Adrian Franks is a design director and creative strategist at IBM, where he worked to design and develop the Creative Toolbox, helping designers and product managers familiarize themselves with the various tools available to prototype and create new products.
Adrian spent about 20 years as a creative professional, and 15 years in the digital space. He was the first in the nation to be awarded the Graphic Design Journeyman and has worked on various Fortune 500 and 100 brands and companies.
What is design?
Adrian explains that IBM has recently taken the initiative to expand their creative team, because the world is heading more and more towards digital experiences. He defines design as the art & practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. He quotes Thomas J. Watson, saying that “good design is good business.” This is still very true today. Design solves problems; if something is designed very well at the start, it won’t require redesigning in the future, and therefore won’t lead to resources being wasted.
Adrian states that the overall notion of design thinking is to understand and have deep empathy for the end user, which leads to powerful outcomes. When designers develop that empathy, they typically start to explore ideas, then prototype those ideas, and finally reevaluate whether or not the ideas actually work for their end users.
How do you use Design Tools?
Throughout time, we have used many different tools. There have been PDAs, The Walkman, beepers, and Polaroids. Eventually, though, all of these tools were replaced by the smartphone because it was connected to not only the internet, but to a network of people. In design, tools like X-ACTO blades and squares were replaced by computer programs like Illustrator and Sketch, which are also connected to a network of people.
The older tools were used to create things like print ads and magazines. The new tools, however, are being used to create products like software and apps. The market is always evolving, so it is important for our tools to be evolving as well.
Some Important tools
- Paper – Adrian points out that, even though paper has been around for over a thousand years, it is still an easy and fast way to document your thoughts and ideas. Paper is also the easiest and quickest way to share an idea with others in the room.
- Pop – Pop is a great cross-platform program to use when you want to transfer sketches from paper to a device, making those sketches easily shareable over distances.
- Sketch with InVision – Adrian prefers to use Sketch over other programs like Illustrator because you can easily and quickly prototype without having to export to another program. Sketch also allows for easy collaboration.
- Photoshop and Liveshare – Photoshop has many plugins to easily turn designs into online prototypes. They also have a plugin that allows the designer to mirror screens onto mobile devices.
- Pixate – Pixate, while not widely used, can be a great and free way to animate your designs.
- Adobe XD – Adobe XD (Experience Design) lets you take rough ideas, do advanced prototyping, and share them. It also operates well with the Creative Cloud if you have an Adobe subscription.
- Keynote – This presentation software is a great way to prototype without having to worry about cloud-based compliance or legal issues. Keynote is also a great tool for interface design, because it allows for a lot of detailed fine-tuning.
- Wireframe.cc – This is a free online tool that is an extremely simple and quick way to sketch rough draft wireframes.
At the end of the day, the best resource you have is your community. Whether you go to your team, your stakeholders, or just other people in your field, they can be the best way to get feedback on your design and product. They can also recommend other tools to use, based on your priorities and product needs.