Great Design: It’s Not About The Tools… Or Is It?

A few months ago, I read a blog post by Danelle Bailey titled, “Can Tools Inspire Us?“. I thought it was a really interesting take on a topic that tends to create heated discussion within the industry.

Then I submitted a couple of talk proposals for a presentation that will cover some killer UX and design tools that could help to improve designer productivity. I’ll actually be giving the talk at the 2014 Web Conference at Penn State this year. I submitted it to another conference however, and the talk proposal had split reviews when it reached the curators. 2/3 really wanted it to be presented and the other reviewer simply stated, “It’s not about the tools.”

That got me thinking. When a person says, “It’s not about the tools,” I get where they’re coming from. Great tools do not equal a great designer. I can’t hand a monkey Balsamiq, InVision and PhotoShop, and say “DESIGN!” and expect great things to come from it.

And on the other side of the coin, could I hand an amazing designer a PC with Paint installed and say, “Create something amazing!”? Sure I could. And would they likely be able to turn out something amazing? Absolutely… eventually. The “eventually” is the key. In the time it takes that designer to hack around in Paint, he or she could have created the same design 4 times in a set of quality design tools.

Keeping designers from quality tools is a huge disservice to your organization. It will cripple their productivity, and in turn, cost you a fortune in wasted salary. Rather than focusing on how “expensive” it is to purchase a few licenses for a quality tool, look at the flip side and imagine how much it will end up costing you in man hours if you don’t provide your designers with the tools necessary to be most productive. (I’ll help you out here, there is a very good chance that you’re going to spend a heck of a lot more money in wasted design hours if your team has subpar tools, than you would spend on a license for the latest version of a killer design tool.)

Now, I’m not saying that your designers need to have every single tool that is available on the market, but they do need quality tools that will let their creativity flow freely, rather than outdated tools that squash creativity with frustrating work flows.

As a UX pro I’m incredibly fortunate to work for a company that provides us with great equipment (I heart my MacBook Pro) and killer tools (I’m obsessed with Balsamiq, and InVision, andย ZURB’s Design Apps), but others aren’t so fortunate. When you withhold tools that aid in design productivity, you’re basically crippling your designers’ ability to soar, and in turn stifling how amazing and innovative your product could potentially become.

So I guess what I’m really saying is: Design isn’t about the tools, but if you want your product to reach its full potential, make sure your design team has access to the tools they need to soar!

6 thoughts on “Great Design: It’s Not About The Tools… Or Is It?

  1. Gotta love Balsamiq ๐Ÿ™‚ One other ‘tool’ that makes a massive difference is a BIG (or two) monitor. It’s amazing how much more you can get done faster vs. working on a laptop screen

  2. It’s the difference between power tools and standard hand tools. I have a power hammer that can drill nails 5 times faster than an old-fashioned hammer. Same job, same outcome, different timeline. Also, since it takes less time to accomplish the job, I might spend more time in other areas that need work.

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