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Our tools shape our craft
This blog was originally posted to Medium.com on March 28, 2018.
Tools shape the outcomes of our craft and our process. These tools come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. For a photographer, her tool is a camera, perhaps some film, photo editing, or a dark room. Chefs sharpen their knives, clean their workspaces, and skillfully pick out the food they will cook. UX design is — or should be — similar in our care for our tools and our craft.
Eight years ago, I created my first wireframe using Balsamiq. The ready-made patterns made it easy for me to just drag and drop into my file. I didn’t have to know what patterns existed or how they were used. I would just grab something that may work and copy it over to my file. The problem with using Balsamiq for wireframing was I didn’t need to think critically. I didn’t have to analyze when and why I would use one component over another. The default calendar component was good enough for picking a date. An out-of-the-box approach for a calendar component wasn’t something I even thought to do. Although the tool would allow me if I had wanted, I didn’t have to think beyond what Balsamiq offered me.
Fast forward to 2017; design tools look a lot different. Sketch and Axure have become the predominant tools of our craft. Documentation, presentations, and prototyping are still tools being fought for, though some would say Invision is winning this battle. Using Sketch has greatly freed my creative expression and design thinking. With only a rectangle and text, nearly anything is possible. New interaction patterns can be born out of a desire to make digital spaces better.
I have great pride in my design craftsmanship. This means choosing my tools are essential to the quality of my craft. Tools include:
1. Computer equipment like a mouse, keyboard, laptop, monitor, desk.
2. Sketching tools like markers, pencils, a sketch notebook, stickies, and so forth.
3. Software like Sketch, Flinto, Keynote, InDesign, and Evernote.
Choosing my tools includes re-evaluating when it’s time to pick up a new tool or process. In early 2014, I created all design mocks in Photoshop. Photoshop supports designing detailed interfaces but limited my ability to see multiple iterations side by side and move quickly through large design projects. So in April 2014, I picked up Sketch and have been using it ever since. Three months later, some colleagues and I presented Sketch to our Amazon design community. Many of them were still using Axure or Photoshop for UX. Since then, most of our Amazon teams use Sketch as the standard tool. But I never want to be blinded from picking up a new tool that will improve my craft.
Your tools directly influence the way you work. They can shape the perspective you see your work or can limit your need for creative thinking. Are you aware of the tools you are using and how they shape your work? As a short exercise, I suggest doing a quick inventory of what tools exist within your craft. Then, consider how those tools may be shaping the way you work.
Thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you and your history of choosing the tools you use. What tools shape your craft?