Software Question

I’m a student currently studying graphic design. We’re being taught to use the adobe suite of apps but I was wondering what other design applications are being commonly used in the industry that I should familiarize myself with. Any suggestions?


There are other applications that fit certain niches, but few (perhaps unfortunately) that would be considered an industry standard. If you learn the Adobe line, you will find it is fairly easy to pick up anything else you may come across.

Quarkxpress is a competitor to some of the Adobe line. I have also used the Xara Designer Pro, and Afinity Designer products to do vector work, sometimes even bouncing between those and Adobe Illustrator because of certain features that one or the other does not have. I have done a great deal of vectorizing (probably thousands of hours) logos and such working for a Sign and Vehicle graphics company and prefer using some of Xaras tools for that. However, there are some third-party plugins for Illustrator like VectorScribe from Astute Graphic that are absolutely awesome in my opinion.

Adobe has most things covered. There are alternative products, like Skribe mentioned, but they’re not nearly as widely used as their Adobe equivalents.

The exceptions being things like Microsoft Office apps. Like them or not, which I don’t, it’s necessary to get the hang of them since every business uses them. Apple’s Final Cut Pro is widely used for video editing, but Adobe’s Premiere is a good equivalent. Similarly Apple’s Motion is a popular alternative to Adobe’s After Effects.

Adobe keeps trying to make inroads into web and mobile app design, but their efforts never quite succeed to the extent that they’ve been able to dominate print. In these fields, there are dozens of competing specialized products.

3D is an area where Adobe does not dominate. For that matter, they barely try. Again, there are dozens of 3D applications to choose from — all the way from free to several thousand dollars per copy.

If you’re interested in type design, Adobe isn’t a leader — at least in making the software designers use. The leading software applications there are probably Glyphs, FontLab and Robofont.

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You’re biggest concern here should be deciding what kind of work you’d rather be doing more than what tools you need to do it with. There is too much to know and you can’t specialize in everything. If you just use whatever tools someone else tells you that you need to know, they could be deciding for you. You could also spread yourself thin trying to learn everything. Once you decide, the tools you should most be concerned with will become obvious.

It wouldn’t hurt to read the company’s sales pitch about the various software apps, paying attention to whatever features might be unique. But I wouldn’t worry too much about needing to practice using other apps until the need to use whatever particular feature arises. Instead, get a grip on the categories of software applications so when you hear about a new or popular app, you know whether or not it’s anything you should be concerned with.

For image processing, you have 2D vs 3D formats. In the category of 2D, you have vector (point) vs raster (pixel) formatting. 3D is most often a hybrid of vector structures with rasterized surfaces. For pixel graphics, you have rendered vs (photographed) captured. For motion graphics, you have animation vs footage. Animation can be done with any method above. There’s a lot of overlap between image processing and page layouts.

For page layouts, you have static vs dynamic layouts. In the category of static, you have print vs (digital) electronic display. In the category of dynamic layout, you have interactive (user-controlled) vs adaptive (“responsive”) self-adjusting layouts. When it comes to dynamic layouts, there’s a lot of overlap between graphic design and software engineering in the field of UX/UI design. There’s the risk that you will get sucked into spreading yourself thin in this overlap area. Once you start working with code, you might be at a major crossroads career wise.

Don’t get too caught up in thinking you need to know all of the names of all the file formats or protocol standards. As long as you know the raw image processing formats mentioned above, changes in standards or file formats won’t take you by surprise. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of technical stuff only software developers need be concerned with. Also, don’t get too caught up in thinking you need to know all the different workflow methods, because it’s slightly different at every company.

If you plan on employment, the best way I know to learn the desired skills is to research the posted graphic design jobs.

The skills they require would be the ones to learn first.

In my weird niche of design, software tools include a CAD program (either Vectorworks or AutoCAD) and sign software. The CAD programs take a little study and you need to know what niche of design you will be doing. You don’t need to know architecture or machine parts if you are doing scenics, tradeshow booths and freestanding kiosks. Signwares are easy to pick up if you know Illustrator fairly well (they are better at some things than Illustrator anyway.)

Or you may be better served with web programming languages. Depends on where you’re headed. My co-workers always think it’s so unfair to ask a college student where they want to be in 5 years after graduating. But I want to see if they’ve had the forethought to even think that far ahead.


Sketch App to be formal.

Is there anything Sketch does that Illustrator doesn’t do?

Sketch is much better than illustrator when it comes down to creating digital artwork, such as websites and apps. It’s more intuitive as to how you would design and gives the user the ability to create prototypes and use tools that Illustrator doesn’t have. Adobe’s competitive software is Adobe XD, but Sketch has had majority of the market share for the past 6 years. PM me if you want to chat about it.

I’ve been playing around with Sketch for the past couple of weeks. It does a few interesting things, but it seems a bit like a dumbed-down, feature-lacking version of Illustrator with a few useful extras tossed into the mix.

About half my time for the past 20-plus years has been spent designing websites, and I just don’t understand the appeal of this tool for prototyping or building much of anything.

Call me clueless, but what is it about this app that I’m apparently missing?

You may be missing all of the plugins it offers. There are also UI kits for app building and proper grids (which you can make in Illustrator) available for use. I used it for a few projects and it had its uses. If you’re accustomed to using Photoshop and Illustrator it may be a tough to break away from.

Yeah, I haven’t downloaded and used any plugins, so that’s something I ought to do.

And you’re right, I’ve been using both Illustrator and Photoshop since they were first released back in the Middle Ages sometime. I can see where Sketch would be easier to learn, and it does do a few things in a more straight-forward way than the more complicated Adobe apps, but for me, that’s not a big selling point.

I do think I’ll get the company to actually buy a few copies, though. Given its popularity, I need to take it seriously — especially given that some on my team are asking for it.

Unlike most Adobe applications, the Sketch plugins really make the app. Take a look at these from Creative Bloq.

I’ve been in the world of digital probably for as long as you have. Do you remember Adobe PageMill and BBEdit? That will tell you something there :joy::rofl::joy:! I think Sketch is great and if you look at the reviews by designers, you’ll see they will agree. The only issue I have with Sketch is the Mac-only environment. I just had to move to PC recently, but hold on to my Mac for Sketch.

Take a look at the plugins and let me know what you think afterward. I’m curious to know if your opinion of the application will change.

Okay, I’m really playing the boomer card here. Anyone else been using Photoshop since version 3, released in 1994?

I can’t remember what version of photoshop. It was either 2 or 3. I was in college doing my second bachelors from 1992 to 94 where I would have used it first.
Illustrator was version 5 by that point.
Quark was version 3.3.
There was no Indesign.

Post Boomer here. I’m generation “We Don’t Know What To Do With You.” All in all the software is about the same with added features to make things easier for the newcomers.

There was no InDesign, but there was Adobe PageMaker. Quark is still around.

Aldus Pagemaker
</decomposing as we speak>

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Oh, yeah. I remember PageMill. As for BBEdit, it’s still my go-to code editor, and it’s still being updated.

I hate to admit it, but I date even further back than that. I participated in Adobe’s beta testing for Photoshop 1.0. :open_mouth:

Okay, I’ll see your Photoshop 1 and raise you one “Splash.” :grin:

Does anyone remember that one? It was a pre-Photoshop pixel drawing software, from, oh gosh, about 1987 or so?

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