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Design and the Rest of Us: The Tools

Thus far, we’ve been talking about theory and you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t suggested what tools you should be using to design things. Many design resources require you to use a certain tool or start out by suggesting specific tools, then proceed assuming that you have them. However, I’ve tried to keep these posts as generic as I can so that you can use them with any tool, because you don’t need any special tools to do design. Actually, you can use anything.

You can even use Word.

That’s right. You see, tools don’t design things. People do. There are many who buy (or pirate) multi-thousand dollar tools yet have no idea how to do design. You would actually be better off using a template that comes with Word or Pages, then downloading InDesign and not knowing how to use it well—not knowing how to design well.

Think through your design thoroughly, use the principles we’ve been talking about, and work through multiple iterations to make your initial design even better. If you’re doing these things, it won’t matter what tools you’re using. Meanwhile, if you ignore these things, it won’t matter how good your tools are. The best saw in the world will not make you a better craftsman if you are not careful in your measurements.

Tools like Photoshop and InDesign can be extremely helpful to experienced designers because they make things faster and more efficient. They make the steps involved in good design easier, but they don’t make you a good designer. I can generally get the same results from Word that I do from InDesign; I just takes a little longer. Free tools like GIMP are, in most cases, capable of outputting the same quality graphics as Photoshop. They just may not be as convenient or efficient.

If anything, fancier tools can hinder good design for the beginner. Tools like Photoshop present you with so many interesting effects (like Lens Flare) that they can often be a distraction as you try to find a simple design that works. More than that, these tools are often quite complicated and have interfaces that can slow beginners as they try to get things done.

For all these reasons, I won’t be recommending software in these posts. Find tools that you know how to use effectively and understand that tools won’t help you make a better design—even though they may help you make a good design faster.

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This article was posted on 09/01/2014 . It relates to these topics:

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