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22 Design Tools That Top Marketers Use To Quickly Create Beautiful Things

These design tools will help you easily handle any type of content, from Ebooks to user flows to social media graphics.

Kevin Kononenko on February 2, 2018 • 16 minute read

In 2017, 90 client-side marketers were asked about where their agency partners were falling short as part of the State of Digital Agency report.

The number one response? Marketing agencies need better design and creative capabilities.

But, if you asked those same marketers whether they would be willing to pay more for “better” work, they probably would say “no.”

So, we asked members of the Databox Partner Program and other design experts about the tools they use to create beautiful marketing campaigns and websites with as little pain as possible. They shared all types of ideas, spanning from traditional blank-canvas design tools to services that actually improve the design workflow and eliminate client confusion or endless emails. Here is what they had to say.


Types of Design Tools


Marketing Content Creation

Whether you are looking to create Ebooks, social posts or videos, using a designer in the content development process is an expensive step with an unclear return. These tools make it more likely that their designer’s time will result in a high ROI for their company, or allowed their marketers to take care of the design tasks sans design skills.

Rich Wood
Six & Flow

Favorite Design Tool: Ceros

Why It Is So Important: Ceros has enabled our team to quickly design, develop and deploy interactive and highly engaging content that is particularly useful for our top-of-the-funnel activity.

Its Photoshop-like layout has allowed non-technical members of the marketing team to generate content without involving development or animation resources from the company. That, in itself makes it an invaluable tool for our agency, but coupled with the easy HubSpot integration makes it perfect for our client work for both inbound and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) services.

 

Brandee Johnson
LimeLight Marketing

Favorite Design Tool: Camera

Why It Is So Important: Everything we create starts through a camera lens. It’s the base of every creative thing that we do. Not only is it important to capture good quality still images, but video is even more effective and usable than still images. Video captures the attention of the audience better than a still image does and it’s important to use when you’re vying for the attention of consumers.

 

Carly Farlow
Builder Funnel

Favorite Design Tool: Canva

Why It Is So Important: Canva is the WYSIWYG for design tools. What WYSIWYG did for us marketers with developing websites, Canva has done the same for us in designing beautiful images and CTAs.

 

Zachary Darsch
Knovio by KnowledgeVision

Favorite Design Tool: Canva

Why It Is So Important: As a marketer with limited resources, Canva is the design tool that I can’t live without. It allows us to easily create beautiful designs for social media, emails, blogs, the list goes on. Their simple user interface and endless library of photos and icons make designing easy for anybody, and it is exactly why Knovio could not live without Canva.

 

Tyler Pigott
Lone Fir Creative

Favorite Design Tool: We love Canva!

Why It Is So Important: It’s such a great way to knock out stellar graphics to use for social media campaigns and posts. You can create tons of other stuff besides just for social, that’s just our main use today.

They have all the dimensions pre-configured for each platform or applications, and edits/layout is a breeze. We’ve found that for some campaigns it’s faster than creating something from scratch in Photoshop.

 

Stewart Anderson
MuteSix

Favorite Design Tool: Canva

Why It Is So Important: Canva gives us the flexibility to create ad graphics fast so that we can quickly respond to changes occurring on ad platforms like Facebook. While we make most ad creative using pro tools like Photoshop, a more agile option is essential for iterating as fast as possible.

 

Lisa Sills
Outcast Media

Favorite Design Tool: Photoshop

Why It Is So Important: It’s an obvious one, but even as a content marketer so much of my day-to-day is spent writing and creating plans. However, content needs to be visual to resonate and Photoshop gives me the power, as a non-designer, to make great images with relative ease.

Even for more complex projects, I can create wireframes to upload to sites like Marvel so that I have a working prototype or I can develop basic ideas that our designers can flesh out.

 

Web Design

Project-based work like websites can quickly become unprofitable. Endless back and forth with the client or complex development tasks can suck up your agency’s time. These design leaders have created reliable processes that will help them design the right website or content the first time.

Matt Steel
Parisleaf

Favorite Design Tool: The pencil.

