The Must-Have List
It's essential for a designer to create a toolbox, or an arsenal, of tools that he/she uses to create various effects and techniques in a project. The amount of time it saves allows a designer to concentrate on the job at hand versus having to spend time creating the resources at the core of any given technique. A few years ago it was up to a designer to create his or her own design resources for each project that came along. Now'a days you can go online and purchase any kind of design resources you can imagine, and some that you would have never imagined. These resources are often times small and affordable and have little impact on the project budget. Let's take a look at some of the types of resources that are essential to building an ultimate designer's toolbox.
In my opinion fonts are at the core of every design. Fore the most part, we're only as good as our font collections. There are a ton of free fonts available on the web, and some are very good. Premium fonts tend to offer a bit more options and usability. I typically put fonts into two categories: body fonts and title fonts. Body fonts would be fonts that I would use in the body of an editorial piece or a webpage. These are typically very readable classic style serifs and san serifs. Title fonts are the attention getters and are usually a bit more fun to use. They're sometimes ornate, hand drawn or very graphical.
Here are some great fonts to put into your toolbox:
Vector graphics are the most versatile format to have your toolbox. Vectors are completely scalable and editable. Familiarizing yourself with a vector graphics program like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape is a skill that every designer should possess. When it comes to vector graphics for your toolbox, it might depend on what type of projects you typically take on. But some basics may include things like ornate patterns, badges and logos, hand drawn items and maybe a few vintage elements.
Here are some good recommendations for your vector collection:
Brushes and Textures are important for adding a custom look to Photoshop creations. These types of resources enable you to give a design a real-world look. Basically transforming perfect pixels into something that is worn, painted, distressed or made by hand. Given the right touch, textures and brushes can give a design a warmer more inviting feel. If overused they will serve as not much more than a distraction to the viewer, so having the right items in your toolbox is essential.
Here are some great packs that I would recommend:
Mock up files are important to have in your toolbox as they help you to display your finished work in a real world setting. Having your designs on actual t-shirts, posters, books and screens in your portfolio helps make your work appear more finished and in use. Displaying your work as a mockup also helps a client visualize how the finished piece will look. Mockup files can be very basic and utilitarian, or they can be very creative and specific to a certain style. Either way, having a good selection of mockups in your arsenal is a must.
Here are a few examples of mockup files:
Saving time as a web designer is huge. It's all about maximizing your development efforts and staying on budget. Utilizing preexisting resources is an easy way to make that happen. Everything from icons, UI elements, CSS code and plugins can cut time. These items are out there and available for making your life easier.
Here's a look at a few sets that are perfect for your toolbox: