Tools of the Trade: What’s on My Desk

Mix Creative owner, Katrina Hase, in her office (photo by Rod Wilson,

Ever since I was a little girl, I could walk into an art store and my feel my heart flutter: the smells of paints and wax crayons, the rows of markers, pencils and erasers of all shapes and sizes, and the stacks of empty sketch pads and canvases just waiting for someone to fill them with their ideas.

Today, as a designer, I’m lucky enough to be  surrounded by art supplies: the tools of my trade. (Not that I wouldn’t mind a few more!) Here’s a sample of some of the items on my desk and why they’re there:

  • Prismacolor markers. The gold standard of marker rendering, these markers have the ability to blend and shade, bringing sketches to life. And while I really don’t do a lot of marker rendering any more (I scan my sketches and color them in Photoshop), it’s still fun to pick them up once in a while and add a punch of color to a drawing.
  • Blank Journals in Mix Colors. Any time I see a blank journal with Mix’s teal and red combo, I snap one up. Sure, regular notebooks would provide the same function, but there’s something about taking notes in a journal that makes note-taking seem like an event.
  • Pantone Plus Series chip books. My newest purchase, these are really valuable in communicating colors to clients to make sure we’re comparing apples to apples, so to speak. Why? Colors shift from monitor to monitor and printer to printer. The chips provide a point of reference in our color discussions. My Christmas wishlist? Make the darn things easier to search for color numbers!
  • Swingline stapler in slate blue. Sigh. Just love the retro design—it reminds me of visiting my dad’s office when I was little.
  • Spyder 3 monitor color calibration tool. This little three sided electronic doo-hickey suction cups to my screen and takes measurements, then sends the information to the accompanying software to make sure I’m seeing colors as they’re meant to appear on screen.
  • Dictionary and thesaurus. In the marketing world, finding just the right word can give you an edge over your competitors. These tools are simple yet effective for punching up ad copy.
  • E scale. This clever little design tool has the capital letter E typed on a clear background in sizes ranging from 6pt to 84pt. It’s a great reference to tell me how small is too small, and it can help me reverse engineer type sizes from a previous campaign if a client is wanting me to recreate a look.
  • Pantone Color Bridge color fan. Like the Pantone chips, this color palette tool provides a color reference. But unlike the chips, this tool shows how a true PMS formula will look when printed with CMYK inks. It’s helpful to know when selecting a color whether a color will shift a lot when it prints digitally from the color you specified from a Pantone chip.
  • 14″ x 17″ marker paper and Sharpie Markers. A formidable duo when sketching layouts or concepting for logos.

Setting yourself up with the tools of the trade makes work flow easier and more accurate, and even provides a boost of creativity. What’s in your office and why? I’d love to hear from you…leave a comment below!

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