Rethinking Graphic Editing Tools

Why too good of a UX can kill your creativity.

Lately I’ve been posting images from a new project that I’ve started a while back: a custom drawing app. It’s been now several months in the making and –even though it’s still incomplete– I am getting to a point where it’s feature-complete enough for me to use for creating art.


Why a new tool?

Short answer: Because I need freedom.

Long answer: Because, without realizing it, I was being limited by the many options of other tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. Any tool out there, as great as it might be, has been designed to accommodated the vast majority of demands by the vast majority of creatives. This design choice leaves out the minorities with marginal needs, the edge cases, the exceptions. A graphic editing tool that excludes the rarities, the unconventional, the different? Sounds to me like we are making things quite difficult for creating unbounded art.


The limitations

It has taken me a long time to realize that, unbeknown to me, I was being limited by my many options. We make assumptions when creating that are neither good nor bad. We play with constraints even when we are not aware of it. Photoshop can be very limiting for the exact same reasons it is great: Great UX. Too many decisions have been made for us even before we start working with these tools.

Many things can be put into question: the canvas, the toolbar, the color palette are just some examples. Cartesian coordinate system? Undo/Redo capabilities? Each new option redirects your focus and affects the end result.


I’m not a pro with Photoshop and not every designer out there is a programmer, so this might be a route for few. We should focus on creating new tools if the tools we already have can’t do everything we ask of them. The biggest roadblock is, actually, realizing that we are limited. Like Plato’s prisoners, we don’t know what we are missing until we see it.

November 25, 2010 ☼ codethoughtsartdrawinggraphic-editing-toolsillustratormosaicpaintingphotoshopux