Renowned MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld once remarked, “Give ordinary people the right tools, and they will design and build the most extraordinary things.” In other words, despite any preconceived, self-limiting beliefs, everyday people are capable of turning their dreams into reality.
As Gershenfeld notes, having the right instruments can sometimes be even more important than having raw talent — and this is especially true in the competitive world of freelance design. Indeed, all the talent in the world will get you nowhere without the proper instruments of creation. To aid in gaining an edge on the competition, here are six essential tools every freelance graphic designer should have in their arsenal.
1. Adobe Creative Suite
When completing the actual work for a design gig, Adobe’s Creative Cloud still remains at the top of the list of essential tools. In fact, Adobe is still the first and foremost name in graphic design, as its widely-used software package — it includes Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, InDesign, After Effects and several other applications — offers high compatibility with other similar programs and the most bang for a designer’s buck. Recently, however, Adobe decided to cease sales of its “boxed” Creative Suite and now uses a subscription model via the cloud. For the starving graphic artist, this means new features for individual applications, like Photoshop, will be available a la carte through the cloud.
2. Google Web Fonts
Clients tend to seek out designers with unique ideas. But designers are often limited to working with a finite number of fonts, some of which have been overused to death. Distinguishing your creativity from that of other designers can sometimes be as simple as implementing different typefaces. But if you’re tired of the same old serif fonts cluttering your websites and their stale, lifeless characters littering your design copy, there’s a simple solution in store for you. Google Web Fonts provides an open source library of fonts, allowing users to pick and choose from a slew of typefaces. Now, with a few easy clicks of your mouse, you can obtain a new arsenal of typefaces that are sure to wow your clients. Google Web Fonts is also free, meaning it won’t adversely affect your budget.
Any designer who has experienced a power outage, Internet service lull or computer crash can attest that backup and security tools are essential for one’s work devices. A service like MozyPro allows users to schedule automatic cloud backups on an hourly, daily, weekly or even monthly basis — it’s truly at your discretion. Mozy will automatically detect and back up any and all important documents and files after you’ve configured the settings. And, in the event lightning strikes any transformers in your neighborhood, you can restore your files with the client software via Mozy.com.
As a freelancer, time is money — and there are certainly moments throughout a day or week in which you may not be wisely using your time. However, a great way to prevent slacking off or wasting too much time tweeting is to use a time-tracking application like Harvest. This easy-to-use application allows you to track hours, compile expenses and send invoices to clients all through the same app.
Like the popular program Sketch, Figma is a virtual sketchpad. However, unlike Sketch, you can use Figma with Windows. With Figma, users can capture those fleeting strokes of brilliance before those ideas vanish, with little to no lag between a user’s stroke and the resulting line drawn on the screen. Figma also boasts a real-time collaboration feature that allows multiple users to work on the same design at the same time. This feature is favored for projects involving several designers as well as for projects requiring collaboration between copywriters and content strategists.
For graphic designers in the habit of getting lost in an avalanche of uncompleted tasks, Wunderlist is simply a must-have. In fact, this to-do list tracker will make your life a little less chaotic, as it can sync across all your devices. As the name suggests, this program is a list-lover’s dream, as you compose and set timers for your lists, share them with other collaborators and edit reminders as they appear on your dashboard without leaving your current task. Indeed, it’s perfect for the graphic designer with a Type A personality and the forgetful artist alike.
As Gershenfeld has suggested, with the right tools, you can design anything — with or without talent. Freelancing may be a tough gig, but with tools like these at your disposal, your life can be made a little easier.