Trade secrets

Every designer – no matter how creative or multi-talented – comes to depend on one or two basic items at some time during their careers. Suzanne Hinchliffe asks some top names about their must-have tools of the trade – that special something they can’t do without

Designers are often the first to adopt the latest gadget – the Apple iPad being the current flavour of the month. But tools that have been around for centuries still endure – the laptop certainly didn’t wipe out the paper notebook, and the Nasa space pen and swanky software have failed to render the humble pencil obsolete. But what tools can designers really not work without? Here, four share their must-have list.

_The typographer
_Bruno Maag, Managing director, Dalton Maag

I think 1984 was one of the best years in human history when the Apple Mac was introduced, second only to Johannes Gutenberg’s moveable type invention. My laptop lets me do all sorts of things, from designing type to creating layouts, but most of all it has helped me abandon my atrocious handwriting. However, my laptop has also created a dependence. Every time I turn on the computer, the electricity meter starts ticking, which in turn necessitates that I am being productive and profitable – liberation has come at a price. I can’t carry my laptop in my pocket, either. What I do carry around all the time is a red pen. Not just any pen. It has to be a fine, hard-pointed red pen. It lets me mark up drawings, sketch on restaurant tables to make a point and do stuff that no other tool can do.

Can’t work without/ Red pen

_The interaction designer
_Jason Bruges, Founder, Jason Bruges Studio

The tool I couldn’t do without on a day-to-day basis, travelling from continent to continent, 24 hours a day, is my microvault USB memory stick. If my laptop or iPhone (the two other tools I can’t do without) run out of power, the microvault acts as my memory and my brain which I can upload from – whether my thoughts or a work presentation – on to someone else’s machine. It works as a calling card, a portfolio, a way of working when there is no wifi or local area network, so it is a back-up method and a way of leaving information with a client, collaborator, customer or commissioner. As something I can’t work without, weirdly it is something I can leave with another person quite easily. It is also small enough to fit into my wallet and attractive to look at, with its see-through casing and exposed innards.

Can’t work without/ USB memory stick

_The creative director
_Dan Moore, Partner/creative director, Studio Output

As my career and business grows, I find myself doing more thinking, planning, organising and delegating than hands-on designing. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it’s bad, but the main thing is that I need to be near a thought at all times. Ages ago I transferred from the trusty A5 Pukka Pad to an altogether more elegant solution, the Moleskine Pocket notebook. After flirting with the Reporter flip book (police notebook style – not a good look in meetings, tends to unsettle people) and then the Squared book (great for logo sketches but the grid width isn’t great for my tiny writing), I finally settled on the plain notebook. I filled a good few of these before my wife bought me a softback version for Christmas. Being deeply set in my ways by this time, I was anxious about making the change, but have to admit it has become ’the one’. The trusty black book is always in a coat pocket wherever I go. It now gives me peace of mind, because I often have the most inspiring thoughts at the most unworklike times.

Can’t work without: Moleskine notebook

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  • Kerry-Anne Minns November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Great feature! Its interesting to read what everyone else has.

    Now I think about it…my notebook goes everywhere with me just encase I have an idea, I flip flop between lined and plain paper…depending on the type of work I’m doing.

    Can’t work without: My notebook


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