Design Tools to Aid Your Creative Process

Trends We’re Following

Words by Ed Silva, Senior Graphic Designer
Published July 8, 2024
Last Updated July 9, 2024

No tool operates in a vacuum. Creativity, innovation, and effectiveness are the result of vision, strategy, and conceptual thinking. Design tools, while indispensable, are mere instruments that help skilled creatives express their visions.

Knowing how to leverage the right tools and technologies can significantly amplify your creativity and increase your efficiency. Here are some of our favorite tools we use at NJI to streamline and strengthen the design process. 

Static Tools

The Adobe Suite offers a plethora of apps to increase efficiency. Recent updates and AI features can help you test concepts and refine products more quickly. For example, Generative Fill in Photoshop and Illustrator lets you expand images with greater precision and add objects with the use of prompting. InDesign’s new Auto Style feature lets you easily select existing typography presets or create your own styles for titles, subtitles, and body copy, saving time when styling large text blocks. 

At NJI, we use these tools to expedite concept mockups and presentations for time-sensitive events. We use Generative Fill for rapid image treatment and Auto Style to efficiently test typography hierarchy during preliminary discovery stages. 

A woman with curly hair, wearing glasses and a black polo shirt, holds a diagnostic tool in a car manufacturing plant. The background features images of cars being assembled on a production line with a blue and yellow gradient overlay.
A woman with curly hair and glasses is wearing a black Hyundai polo shirt. She is operating handheld equipment in a technical setting with machinery around her. She appears to be focused and engaged in her task.

Our team used Generative Fill to generate part of the subject’s left arm after it was blocked in the original photo.

Staying current on Adobe’s updates and new features is a great way to save time on execution so you can focus on strategy.

Motion Tools

Once creators have refined the visuals, they often add movement to bring a project to life. There’s something magical about seeing your brand elements animated.

When transferring assets from Illustrator to After Effects, you normally need to save a layered Illustrator file and then import it into your After Effects canvas. However, a new plug-in, Overlord, lets you transfer assets with a single click—it’s sorcery. Overlord also speeds up animation by allowing you to make edits directly in your working files. 

Cinema 4D Lite, included with an Adobe subscription, is another underrated tool. With this, you can create 3D assets or use the C4D Renderer to move 2D objects in 3D. To access the tool, go to File > New > Maxon Cinema 4D File, and you’re ready to go. Just being aware of these tools can help you see new project possibilities. They also create a more seamless workflow to ensure a smooth, successful delivery of the final product.

Our team used Overlord to transfer these graphics from Illustrator to After Effects to be animated for the NBWA.

3D Tools

Creating comprehensive, 360-degree brands often involves exploring 3D design. Blender is free, open-source software that lets you create high-fidelity renders in 3D space. 

At NJI, we use Blender to create 3D mockups, turn existing brand assets into 3D formats, embed graphics in websites to enhance the user experience, and even create worlds for the metaverse.

Expand Your Design Arsenal

While tools alone don’t define a designer’s skill or creativity, they undoubtedly broaden the designer’s toolkit, providing access to a wider range of techniques, effects, and possibilities. These tools serve as extensions of your capabilities, enabling you to more effectively translate your ideas into concrete designs.

With a diverse array of tools at your disposal, you can explore various approaches, experiment with different styles, and ultimately enhance the depth and richness of your work. A designer’s talent and vision will always remain paramount, but incorporating new tools greatly amplifies your ability to execute ideas with precision and creativity.

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