Every designer has the same starting point

It doesn’t really matter which design discipline you belong to, whether it’s architecture, industrial design, interaction design, graphic design or fashion design…

The foundational design process will be always the same and splits up into different directions further down the road.

Because we all start from the same point I created this blog post to collect the most essential tools that every designer needs when starting to design a product, any kind of product.

Furthermore I included tools for productivity and maintenance that some of you might not came across yet 😉

Of course the list is strongly based on my own experience and preference but I am always happy to receive recommendations from you.

If you want to get started with building digital or physical products checkout the other articles in the series:

Part II: The Best Tools And Resources To Design Digital Products

Part III: The Best Tools and Resources To Create Physical Products

 

Sketching & Ideation


Sharpie Pen

One of the most comfortable pens I know. Great for scribbles and note taking. I love using sharpies during workshops for the reason that you can still read notes on post-its from afar.

 

Faber Castell Artist Pen

This set is great if you want to make more precise sketches like screen designs or floor plans (for architects).

 

 

Faber Castell Grip Pencil Set

Pencils are great when it comes to creating sketches with more depth. It’s a cheap tool that shouldn’t be missing in any designers toolbox.

 

 

Pencil Case

And this is a small case where you can out your pencils.

Sketching Paper Roll

Coming from an architectural background, I know how valuable a sketch paper roll is.
What you can do with it:

  • generate a lot of ideas very quickly
  • thin paper is easy to tear off and put all ideas on a whiteboard
  • paper is cheap so it doesn’t hurt to toss away ideas
  • paper is transparent, so you can trace through and iterate on ideas
  • you are not limited by borders as with neat A4 paper

 



Moleskine Soft Large

For daily note taking I can recommend the large Moleskine with softcover and thin paper. Especially the dotted version is very helpful to draw straight lines (for UI Design).

Moleskine Notebooks

When it comes to taking every day notes, I actually prefer the normal version with softcover. Why? Because the softcover and the thin paper makes the notebook feel less premium. For that reason I don’t feel bad to jot down bad ideas or ugly sketches.

Sketch Paper Roll

This sketching paper encourages getting ideas out. Sketching on this paper feels less constraining compared to A4 or A3 with their neat borders. Also the paper is very thin (24g/m2) & eco-friendly which makes it easier to toss away bad ideas.

Basic Design Tools

Photoshop

This is industry standard. There is a reason why PS has such a monopoly position in the industry. It’s simply the best photo editing tool and no designer can get around it.

 

Illustrator

Still the #1 vector based graphic design tool. Tools such as Sketch are getting closer, but when it comes to very advanced vector editing, Illustrator is still the market leader.

 

Indesign

The best layout tool for printed media like books, brochures or magazines. Maybe less relevant today for digital designers, but still an important tool that you shouldn’t miss in your repertoire.

 

Lightroom

After my travels I always come back with loads of photos that needs to be edited. Doing everything in Photoshop would be a pain in the ass. Lightroom is perfect for batch editing and saves you tons of time.


Keynote

The mac equivalent to powerpoint is so much easier to master. It comes for free with any new Mac computer so everyone should take advantage of it. Keynote cannot only be used for presentations but also for quick prototyping and animations that can be exported as videos.

 

iMovie

Very easy to learn and perfect if you don’t want to get into heavy video editing yourself. If you need to stitch a quick product video together then iMovie is perfect. Also comes for free with any mac.

 

 

Stock Photo Libraries

Sometimes stock pictures come in handy if you don’t have the time to shoot photos yourself. Here is a list of libraries with free stock pics that you can use for your projects.

 

Pexels

Unsplash

Stockvault

Stockpic

Madgelaine

Jaymantri

Gratisography

Pixabay

Stockup

 

Productivity

Evernote

A very powerful note taking tool that syncs across all devices. I use Evernote to write all my blog posts, for note taking at work and to save interesting websites. Make sure you install the Chrome Web Clipper

 

Google Keep

Compared to Evernote, Google Keep is very fast and optimal for daily use to capture thoughts and ideas. I use it to save quick thoughts or notes when reading books. The desktop version even supports drawings. Why using Google keep instead of Apple Notes? -> Apple notes only works with…tadaaa…Apple!

 

Wunderlist

There are many To-Do apps out there but my favourite is still Wunderlist. The shared list feature is really useful (e.g. grocery shopping).

 

Drive / Dropbox

Cloud Storage is a must in 2017. If you run out of storage on Drive and don’t want to pay, sign up for Dropbox. If you want to share files across the team, the next tool will probably be better.

