The 10 best new graphic design tools for October

Level up with Michael Johnson’s ultimate guide for creating a successful brand identity, plus all the best new brushes and textures for designers.

This month’s round-up of the best new graphic design tools is lucrative, to say the least. From a limited-time 20 per cent discount on Affinity Designer to the rare opportunity to add some of Israeli designer Moshik Nadav’s incredible luxury typefaces to your font library without breaking the bank (one of which, Paris, graces the front of this month’s Vogue), it looks like October is a great time to invest in your creative resources. 

Also this month, Michael Johnson’s new resource, Branding in Five and a Half Steps, is an essential new addition for the studio bookshelf, and we’ve got a host of brilliant new brushes, textures and plug-ins to help speed up your workflow.

Read on for this month’s hand-picked collection of the best new tools for graphic designers…

01. Branding in Five and a Half Steps

Leading graphic designer Michael Johnson, founder of johnson banks, has released a new book that aims to provide the ultimate step-by-step visual guide to creating a successful brand identity. Branding in Five and a Half Steps identifies the five key steps in the process – investigation, strategy and narrative, design, implementation and engagement – while acknowledging the non-linear nature of branding with a crucial half step, which marks the fluid relationship between strategy and design.

A no-nonsense, six-question model structures the first half of the book; the second analyses the design process, using over 1,000 contemporary brand identities from around the world. All in all, Branding in Five and a Half Step is an essential read for anyone in the design industry, and a particularly valuable resource for students and new designers.

02. Diet Vector Textures Bundle

We've all been there. You're working on an important illustration, try to add a texture and suddenly it appears – the spinning rainbow wheel of doom. Just like that, your artwork is lost forever.

RetroSupply’s super-lightweight Diet Vector Textures bundle changes all that. Containing over 100 high-resolution TIFF files that won’t crash Illustrator, the $39 bundle includes four diverse sets of handmade textures that can easily resized, adjusted or stacked for unique effects, and, importantly, won’t bloat your software.

03. Affinity Designer update - and 20% off

This month, award-winning professional graphic design app Affinity Designer announced its latest update with a limited-time 20 per cent discount on the usual, one-off price of $49.99 / £39.99 / 49.99€ (upgrading is free for existing owners) – and revealed a free Grade UI web design kit worth $58 to all Affinity Designer owners too.

As we reported earlier this month, version 1.5 packs some powerful new features in its latest update, including MacOS Sierra optimisation, symbols, constraints, asset management, text styles, an improved colour picker tool and more.

04. Moshik Nadav fonts package

For a limited time only, Moshik Nadav is offering a selection of font packages starting from $150. (If you’re a fan of the Israeli type designer, you’ll know this is a huge discount – the luxury Lingerie typeface alone is on offer for $750.)

Depending on which bundle you pick, you’ll get the regular or bold style of Lingerie, Paris (which features on Vogue’s special November issue) and Paris Pro; while larger, more expensive packages include up to 14 styles. This is a fantastic opportunity to add some stunning, fashion-forward faces to your font collection, so don’t miss out.

05. Layerbot: Photoshop CC Extension

Photoshop CC’s Place Linked Files function lets you update all modified files within an opened file - but not linked files, or linked files within those linked files. Addressing this issue is Layerbot ($12), a Photoshop plugin that updates all linked and smart objects in a project with a single click, even if the linked file isn’t open in Photoshop or someone else has edited the file. 

Layerbot can update locked elements – leaving them locked for next time you open the file – and saves them neatly, with group layers and linked files collapsed. Pretty handy.

06. The Unconventional Tarot Brush Pack

Spice up your Halloween designs with this scarily realistic, high-quality pack of Tarot-inspired textures for Photoshop. For $39 (or $29, if you buy the pack before 31 October) you get 26 Photoshop Brush Presets (including tarot pens, blotty ink, cross hatchers, stipplers and more), 10 Photoshop Pencil Presets (including scratchy textures, blotters, calligraphy pencils) a reference sheet, two demo videos and easy installation instructions.

From angle-sensitive crosshatching to one-off goopy broken ink pen effects, this new set of Photoshop brushes will add depth, realism and personality to your designs. 

07. Asus VX279Q 27-inch Widescreen IPS Monitor

If you’re in the market for an affordable monitor, the 27-inch widescreen Asus VX279Q IPS monitor offers superb value for money with a great quality screen, rich colour, a 178° wide viewing angle and an understated, ultra-slim finish. The anti-reflective matte finish doesn't dull colours, while plenty of connectivity options ensure multi-device use. 

VESA mounts have been sacrificed to keep the screen thin and the menu buttons can be tricky to use, but overall the Asus VX279Q is a great value, low-budget monitor.

08. D&AD Design manual

D&AD’s 2016 annual is an inspiring, celebrated collection of the very best in design and advertising from across the globe. This year, however, it’s more than that. The annual has changed to a manual, and the inclusion of interactive exercises based on lessons from D&AD’s Professional Development Trainers shifts the emphasis firmly to education.

The D&AD Annual 2016 is also the organisation’s most sustainable yet, printed with vegetable-based ink, and boasting a weight loss of up to 32 per cent thanks to its recycled, wood-free paper and soft cover. It’s an instructive tool for prospective D&AD Pencil winners, and certainly worth a read.

09. Inky Blunders | Distressing Brushes

Add a distressed look to your work with this set of 54 Photoshop brushes, which, says designer Johnny Ropple, will add grit, grime and inky splatters to your work. Perfect for posters, the Inky Blunders pack costs $10.

10. Typo Circle exhibition

Non-profit typography organisation TypoCircle is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a new identity, publication and London-based exhibition looking back over its rich history in advertising, design and typography. 

As well as displaying original event posters and spreads from the organisation’s beautiful magazine, Circular (created by Pentagram partner Domenic Lippa since 1999), the exhibition will show spreads from the new publication, which has been designed by Studio Sutherl&, John Bateson and NB. 

The exhibition will be open for public viewing between 10am and 5pm, Thursday 20 to Sunday 23 October, at London’s Protein Gallery, Shoreditch. If you’re in the area, make sure you stop in.


Julia Sagar is a freelance journalist and editor. Formerly a commissioning editor for Creative Bloq, Computer Arts, net, Imagine FX and 3D World magazines, she’s been writing about art and design for 10 years.