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Tools of the Trade

Welcome back to the week; don’t you love how much faster a week flies by when you’ve had a holiday?

I love reading other bloggers’ posts about the business of blogging, as it were. Sometimes you might discover a different or better way of doing things yourself.  I frequently get asked what programs or apps I use on a daily basis, so I thought I’d do a little round-up here.

A little backstory first.  I’ve been interested in design since high school. I remember sitting at home playing around with page layouts in Word (cringe) and finding it all very fun and exciting to manipulate images and text. Then my freshman year at Pepperdine, I took a class that kinda ended up changing my career course – and not to sound dramatic, but my life – web design as a group process. In retrospect I wasn’t creating anything life-changing as far as design goes. BUT –  my amazing professor Chris Stivers was inspiring us to think about how things are designed and the best way to approach it. Form and function stuff. In addition, we were reading books like The Design of Everyday Things and I found myself thinking, “YES! I love this!”  In the evenings, I was designing my own website and blogging – although that’s not what anybody was calling it then – so my family back in Oklahoma could see what my life was like in California.

When I transferred back to OU, I knew that I wanted to get into the visual communications program – fancy speak for graphic design. Again, my parents were nervous; after all, I’d pulled a two-week stunt on them at Pepperdine as a theatre major that ended quite badly with me on a stage forgetting my lines in front of a bunch of clearly-more-accomplished wannabe actor kids. Not to mention the miserable Evita audition as well. Clearly theatre was not going to be for me! But I knew that viscomm was going to be for me, despite the fact that I nearly turned and walked out of the art school that first day. I felt like such a fake! I hadn’t even had a legitimate art class since, oh, 6th grade? Who was I to be pursuing this? Again, I felt like that panicked feeling like I was standing back on the stage at Pepperdine in front of all those acting students.  But I stuck to it – I worked hard to get in that program and  it fit me perfectly. Those were some of the happiest years I had experienced academically; I was cheerfully ensconced with an amazing group of like-minded designers (including Kathleen!).

Fast forward to now. I’ve been freelancing for almost 8 years and blogging for over 4. Which in blogosphere time is like 98 years old.

So let’s talk a little bit about what gets me through my day.

The two programs I use on a daily basis are Adobe’s Illustrator & Photoshop. These are the most-reached-for tools, along with InDesign to any graphic designer. Illustrator allows me to play with text and shapes. Photoshop helps me manipulate images. In addition, I also love Apple’s Aperture for large batches of photo manipulation. Similar to iPhoto, but heftier in what it can do, it helps me keep all my images organized and easily accessible. But what if your’e a blogger and you can’t afford Illustrator or don’t want to mess with learning it? I love Skitch for when I need to drop type onto an image quickly and easily. Plus it uploads to the Skitch site and can be as private as you need it to be – something that Pinterest needs desperately.

Of course, I always have a notebook and a large stash of pencils and pens. Frankly, you can’t ever beat pencil on paper; no computer can replicate that experience. The greatest thing any designer can do for themselves is learn how to sketch. Learning how to sketch is less about skill and more about the discipline. Along those lines, I use Pinterest to organize inspiration and ideas. Creating a mood board is especially important in the overall creative process; it can help you understand patterns of what you’re inspired by.  As a blogger, I also like to use Pinterest to connect with other creatives and showcase my own products. Recently I’ve been introduced to Pinerly, a marketing app specifically for small businesses or individuals to help them better promote their items on what is quickly becoming the biggest traffic source for many businesses.

I’m also a huge fan of Evernote. I have a notebook for work-related things, as well as a personal notebook for passwords and the like, and another for recipes. These items are accessible at any time from any device. In addition, Dropbox helps me keep files accessible and safe from the inevitable laptop meltdown (those never occur at a good time!). It’s also particularly helpful when I need to share files with clients.  For list-making, Wunderlist keeps me on top of groceries, Etsy tasks, and ideas for patterns – also accessible from any of my devices. I like that I can create multiple types of lists and even share them if need be.

I’m curious to know — what are your tools of the trade? Any programs or apps you love to keep you on top of things?