Hi, I'm Bob Ricca.Head of Product Design at ThreatQuotient.

UX mentor at DesignLab, ex-adjunct at Philadelphia University, ex-UX at AWeber.


Which design software should I use?

Design Leadership UX

Photo by Pietro Mattia on Unsplash

The battle to get your subscription dollars.

For the last 8 months, I’ve been spending evenings working as a UX mentor at DesignLab.

It’s a really fun gig. Talking about design comes easy and nothing makes me happier than helping someone conquer a new concept or rise to the next level in their career.

During my sessions, the same question pops up repeatedly…

A friend of mine told me everyone is switching to <insert brand> design software, do I need to switch?

It seems to be a source of stress for new designers.

• • •

You’re being sold to

If you subscribe to design newsletters, undoubtedly your inbox has been packed to the brim with everything related to design systems as the sales teams at Adobe, Sketch, Figma, and InVision (the big four) duke it out to get your subscription dollars.

Before that, you were flooded with tons of articles about design sprints, design thinking, and tons of workshops on how to facilitate these types of sessions.

It’s not a bad thing.

These companies are advancing the way we think about design. Both topics above are staples in a solid design practice. And to be frank, the tools we have at our disposal these days are pretty fun to use. It’s easy to get caught up in all the hype.

As a new designer, it might not be quite as apparent that a lot of these case studies are marketing campaigns targeted to sell you their products.

• • •

My Advice: Don’t stress over tools

It used to be that designers were forced to use an all encompassing graphics program such as Photoshop or Illustrator.

The biggest advantage of using these pieces of software was that they could cater to any number of use cases.

The downside was that because of they were so robust, learning them was intimidating and they fell short on specific workflows. Once realized, this created a boom in the design tool market where each company is trying to sell you their suite of software.

The reality is:

  • Each of “the big four” has a team of talented people continuously working to improve their software.
  • These pieces of software are very similar at a high level. After learning one, the learning curve is greatly reduced.
  • Right now you’re witnessing a race. If one tool offers something new of value, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the others will have an update soon thereafter.
  • There are more free resources online than ever before. In the case that you landed a job where a team uses a different tool, you can get up to speed quickly.
  • Although the tools are somewhat standardized, each team uses them differently. As part of the onboarding process of your new job, someone will likely be excited to show you how they use the software.

So with that, I’d say:

Pick whatever tool you enjoy using the most and shift your focus towards refining your craft. Software comes and goes, the underlying thought processes and design principles are timeless.