10 Things I Couldn't Design Without

You know when you see that superhero mom juggling 2 or 3 kids, a dog, and countless other things and you immediately ask yourself, “How does she do that?” Or when you see the restaurant or coffee shop owner who seems to be working every single moment the lights are on? I have certainly thought, “I wonder how they do that,” so many times in life. I would bet they have a list of “things” they would tell you they couldn’t live without. 

I am definitely not a superhero mom (or a mom in general) and I don’t run a restaurant or coffee shop, but as a designer and business owner I also have a list of items that make my life a whole lot easier. Here's my top 10 list.

10 Things I Couldn't Design Without | casilong.com/blog | #casilongdesign #fearlesspursuit

1 | My Apple Products

I love my apple products as much as anybody and I rely heavily on them to operate my business. I have an iMac, MacBook Pro, iPhone, iPad and an iCloud subscription. 

I use an iMac to work on the majority of my large design products. When I’m tweaking every little detail of a design, it’s a lot easier to see on a large computer screen. When I don’t feel like sitting at my desk, or need an on-the-go option, I whip out my Macbook Pro laptop. 

When I decided to start my business, I spent a lot of time establishing workflows. I already owned an iMac, but knew I needed a laptop for travel and taking files on the go. However, my main concern was integration. I didn’t want to be sending files back and forth between computers everyday and constantly worrying about which file is the most recent version.

After doing some research, I discovered iCloud storage. I purchased storage for $2.99 a month and dropped the iCloud folder right into the sidebar on both my iMac and Macbook. I can save all my files in the folder and it automatically—and almost simultaneously—updates the file on both machines. So far it has worked great.

I also use the iCloud for photo sharing. I take 90% of my photos using my iPhone, but I like to do most of my editing on the computer. So once I’ve taken a photo, I hop on my iMac, open photo sharing and wallah—the photos are automatically on the computer and ready for editing. Once a photo is edited and ready to go, I save it into a folder on my iCloud storage, which I can then access via my iPhone. The process is so seamless it makes using all my devices really easy.


2 | Sketchbook + Notebook

I have a love/hate relationship with sketching. I hate how imperfect my sketches are, but I love how it can spark creativity for a project. I keep a sketchbook in my desk drawer and pull it out several times a week when I need to quickly draw out an idea. 

I have a LOVE relationship with notebooks. I would own all the notebooks if I had room to store them all. I am a huge proponent for list making. I make lists for my lists and am totally guilty of writing down a task just so I can cross it off. Truth be told, writing everything down gives me peace of mind that I’m not forgetting something.

I also love to doodle. Sometimes the urge to draw/doodle hits me and it’s great to have a notebook handy when the time comes. 


3 | Colorful Pens + Markers

In order to utilize #2, you definitely need #3. I am a sucker for writing utensils. I have different pens for different notebooks and different markers for different types of lettering. 

A few of my favorites are: 
(left to right)

1. Micron Pens Black (here on amazon)
2. Staedtler Triplus Fineliner (here on amazon)
3. Le Pens (here on amazon)
4. Tombow Dual Brush Pens (here on amazon)

Colorful pens are also an easy way to pops of color to your photography.

4 | Planner + Calendars

I am a calendar junkie. I use several different calendars on a daily basis: iPhone + iMac calendars, design projects calendar, blogging + social media calendar, and my planner. I use them for scheduling events, meetings, church activities, dinner dates, and keeping track of all the daily to-dos that come with owning a small business.

My planner is the Day Designer by Whitney English. I have the mid-year Flagship version, in Painterly Floral (view here) and I love it!

The Day Designer is perfect for solo entrepreneurs. It offers hourly scheduling for each day, as well as a top 3 priority list for the day. I love this feature, even though I’m bad about wanting to list 10 items.

Of course I use my colorful pens to keep everything color-coded and organized. I know, I’m a nerd.

5 | Music

Have you ever noticed some people are really into music and others—not so much? I am one of those really-into-music type of people. I am constantly forcing my friends to listen to my new favorite song or album. I look up the lyrics to all the songs so I can truly understand the meaning behind them. 

