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for a designer: tools < hands < instinct

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Tools of the trade posters are a trend of the past few years that still never fails to intrigue me.

I love to study the different illustration styles that my colleagues use, explore the little details, and more importantly, see what tools the designer included. But, the fact of the matter is that we do so much more than simply render images or lay out a page.

Micron pens, Wacom tablets and graph paper aside, more often than not, when I see ‘tools of the trade’ posters, I am left feeling like something is missing.

A professor once bluntly told me that anyone can learn to use a software program, but it’s the person behind the design that really matters. That was early on in my design education, and I worried that I wasn’t picking up on the necessary software as quickly as the other students. Her advice motivated me in multiple ways.

  1. She stated that “anyone” could learn how to use this software, which gave me no excuse but to figure it out.
  2. She helped me finally see the bigger picture—that how a person renders their ideas is just a part of the process, but not the process. What really matters is the designer—their knowledge, their passion and, most importantly, their gut instinct.

That being said, with my design school experience and first year as a professional under my belt, I realize now that my favorite design tool is my gut instinct.

Being a designer is complicated. We are artists while having to design around facts and statistics. We have to value our gut instincts when designing, just as we value our MacBooks or our Moleskines, in order to find the balance between statistically proven design and an experience that gives our work a heartbeat that sets it apart. It is important to follow the proven path, but sometimes we must be willing to blaze the trail.

After all, we’re designers, not robots.