In the internet age, thousands of tools and products scream for your attention as a designer. There are some fantastic options out there, but it's easy to be overwhelmed. We've curated some great tools for you. You may have heard of several, but we've also thrown in some lesser known tools that can make your life as a designer much easier.
Tools To Keep You Organized
Did you hear the one about the poorly organized designer? He’s poor.
Many creative types struggle with organization. This can lead to all sorts of disasters: missed deadlines, forgotten projects, and unhappy clients.
However, all is not lost. We have the technology; we can rebuild. A great organization system isn't that difficult to set up. Here are some great tools to keep you organized and on track.
Evernote - Synced across all your devices, Evernote lets you access your ideas anytime, anywhere. It’s fantastic for note taking, organization, and general brilliance storage.
Time Tracking Application - Whether paid by the hour or project, it's critical to know how long projects take. No, you can't just eyeball the clock. This article by Zappier has the best 20 Applications.
Project Management - Keeping tabs on your various design projects is key to meeting deadlines. Find a system that works and follow it.
Dropbox - Cloud-based storage allows you to easily backup and sync your creative files across all your devices. It’s also perfect for delivering large files to clients or other designers. Never get a “File Too Large To Email” error again.
Tools To Inspire You
Designers often hit a brick wall when it comes to creating. When "designer’s block" strikes, sometimes absorbing other great designs is the only way to break us out of the slump. It's important to have some go-to creative input sources that can help you wrestle out of your design rut.
Visulle - Part Mad Men, part modern, all beautiful.
Fonts In Use - Sometimes it’s hard to visualize how to use specific typefaces. No more.
I Love Typography - Stay on top of the latest type news and trends.
Designspiration - Get inspired by real world design pieces.
For Print Only - Specifically showcases off screen design.
Now, make sure that you don't spend all your time "finding inspiration." After a while, it's time to set the browsing aside and accomplish the task at hand. It's often a good idea to find inspiration with a purpose. Sit down with a goal and a time limit. "I'm going to spend 15 minutes searching for typography that inspires me." “I'm going to spend 30 minutes nailing down examples and ideas that I like, and then I’ll shift into ‘create’ mode." That way, instead of spending your whole day on Pinterest and Dribbble, you get designing.
Tools That Help You Create
This is where the rubber meets the road. As a graphic designer, you are a creator. The tools you use to interface with your art are crucial.
Design Software - The bread and butter of the designer. Your design suite is everything you need to turn the ideas in your head into reality. Find a powerful solution that gives you all your creative tools in one spot.
Watermark Tool - Sometimes people online are jerks and steal your designs. Protect yourself when sharing creative by watermarking your work.
A Sketchbook - When creativity strikes you have to be ready. Sometimes, that means you're not by a computer to instantly record your idea. Having a sketchbook on hand can help you capture those moments and save them for later.
A Tablet - Using a pen tablet or a pen enabled device allows for a more natural interface and more control and precision. They take a while to get used to but once you have it down, your workflow will fly.
People (hopefully they aren’t tools) To Make You Better
Peers make us better. They challenge, critique, inspire, and make us better designers. Cultivate feedback loops that create an environment of learning and inspiration. It's always great to have face-to-face meetings with other designers, but there’s also a plethora of online communities that can offer helpful input on your work.
Behance - Follow designers you love and discover other people on the same journey as you.
Dribbble - An open community where designers can give and receive constructive feedback from each other.
deviantART- For the digital artist, deviantART offers both a community and a marketplace for artists.
/r/graphic_design - Reddit offers some amazing communities. Subscribe to design related subreddits and your feed will be chock full of other designers walking the same path as you. Don't just lurk. Ask questions. Respond to questions. Absorb information. Contribute to the community.
What are some of your favorite tools? Tell us in the comments below!