Kleenex, Band-Aids, Q-Tips, and Post-Its. What do all these products have in common? Well, technically, it’s not the what the products have in common – it’s the brand. All of these are brand names that have become more or less synonymous with the products. We don’t call them “cotton swabs” or “low-tack adhesive notes” – but you wouldn’t use a Post-It Note to do a Q-Tip’s job.
Word processing, page layout and photo editing programs are as varied as any other type of software, but often times we lump them all into a a few categories of “design software”. The truth is these different programs all serve vastly different functions and, at least in some cases, are designed to work together to make our jobs as designers easier. “Photoshop” is as much a verb as it is an actual program in the common vernacular – but you wouldn’t want to use Photoshop to painstakingly lay out a 100-page book page-by-page. Conversely, if you’re using Microsoft Word to lay out a business card or photo collage, you’re not only making your work much more difficult, but potentially limiting the quality of your finished design.
Below is a simple guide to a few of the most common and accessible programs that a designer or creative professional should have knowledge of. Bear in mind this isn’t a comprehensive list – and there are a variety of other programs available that can serve similar functions – but it should help when you’re starting your next design project!
Microsoft Word & Excel
GREAT FOR: Basic text & writing for long or short forms, manuals, books, letters & documents, data entry
BUT NOT FOR:Complex layout, large prints or anything image-heavy
Microsoft Powerpoint & Apple Keynote
GREAT FOR: Online or on-screen presentations, digital slideshows
BUT NOT FOR: Printed materials such as booklets, brochures or large posters
Microsoft Publisher & Apple Pages
GREAT FOR: Basic page layout, Newsletters, letters, simple postcards or flyers
BUT NOT FOR: Complex layout, booklets, brochures or anything image-heavy
Adobe Photoshop and other photo editing software
GREAT FOR: Image editing & effects, background graphics, textures & text effects, large scale raster graphics, 3-D graphics, web graphics
BUT NOT FOR: Complex text layout, brochures, multi-page documents or booklets
Adobe Illustrator or other graphic illustration software
GREAT FOR: Vector illustration, scalable graphics & text, high-resolution logos, brochures, web graphics, signage
BUT NOT FOR: Complex or multi-page layout, photo-heavy graphics
Adobe InDesign, Quark Express or other page layout software
GREAT FOR: Booklets, brochures, multi-page documents, manuals, print layout and processing, tables, forms
BUT NOT FOR: Image or graphic editing, web graphics
Questions or comments? What is your go-to design program? Chat with us on or and visit our website!