There’s an old Chinese saying that one needs a good tool to deliver good work. Right tool for the right job. These statements remain true, but there’re times you just don’t have a choice or you just caught by surprise. So, do you just go like ok nope I’m done here?

The Basic Requirements

Very often, you hear designers talked about how they need an Apple MacBook Pro or the latest Wacom Cintiq. They would keep going on how these devices are the basic requirements for them to start doing basic works. And how about some Moleskin notebooks with the Rotring pencil? How they’ve always been doing things that way. Really?

Wants vs Needs

Given a simple task, such as to quickly create an icon, you probably just need a vector-based drawing application. Probably Adobe Illustrator (I’ve used Microsoft PowerPoint to create a whole set of icons to be used as template and let’s talk about that later), on any OS with a normal keyboard and mouse. That’s the basic needs. It will be great if you have the latest Mac with fancy Wacom and maybe working in your new favourite app – Sketch. But, that’s not necessary, that’s just what you want.

Better tools will improve productivity but the quality is in your skill.

I’ve seen junior designers starved and saved up for the latest fancy gadgets that they don’t need. Believing that these will grant hen superpower of delivering the next award winning artwork.

Work with What You Have

While I would love to work on a Mac, like how I used to and like how most designers preferred, I’m okay working on a Windows machine. If there’s no Sketch there, just use Illustrator, and to a more extreme situation, I’ve used PowerPoint.

Design is About Solving Problem Within Limitations

There’s once where my colleagues needed some icons for their presentation. In fact, it would be nice if they can use these icons in template for future presentations.

I can easily and quickly churn out some icons using Adobe Illustrator. But, assessing their requirements, that would only solve half of the problem. They will have to keep coming back for more, with colour changes and different variations, for future presentations.

Ego could be the real problem.

Snobbish designers must be thinking that I’m kidding when I fired up PowerPoint on my laptop. I went on creating several basic shapes using the Shape Tool. Put some custom muted colour to give them that trendy flat look. Edit their anchor points to create new shapes. Arranging and grouping them to make meaningful symbols.

My colleagues are shocked to see what I’ve sent to them. They don’t believe that those are all made in PowerPoint. They can select individual elements, change their colour, and edit the points further to create new shapes. They could reuse these like a template for their future presentations.

They’re not perfect, but they solved the real problem. That’s important.