At Novoda, our design team is full of enthusiastic individuals who tinker and toy with all manner of new tools. We’ve tried a lot of products just for fun, and sometimes those products end up being part of our process.
To decide if a tool becomes ‘officially’ used is a simple process. Someone finds something cool, we all try it out, weigh up the pros and cons and vote on it. If we feel the product is the best and most efficient way of performing the tasks it’s aimed at, we’re won over. The list below all fall into that category.
Our Favourite Design Tools
In no particular order!
Pencils, pens and paper
The most useful of design tools. We can scribble up basic designs during meetings, workshops and at our desks, create simple user flows, and even work up fast prototypes. We all ensure we have these available at all times.
We switched from Photoshop to Sketch for a couple of reasons. The biggest advantages were, for us, the sheer speed and the simplicity of Sketch. It just so happens that this little product has a huge heart in the form of a growing community of designers, plugin makers and tutorial writers.
Zeplin is a product that plugs into Photoshop and Sketch. We use it primarily as a Sketch plugin. The idea behind Zeplin is simple: one shortcut key and your developers have immediate and up to the minute details in a visual format on the specs for your layouts. When the developer needs to know the size of a font, the colour of a background, or pretty much any other aspect of a static design, it’s a simple case of opening the app and viewing. Commenting is available too, so if a developer needs to ask a question pertaining to a specific item on the screen, it’s easy and quick to get a reply.
We post most of our work into projects on Invision. All members of the project team, be them from Novoda or from the client, have access to the project. Every time a screen is updated, these team members have an immediate visual on it. Invision has a full commenting system built in. The workflow to bring your designs from the work in progress phase through to approved state of each screen is fantastic and really simple. Full prototyping is also possible and you can preview, via a web link, to a mobile device, which is rather useful. With Invision, we’ve managed to decrease our iteration-to-approval time on design work and, so far, each client we’ve worked with has really enjoyed using it.
User flows are exceptionally important in the design process. Not only for the design team to work out the happy and sad flows, but also for everyone in the project to understand the various scenarios they’re aiming towards. While this could be done in a variety of other tools, we’ve found none to be as flexible and efficient as Omnigraffle. Sure, it’s not the prettiest app in the world. But for us, it’s the best way to achieve the results we need.
Principle for Mac
We found out about this app in the last few months and simply can’t get over how beautifully simple it is to create motion and interaction prototypes. It’s so easy, you might say it’s the Sketch of motion design. It is quite limited in its toolset, what you can achieve with it in just a few minutes is super impressive. Add to this a great community of designers and animators that is constantly putting up downloadable prototypes and really helping each other out.
Adobe’s powerhouse hasn’t so much fallen from grace for a lot of design teams as much as stagnated a little. Its sheer size and power is unmatched by any other app, and its ability to work within so many different scenarios is definitely impressive. However, those two things are really what allowed Sketch to take the primary tool slot for us at Novoda. We still keep it around for compatibility, the vast feature set, and just a little nostalgic respect for helping us all learn our craft!
Illustrator isn’t actually left in the back as much as Photoshop is these days. While Sketch is fully vector (minus bitmap images of course), it can’t compare to the powerful editing tools in Illustrator, and so for making specific assets such as icons, Illustrator is still an incredibly powerful product. It does suffer from the same overly complex nature that afflicts Photoshop too, and boy is it slow when you have a lot of files open - hence why we definitely don’t use it to create all our screen designs - but for now, it has a safe place in our process.
Use what works for you
We actually don’t tie everyone down to one set of tools. Beyond these core products, we are always trying out new things, and occasionally other products are used for more specific tasks. The tools we have above are found by the team to be the best for the core of our work. But everyone should work with the tools they feel most comfortable with, and give them the results they want. Happy creating!