1. Pen and paper
The fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to transfer design ideas from your head to the real world is to use good old pen and paper. Besides giving you a chance to stay off the grid for a few moments, analog sketches also serve somewhat like the sacred link between the great graphic artists of the past and the new tech-enabled designers of today.
More importantly, using pen and paper allows you to “intuitively draw” the design concepts in your mind, and quickly discover problems and solutions as your sketches take rudimentary shape. Research even shows that taking notes, doodling, and writing by hand enhances focus, creativity, and openness to learning.
If you’re passionate about this creative method, then go all the way by investing in iconic pencil (Rotring, Faber-Castell, etc) and notebook brands (Moleskine, Field Notes, etc.).
For digital creatives, this is the ultimate tool that performs all the heavy lifting in the profession. If you can afford the best and most powerful — the iMac Pro or the Surface Studio, for example — do so by all means.
The iMac sustains a loyal following of hardcore designers largely by including coolness in its core features. But branding is hardly the whole story. The latest iMac Pro is considered overkill by any standard: having a 27-inch 5K Retina Display, 32-GB memory, a 16-GB graphics card, and an 18-core processor for the high-end variant.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Surface Studio is a worthy rival capable of shifting the balance by giving PC loyalists major bragging rights for (finally) owning something remarkably sleek, powerful, and agile — all in one surprisingly elegant package. You can use it in its traditional desktop mode with a stylishly thin 28-inch PixelSense display; or transform it into a large, touch-screen tablet — an instant digital drawing board — for fast and intuitive designing, especially with the responsive Surface Pen thankfully thrown in to punctuate the statement.
However, if just salivating over these dream workhorses makes your wallet groan, there’s no shame in making do with what the rest of humanity uses. Any decent computer that can adequately handle graphics software and reliably connect to the cloud can sustain your life as a modern-day graphics designer.
3. Stylus and graphics tablet
Creatives who have a dominant tech gene in their DNA will likely prefer the digital equivalent of pencil and paper for their sketching and doodling tasks. When it comes down to it, even their more traditional cousins who sleep with analog pens in hand sometimes seek the souped-up functionalities of an electronic pencil and paper.
So if you find yourself craving a hybrid tool that allows you to continue making hand drawings like a classical artist but using the tools of a tech geek, don’t be embarrassed nor feel that you are betraying the trade. Instead, check out state-of-the-art tools such as the industry standard Wacom tablet/Pro Pen and the versatile iPad Pro in tandem with the Apple Pencil.
Either could simulate the authentic feel of drawing sketches or creating wireframes, in addition to giving you some wicked capabilities (instant color, filters, eraser, storage, superb editing, etc.) that you just can’t execute using ordinary pen and paper.