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The best design tool does not exi—

As a designer, you must understand what you are doing, rather than be too carried away learning how to master a design tool.

“Starting out” in design could be a nerve-wracking, confusing experience to many. I totally understand that the first phase after you’ve decided you wanna design is when you don’t know where to get started. As a result, a lot of aspiring designers dive into the world of design tools. That is the most readily-available and accessible resource to many. Also, I see a lot of trainers and coaches out there are providing tool operation training masquerading as a “design training”.

While it’s important to know how to use your tools, this often can become a suicidal move. It might just cripple you than making you move forward.

I am not a tool agnostic person. I have my own love stories with design tools. Also, I admit that I have been huge fan/early adopter of these modern design tools, be it Sketch or Figma. I was also the country ambassador of Sketch from 2017-2019 and hosted a bunch of Sketch Meetups in Kathmandu. But soon, I switched over to Figma because it made our workflow smoother and smarter: and also managing non-Mac designers in the team was easy. The swift move to Figma was give. However, if something new comes that promises workflow better than Figma, we may just switch.

Read Saroj’s experience on how Leapfrog moved to Figma.

So you see, tools are not really the deal-breakers. As a designer, you must first spend time to understand what you’re doing: the thing that you’re making, rather than be too carried away learning how to master a tool. I’ve seen and worked with people who know all the cool tricks, all the shortcuts, have mastered the art of managing component libraries, yet cannot produce one bit of coherent user experience. They have the all the button variants in the world, but their button still doesn’t have an understandable label. Therefore I say, learning how to use the tool is not important: but building your problem-solving skill is.

Any tool is a good tool

I spent some time last week trying to recreate a UI I had previously built in Figma. I chose Adobe XD, because this is one tool I have least comfortable using. The idea is to push myself. As I was done, the results were pretty good: I didn’t see a major offset from the overall structure of the Figma design. Then I decided to push it even a step forward — just to prove my point; and tried creating it again in Apple Keynote: a presentation app that is not optimized and customized for UI design. Yet, the results were not that bad! Thus, the point was made, it’s not the tool, but the content that you’re designing which is the most important.

As a designer, I really hope you’re able to make the distinction between problem solving and tool operation. A lot of the time, companies will hire you for the problems you can solve, or the value you can add. So please try building that skill instead of being a master of any tool.

So no design tool tutorials?

Umm, unfortunately no. I did earlier try to go that route by creating a Youtube video on Figma components and variants, but I quickly realized this is not something I want to do. There are a ton of videos out there from content creators who say it better than I do, do it better than I can do. I will continue to make more conceptual videos than making actual tool videos.

Also, as I have said and would like to iterate: tools for me are secondary.

If you liked this video, please do not forget to like the video and subscribe my YouTube channel. Also, please share your experience using a specific design tool in the comment.