Why It Is So Important: Pencils are rough and messy, just like the creative process. They are tactile. They are simple. They are portable. Marks made with a pencil are tentative and explorative. Graphite can be erased, which means there is no need to draw a perfect line on the first pass. Pencils force us to relax.

There is a special feedback loop between the mind that dreams, the hand that draws, and the eye that appraises. We find this connection is lost when we try to develop ideas on the computer.

We love pencils for what they do not do as much as what they do.

Pencils do not send push notifications. They do not crash. They do not need to be recharged. When one breaks, it does not cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace it.

At Parisleaf, we spend most of our time making things on the computer with tools like Adobe’s InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and the like. But every project begins with pencil and paper. Pages and pages of sketches. Execution doesn’t matter at that point. Play in a focused environment matters most when beginning the creative process. We love our digital tools, but pencils will always matter more to us than software.

 

Rebecca Koller
UNINCORPORATED

Favorite Design Tool: Pencil/Paper

Why It Is So Important: At UNINCORPORATED, everything starts with a sketch, a whiteboard session, or a brainstorm. Pencils, paper, whiteboards, and post-its are present in abundance in our office – all the tools we need to discuss, conceptualize and plan. Whether it’s a branding project or a marketing campaign, we never jump straight onto the computer to execute; we go through multiple rounds of concept revision on paper to ensure we have the right approach before we ever digitize.

Tools like Adobe Creative Cloud are excellent for creating polished designs, but when we skip conceptualizing using these analog tools first, there’s often more revisions required and we end up burning time and budget.

 

Rob Walz
LyntonWeb

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Creative Cloud

Why It Is So Important: The apps are vital to our design process and used daily. Whether it’s Photoshop and Illustrator for designing mockups, InDesign for ebooks and Premier Pro for editing a video, we are constantly using the Creative Cloud apps.

 

Ian Blake
Squaredot

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Suite

Why It Is So Important: Without it, we’d be stuck with a quill and ink which doesn’t work well on digital. It is the key tool we use in all of our designs.

Judit Font Artigas
QU24 Publicitat Estrategica

Favorite Design Tool: The whole Adobe package. Without it, we could not design. Illustrator, Indesign, Photoshop are essential. After Effects to make motion graphics, Premier for video editing.

Why It Is So Important: They are really important for us since without them, we could not make our designs, retouching photos, layout of catalogs… Without them, it would be very difficult to perform our work effectively and with agility.

 

Erica Pierce
The Spot On Agency

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Photoshop

Why It Is So Important: It’s where we custom design all of our websites. Custom web design is a large portion of our business.

 

Kate Ahokas
Revenue River

Favorite Design Tool: Photoshop

Why It Is So Important: PS is where we create 95% of our design products, from website designs, CTAs, covers, brochures, posters, and other client assets. It is invaluable since it is an efficient program that allows us to output everything from customer proofs, final designs for dev, as well as print-ready files. We often use this in conjunction with IL and ID, but PS is the main product above them.

 

Peter Nowicki
Flylight Media

Favorite Design Tool: Photoshop CC

Why It Is So Important: Photoshop allows us to do mockups whenever a design needs to be unique. Otherwise, we design in-browser with CSS.

Adam Connell
Velocity6 Media

Favorite Design Tool: Photoshop CC

Why It Is So Important: Generally, most design tools can be replaced and that includes Photoshop. There are even much cheaper alternatives that would be able to serve our design needs. For example: Affinity Designer.

That said, Photoshop is so ingrained in our workflow that the time we’d need to spend getting used to a different tool just isn’t cost effective.

 

Mandeep Seehra
Tomorrow People

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Photoshop

Why It Is So Important: Its flexibility. We use it for everything from websites to email signatures. For static visuals, and animated.

 

Nandor Rakosi
Polymorph Studios

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Illustrator

Why It Is So Important: Illustrator provides layout efficiency, rapid and precise duplication, lockdown, grouping, transparency, single and multiples selection. These seem like pedestrian items to mention, but we use these functions hundreds of times an hour, and the time saving on projects both small and large is substantial. Almost all design work, from layout and presentations to UX and digital gets developed through Illustrator before it goes anywhere else.

