Tools We Use to Run a Productive Creative Agency

What tools does it take to run a productive boutique creative agency?

To kick off 2016, we wanted to take you behind the scenes to show you our tried and tested tools. We’ll talk through our process, the tools, and why we love them so much.

The thing we’ve learned over the years is there is no substitute for having the right tools.  Not only that, but a tool is only as good as the process. We’ve continued to tweak the way we do things to make it easier and more effective. Read on below to see our list of the digital and physical tools we use on a daily basis and how they fit into our process.

The Hardware

My current set-up: MacBook Pro 15 + 2 Thunderbolt Displays

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I love my MBP. This is the hub of productivity and my only computer. The MBP makes it easy to keep all my files in one place and cuts down on the need to go back and forth on different machines. I have two Thunderbolt displays, one at the studio and one at home, making set-up easy.

My previous set-up: Macbook Air
I used to have a Macbook Air and it did a stellar job. It could run Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. very well. I loved the portability and form factor, but it ran into problems doing video editing. Nothing beats the power of the Retina Macbook Pro.

When I’m on the Road: iPad Pro + Duet App

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I love my iPad pro as well. This makes working from the road soooo much better. I set it up as a secondary display through the use of the Duet app. This app is one of the best I have seen in a long time. It doubles my screen real estate and doesn’t look too ostentatious when I set it up at a coffee shop. The Duet app refreshes the screen at 60 frames per second so there is virtually no lag.

Cut it: I don’t love the keyboard case as it is bulky and awkward to set up.

Keep it: But the pencil is KILLER. I use it in conjunction with Astropad for drawing. It is so good that I got rid of my Wacom tablet and am now using the iPad exclusively for drawing.

My Camera: 5D Mark III

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I take shots on my 5D Mark III all the time. There is nothing like it. I love keeping it with me so that I can snap Neuestock photos wherever I am. I have an old backpack I have used for years to carry it all. I bought black polyethlene foam and cut it with an exacto knife to create a custom insert inside of my bag that is fitted to my camera, 24-70 mm lens, spyder holster and expodisk.

The Software

File storage and backup: Dropbox + 3 High-Capacity Drives + Apple Time Capsule

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Dropbox is one of my first lines of backup defense. I have all my working files synced and backed up on Dropbox. Outside of Dropbox, I do monthly backups of all my files to three separate high-capacity drives. I keep the drives in separate physical locations in case of a catastrophic emergency. I also use an Apple Time Capsule as a 4th backup. I had a large data loss at one point early in my career. That taught me the value of backing up. Most people don’t think of this until its too late.

Pro advice so good it should be on a t-shirt: Jesus saves, so should you.

Editing and Design: Adobe Creative Suite (of course!)

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Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Lightroom, Premier, After Effects – – These are all indispensable apps for me. I love learning about features, shortcuts, tips and tricks. Adobe is doing very well at updating and progressing the software. It is well worth the $49.00 /mo. Make sure to follow the Adobe blogs. They are coming out with new stuff all the time. If you want to go deeper, learn with Lynda & Skillshare.

Email: Airmail 

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For email, I use Airmail. I used Sparrow until it got bought out by Google and Airmail is the closest I have found to replicating the experience. It makes quick conversations easy and works seamlessly with Gmail.

My three other must-have apps: Bartender 2 + Better Touch Tool + Color Snapper 2

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Bartender 2 is my go to for keeping my menu bar clean, clear, and set up for optimal productivity. It lets you organize your menu bar apps by hiding them, rearranging them, or moving them to the Bartender Bar. You can display the full menu bar, set options to have menu bar items show in the menu bar when they have updated, or have them always visible in the Bartender Bar.

Better Touch Tool is a beast for creating custom shortcuts on my Mac & Magic Mouse. Shortcuts save so much time and I would hate doing without this little app. Better Touch Tool lets you create unique shortcuts to help you become more productive. I created a couple for my unique workflow . Command + Click opens finder. Command, Option + click opens Basecamp. Control + option + control opens Trello. Command + swipe up shows desktop. There are so many ways you can set it up. In addition to this it has an iOS companion app (BTT Remote) which can also be configured to control your Mac the way you want. I love this app.

Finally, Color Snapper 2 lets me color pick any color visible on my screen. I always need to grab colors and this does the trick, simple and sweet.

What tools do you use? I’m a bit of a gear junkie and would love to check them out. Drop your suggestions into the comments below.