Cutting Edge Tools for Designers: Software & Hardware Must-Haves

With all the hardware and software tools that are constantly being introduced into the market, a designer’s tool kit has more variety today than ever before. Tools that were once considered must-haves, such as Photoshop, are now being replaced by more integrated software tools that serve multiple purposes and allow designs to be created and integrated into web apps rapidly.

Although there are a multitude of tools to get the job done, good design practices are always a constant. Given the fast-changing styles of the modern consumer, it is a challenge to keep your online presence looking fresh and on the leading edge, while also retaining an element of timelessness.

But it’s never been easier for designers to create beautiful designs thanks to the plethora of new software and hardware tools that are out there.

Software

1. Affinity: Affinity is being called the Photoshop killer by WebDesigner Depot. It has a couple of features that blow Photoshop out of the water. For one, you can zoom in 1 million times. Also the ability to “undo” a crazy number of times, 8,000 to be exact, is nowhere near what Photoshop allows.

2. Antetype: This tool doesn’t replace Photoshop or developers. It does, however, allow you as a designer to build responsive prototypes for websites and mobile apps quickly, ensuring that your design vision is conveyed accurately. One feature that makes it great is the ability to update elements, such as buttons and widgets, across an entire web app with the click of a button. Another good feature is a well-organized, nested file structure of all components and keyboard shortcuts for virtually every common operation. If you’re already a Mac user, once you get to know this software, prototyping is fun, quick and pretty easy.

3. UXPin: UXPin is a tool made by UX designers for UX designers, and it shows. The app itself looks like it was designed by people who know aesthetics. It’s a web-based tool that is incredibly intuitive to use and comes loaded with massive libraries of GUI elements from iOS, Android, Bootstrap, Font Awesome and more. A basic prototype for an iOS app can be created in an afternoon. Interactions are a bit more tricky to program than when using Antetype, but UXPin beats Antetype in the ability to build rapid designs with all the libraries it has.

4. Canva: If you want to create quick web graphics for things like social media promotion, check out Canva. The free account comes with lots of royalty-free graphics, or you can search their right-managed images and purchase right through Canva.

Royalty-Free Premium Stock Photos

Before we get into hardware tools, we’re going to take a quick intermission to talk about something that is crucial to almost any design: stock photos.

Typically when speaking of stock photos, the words “premium” and “royalty-free” don’t go in the same sentence. However, there are a slew of really great royalty-free photos that can be used, as long as you credit the owner of the work. If you think about it, this is actually a great way for photographers to get their work out. Unsplash and Gratisphotography are great options to try for yourself and Buffer’s blog lists a few more favorites that you might also find useful.

Here’s a royalty-free image grabbed from Unsplash:

Photo credit: Blake Richard Verdoorn

Hardware

5. Chromecast: This handy little digital media player is not only incredibly easy to integrate into your workflow, it’s also affordable, at only $35. It’s a great way to turn any TV monitor into a presenter’s screen. You can mirror an Android device directly to the screen for client demos and even “cast” a tab from your Chrome Browser with a plugin.

6. iPhone 6
The iPhone 6 is a powerful, multidimensional device that is a must have if you are a designer. For one, If you do web design, you need to make sure your designs work responsively across multiple devices. The iPhone 6 is the device of choice, so if you ever build a mobile app, chances are you’ll lead with development on iPhone first. But the iPhone will do more than just help you visualize your designs. It can also help you create them. With an 8-megapixel iSight camera with True Tone Flash, you can capture high-quality images that you can use for a variety of purposes.

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