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There have been so many times where I have been talking to colleagues and other digital artists and I have heard them say “I am saving up for a new Apple Macbook Pro”, or “I am saving up to build a new super PC, I will be able to design much better on a faster machine.” While I do agree that having good equipment helps in the execution of your design, I strongly disagree that having the best computer or design software and equipment will make you any better of a designer than you were before.

First of all, great design doesn’t even begin with a computer. We don’t sit down and start pushing buttons and out comes an award winning design. It simply doesn’t work that way. Great design starts with looking at the problem that your client is having, and looking at how to solve it. You have to do research, look at the competition, look at your target market, so on and so forth. A great thing to do is to look at what the competition and see what they are doing wrong, so that you can purposely avoid repeating their mistakes, and you also have to look at what they are doing right.

Even after a designer does all of their research, they still should be nowhere near a computer yet. Next comes analyzing the data, determining what it all means in context with your client, and brainstorming to come up with a solution to their problem. This can include dozens, if not hundreds of little thumbnail sketches, notes, a collection of images, cloud charts, and many other materials. You have to determine the style of the design, the typography, the colors, the photography, and hierarchy. Once your sketches and roughs are done, that is when you move on to your computer.

Knowing your software is great. Being well versed in all areas of your design software ensures that you will be able to create a beautiful design that prints well. However, the software does not come up with the concept, or make any of your design decisions for you. I have a colleague that is more successful than I am as a designer ( I hate to admit that) and he is still using Photoshop 6. I asked him one day why he doesn’t upgrade, and he simply replied ” I don’t want all of the bells and whistles to get in the way of my design.” After pondering that for a while, I realized that what he was saying was that he didn’t want to get wrapped up with the features of the software and lose sight of his design vision. You can over work a design and add too much “junk” to your designs, and ruin the impact that it had when it was more simple and straight-forward.

It is once we determine our concept, that we use the computer and software to execute our design work. Neither one of them make our designs any better, they just help us to do certain tasks quicker. They are mainly production tools. I can’t imagine going back to cutting and pasting, as that would take hours, sometimes days.

The point that I am trying to make is that great design doesn’t come from having a Macbook Pro, or a high-powered PC. It doesn’t come from Corel or Adobe, or Wacom or Freehand or anything other that our minds and our ability to solve problems in the best way possible. Focus should not be on having the best equipment, but on learning the principles of great problem solving and the right way to market a product or service.