The work of a designer is similar to the work of an inventor: They explore, get results, analyze, draw conclusions and verifies conjectures. For a good result, you need a professional team, working methods and reliable tools. In this article we tell you about most important tools within our team at Plant.
Tools for your ideas
The work of a designer first begins by researching the problem, collecting information from many sources and looking at the task from different point of views. This approach will help to identify the problem and focus on it. However, designers need to constantly generate ideas and to save them our team shares a common storage where we share ideas with everyone. This allows the us to explore each other ideas, suggest improvements and create new ideas.
While using our brain is the most powerful tool, it is important that we don’t overload it, therefore we should write our thoughts and ideas either on paper or computer for more effective and productive work. You could also create mind maps which will help you visualize, remember more, solve problems and become more creative.
Designers and developers use different tools to which they are accustomed for personal note taking some of which Apple Notes, Google Keep, Dropbox Paper or Notion. At Plant we use Google Docs to store shared documents and notes, it complements the general storage of Google Drive we use for everything else.
Designers tend to scout a lot of information online for good design, inspiration, new solutions and more. These references allow them to see variety of solutions on demand for which they can come back to for their next unique idea or project.
There are few popular places to discover references. At Plant we use Dribbble for interface design ideas, Pttrns for UX solutions, Pinterest to create inspiration boards, Behance for saving collections of some amazing design ideas and visual arts as well as keeping up with latest Design Digest.
Tools for your design
It’s important to study the platform’s guidelines first on which your future product will work. Guidelines are reasonable restrictions, so that users perceive the product with what they are used to using. Some large companies have published their own platform guidelines, such as Google Material Design, Apple Guidelines and etc.
The search for a unique design language is a task that inexperienced designers spend a lot of time on. At the initial development it is important to act quickly and there is nothing wrong with using pre-made color schemes. Some of simplest ones we like to use are Coolors, Lolcolors, and sometimes Palx to help us pick the rest of the color palette to our one color.
Instead of selecting from thousands of fonts, use universal font pairs. For example, Google Fonts picks a pair to the selected font. It will save time to test design hypotheses and improve design in the future versions of the product. We also use FontNinja which helps us quickly identify fonts on any website.
In any new project before starting design, simple mocks and wireframes are needed to understand the basics of the interface, experience, interactions and content. To do this you can simply start with pencil sketches, which has it’s own convenience. The advanced tools in Balsamiq will help you quickly build a mock of a future design, and the powerful Axure to prototype a system with data and logic. Also, not to disperse attention and understand the overall picture, designers should load layouts into Flowmapp, help create a site map and test the way users navigate the product.
Designers today have wide selection of tools to create their designs in. Some of the popular ones are by Sketch, Adobe and Affinity. Each tool is unique on its own, and their ability for plug-ins and extensions expand their functionality beyond design.
At Plant we mostly design interfaces and all of our design work is done on Sketch. Some of the most powerful plugins that we use for Sketch are of course the our Plant which makes versioning and collaboration very simple. Auto Layout and Paddy make it easier to control layers on an artboards. Content Generator, Confetti, Looper and Angel simply speed up the designer’s routine work. And last but not least Sketch Runner helps you manage all of these additions in Sketch.
Prototypes and micro-interactions we do in Principle. This is the simplest and most effective way to understand how the design will behave when interacted by the user. For more complex animations, we use more advanced software such as Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects.
When working on a product, designers cannot sit too long on one task. Designers are part team chain, and they should not break the workflow. It is important to be aware of the work done on the product and activities by colleagues to be able to quickly coordinate.
To manage work you need a task manager. At first it seems that it’s easy to keep things in mind but, reality will show that a good designer will always write down tasks and keep a calendar. At Plant we use Trello for task management, and in Google Calendar, all the meetings and phases of work on the project are recorded so that the whole team is up to date, and in case you forget dates there is a bot that sends notifications to Slack.
Organizing files and documents saves time. Advanced tools such as Dropbox or Apple Time Machine create backups that will save the project if an error occurs. But we stopped at Google Drive because it speeds up the interaction within the team.
Cloud services make life easier. Zeplin helps to transfer layouts to our developers, and Plant versions the work of designers and stores all changes to the cloud, so the whole team could collaborate and see the product evolve.