In The Age Of Photoshop, Most Designers Still Prefer Brainstorming On Paper

Khoi Vinh polled 4,000 designers on their work habits. Here are the results.

In The Age Of Photoshop, Most Designers Still Prefer Brainstorming On Paper
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You ideate on paper. You wireframe and design an interface in Sketch. You prototype it in HTML. And you track your progress in Slack, while sharing files via Dropbox.


This is the modern designer’s workflow, according to a new poll of 4,000 designers run by Khoi Vinh–former design director of who recently signed with Adobe to develop new products.

You can check out the full results here, in a very legible series of infographics developed by Hyperakt. And while the results have been simplified to highlight a leader like Sketch, there are a lot of tools fighting to be your main tool when designing new products. Adobe may not have taken the top slot on any one step of the process, but that’s largely because Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign are all listed separately. In aggregate, Adobe as a brand is still a powerhouse.

In fact, there’s a surprising amount of variety. As Vinh writes via email, “I’ve just been amazed by how vibrant the market for design software has been over the past two years. If you go back a decade, we had the exact opposite situation—a small handful of large players and relatively little innovation. Now we get a new app seemingly once a month or so.”

But even within this rich selection of new apps, one thing stood out to us: 64% of designers still prefer to brainstorm with a good old pencil and paper.

“I expected pencil and paper to do well in the brainstorming category, but I didn’t expect it to take 64% of the votes. To me, that signals a few things. First, software still hasn’t matured nearly to the level it needs to for this task. There’s a long way to go, and that also means there’s tremendous opportunity,” Vinh writes via email. “But also, I think that there’s a huge marketing challenge here: regardless of whether or not you’re a designer, when it comes time to brainstorm solutions for anything, most people think of pencil and paper as their first resort. That comes from decades or centuries of conditioning. That’s a huge hill to climb.”

Indeed, while software/hardware companies like Adobe, FiftyThree, and most recently, Apple, have all made attempts to combine tablets and styluses to knock out analog tools, analog-first companies like Moleskine are still doing massive sales in stationary, if for no other reason than that most of us began writing with a real pencil and paper. Having said that, it certainly feels like we’re approaching a tipping point, where screens might soon be good enough, cheap enough, and omnipresent enough to be the status quo.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.