Michael Ater | Design

Working in a tech-centric city, we’re forever tuned into new tools—which seem to hit the market everyday. Apps and products flood our ether, and the challenge lies not in adapting the new but in finding a product that isn’t just a new spin on an old idea, packaged in shiny colors and eye-catching fonts. It’s a real testament for a tool to find its way into our everyday lives, impacting our processes and become essential to productivity, inspiration, and ongoing discovery.

Below are a few products we at Character just can’t live without.


Keeping track of everything.

As strategists and designers, we are natural arrangers and cataloguers, and Evernote helps us excel in our roles. Though most people use this app in a variety of ways–from bookmarking recipes to writing one-off notes to marking sources of inspiration and flagging potential vacation spots, we find it to be a great tool for building out notebooks around design projects. Each project warrants its own notebook, and within it, notes with a singular focus.

In any given project, our designers find themselves collecting odds and ends to inspire or communicate particular concepts, develop photography styles, or riff on FPO copy. At its outset, a brand starts as a well of thoughts, feelings, words and images, and, Evernote has become that place to capture that fodder and see that a brand takes shape. It is here that ideas first begin to grow and live together, merging to create a holistic look and feel.


Making a list, checking it twice.

Clear is a remarkably simple tool for doing one thing, and doing it well—building lists. There must be a million of these apps floating around, but somehow Clear’s UX and level of simplicity makes it great. It has managed to steer clear of becoming bloated and overloaded with new features. Its singular focus is fundamental to productivity.

It’s so inherent, we find ourselves building lists to keep tabs on restaurants, movies, groceries, goals and everything in between. But, it’s keeping track of our project tasks that have us abuzz. As an agency, we are often juggling multiple projects for clients or overseeing the development of several deliverables at once. Here, we can keep an eye on it all, ensuring high priority tasks get ample attention while smaller tasks stay on our radar.


Archiving the world.

Surfing the web has its place and time, but for us, time is of the essence and having direct access–a necessity. Admittedly, we’re not too sure where we’d be in the world we’d be without bookmarks. They’re essential for holding onto amazing pieces of inspiration in an ever-expanding internet, and grant easy access to a massive library of valuable resources. Specific to our work, we have directories dedicated to all sorts of design-oriented pages and sites: type foundries, illustrators, photographers, UI examples, and moving videos.

And, you can often find us breaking out our favorite design studios by their country or region of origin, which helps to recall striking projects, unique identity systems, and other creative inspiration but also reveals interesting design trends and themes emerging across the world.


Catalog and discover.

Music is known to stimulate more parts of the brain than any other function, and our office, just wouldn’t survive without it. Whether hip-hop, instrumental, or some bluesy tunes, songs inspire our work. Their lyrics spark new ideas, while their bass and rhythm energize our outputs and set a good working pace. No matter the time of day, you can find us tuned into one music app in particular, and that’s Spotify.

Spotify puts an incredible amount of music at your fingertips and offers up tools to discover and save music. We consistently build playlists both for individual months and the entire year, funneling in favorites we’ve discovered via Spotify’s surfacing features, our friends, and blogs. In doing so, we can navigate to those timestamped tunes that energized us on exciting new projects or surface those soothing sounds that helped us carve out the mental space needed to craft inspiring manifestos and solve for intricate brand systems.

What products have found their way into your day-to-day? Are there products essential to your process? What about them keeps them coming back? We’d love to hear from you info@charactersf.com.