The Design Starter Kit—5 Things Every Creative Should Have in Their Arsenal

Krista Adkins

Looking to dabble in design? I know that when I first started diving into graphic design, I felt overwhelmed by all of the items and resources I needed to start with. Whether you’re new to the design game or a seasoned professional, these are all important things to keep updated and on-hand.

Illustration of designer working on their computer
Published: 10.15.2015

1. Pen and Paper 
Using a sketchbook (or loose leaf, post-it note, Starbucks napkin, what have you...) in the beginning stages of a project can often get you further than any expensive design program can. Instead of getting hung up on vector shapes and fancy effects, using pen and paper from the get-go allows you to toss around ideas to solve a problem—free of a finite deliverable.

2. Adobe Creative Suite
Ok, so let’s not get too crazy, you definitely still need the fancy programs to execute your designs. After you’ve identified the problem needing to be solved, you can choose the best tool for the job. Adobe Creative Suite is a no-brainer. You’ve got to be adaptable and learn the basics of the primary programs out there to be able to create what you need for any given task. This is when and YouTube tutorials become your best friend – it makes it easy to teach yourself the ins and outs of program features.

Illustration of pen and paper
Illustration of pen and paper
Illustration of pen and paper

 3. A Solid Collection of Typefaces
Choosing the right typeface for a project can be the difference between a mediocre piece and a beautiful, cohesive work of art.

It can be daunting (and expensive) to start building a comprehensive foundation of typefaces, but luckily, there are many resources out there to help you. Some great places to start collecting from include TypekitGoogle Fonts, and Lost Type Co-op.

Check out the 25 most admired typefaces by typographers, type designers and letterers to start learning what the pros prefer.

Once you’ve built a good foundation, you can start playing around with typeface pairings, spacing, and other type treatments to take your design to the next level.

4. A Network—and Inspiration
Whether you’re an active AIGA member, a Behance account holder, or simply an Instagram spectator, you need to connect yourself with the broad and wonderful design community out there. Take advantage of the inspiration all around you.

Start visiting sites like Designspiration, go to design conferences, subscribe to design magazines, follow industry leaders on social media—anything to keep your work inspired and current. This is a constantly evolving industry, and it’s important to progress with it and to continue learning and exploring what’s out there.

Illustration of networking
Illustration of networking
Illustration of networking

5. The Fundamentals
Now that you’re staying current on design trends and today’s industry leaders, you also need to get in touch with the fundamentals and history of graphic design, if you haven’t already. Start by creating a good library of resources for yourself.

Grab some design history books. Check out this course on the Foundations of Graphic Design History. Or at the very least, start Googling things like “20 Graphic Designers You Should Know” to start familiarizing yourself with the basics.

*Bonus: Coffee. Sometimes you need all the caffeine you can get. Late nights can be when I get my best work done, which makes coffee imperative.

So these are the things I think creatives should surround themselves with—especially when you’re just starting out. What are the biggest must-haves in your design arsenal? Share with us!

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