The 6 things I can't design without

As a designer, there are several things in my day-to-day routine that I just can't do without. Here's a look at the 6 most helpful things that keep me on task and fuel my creativity. 


1. my macbook

A must-have for designing is a reliable computer. Macs are the industry standard for graphic designers – the color is accurate, the display is crisp and clean whether I'm zoomed in to see each individual pixel or zoomed out on a large-scale project, and it's strong enough to easily run all of my heavy Adobe programs without freezing up. It helps that the interface is so user-friendly, and that it's compatible with all of my other Apple products. At school and at my work, I'm on a iMac – Apple's desktop computer. It does a better job helping me keep good posture and gives me plenty of screen space so I can see everything about my project at a glance. However, for freelancing at home (and to have the flexibility of being mobile!), the Macbook works wonderfully. 

2. adobe creative suite

This is the real deal stuff, my friends. If you're looking to be a designer, this is where you start. This is the software that makes designing logos and websites, editing photos, and touching up my hand-lettering a breeze. I used to work primarily in Illustrator, but now I use Illustrator and Photoshop about 50/50. A really cool feature is that  you can subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud – making access the latest versions of the suite easy to download. It even gives you a notification when a new version is out! (Looking to make your photos super gorgeous? Use Lightroom. It'll be your best friend.)

3. inspiration

I've always been a visual learner, so having imagery to reference on a project with is so important. It also helps me and my clients to make sure we're visually on the same page before I ever get started designing for them. At the start of a project, I'll go to Pinterest and create a quick inspiration board based on the mood the client is looking for. I look for imagery that is similar in color, style, and emotion to what I'm wanting to create – then pull it into Illustrator. I put a few strong images together into a quick grid template, and save them all as one image. Then I keep it up on my screen while I'm designing and reference it while I'm making decisions during the project. I even do this for personal projects! 

4. spotify

The best way for me to stay focused? Headphones and good music (well, and some coffee helps, too). I've had a Spotify subscription for the past few years and it is one of the things in my budget that I've never second-guessed. I have playlists for all kinds of moods – even some for styles of certain projects! Music is such great soul fuel. 

5. trello

I am a chronic list-maker. I was introduced to Trello about a year ago and have never looked back. Trello connects between my desktop ( and an app on my phone, and it gives me a place to keep my lists organized. I make lists for different categories of my life, then within those lists, I make cards. For designing, I make a card for each individual project and label it by color to show me my priorities at a glance. I can also create checklists on each card, and I keep notes here of payments received and of specifics details clients want to include (or want to avoid). Then when it's done, I move the card to the "Done" list and clear that one out once a month. I also have a list titled "Blog Ideas" where I can easily add a new card each time an idea comes to mind, whether I'm out or at home. This is a treasure trove for me to look back at when I'm needing inspiration, and it's often where I begin planning out each month's content. 

6. prayer

Taking a break is just as important as getting good work done. Since I've started including prayer on my weekly to-do list, it's really helped remind me to step away from the computer (even if it's just mentally) during the day. Prayer is the true fuel for everything I do, but it's also the easiest thing to push to the back-burner. Lately, I have had to make it a discipline for me to remember how good it is for me. By giving specific categories of prayer specific days of the week, I am fighting the urge to make excuses and letting Jesus draw me to His feet. It's not always pretty, and I don't always check all of them off each week, but it's a way that encourages me to keep trying and to keep coming to Him in all things.

What are some things you just can't work without?