but it really opened my mind to other important aspects of design. Here I was looking for some software options that will make my life easier, but your post showed me all of the other areas that are just as if not more important than the software we use to create graphic designs. You mentioned using your smartphone for taking pictures. Do you find the quality is good enough for designing large images? I want to create and print a poster size image but wonder if the photos I have from my smartphone will be good enough quality once printed.
    Great post, keep up good work.
    Paul

    • Salvatore Jenkins Jr. author

      September 1, 2016

      Tools aren’t necessarily physical and that is what I tried to push in this article. We have to remember no matter what profession we engage in our most important tool is the mind and we must work hard to keep it sharp.

      We carry smart phones everywhere we go, it is always on us and can be used to capture inspiration in the wild. Of course quality will depend on the device and it will be limited by the hardware. In this I mention cell phones for taking pictures and more specifically I mention my Samsung Note 4. The Note 4 camera specs are as follows 16 MP, f/2.2, 31mm, which would capture a 5312 px by 2988 and for a cellphone that is a really good quality image. Now a poster size image would be the equivalent A3 paper dimensions and in pixel 3508 x 4961 so the the note 4 comes close.

      If you need poster quality images I would always recommend a DSLR camera but the Note 7 just release not to long ago and it has dual pixel technology which is reserved for DSLR cameras. As time goes by cellphone camera technology is getting better and sooner or later this will be all the technology a designer will need to capture high quality images.

      Just out of curiosity what cell phone do you use?

  8. Evie

    November 8, 2016

    You have some great tips here in this post. As a photographer I spend a lot of time on the PC or Mac retouching and color grading photographs as well as my writing work. Strangely I do have to play music to help with the creative process but I either play Metallica or a dream trance blend. Having a comfortable work area is so important. Over the past couple of months I have spend more time on my laptop than my PC as I like to work in the lounge. But I have hurt my back badly by using dining chairs to sit in all day instead of my comfy computer chair. And as I am currently facing out onto roadworks that is also proving a distraction.

    • Salvatore Jenkins Jr. author

      November 9, 2016

      Glad to hear your found my tips to be of value… I too have hurt my back over the years of sitting at a computer in a horrible position or in a bad chair. Comfortable work area is not only important for getting the creative juices flowing but also for your physical health!

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