The Tools of the Graphics Design Trade, and Why Some Things Never Change

The more things change, the more they stay the same–or so it seems, at least in the graphics design trade. I know. That seems like a strange observation in a field where designers are replacing their pencils for styli. It is true that the world of graphics design is radically different on a superficial level. But once you scratch beneath the surface, you will find the real tools of the trade to be remarkably unchanged:


Trade a pencil for a stylus, and you are still holding a long, narrow, likely cylindrical tool for drawing sketches on some type of pad. Whether on a paper pad or an iPad, it is still a pad that holds your graphical ideas. It hardly matters if the medium is graphite and trees, or glass and silicon.
What has changed are the number and types of threats about which a designer has to worry. Before, the biggest threat was that someone may try to steel your work. Now, the bad guys can use your work to steel information from other people.

Since 2002, we’ve known that common image files could be used as viruses and malware. Today, the methods are even more sophisticated. While many designers use a Mac, which is generally free of viruses, some types of threats can still get through. That is why antivirus software for Mac devices is becoming more and more important, as it protects users during online browsing sessions and even safeguards social media accounts.

You still could use help:

  • Blocking dangerous websites
  • Protecting your privacy on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
  • Ensuring safe surfing for the whole family

Macs and iDevices make great tools for designers, but still need to be used with security in mind. The most insecure component of any system is always the user.


Every designer knows about Photoshop, even if they don’t personally like it. Like Excel for office workers, almost every designer has to use it in some capacity, even if they do not use the advanced features. Photoshop is a staple of the design world.

This expensive and intimidating piece of software, among other things, lets artists alter images, even to the point of removing parts of an image from its setting for use in an different context. Love it or hate it, due to its ubiquity in the design world, you kind of have to have a passing familiarity with it.
But photoshopping (in the generic sense) is not new. It is as old a scissors. Ever sense we have been able to capture images, we have had the ability to manipulate them.

Since long before computers, when it came to pictures, seeing was not believing. Our tools may be more advanced. We can definitely create better illusions, and better cover our tracks after doing so. But enhancing images to make the bold and beautiful even bolder and more beautiful is as old as film. Maybe older.

A Designer’s Eye

At the end of the day, none of the high-tech tools and gadgets mean a thing if you do not have a designer’s eye. Style is hard to define. Good taste is even harder. Yet there are those who have the eye for it, and those who don’t. If you don’t, none of the photoshop running iPads will turn you into a great graphics designer.

Just consider the world of logos. Some, like the golden arches of McDonalds, are instant classics. A good designer recognizes it for the graphical goldmine that it is, and has always been. PayPal as a company, seems to be taking a more hit-or-miss approach to design.

iPads, Surfaces, and Cintiqs are all fine devices. Just remember, it is not the device being used that matters, but the designer that’s using it.

These articles are formulated deep within the Creativeoverflow compound. Picked by hand and posted by the team over at HQ. They usually comprise of new releases, news, opinions, questions, giveaways, freebies and more.