Certain tools for designers are likely to make the default shopping list for any agency or freelancer. These include essential hardware, creative software (don't miss our picks of the best free graphic design software (opens in new tab) and the best 3D modelling software (opens in new tab)), project management tools and more. There are also some great tools for working remotely as a freelancer, as well as some innovative gadgets for a smarter studio.
Read on to discover four new tools for 2018 that you never knew you needed, but could make you rethink how you work...
01. Stitch (opens in new tab)
Freelance collaborators are becoming increasing essential to supplement in-house staff on projects, but there are very few tools to help agencies manage that shift in working processes. Step up Stitch (opens in new tab), a new tool from the makers of Easle.
Stitch is designed to help agencies and production companies manage their creative networks. If, like most agencies, you currently rely on an unwieldy spreadsheet, Stitch will convert it into a living 'little black book' that automatically pulls in up-to-date examples of work from your contacts' portfolio sites and social channels.
The result is a visual database of all your contacts, which you can search by keyword, status, location and price range to make collaboration a breeze. It's also possible to create easily shareable shortlists of potential talent for the team, the client, or other collaborators, as well as attaching internal notes, NDAs or contracts. It'll even help keep you on the right side of GDPR regulations.
Stitch is definitely a tool you never knew you needed, but could have a real impact on many agencies' workflows. It's a new launch so will take time to build a critical mass, but you can sign up for a free trial to test it out.
02. ColorSpark (opens in new tab)
From an ambitious tool that streamlines your entire workflow, to an incredibly basic one that relies, rather quirkily, on randomness and serendipity.
Created by Luke Johnson, a digital information design student at Winthrop University, ColorSpark (opens in new tab) is a simple but effective way of finding a unique colour or gradient to use in your next design or illustration project. Just hit the 'generate' button for a new Hex code, displayed in the swatch above.
Ok, so it's a bit of fun, and a stretch to say you need this tool as such – but when you're struggling for colour-based inspiration, ColorSpark could surprise you by striking you with a beautiful hue out of nowhere.
03. Wild Cards (opens in new tab)
The Clearing's ongoing Wild Cards (opens in new tab) project challenges how brands, and agencies, think about themselves – and as such, is a fascinating and innovative way to get the core of the creative process in a sharply focused, honest way.
Working with The School of Life, the London-based branding consultancy developed 100 provocative questions, designed to help explore a brand from new perspectives. Packaged in a stylish collectable box, the Wild Cards are a genuinely useful tool to help galvanise the creative process.
The agency has since gone on to organise a series of panel-based events with big-name brands, structured around some of the questions, to get to the heart of how they tick – at which boxes of the cards are given to attendees.
Also launching in August 2018 is a mobile-optimised microsite, through which you can submit your own answer to one of the probing questions, and read others' submissions. The best answer each month will win a box of the cards.
04. Vectary (opens in new tab)
Most 3D design tools are prohibitively expensive, time-consuming to learn, or both. Online collaborative design tool Vectary (opens in new tab) was created to make 3D as accessible, intuitive and fun as possible.
Pitched as 'like Google Docs for 3D design', Vectary 2.0 launched in June 2018 with a view to changing how design teams create 3D content for web, AR or VR. Now, remote teams can create and collaborate seamlessly in a shared online space: each 3D scene can be edited, or commented on, by multiple users in real time.
Vectary comes with a 3D toolset with built-in HD rendering, incorporating sliders and modelling tools within the browser, as well as a library of 3D objects for beginners to drag and drop into place. The results are saved to the cloud for easy sharing. Paid plans start at $19 a month, although many tools are available on the Free plan.