When it comes to my work as a designer and running my own business there’s a few key products and services which definitely help keep me organised, productive and motivated. I’ve created a list of some of my favourite and most useful tools in my daily designer toolkit.
Evernote is the most useful program and app to take quick notes, collect research and save inspiration that you can access easily from any of your computers or devices. Most of my ideas and thoughts are added to lots of different notebooks, however my to-do lists and calendar is still a pen to paper exercise. I can’t live without an up-to-date list of what’s on my plate, and a clear idea of what’s on over the coming weeks. After experimenting with all different stationery products I always come back to kikki.K, and loving their latest To Do List and A4 Monthly Planner at the moment.
Another product I like to use for creative briefs and collecting clients thoughts on a project is Google Docs. It’s just a much nicer alternative to Word and it makes it easy to share and edit the same documents.
A couple of months ago I made the switch from Quickbooks to the online invoicing and time tracking software by Harvest. Quickbooks was the only reason I was still holding onto my old PC laptop, as the online version for Mac is much too expensive. Of course Harvest isn’t full accounting software, it’s much more basic than that, but it’s made invoicing and payments much simpler for me and my clients which is the most important. I absolutely love the time tracking features, which means a lot as throughout the years of freelancing I’ve tended to not keep up with tracking my time accurately.
As much as people seem to dislike Paypal, I’ve never had any issues with them. Using them has made working with clients internationally and accepting payments a breeze.
Another important application I use for business is Dropbox. Sharing larger files with clients and keeping important artwork files and documents backed up is super easy and convenient.
It goes without saying that Adobe products have a huge part in my business, Illustrator and Photoshop in particular, and occasionally InDesign makes an appearance. With the introduction of the Creative Cloud, it’s much more affordable than the previous Australian Design Suite subscription. A Creative Cloud subscription not only includes the whole range of Adobe products, but an unlimited Typekit account, 20GB of cloud storage and hosting for 5 Business Catalyst websites. It’s a pretty good deal.
On the other hand, coding and development is handled by two great pieces of software by Panic, Coda and Transmit. Coda is a web editor for Mac, and Transmit for file transfer. The new release of Coda 2 includes the capability of Transmit now, but I still use the older version.
I am a huge Mac girl. I wasn’t always, I used to think PC’s were perfectly ok for doing my work and I’m sure that they have improved in the last few years. But I’ve had my iMac for close to 3 years now and it’s still just as quick without any issues that were common with a PC. Before my iMac I never owned a PC that was still running so well after even a year’s use. I pretty much have all the Apple products including a Macbook Air, but the iMac is number 1 for getting my work done.
Another piece of hardware I use a lot is my Wacom Bamboo tablet. I own the smaller sized tablet but it’s all I need to create quick little drawings or handwritten text that I can use in designs or just playing around. I’ve heard some designers and artists used their tablet as a mouse too but it would take some getting used to, I think you’d need a larger version to do that.
When it comes to staying productive and motivated for long hours of designing, music makes a huge difference. I often listen to playlists with long chill out sessions, indie bands and occasionally some dance tunes for when I need wake myself up a bit. Most often you’ll find me streaming music from We Are Hunted for the latest emerging tracks, 8 Tracks for some great playlists, and SoundCloud to listen to particular artist sets.
These are my daily fixes offline that help me do my work online. I drink a lot of white and green herbal tea throughout my day, even in Summer when it’s a bit too hot for tea, but I still love it. I split up my day with lots of little breaks, quite often just to sit out on the front deck and get a hit of Vitamin D, occasionally a good book will join me out there.
My favourite creative activity off the computer is just to paint and doodle, with watercolours or just with black felt pens. I still feel like I’m being productive but it gives me a chance to take my mind off a project while still keeping it active creatively.
Do you have many of the same tools in your daily work toolkit? Have any great suggestions of software, products or systems that make you the most productive that you’d love to share?