Tiago Dias
Aparticula

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Illustrator

Why It Is So Important: It is the base of almost every layout we do as an agency!

 

Sam Zises
[L]earned Media

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Illustrator

Why It Is So Important: Adobe Illustrator is the most helpful design tool and is frequently used for a wide variety of projects. The vector-based program is our go-to when creating a logo or any other branding elements/graphics that can easily be scaled to any size. Artwork designed in illustrator can also be simultaneously used with other programs like Photoshop, InDesign, after effects, XD, and keynote without losing quality.

 

Mitchel White
LeftMedia

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Illustrator

Why It Is So Important: Although it might seem like a basic and obvious tool, we use it daily. For vector work including logo and branding projects it is invaluable. Providing scalable graphics for us offline and online is essential as a design agency.

 

Lloyd Silver
Crush My Market

Favorite Design Tool: Beaver Builder

Why It Is So Important: Beaver Builder, along with their companion plugin Beaver Themer, allows us to create absolutely gorgeous WordPress websites much more rapidly than before. We can customize every single component of a site – header, footer, posts, pages, archives, etc . – using an incredibly simple drag-and-drop page builder. Custom themes take a few hours versus a few days. No other tool out there gives us the ease in customization.

 

Justin Clarke
Page1

Favorite Design Tool: Notepad++

Why It Is So Important: It’s a great tool to modify website source code. It runs fast, is easy to use and has a number of useful features.

 

Dave Meier
Hidden Depth

Favorite Design Tool: Sketch

Why It Is So Important: It makes designing websites faster than any other tool I’ve used, allows me to export files in multiple formats so quickly which makes building retina friendly websites easier.

 

Jon Eichler
Adhere Creative

Favorite Design Tool: Sketch

Why It Is So Important: Sketch allows me to keep all of my page designs for one site in one file so I can always tell if I am keeping my designs consistent. It also allows for re-using different elements within a design using a function called Symbols which really speeds up my design process.

 

Andrew Vinas
Organik SEO

Favorite Design Tool: Sketch

Why It Is So Important: Create mockups fast

 

User Experience Design

You want your site mockups to imitate the ways that visitors actually interact with your website. It can be pretty tough to do that with static designs! These tools make it easy to tell how the different pieces of the site will work together, and do not require the cleint to try and imagine how their site will work.

Jordan Powell
JP Marketing & Design

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Experience Design

Why It Is So Important: Adobe XD is a user experience design software developed and published by Adobe Systems. It supports vector design and wireframing, and creating simple interactive click-through prototypes.

This tool is essential for any web development and marketing agency. It is the perfect adobe design solution for creating your web UI. It is a perfect blend between Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. We find it both easy to learn, use and integrates well with the rest of the adobe suite. At the end of the day your UI/UX and marketing teams can work with your client to design the most accurate snapshot of your end product.

 

Luke Niemela
Leighton Interactive

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe XD

Why It Is So Important: Adobe XD has streamlined our web design process and made the handoff from designer to developer much less complicated. Saving time and money!

 

Tim Hamilton
Praxent

Favorite Design Tool: Invision

Why It Is So Important: Invision would rank as a critically important design tool because it allows us to demonstrate our design work with interactivity. Without including interactivity, a client has to rely on their imagination which reduces the quality and comprehensiveness of their feedback and can lead to costly a misunderstanding of scope.

 

Trevor Hatfield
Inturact

Favorite Design Tool: Invision

Why It Is So Important: It helps us map out user flows, onboarding processes, design changes, conversion optimization adjustments and create complete product mockups before ever touching the code.

 

Armen Mardirousi
Neolynx Group Inc.

Favorite Design Tool: Adobe Dreamweaver

Why It Is So Important: It allows for fast-paced, collaborative web development.

 

Henrik Rewes
Nørgård Mikkelsen

Favorite Design Tool: Flinto

Why It Is So Important: We’re creating lots of campaign landing pages for mobiles devices. Flinto makes it possible for us to test advanced mobile experiences really fast without the need for front-end resources.

