The 50+ tools that I use as an independent designer
The past two years have been crazy busy in my development as a designer. I wanted to run through all of the equipment, services, and other tech I am using to create all of my work. You would think that the role of a designer was just creating small mockups or sketches and editing them in Adobe software to make it look pretty.
If you’re already a designer, you are laughing pretty hard right now.
When we talk about our roles, we talk about more than just design because we have to learn much more than just the basic skills to make it by in the real world. I won’t lie; in order to make it out there you either have to be really good at selling your craft, or your craft has to be so good it practically sells itself.
There is a large blooming need for designers in business. This has created a habit where we started fitting them anyway that we could into startups and positions where their skills and workload are stretched very thin. Even the solo-preneurs have found that you don’t just have to learn design, you will have to eventually learn a lot of other stuff too.
My journey started off in web design
I had plans on being in business for myself so that I could be doing something at home and be around my son more often. I found that the best route to learn was some type of design job that I could do remotely. I chose web design. I built several websites over my first year. I bootstrapped my education by sneaking some college syllabus’ from college sites, spending thousands of hours reading articles, distilling information so that I could improve my skills.
I moved into Brand Identity design because I feel that was my strong suit. Along the journey there are plenty of things I had to learn how to do.
Below is the list of all of the things I currently use to do what I do. Only one of these links is an affiliate link. Even then, I feel that someone wanting to use these to do more or try how another designer is doing things is now important than getting paid by it.
Web Technology Stack
I run 3 of my own websites.
- So Magnetic (rescinded the site during construction period)
- Compass of Design (for the self-starter design community)
- My personal portfolio (for my current client work)
Each site runs the same tech behind it.
- Hosted with Github Pages (until it outshines it’s usefulness)
- Cloudflare SSL because the Let’s Encrypt SSL is out of my skillset right now
- My forms are done with Formspree (paid account to get multiple forms and no exposed email addresses)
- mailchimp.com for subscription information (May change to convertkit, not sure yet.)
- Google’s email client for custom domains
- Bitly for custom branded short links like mgntc.co and cmps.co
- Medium to host the Compass of Design writing publication
Web Apps and Software
There are a few web apps I use to keep myself up on the game.
- Google… because… Google.
- Quickbooks for doing easier accounting
- Atom for my code editor
- Upscribe for my newsletter sign up on medium
- Trello for keeping ideas organized
- Medium for republishing my articles
- Coach for my online store (digital downloads and future course material)
- Slack for communication with the Compass of Design community
- Zapier for connecting some of my services together for time saving tasks
My design programs
- Adobe CC suite:
Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe XD, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe After Effects, and TypeKit
- I use GifCam for recording short gifs of my desktop screen
Online Design platforms
- Dribbble.com for being around great design
- Briefbox.me for when I get bored and need some design briefs to tackle
- Designer News for finding things about and discussing design
Writing program is just Microsoft Word for first drafts of articles.
I use several pieces of tech to keep me going or keep me sane
- My computer (bought it new almost 2 years ago)
- Upgraded to Samsung 1tb SSD memory
- Upgraded RAM to Crucial 8gb DDR3
- And lots of stickers
- Tripod by AmazonBasics
- Dual hotshoe mount
- Dimmable LED Light
- Everything from home depot in this post from Wistia
- “Shoulder Pod” a Smartphone mount for tripod
- External Rode Me microphone
- A small Mophie Juicepack for extending phone battery during video
Samsung Galaxy s7 (the nonexplodeable kind)
All sketchbooks are from Baron Fig (I use the Confidant)
An assortment of Pigma pens, Staedtler instruments and a large ruler, and blend tools and malleable erasers from the art store down the street.
Get around other designers like you who value the little things.
You are a Self-Starter, a Pioneer, a Designer. It can be difficult going out there with little support and encouragement. You might be head down in your work pushing every effort out there to be known as a designer. You are not alone.
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designers like you.
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Brand Consultant at @itssomagnetic, running designer network at @compassofdesign I ate a whole large dominos pizza by myself once. 🍕
Compass of Design
Curated design articles for self-starting designers.