 

Resilio Sync

Peer-to-peer sync across multiple devices. Your files are not stored in the cloud, but synced with all registered devices directly through wifi. Thumbs up for safety and speed. I found it very useful when working in teams because it syncs automatically. No need to remind people and no need to go through a “server”.

 

Alfred

A very useful tool that makes starting apps or searching for stuff so much easier. Get used to it and you can’t imagine a life without it anymore. No more searching for app icons in the dock to start a program. There is a reason why apple is trying to copy features to spotlight.

 

Cinch

Adjust your windows size super fast. A normal thing for window users, but relatively new to mac users. Just drag your window to a border and it expands automatically. Fu** the green icon in the top left corner. Only amateurs are still adjusting their window sizes manually.

 

RescueTime

A time tracking tool that runs in the background and monitors app usages. Sounds scary at first but very useful for analysing your own behaviour. Are you hustling or looking at cat pics all day?

 

ImageOpt

Speed is everything. If your website takes too long to load, your images are probably too big. As the name indicates: this very easy to use tool will optimize the size of your images.

 

Nimbus – Chrome Plugin

You want to capture the design of an entire website? This useful chrome plugin does it for you.

 

VideoDownloader – Chrome Plugin

I love using videos in my presentations. With this plugin you can download videos from any websites. Unfortunately it is not working with youtube videos due to legal issues. if you want to download youtube videos paste the video link here: Clipconverter

 

Filezilla

If you run your website with wordpress, you probably won’t get around an FTP tool to connect directly to your server.

Anyway, it always comes in handy to transfer files back and forth.

 

iStat

A tool for geeks: many designers are always wondering why their mac is so slow. This tool displays all kind of stats of your mac. If your CPU is running at 100%, you should probably check for the program that eats up all resources. If a website is loading too slow, then find out which program is downloading things in the background.

 

AppCleaner

The more you take care if your devices the longer they will serve you. When it comes to deleting applications, many people only drop them into the bin. But this method won’t erase all other files associated to the application. AppCleaner finds all files and deletes them all.

 

Onyx

Another very essential cleaning tool for Mac’s is Onyx. It runs maintenance and cleaning tasks and you can be surprise how many GB you can free up.

 

Skype

I have the feeling that Skype nowadays is less popular, especially since it was acquired my Microsoft. Nevertheless it is still useful for business calls or chatting with manufacturers.

 

Daily survival

Besides the usual stuff such as Smartphone, Camera and other wonderful pieces of electronics to show off, here is a list of other things that you need to survive on a daily basis.

 

In the morning

A good morning routine will define the outcome of your day. I usually get up early to have time for my morning routine. Doing some exercises and enjoying some nice freshly brewed coffee. Here is equipment that I use personally:


Hario V60

Simple and effective. The Hario is still the best ceramic filter you can get on the market. Yes, there are many out there now, but you don’t want to have a cheap Chinese copy, do you? Don’t forget to buy the filters.

 

VinaBrew Coffee Glasses

Of course this one should not be missing. I designed these glasses for coffer lovers. What’s so special? Double wall glasses will keep your coffee warm longer and prevent your fingers from getting burned. Also the medium size of the cup is made for espresso or a flavorful cup of hipster coffee. Sorry for the self promotion but that one had to go in 😛

Porlex Coffee Grinder

I tried different ones but this one is my favourite. There are too sizes, but I prefer the smaller one which is enough for 1 cup. For 2 people I can recommend the bigger version. The ceramic grinder is very smooth and not as loud as others. Japanese Quality, people!!!

 

 

Chemex Carafe

Originally made for coffee, you can also use these carafe for tea or water if you don’t like coffee. It’s just beautiful to look at.

 

For the good mood: 

Spotify

This one should be obligatory but I wanted to mention it anyway. Compared to apple music, spotify runs on multiple platforms. And Compared to Google music, your music doesn’t stop playing when closing the browser. Nothing else to add. Baaam!

 

Muemma Bluetooth Speaker

I used to love Sonos, but the biggest downside with a Sonos is that you have to use their app. And the app is not very well designed to be honest. Now with the support of Spotify, playing music is less a pain but still I cannot play any sound from youtube or movies. That’s why a bluetooth speaker is much more convenient. My friend Adin designed these speakers and they’re just wonderful.

 

 

B&W P7

If you enjoy music a lot and are willing to spend a bit more money, you should definitely have a look at the B&W P7. Compared to the smaller version, P5/P3 these ones cover your ears and let you focus on the music without disturbing outside noise.

 

 


B&O H6

A little bit cheaper and still with good music quality, the B&O are also a good choice. Maybe a bit clumsy and big for some people, but hey, it’s not a wannabe Gangsta Headphone, aka “Beats”.