Becoming a Victim of the Tools You Use

A danger I am constantly battling is becoming too tied to my tools. By tools, I mean the things I use to get work done. It could be Photoshop, CSS, a CMS, pen, paper, anything I use to do my job. Why is this so dangerous? Aren’t tools there to make our lives easier? Well, they are, but we often lock in out toolset too early on projects and it ends up hurting our product in the long run. How so?

It inverts your thinking.

A danger I am constantly battling is becoming too tied to my tools. By tools, I mean the things I use to get work done. It could be Photoshop, CSS, a CMS, pen, paper, anything I use to do my job. Why is this so dangerous? Aren’t tools there to make our lives easier? Well, they are, but we often lock in out toolset too early on projects and it ends up hurting our product in the long run. How so?

It inverts your thinking.

You go from trying to find the solution that best meets your problem to finding how to make your problem fit into your tools. We’ve all done this at some point or another. We were so tied to, and comfortable with, doing something a certain way that we forgot to step back and make sure we were focusing on the real problem.

Does it make sense to build a comp for this design or would it be more efficient to just build it out in HTML/CSS? Is this CMS really the best for this client or are we just using it because “that’s what we’ve always used”? If you don’t ever find yourself asking these questions, you may be a slave to your own tools.

It hinders your creativity.

By boxing yourself in so early to a set of tools, you may be blocking yourself from finding a truly groundbreaking solution. In the “design world” I think this means that we need to step away from the computer much more than we’re probably comfortable with.
Use your sketchbook or whiteboard to brainstorm out ideas instead of fiddling around in photoshop, draw knowledge from other topics you’re familiar with, or just talk out the problem with a co-worker who you don’t normally work with in that part of the process. I’ve found these can all help in finding new solutions to common problems.

It stunts your growth.

If you’re so engrossed and satisfied with the tools you already use, when will you take opportunities to explore new ones? Obviously we use tools we love for a reason. They’re really good at doing what we need them to do. Photoshop, although not originally built for doing website compositions, functions relatively well for producing them.

However, in an industry such as ours, everything is in what seems like a constant state of change. Look at responsive web design. When creating the visual design we’d normally turn to Photoshop, but since multiple designs at multiple breakpoints are the usual deliverables when designing responsively, using a tool like Photoshop that produces static, flat, fixed comps may not be best for creating something that needs to be much more fluid. Don’t be afraid to try new methods or new tools. By not trying new tools and methods you risk stagnation in an industry that’s not always going to wait up for you.

Conclusion

Don’t become a victim of the tools you use. Focus on the real problem at hand and constantly evaluate the tools you use while keeping aware of new ones.

Dave Ruse