Yesterday, I wrote about how good logos do not make more money. The essential premise was that a good logo is not meant to earn people more money, but counters the cost of having a bad logo. Such as having to reprint collateral when a good logo finally emerges, losing equity in an image that changed, negative impressions, or having to repurpose/reconstruct the logo for various applications (social icons, favicons, app icons, small scale, etc.).
It got me thinking though, isn't all design about mitigating risk or cutting cost? Some would argue that design can earn more money, like going through a rebrand to appeal to a more affluent market, designing an ad meant to drive revenue, or building a streamlined website to increase conversion. But, I'm not convinced this means design's core function is to earn more money.
When you're rebranding to appear to a more affluent market, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of appearing cheap or scammy.
When designing an ad to increase revenue, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of being off brand or having a Peleton faux pas.
When you're building a streamlined website, what you're really doing is mitigating the risk of user confusion and discomfort.
Focusing on how you can make more money is great, but that doesn't seem to be design's core capacity. Design is meant to mitigate risk.
The risk of appearing unprofessional.
The risk of having a rigid, difficult identity system.
The risk of looking dysfunctional.
The risk of making a user's experience negative.
Whatever it may be, good design is about mitigating risk.
It's rare that I would ever post something along these lines, but I've gotten asked about the tools I'm using as a one-man show to make my life easier. Without further adieu, here are my favorite seven.
G Suite by Google
A client of mine recently indicated that he had purchased G Suite but was not using it to its fullest potential. Since it's the base layer for all of my administrative and business responsibilities, it seemed like a great place to start. The core features that every startup should take advantage of are Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. By getting your whole team on these, the organizational integrity of your startup will get better. No more housing files on individual hard drives or trying to keep up with each other's schedules. It's all put right into a shared system. Apart from admin uses, services like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides are suitable replacements for Microsoft Office. Think about all the burritos you could buy with an additional $7 per employee a month. That's a lot of frijoles.
As for tracking projects, posting work for clients, and documenting approval, Notion has been a gem. For starters, it's free software that combines the best elements of Trello, Evernote, and Google Docs into one, malleable software. Granted, the drawback is that there is a learning curve to really making this software work its magic for your team. Anyone working on product design, or long-term internal projects would get a kick out of Notion's visual layout for tracking progress.
Sometimes typing out a message just ain't enough and your collaborators need to hear your voice. What Loom allows me to do is send videos to clients to explain my thinking and giving in-depth walkthroughs of a particular project element. It's especially helpful when going over designs, website projects, and giving feedback on other items. The kicker is that it's free and since all of the videos are distributed via URL, it makes for an easy send on any communication or project management platform.
You've got a lot of important shit to do and not a lot of time to do it. Any chance you get to automate a routine process is a chance to get back something invaluable: time. Because of Zapier's no-code principles, it allows users to connect independent web-apps based on a series of "if this, then that" operations. Whether you are looking to do simple things like automatically respond to a website form submission, or doing more complex stuff like webhooks, Zapier is the jam.
Good stock images are hard to come by, and it's even harder to find free images. Unspalsh has been a gem for finding high-resolution images to use on websites, within marketing collateral, or any other task where a good quality image is needed. There is a fault, in that since the images are free, it's easy for others to use the same ones. However, I've found that the workaround with this is to get creative and not be so literal with the images you're using. For example, if you're talking about a business crisis, don't use an image of a business person cringing at their desk. Find a picture of something on fire, or an earthquake to connote the idea of frantic chaos.
Going back and forth trying to figure out a time to meet up with someone is a pain in the ass. Use Calendly instead.
The no-code era is upon us. It's no longer necessary to bring in developers to build out custom websites or online applications. I have little to no code writing expertise, but I can build websites that include upvote features, sell tickets to events, and make it possible for marketing teams to work efficiently within a well-designed website. All without writing code. From a business perspective, this cuts out major bottlenecks like passing designs back and forth between a designer and a developer. Give developers the freedom they need to do heavy lifting on your startup team, let designers make the damn thing beautiful, and allow your marketing team to fire off content without worrying about how it will affect the site.
Links to each of the tools below:
When you run your own company, the outside world ends up demanding a lot from you. Certainly in time and more importantly in creative energy. Because most startup founders are constantly seeking ways to grow their company, spending time on to focus and unleash their own creativity seems selfish.
"There are so many things I have to get done today, how can I possibly afford to indulge my own creativity?"
Because if you don't, you will lose the spark that had you create something in the first place. That energy from within that granted you the courage to go out and make something new. The minute that inbox is opened or your messages are checked, creativity goes out the window and it will not come back.
When you get up in the morning do something creative for yourself. Write, draw, play music, anything to use that creative resource before it is thrown to the wolves that would seek its end.
That wave of creativity is for you and you alone. No one else can use it the way you can, nor should they be granted access to abuse it. How can we even think to let such divine potential slip away?
Guard your creativity with your life and do not let the world take it from you, they can have what is left.