Dear designers, it is about the tools

Aaron Cecchini-Butler
2 min readMar 16, 2022

I’ve read a number of articles talking about how design isn’t about the tools. “Tools come and go…” they’ll say, acting like a wise battle-hardened sage. But I’m here to tell you, it’s kind of about the tools.

Let me start by clarifying, I think the intention behind these comments is good. The idea that good design is about how you approach problems, and how good design can be accomplished on a whiteboard, etc. However, at some point, you’re going to have to sit down and open a design file, probably in Figma, and do the manual labor of design.

And if you’re not very good at Figma, you will have a limited career. (or Sketch I guess…? Does anyone use that anymore?)

Imagine a carpenter coming onto the job site and declaring, “it’s not about the tools!” Well, sure, being able to hammer a nail doesn’t make me a carpenter – however it’d be awfully silly if the carpenter wasn’t very good at using a hammer.

Picture this — A doctor walks into your annual physical, looks at the stethoscope, and says, “I didn’t go to med school for 10 years to be limited by tools.”

Unfortunate side effect

The unfortunate side effect that I’ve witnessed has to do with the way in which junior designers interpret the wise sage’s advice. These new designers coming out of bootcamps will often use a line like this to justify their poor designs. How often I’ve heard, “I’m a UX designer not a UI designer” when a bootcamp graduate is trying to argue that their visually horrendous portfolio should get them a job.

Quite frankly, you need to be good at Figma to be a successful product designer in 2022. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Every job comes some required tooling.

figma logo

And every time someone posts on Twitter about how “it’s not about the tools” I go stalk their portfolio — and guess what — they’re really good at the tools.

Aaron Cecchini-Butler

Senior Systems Designer at Grubhub working on Cookbook (our design system) — as well as contributing to product design work.