26 Nov 10 tools Every Graphic Designer should have
If you’re just getting into graphic design, or think you want to be a graphic designer, here’s what you need to invest in. You may not need the latest hardware or software – ideas and execution are far more important than the latest equipment. But get the best kit you can afford! So here is the 10 tools every Graphic Designer should have
iMac/MacBook: It goes without saying you need as fast a machine as you can afford if you’re serious about getting into graphic design. Whilst it doesn’t matter that much if you choose a PC or a Mac (most software is available on both platforms) the Apple Mac’s history in graphic design along with excellent OS and built-in support for peripherals (along with the obvious good looks) makes it the general choice for creative professionals.
Whether you need a desktop machine (iMac) or a laptop (MacBook Pro/Air) depends on your needs – do you intend to travel a lot? Would you like the flexibility to work on the move? Or are you happy sitting in a home office/studio? Of course, the ideal is both.
Adobe creative cloud: Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign (the latter ousting QuarkXPress as the creative’s layout tool of choice in the early 2000s) have always been the software applications graphic designers rely on to convert their ideas and concepts into projects for themselves or clients.
The latest versions of these apps can no longer be purchased in a box, you’ll need to take out either a single software subscription (£17.58 per month per app) or (and this is much better value) a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud costing £45.73 per month. There’s also a new pricing plan that includes Adobe Stock Images – that’ll cost you £69.72 pm.
With Creative Cloud you’ll be able to download not only Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign but also every single one of Adobe’s creative tools.
DSLR camera: A good camera is essential for any graphic designer. It may not be that you’re always using your own shots in your work, but for documenting ideas and gathering images for use as textures/backgrounds and so on, it’s great to have a good quality DSLR at your disposal.
A good starter choice would be the Canon EOS 1200D (Canon EOS Rebel T5 in the US) – which at only £280/$400 including a 18-55mm lens won’t break the bank but will deliver 18MP images.
Moleskine: There is not a graphic designer in this world who doesn’t still revert to good old fashioned pen and paper to brainstorm ideas and concepts. So treat yourself to a decent sketchbook from Moleskine – and you’ll be able to quickly jot down ideas wherever you go.
There are many different colour options, including some lovely limited editions. Another popular notebook is Field Notes. Either way, keep one in your bag and sketch, jot down ideas and refer back when you’re at your desk.
Computer Arts Subscription: Computer Arts has been the ultimate magazine for graphic designers since its debut in 1995. And recently it’s got even better. Packed full of inspiration, opinion, advice and projects, it’s an invaluable resource for anyone into graphic design.
If print is not your thing, there’s a stunning, fully-interactive iPad edition, and whether you want the print, digital or bnoth versions of the mag there is always a subs offer on to save you cash.
Surface Pro 4: It’s a toss-up between the Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro for the choice of tablet for designers. On the one hand, the iPad Pro is a thing of beauty – a gargantuan 12.9-inch tablet with a truly amazing screen and ideal sketching companion in the form of Apple Pencil. But, it’s not a laptop replacement – you can’t run your Creative Cloud apps on it (okay, you can run cut-down versions, but it’s not the same).
As a sketching tool it’s brilliant, but the Surface Pro 4, if you can work with the fact it runs Windows (as in, that fits into your workflow) is a brilliant machine. Slim, fast, a great screen (with a slightly higher resolution than the iPad Pro) and an improved Surface Pen and keyboard make for an excellent machine for sketching – and doing your regular Creative Cloud work – on the move.
Wacom Cintiq 13HD Touch: A Wacom tablet is nigh-on essential for any graphic designer or artist, but the Cintiq takes things to another level. Hook it up to your Mac or PC as a display and you can work directly on the screen using Wacom’s excellent pen technology (as well as multi-touch). The screen is 13.3 inches, has a full HD resolution of 1920×1080 and has 2048 evils of pen pressure. What’s more, it only weighs 1.2kg and measures only 374x248x13mm.
You hook it up to your Mac or PC using HDMI and USB. If the Cintiq is a little expensive for your budget, take a look at the Intuos range. And if you have larger needs, check the whopping 27-inch, Cintiq 27QHD Touch– that’ll set you back £2,100/$2,800.
Herman Miller Aeron chair: We all know designers work long hours – hands-up if you haven’t pulled an all-nighter to meet that deadline! And with more and more cases of back pain and RSI occurring in office environments, it’s hugely important to have the right chair (and desk – see number 10).
And the Herman Miller Aeron chair is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to offering ergonomic comfort (adapting naturally to your body and seating position) in a stylish design. The one draw back? Some models will cost you over £900!
B&O Play A2 Bluetooth speaker: Whether you’re working in a larger studio space or on your own in a makeshift office, you need music. And it’s likely that you’re going to be subscribed to a streaming service such as Spotify or Apple Music. So why not complement your laptop or phone with a cool Bluetooth speaker – one that sounds as good as it looks. And there’s no better in this category than the BeoPlay A2, a portable, stylish speaker that delivers amazing sound from a very small form factor.
There’s a number of colours to suit your style or decor and the fact you can just pick it up by its leather strap (or even just hang it up on a coat hook) and take it wherever you go makes it a stylish, great-sounding buy.
Varidesk Pro: Standing desks are all the rage – we know how bad it is to be sitting down all day. But you don’t need to have a permanent standing desk in your studio. Varidesk’s excellent adjustable desks sit on top of your existing desk – and you simply lift your workstation up to a standing position in a few simple moves. Tired of standing up? Simply reverse the process and sit in your seat again. The £300-ish price tag is nothing when you think of the health benefits.