For years now, we’ve heard new conventional wisdom from all the creative gurus: the tools don’t matter. You have everything you need to make what you want to make.”

It probably won’t be surprising to long-time readers of this site that I feel the opposite is true. The tools reveal the process, or at least imply our process. There is no right or wrong tool, so much as there are right or wrong tools for us.

No tool makes you better at your job, but the good ones make your job better. If you do high-end work with computers, a fast computer will always be a good tool. The right kitchen tools make cooking easier, or at least more fun. A good desk chair literally saves your body. Any tool that motivates you to do more of the thing you love has value.

George R.R. Martin does all his writing (very slowly) with DOS word processor. Specifically, he uses WordStar 4. That looks something like this. One could make an argument it’s not the best tool for the job. But it’s his process. The tool merely reveals his priorities.

On the other hand, tools that get in the way have no value at all. I recently auditioned Sketch for the first time in years. Since 2019, I’ve used Figma with all my clients. In 2019, these apps were quite similar, but since then, Figma has completely leapfrogged Sketch. Things that used to take me ten minutes to do in Sketch take ten seconds in Figma. This audition was incredibly revealing of how the tools have changed, how my process has changed, and how my work has changed.

But it got me thinking: does the tool change me? Does it change my output? Are all my designs just huge Auto Layout demos?

Constraints breed creativity. What do the tools breed in us?