 

Dustin Drees
Market 8

Favorite Design Tool: UXPin

Why It Is So Important: Our agency is entirely remote, so UXPin being cloud-based is extremely important for our team to collaborate. We’re able to coordinate between strategy, design and development; along with our client, in one tool.

Where we really love UXPin, and make great use out of, are the Design System Libraries. We have created many library elements of layouts that are typically used on our client’s websites so that we can quickly wireframe and design, and stay consistent with the HubSpot modules our development team has created for our clients.

 

Design Process Improvement

The design process goes much further than creative development of new assets. It also includes the constant communication among team members and with the client. Miscommunication can lead to duplicated work and frustration. These agency leaders shared the tools they use to keep everybody in touch over the latest designs.

Arif Gangji
Neon Rain Interactive

Favorite Design Tool: Zoom

Why It Is So Important: We have clients around the US and Canada which means we are rarely in the same physical location as them. With our discovery workshops and weekly demos being an important interaction point, we can’t let distance bog us down.

First, our clients used to have a hard time getting software installed to use the sharing system. With Zoom we rarely have this issue. It just seems to work.

Sometimes it’s the small features that mean the most. With Zoom we have Google Calendar integration which allows us to create new Zoom meetings from directly from the event. Even cooler is the ability to use AirPlay and share our mobile device screens with other people.

Being able to see a screen and get feedback in real time is invaluable but being able to see someones facial expressions tells you a lot more about their thoughts. Zoom has allowed us to better serve our clients.

 

Pete Nicholls
HubDo

Favorite Design Tool: Workflow Max

Why It Is So Important: Workflow Max (“Max”) internally manages all projects and retainers, linked with the HubSpot CRM for Companies, Contacts and Deals. HubSpot won deals automatically spawn a new job in Max and the HubSpot Workflow instructs our controller to configure the job and the team to action their processes for the new job.

Plus we add external Agency Consultants to our HubSpot CRM so they can fast track by directly marking their own deal as won, so HubSpot + Workflow Max activate the team. At the back end, Max handles timesheets, costs, purchase orders and syncs to Xero for Accounting. It’s an end to end Agency platform with no Zapier glue needed. Smooth 🙂

 

Alexi Lambert Leimbach
Xcellimark

Favorite Design Tool: ShareFile

Why It Is So Important: This is the tool we use to host all our documents and any company information we used to store on our personal server. It is cloud-based, and you can make specific folders sharable with other clients or employees, or you can make it private.

It integrates into your Outlook, Google, Desktop, Laptop & phone. It has increased communication and collaboration between our Agency and clients trifold. Now, when we need pictures, examples or certain documents from our clients, we have a folder just for them that’s always live and up to date, but just for them.

If I have to send a large file over email, and it turns out it’s too large for the email, you’re able to attach it via ShareFile, since it is integrated into your email. I’ve never had a problem sending large documents again.

We live and breathe within ShareFile.

Design Tools In The Client Reporting Process

Every single agency leader above chose to mention a design tool that led to better client outcomes. After all, a designer’s time is expensive, and it is tough to justify a project if it is not moving an active project forward.

Since agencies use Databox as a client reporting tool, we support the ideal that you should not need to use an expensive designer to create your monthly client report either.Instead, use automated dashboards to instantly share your monthly reports with your client or boss, like the example HubSpot Marketing dashboard, below. Then, focus your account managers’ energy on discovering insights within the data and creating better campaigns, rather than on formatting a marketing report.

Some of our agencies use video recording tools like Soapbox from Wistia to share an explanation of the month’s data without spending hours on creating a report. That way, the client can understand the improvements in their numbers, rather than being forced to read a long report or understand screenshots from multiple services.

 

What designer-friendly tools do you use to make beautiful things quickly? The challenge for marketers and designers is to do better design work more efficiently. The ones who do have a distinct advantage over all the others who struggle to meet their clients’ or boss’s expectations and stay within budget.

If you have a suggestion that’s not on our list, share here or in the comments.

About the author
Kevin Kononenko Growth Marketer @ Databox. Making it easy for marketers to tell the story of their success. Everton FC supporter. Startup guy.
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