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do you have a design toolbox? did you know you need one? yup! to be a professional designer you need the right tools to do the job, just like a carpenter needs theirs.

i mean…sure, you could cobble some things together in Word (cringe!!). but Word is not meant for design. and therefore is SO beyond limited when compared to real-deal design programs.

it’s pretty hard to get the job done at the same level as designers who are using the best tools. it’d be kinda like a carpenter trying to build a wall using a toy hammer instead of the real thing. know what i mean?

level up with these must-have design tools!

here are my top 5 must-have design tools (and my fave brands!):

  1. computer. ok, ok. duh.i know. kind of a no brainer. but it’s a must, obvs! also, it is ideal if you can get your hands on a mac. why? well, they just kinda WORK. not to mention the design programs (see #2), though available for PCs, are made for macs. macs are also very inherently design-focused so the whole system is much more user friendly—both visually and functionally. if a mac is not in your budget, don’t sweat it! there are ways to get your hands on one at a lower cost. even directly from apple!
  2. adobe creative suite is the must-have, used-all-over-the-world-by-pretty-much-every-designer-everywhere design software. the most popular of the programs among print (and web) designers are: indesign (layouts), illustrator (vector graphics), and photoshop (photos). the cool thing is that they all work together seamlessly to help you create amazing work. BONUS! adobe has a free trial and several options to mix and match apps based on your needs.
  3. pantone swatch book. another must-have, used-all-over-the-world tool. pantone books are collections of swatches from the Pantone Matching System (PMS) which is like a color language understood everywhere. basically, PMS colors are predetermined color formulas that when used in printing allow you to achieve the exact same color (on paper, textiles, etc.). every.single.time. PMS colors are typically established during the branding process or during product development to ensure consistency. they are most commonly used in printing when color matching is critical. like in corporate identity pieces, or in specialty printing (letterpress, thermography, screen printing, etc), or when regular process printing just won’t do. as a designer, you need this tool so you can make accurate selections while designing. or to find a color that matches closest to an existing item, like a paper stock or fabric.
  4. sketchbook + designer pens. even in this digital world, there’s still nothing quite like putting pen to paper. especially if you’re a paper junkie like me! that’s not to say tools like the iPad Pro + Apple Pencil aren’t AHHH-mazing. but good ol’ pen and paper are perfect for capturing quick thoughts the old fashioned way. any paper and pen will do the job, but here’s our faves!
  5. font library. ohhhh fonts. swoon. i definitely have an obsession! and rightfully so because fonts are an amazing tool. and when used well, great fonts will take your designs from basic to pro level, quick. there are a bazillion fonts available these days (really. there’s a LOT!). and amazing font designers popping up everywhere. so there’s no shortage of resources, friends! here are some of my go-tos: my fonts, great lakes lettering, and for freebies, font squirrel and fontspace.

of course there are LOADS more tools you need in your tool box. but these are the basic, must-have items you need to get the party started. and you’ll use ’em daily, so they’re a very worthwhile investment! (as you know all too well if you’re already a design pro!)

what are your fave design tools? let me know, i’d love to hear!

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