Sketch, Principle, and Several Dozen Sleepless Nights: A New Father Reflects on Design Tools and the World of Parenting

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At the time of writing this, my son is less than two months old. As first time parents, my wife and I have fully embraced the ever increasing world of everything baby. Tips for first time parents from your great-great-grandma? Let’s hear them! Do you have a great first-time dad’s blog I should subscribe to? Consider it done. Did we see the 2018 Red Dot Award finalists for all things infant care related? We already bought them all!

Of course, sifting through all of that data is its own labor of love. We’re always keeping up with the world of baby science and worshipping at the altar of trendy design, but the most important opinion in the room is, in fact, the baby’s! He hates the award-winning bottles we grabbed and prefers the same classic ones I had as a kid. As far as pacifiers go, he loves these crazy modern ones that barely look like pacifiers at all. When it comes to the world of baby product design, he is our client, user group, QA team, and a rather vocal fan base all rolled into one.

So how, in my sleep-deprived brain, do I see all of this relating back in some meaningful way to what I do as a designer on a daily basis at FortyFour? Simple: be open to new ideas, new methods and the wisdom of others.

In the past twelve months, we have made a very concerted effort to embrace new layout and prototyping software in our day-to-day workflow.

Adobe and its suite of tools still have a place near and dear to my heart, so embracing this still relatively new ecosystem of apps was no small undertaking. Why use the weird, new pacifier when you know that the one everyone has used for decades works just fine?

It’s not until you get your hands dirty a couple times that the real benefits start to manifest. We went from UX files directly into designing… with the same file! We started exploring the nuances of symbols in Sketch, and how layer nomenclature had a huge impact in Principle. It quickly went from, “Okay, fine. It’s new software,” to, “Oh man, did you play with this feature yet?” Speaking about type and layout in the exact same terms of a developer was another beneficial side effect. Why hasn’t this always been the case?

In the past, I’ve learned over and over again to not trust plugins from third party companies. They either stopped working the night before that huge deadline, or the second after you finally updated the main software it was attached to. Now, seeing the almost weekly updates coming from not only the main developer but also the plugin is refreshing and reassuring! The trustworthiness of the software finally caught up with the inventiveness of plugin developers.

Experiencing the benefits of these new tools firsthand while my wife and I do our best to embrace parental wisdom of the ages, mixed with the newest techniques, has felt like a whirlwind of learning experiences. Finding that perfect combination of cutting edge technologies while still understanding the foundations of tried and true solutions is a daily challenge, both with parenting and agency life and all its intricacies.

A child is a joy to be around, but they certainly come with some very unique challenges. The diaper bag filled with the right tools can make or break an otherwise fun-filled day. A well-designed project, using the right tools that allow everyone (strategy, UX, design, and dev) to contribute and collaborate, will only benefit from new techniques and exciting tools like Sketch and Principle.

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