To Set up a Workstation or Not?
Many times, a lot of creatives, mask their fear of starting something new with the ‘I don’t have my equipment yet’ excuse. So you see someone who is interested in Photography say things like, I don’t have my Camera yet, so I can’t start, or you see a prospective YouTube content creator say ‘I’m waiting to buy my ring light before I record my first video’.
Maybe sometimes, they are genuine excuses (I mean, we all think our excuses are genuine). But more often than not, these excuses are not left without an actual way out, but that’s solely dependent on whether or not the creative is ready to see a solution. Interestingly, designers are not left out of this. Some designers constantly tie their productivity to what they don’t have or can’t afford yet. They keep talking about how they’d get better at their craft when they have the ‘perfect’ workstation. Unfortunately, if there’s anything that we can all agree on, it’s that perfection is almost an illusion. So this is a reminder that even if you have all the tools and gadgets in the world, and you don’t know how to maximize them, your skill and productivity would still be a mess. So the earlier you start making use of what you have and can afford, the better for you.
In getting your work tools as a beginner, there are three major factors that could influence your options. They are: available funds, the quality of the purchase and the comfort you’re going for. In making your choices, find a balance to these factors by properly prioritizing and being open to possible alternatives.
So just before you are finally able to tick off all the items for your dream workstation, here’s a list of tools you can definitely start with:
- A notebook and a pen.
No matter how tech savvy a tech sis or bro is, some items that would always remain relevant to the work of a designer are a pen and a notebook. There’s just something about scribbling your thoughts with the traditional pen and notebook. Invest in them and your ‘random thoughts’ would thank you for it. Oh, while at it, also remember to make it handy so that you’d be comfortable to take a walk with it.
- A sketchbook
Sketching to a designer is like a sweatpant in a tech bro’s wardrobe- Inseparable. A designer, no matter what aspect of design always has to sketch something. You don’t want to keep sketching on sheets you remove from a regular notebook. I mean, how else do you want ‘them’ to know that you’re now a designer if you don’t own a sketchbook? Besides, your workflow would thank you for having your sketches in the same book, over time. That’s more put together and professional. Invest in it.
2. A Computer
If you’d be starting a career as a designer, you need a computer. Stop telling yourself that it’s a luxury that you can’t afford and start seeing it as a necessity that it is. Even if you don’t start out with your own, you need one that would be almost always available to you for use. Making the best computer choice seems to be a bit difficult for a number of people (newbies), which is quite understandable, as there are so many options in the market space. Windows or MacBook? HP Pavilion or Dell Inspiron?
Just like I said earlier, you’d have to find a balance between the available funds, the quality of purchase or the functionality and in this case, luxury. But generally, a laptop with a 15 to 17inch screen real estate, running Intel’s core i3 and above or AMD’s ryzen chips with CPU speed of 2.4ghz and above, a storage of 500gb SSD or HDD, with or without dedicated graphics card and 8gb and above RAM would do the job for starters. As you continue in your career, you’d be able to make a more informed decision based on your own career path, experience and preference.
3. Basic Design Software
Apart from countless open tabs that might not even be presently relevant, one of the things that makes a Designer’s laptop different from a regular human’s laptop, is the presence of basic design software. This includes, but is not limited to Adobe illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After effects, Corel draw, InDesign, Affinity, Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, Marvel, GitHub, Webflow and a host of others. A mastery of these tools as they suit your line of design should be the next big thing after you secure your laptop. And in all you do, I advise that you avoid crack versions of these software. These are your basic tools that you work with. If you don’t invest in these, then you should probably put away any ideas of a fancy workstation you might have.
4. A mouse
There are two types of Designers. Those who use a Mouse and the others who are cultists. (Just kidding). But while some people are more comfortable with working with their trackpads, some others are not and they need to purchase a mouse. There are many options here too, but find what works for you and your pocket and take over the world.
4. Graphics tablet
If illustrations are a major feature of your Design workflow, then this is definitely a must have for you. While a graphics tablet can serve other purposes to other designers, such as using it as a substitute for a mouse and for a couple of sketches, an illustrator can use this for so much more, and one of such major uses is creation of digital illustrations in a more natural manner that a graphics tablet and a stylus pen offer.
6. Anti- glare glasses
As basic as this sounds, I have realized that not many designers use this until they begin to feel the negative impact of extensive screen hours on their eyes. Well, not to sound like your family doctor, but most times (more like, all the time), prevention is better than cure. The moment you start considering building a career in design, get yourself a pair of anti- glare glasses. Your extended screen time is not something that comes as a shock to you. You know it’d happen, so prepare for it accordingly.
7. A table and a chair
It’s that simple I promise. All you need is a table where your work tools are safe on and a chair. As much as we all know how much comfort a basic ergonomic chair gives its user, we also know not everyone can afford it as a starter pack. So if you fall into this category of Designers who use the dining chairs at home or a plastic chair, or any other kind of chair, that’s absolutely not a death sentence. It only places a higher demand on you in protecting your back- take breaks from time to time, walk around and stretch your joints. Understanding that you don’t have the comfort of the chair that supports your sitting for long hours should make you more intentional about this.
8. Good internet
As much as this might be a bit of a challenge in this part of the world where service providers are not so much different in their offers and services, you still have to find your way around them, and find what works for you based on your budget and location. Oh, for starters, it doesn’t have to be Mifi or anything fancy. It could be as basic as enough data on your smartphone.
As a bonus point, if you live in a country like Nigeria, where constant power supply is almost a myth, then you might want to create a schedule around the power supply you have access to. Where you have the means to create a system of constant power supply for yourself, then you might not need this. But if you don’t, that’s equally fine. But it means you’d have to create schedules where you spread out your tasks based on the available power supply. Locating a tech hub could also be an option for you. There, you have access to a stable power supply, good internet facility and a decent workspace. That’s a major step forward, if you ask me.
Apart from these, other things that you might want to add to the list would most likely be a preference and not a necessity, for starters. With these and a host of digital tools and resources to work with, you are good to go. Ultimately, be careful not to delay your growth process all in the name of waiting to have all these and more in place at once. You have something? Start with it, don’t stop, and watch your dream workstation gradually become a reality.