The 'Tools' of The Design Trade
A few years ago I met one of the designers on the team that developed the first release of the Photoshop/Illustrator toolset for Adobe. He was lamenting the fact that no one used a T-Square anymore. It seemed an odd refrain for one of the guys who had a hand in revolutionizing our industry.
But, each time we create a tool, we doom a generation behind us to forget the shoulders on which they stand. A real master-practitioner knows not just the lineage of designers who came before them, but the tools and how they have evolved.
Even in our classes, we sometimes have to force ourselves to remember to sketch by hand as a first step in the design process. There's something beautifully real about drawing something, 'arguing' with your hand when it doesn't come out the way you wanted it, sharing that picture with colleagues and letting someone else (*gasp!*) draw on your drawing...
It's beautiful and real. So we have to take our tools with a bit of caution. The novice designer will pick up a new tool and become fascinated by it as much as (or sometimes more-so than) the thing she's making. The more experienced designer will sometimes forget the tool exists as it becomes an extension of herself. And, the most advanced will bend or break a tool to perform to her will in ways never intended by the original tool maker.
Those moments are magic... and often harbingers of some new tool on the horizon.
Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired Magazine, has been thinking about tools for more years than I've been using them. Born of the Whole Earth Catalog from the 60's, his latest book called Cool Tools is a celebration of every tool you can imagine. A real geek's geek-guide to tools. And it's not wrenches and table saws alone. It's startups and heaters and campaign management and more. A crazy-wonderful array of tools that will get you thinking about tools in general and about how you 'make' when you're interacting with them.