Our Top Five Design Tools for 2021

The year is well underway and as the Tenacity Works team is working on a number of great design projects, we thought this was the perfect time to share our current top five tools.

1. Figma

Looking back at our old interface and product design workflow and the multitude of tools we relied on to get things done, it seems crazy how complicated our lives were before we embraced Figma. This amazing piece of software along with its massive community has quite literally revolutionized how we work as a studio. From collaboration to developer hand-offs and from design systems to component variants, we have fundamentally embraced Figma and simply couldn’t function without it.

Our digital design work so far this year has been exceptionally varied, from a massive site rebuild for an industrial multinational to UX work for US-based mixed reality startup. No matter what we throw at it, Figma always comes up with the goods and has become an indispensable part of the way we work.

If you are just getting started, Figma has its own in-depth YouTube channel with excellent tutorial videos that run through a wide range of topics. Pablo Stanley’s Figma Crash Course also covers the basics well. And for anything else you may be struggling with, there are always the Figma Forums.

2. Pika

We have been working closely with our friends at LittleForest on a couple of interesting Web Accessibility projects and were delighted when we discovered this clever little app. Pika is a free, open-source Mac OS utility that runs in the menu bar.

If you need to check a colour combination anywhere on your screen for foreground and background WCAG contrast compliance, simply fire up Pika. This straightforward app features two boxes with colour pickers in each, capture the colours you want to check and Pika will instantly let you know their AA, AA+, AAA and AAA+ compliance status.

3. Adobe Illustrator

Even though this grand old dame of the design universe is turning 34 this year, she is still one of our standard goto tools. Adobe’s oldest product is still the undisputed master of vector design and there isn’t a single brand or logo design project that comes out of our studio that hasn’t been entirely created within Illustrator.

Unlike Photoshop, which Adobe has bloated with ridiculous features to the point where it is now practically unusable, Illustrator has been kept sleek and focussed. We do sporadically dabble with alternatives (usually when the annual renewal fee is imminent) but always end up back where we started.

An excellent bonus that helps makes Adobe’s huge annual fees slightly more bearable is the inclusion of Adobe Fonts. If you haven’t already done so, check out the thousands of free high-end fonts available as part of your Creative Cloud license.

4. Squoosh

As bandwidth speed and screen resolution sizes continue to race upwards, the need for larger and larger images on the web increases. What would have been five or ten-megabyte images are now, thanks to Squoosh, completely manageable.

This clever, browser-based tool from Google allows you to upload images in most formats and outputs them as infinitely smaller files. You can even reduce the palette or pixel size of your shrunk files before you export them as MozJPG, OxiPNG or WebP.

5. Gravity Sketch

Because of the mixed reality UX work we have been doing recently, the need to visualise certain concepts within 3D space has a become a regular requirement. The awesome 3D design tool Gravity Sketch, has become an important part of our XR UX workflow. 

Sketching and experiencing 3D environments within VR and then collaborating in real-time is truly mindblowing. This feels like the future of design!

This amazing piece of software is now free on Oculus Rift Store

Logitech MX Vertical

This sixth bonus recommendation is a straightforward shout out. Towards the end of last year, I started suffering from crippling Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my right hand. Given that my job involves sitting in front of a computer all day, I am only surprised it took this long!

I did some research and ordered myself the Logitech MX Vertical mouse and it completely changed my life! Seriously, if you are struggling with any form of RSI, get this mouse.

Conclusion

We hope the items on this list will be as helpful for you as they have been for us! If you have any questions about any of the tools mentioned in this article or how we use them, please get in touch.

With many years of experience working on high-level digital design projects for clients all over the world, Tenacity Works is perfectly placed to help you create or refine your digital product or service.

Photo by Mimi Garcia on Unsplash.

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