Music fuels my soul and gets my mind right.

I often listen to mellow worship music while I’m designing, but other days I’m jamming to Ben Rector and singling at the top of my lungs. It varies from day to day, but I almost always have music going in the background.

Here are a few of my favorite artists:

Ben Rector
Lauren Daigle
All Sons and Daughters
Matt Kearney

And for the occasional country jam sesh:
Brett Eldredge
Chris Stapleton
Dan + Shay


6 | Adobe Creative Cloud (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Lightroom)

This is every designer’s MUST HAVE. I pay for a monthly subscription to the creative cloud, which is new for me. We used to buy the program and would have to repurchase it every time a newer version was released. Now with the creative cloud, your programs automatically update so you know you always have the latest version.

I plan to write a future post breaking down the differences between each program, but here’s a quick overview:

Illustrator is meant for creating logos and shapes, and to manipulate text. Most often, I use this program to create logos.

InDesign is used for layouts and multi-page products. I use InDesign for any project combing several elements—like photos and text—or any project with more than one page (invitations, programs, menus, brochures, etc.).

I create inspiration boards and most of my graphics using InDesign.

Photoshop is for manipulating photos, plain and simple. I use this program for exactly that and not much else (mainly because it’s my least favorite of the 3 programs).

Lightroom is my favorite tool for editing photos. If you’re doing batch editing or need to compare several images to each other, this will be your best friend. You can edit one image and then apply those changes to all other photos taken in similar lighting. I use Lightroom daily.

7 | Natural Light

I love natural light, especially in the summertime. There is something about gorgeous sunlight beaming through the windows that just brightens my mood. I find I’m much more cheerful with the blinds open and sunlight shining in.

I also rely on natural light for all my photography, because I never use a flash. My desk is setup right by the window so I can easily snap a quick photo for social media or my blog.

8 | Pinterest

When Pinterest first came out I was obsessed. I was in college and my roommates and I would sit on the couch watching Friends and surfing Pinterest for hours. It was so much fun to create your dream home, wardrobe and life.

It wasn’t until a few years later I realized how much I actually depend on Pinterest to do my job. Every time I need inspiration for a new project, color palette, or layout idea I start here.

I typically create a secret board for each branding client and share the board with them. This is an easy way to make sure we are both on the same page with where the project is headed.

Pinterest is also great for finding new recipes, outfit ideas, and home decorating tips. Follow me on Pinterest here.


9 | Clean + Cute Workspace

Creating a super cute + functional workspace was at the top of my list when starting my business. We spend 8+ hours a day, 5-6 days a week sitting at our desks, so we need to enjoy the space. I live in a one-bedroom apartment, so my “office” is a section of my living room. Luckily, I have floor-to-ceiling windows which makes the space feel larger.

Fun, colorful desk accessories keep me inspired and also double as photo props. I have quite the collection of colorful pens + markers (as you saw in #3) that I display on my desk. They add a nice pop of color and make it super easy for me to grab one for a quick hand-lettering project.

At the end of each work day, I like to tidy up my desk and prep for the following day. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at a messy desk to start your workday.

10 | My Swell Water Bottle

I struggle with drinking enough water. I used to come home from work with a headache and the first thing my husband asked was, “Have you had enough water today?” Most the time my answer was no. So I decided if I had a cute water bottle to carry around, it would help me to drink water more regularly.

When I discovered the Swell bottle I was obsessed. They are so cute and come in so many different colors. Not to mention, they are designed to keep liquids cold for 24 hours and hot for 12.

I rarely leave the house without it and it has definitely helped me to stay more hydrated.

I have the 17 oz. Birds of Paradise color from the Satin Collection. It’s the perfect size and fits in most standard cupholders. You can purchase yours online here.

I hope you guys enjoyed seeing all my favorite things. Now I want to hear from you!

What are the things you couldn't live without?
Which items from my list surprised you?

Let me know in the comments below.