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10 Tools to Keep Creatives Happy and Productive

This band of rebels is a breed unto themselves with a blend of desirable skills that ensure your brand not only stays intact, but one step ahead of the competition.
10 Tools to Keep Creatives Happy and Productive
Image credit: Shutterstock

Keeping creatives -- designers, writers, art directors and other artsy types -- inspired and motivated within the confines of their cubicles should be one of your top priorities for 2017. This band of rebels is a breed unto themselves with a blend of desirable skills that ensure your brand not only stays intact, but one step ahead of the competition.

It’s easy to see why marketing departments continue to experience a spike in the number of creatives joining their teams, and they are showing a heightened interest in keeping those growing teams content. Seventy percent of B2B marketers who responded to a study by the Content Marketing Institute said they are creating more content than they did one year ago, and 55 percent of them will increase their marketing spending in the coming year.

Mega corporations are on this trend as well.

Related: How to Inspire Innovation Within Your Business

Apple and Microsoft (and others) have retooled their machines (and packed them full of apps) designed specifically to court the creative market. With its October 2016 release of the new MacBook Pro, Apple continues to cater to creatives, with one tag line proclaiming, “for creativity on an epic scale.” Not to be outdone, Microsoft released Surface Studio, “a new tool for the creative process.”

But with talent, comes a set of unique needs.

“Tapping into one’s creativity within the confines of a corporate environment can have its challenges,” notes Hillary Hope, founder and creative director at The Unlimited Hope. “A brilliant idea can hit while on the treadmill at the gym, in line at the grocery store or in the middle of the night. Being flexible with one’s creative team is one of the best ways to support and inspire them.”

To ensure you can equip your team with smart apps for idea-making, brainstorming and productive daydreaming, I’ve short-listed 10 top tools working creatives use to stay motivated, curious and responsive as well as organized and on task.

“In order to ensure your team has the space to tap into their creative juices while tending to the left-brain, you must not only give them the tools they need but flexibility as well,” Hope adds. “This way, they are more apt to deliver new and interesting solutions for projects in a timely manner.”

1. Designinspiration

Designinspiration is the hub for discovering great art, design, architecture, photography, typography and web creativity. Creatives can browse content submitted by its users as well as share their own great designs.

“When I’m stuck, or need a spark of inspiration, I browse the amazing work on Designinspiration,” says Tamara Weaver, creative director at Patient Pop. “The quality and diversity really opens your mind and erases borders -- it’s like brainstorming with an entire global team.”

2. ONTRApages

ONTRApages fosters the entrepreneurial spirit among creatives by offering easy-to-build, attractive web pages (a plethora of template, fonts, and colors) that can boost conversions and help grow businesses. And it’s free for everyone.

3. Adobe Photoshop LightRoom

Adobe Photoshop LightRoom helps photographers and designers manage and edit their photographs -- from importing to sorting to sharing on the web.

Related: 5 Lessons for Success From YouTube Star Casey Neistat

4. Clique University

While Clique Studios is first and foremost a full-service agency, the company is also making a name for itself with its “Clique University” classes. On its website, let your creatives explore the history and necessities of typography or dive deep into Clique’s insights.

If you’re located in or will be in Chicago, invite Clique University to give personalized sessions to your creative team or attend one of Clique U’s in-person training sessions. 

5. The Noun Project

This global library of free, downloadable icons representing symbols and concepts lets designers create, share and celebrate the world’s visual language. Today, millions use The Noun Project to simplify communication around the world.

6. Sketch

With Sketch, designers and art directors can create stunning landing pages and working prototypes to help complete their own projects. Sketch’s lightweight, flexible and fast interface makes sure the focus remains on what matters: the design.

“Sketch is my go-to when I start a new web project,” says Leslie Casanova, founder and creative director at Spell Work. “It helps translate a complex design into a final product, which makes it easy to present to clients.”

7. Hemingway Editor

Hemingway himself probably would have used this simple text editor. And why not? Its proofreading tools create bold and clear prose. The Hemingway Editor highlights common problems that can get in the way of clear writing, including complex words or phrases, extra long sentences, too many adverbs and too many instances of passive voice.

8. Lynda

This is a one-stop-shop for productively burning an hour at work while learning a new skill. Get your entire team a Lynda subscription to take full advantage of the unlimited courses in design software, web building, video and still photography, animation, illustration and writing. You name it, Lynda most likely has a course for it.

9. Grammarly

No matter your writing needs, Grammarly gives you the confidence of mistake-free writing every time you put pen to paper, so to speak. Grammarly's online proofreading tool checks text for grammar, punctuation and style and features a contextual spelling checker and plagiarism detector.

Related: 'Metal Gear Solid' Creator on How He Remains Creative Amid Hardships

10. Headspace

Getting your creatives in the right frame of mind is what Headspace does best. Research shows practicing meditation and mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, focus and creativity. Headspace bills itself as “a gym membership for the mind,” with a monthly subscription program that teaches meditation in short, office-friendly time slots.

I'm always looking for new creative tools. Tweet me your favorites that I didn't include on this list @andrewmedal.