I recently stumbled upon an article on uxdesign.cc by a Precious Madubuike while browsing in the morning over a hot cup of filter coffee straight off the pot, which has invariably become my morning ritual, not that I'm complaining. A few sips in I started asking myself the same question and went through all that I had been exposed to that helped me be good at what I do, which is solve problems through design.

While my respones weren't as absolute as the articles, well not at first at least, I did feel there were many more things that just 'software' tools that kept pushing me forward. Some of them transcended into the space of being inspirations from the world offline and some from the world within but qualified to be tools as they did help me get the job done. Here are 10 tools that made me a better designer in 2017, and not in any particular order:

1. Sketch (UX / UI Design Tool)

Duh! I might get emails and/or some nasty comments for this, but if anyone comes up and says they are a designer but don't really use tools like SKETCH or anything similar (ADOBE XD, FIGMA) then that's like saying you're a dentist while holding a plier in your hand.
XD-Sketch
SKETCH (and other similar tools) have irrefutably become the go-to tools for experience and interface digital design. It's simplicity, light weightedness, easy of use, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious plug-ins, ease of collaboration (via third party tools like Invision amongst so many other features. Is SKETCH perfect? Hell no! But it's surely the best option out there. Get SKETCH here.

2. Apple Music

Sometimes, in the lack of inspiration or when you're just staring into a dark abyss which only a black, un-booted machine can simulate, the perfect song can be nothing short of an abstract version of that guiding light you need to get you started. If that song transitions into a naturally up-beat progression and keeps building the momentumn for you, well you know what I'm talking about. It's a high that only designers 'in the zone' can understand. Here are my top 10 go-to tracks that usually help steer me in that direction:

Apple-Music

3. Morning Coffee & Browsing Ritual

Possibly the most important of them all. We all know that technology changes. Every passing second across the world. And that has an immediate impact on design. How we interact with our devices or interfaces, what's new in the world of experience design, views and opinions on exising formats and approches towards design are merely some of the things that a good designer has to keep him/herself updated with. The best time to do this? Well...anytime you get really but I'd say the mornings are a pretty safe bet.

Artboard

Right before you open your design boards or your email (to respond to clients) it's a good idea to drink your morning posion of choice and go through what's new using several cool content aggregating tools to keep oneself updated and informed. Muzli, Digg, DesignTaxi, WebDesignerDepot.com, UXDesign.cc. These resources help aggregate all important need to know information pertaining to design that make for some pretty great travel or idle time read and more often than not act as a incredible source of inspiration that eventually finds it's way into some of my designs.

I'm guessing one doens't need to talk about why coffee ;)

4. Invision

Probably one of the coolest and most functional innovations for the design world in recent times. I think I just teared up. Invision, while helps us collaborate and communicate our designs and their subsequent interactions efficiently, does something a lot more important: Not clutter our email inboxes with design feedbacks and comments.. Invision as a tool, all of 2017, helped me personally to show case designs and solutions on the go to clients on their laptops and/or mobile devices while simulating critical flows that had major business impacts.

It helped me get feedback from clients and drive discussions pertaining to any screen far more effectively than going back on forth of the same email trail again and again.

Invision

It's active hotstpotting feature helps map different sections and connect them to different screens allowing us to simulate flows, run micro-interaction tests with small user bases and helps experience the product in a near to real-world environment.

Sure I'm not the only one to say this but pretty stoked and excited to see Invision change the game in 2018 with the upcoming and highly looked forward to launch of Invision Studio.

5. The Noun Project

I remember where, as designers always in search of the perfect icons, we had to go through several sites offering only low fidelity (32px x 32px, 64px x 64px) icons that could be used only upto a certain scale on our designs. Beyond that - Pull out your credit cards. Enter The Noun Project.

NounProject

Over the past 8 years (yes it was launched December 2010 - another reason to feel super old), the noun project through it's several "iconathons" were able to get the global design community to contribute to the website with small and/or lare sets of icon libraries that could be downloaded by users as and when required. The Noun Project offers a very comprehensive and ever growing library of icon and icon-packs that can be used by designers all over the world as long as they respect the 'creative-commons' license and don't really go out there and say THEY actually designed it. SVG's, EPS, JPEGs, PNGs, take your pick. Happy browsing.