Knowledge and familiarity with design tools are critical for product designing. When I first worked at Samsung, I was able to pick up many tools without too much difficulty due to my software background. Samsung had its own specific design tools that it required its designers to use and become familiar with, but during my Master’s program, I had to choose new tools and learn how to use them because I was no longer working within a Samsung context. Samsung provided a great foundation for me to develop familiarity with many tools, but during my Master’s and beyond I have had to adapt and learn new tools based on the project that I am working on. In the past few years, I have been focusing on refining my ability to use US design tools so that I can better collaborate with others. In general, I’ve learned that designers typically design using general tools including Adobe XD, Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, Figma, and Principle so I have become quite adept at using these tools. However, I know that some companies require more specific tools such as Protopie, Flinto, and Axuzre, so I am constantly working to learn new tools whenever possible.
When trying to determine which tools are the most valuable to learn for the design process, I used the results of a survey to pinpoint popular tools during each stage of the design process. During the brainstorming and ideation stage, Sketch, Figma, and Adobe are the best tools to use because they enable you to code stencils and to combine various elements on a screen which can help with quick idea expansion and conveying thoughts and ideas with others. And of course, you can’t go wrong with the classic paper and whiteboard. When designing the user flow, Powerpoint is a great tool to use. User flows and flow charts should align so with Powerpoint I am able to easily create and compare the two. When it comes to prototyping, there are two kinds of tools: with code and without code. Without code, designers can use prototyping tools such as Principle, Protopie, Flinto to design high-fidelity transitions. Designers can also choose to code using HTML/CSS/JS, FramerX, or Origami. Personally, my favorite tools are Adobe XD and Principle and HTML/CSS/JS. Adobe XD is very simple to use and since I often use many Adobe products, it is very easy to transfer between programs due to their Cloud system. The principle is a favorite of many designers in Silicon Valley due to its great transition library. Finally, I like to code with HTML/CSS/JS because direct coding is easier for software engineers to work with. However, there are so many more tools that I have yet to learn, and I’m excited to update my toolbox as I am exposed to new tools and programs.
When choosing between tools, there are a few important factors to consider such as the level of resources the tool provides, its ability to enable real-time collaboration, whether or not it provides version history, and finally the ease with which it can be used. Tools like Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD are popular with designers because they have a great design system with many resources that designers can use to accelerate the design process. For collaboration, designers prefer to use tools that are either web or Cloud-based because they enable internal stakeholders to share a workspace and therefore edit or work on related designs in real-time. For example, a GUI designer can simultaneously design on the next screen based on the work of an interaction designer who is working at the same time. Version history is also critical since many design processes use an iterative approach. By keeping track of different versions, it is easier for designers to see where something might have gone wrong and to be able to directly access and modify that version to resolve the issue. Finally, once all of these considerations have been taken into account, designers may want to choose a tool that is relatively easier to use (i.e. not requiring coding) while still yielding sophisticated results.
Through my many years of experience, I’ve come to realize that while Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD have become the default tools for designers during the brainstorming, ideation, and wireframing stages, there is still a lot of variability between prototyping tools so I am always excited to both try and develop familiarity with new prototyping tools including Protopie, Framer, and Origami.