Andrew Travers

Andrew Travers is a designer and researcher. He’s the author of Interviewing for research.

The right tool for the job

Posted on 18 May 2014

Another day, another ‘one true way’ blog post floating around Twitter arousing ire and retweets in equal measure. I don’t doubt the good intentions of those urging you to abandon [insert thing you do] and throw your weight behind [insert thing they do], but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years it’s this: I rarely work the same way twice. In the past twelve months alone, I’ve done the bulk of my design work variously in sketch, at a whiteboard, in HTML and in Illustrator. It might even include ‘in words’ too, because sometimes that's where it felt the design was truly rooted.

I’ve said in the past that one of the most difficult challenges for any freelancing designer like me is figuring out which particular designer-shaped hole you're being asked to fit into and working out where and how you need to push at the edges of that to do your best work. It’s just as true to say that so much of design comes down to identifying the best means of communicating design intent - a common language to make yourself and your ideas understood.

And that's why the way I work changes - because the people and the projects change.

A number of factors are at play here, for example: colocation or working remotely; who you’re collaborating with and how; who you’re working for; and the cadence of the design process. So, I really worry when I see some designers attach themselves so definitively to a particular app or method.

I’ve got this wrong in the past too - blithely assuming that one particularly way of working would suit a project only to discover fellow designers reaching for a distinctly different language. But when it comes together, whether by happy accident or careful trial and error, and it works, well then it’s like magic.

This is as much a note-to-self, but we need to keep our eyes open, to think hard about what the project really demands, what our fellow designers and developers need, how to best open up the design process to let our clients - whether formal or informal - in. And select our tools accordingly.

Responsive web design, if you will.