Tools to Run a Design Agency
Owner and Managing Director of presentation design agency Zacht Studios, Zach Grosser, reviews design and collaboration tools used as of November 2021. Read more about Zacht Studios at zacht.studio
Bonsai referral code: app.hellobonsai.com/invite/56c65645
Better Logos Figma Plugin: figma.com/community/plugin/984840399144699277/Better-Logos
Better Logos Figma Community file: figma.com/community/file/943878934511131375/Better-Logos
Bézier, design interview podcast: bezier.show
Follow me on Twitter: @zachgrosser
Eighties Vibes playlist: tidal.com/browse/playlist/f47988c1-8a86-4cb9-83fc-4ddf932a5401
Last month, Tella invited me to talk about the stack of design tools and other collaborative tools that I use to run Zacht Studios, the presentation design agency. And, I recorded a video going through sort of my whole workflow. We published obviously this tweet, um, with a shortened version of that. So I wanted to share the full thing. I will leave links to all these tools in the comments uh please let me know if you have questions about how we use any of them in our workflow.
Hey, I'm Zach Grosser. I run Zacht Studios, the presentation design agency, and these are the tools I use to both run my agency, coordinate with my team, and design.
Our team uses Asana. I've hidden the interface here to not give away all of our client's information, but as you can see, I planned recording this video with it.
I use Tella of course. I love using it for recording screens. I often use it to make, uh, tutorials or answer questions or review work with our clients. I might do some design work and then record a video sort of walking through it. And then we can have our, uh, meetings asynchronously with Tella.
Like many teams. We use Slack to communicate both within our team, but also with shared channels with some of our clients. We also have a Slack channel for every single client. And that way we can organize all the conversation around that one client project in one place on top of the Asana workflow, so that, you know, the conversations are easier to locate.
We've recently started using Slite. I look at it more of like an internal Wiki for our company. We wanted to have a central location for all the information about our studio, how we run it, what tools we use and just so that there wasn't all these docs spread around. It's a Google doc or is to presentation or whatever.
And as people new, join the company, knowing where all those things are, so it's one centralized location. We are still building it out. It's I think half done at this point, but it's, um, it's a great tool so far. Final Cut Pro is my primary video editing tool. oftentimes I'll finish up a video and Tella and might drop it in here to add a couple other layers or effects, um, or edit it together with a video that's come from another location.
This is Pitch. As a presentation design agency, I spend a lot of time in slide design tools. I use all of them as you'll see here, but Pitch is the newest entrant into the presentation tool game, and one of my favorites. I try to get all of my clients to move from Google Slides or PowerPoint or Keynote into Pitch because I just love it.
It's a, it's got some really nice features for designers specifically, and it's a team dedicated to making presentation software. Versus, you know, Google Slides- Google's got other stuff they're working on as well. And then of course there is Google Slides. I spend a lot of my time in Google Slides as well.
You know, one of the better ones, in my opinion, a lot of designers might feel like it's more limiting, but the collaboration features and tools are really, very helpful for getting client work done. Um, sometimes we can have all of our client communication directly in the comments of a Google Slides presentation rather than having to go back and forth on email, have meetings, etc.
And of course there's Keynote. I started my career as a presentation designer on Keynote. So I have a large affinity for it. It has some really nice features that you can't find in other presentation software. However, I also work across other operating systems. Sometimes I work on a Chromebook. I have a Windows laptop currently for my office computer.
So, you know, it is limited in that way, but, you know, I love it.
And then of course, there's PowerPoint. We use whatever tool our clients need us to use. So we work across all the presentation software, including my not-so-favorite PowerPoint. I do a lot of my design work in Figma as well. Um, I was one of Figma's earliest users having access to the alpha. I then worked at Figma for 14 months and still use it a lot for work. Shameless plug, we have a resource called Better Logos, um, that's both a Figma file you can get in the Figma Community at the @zacht handle and, um, it's also a Figma plugin. It's called Better Logos.
I use the Creative Cloud app quite a bit. I can't show you my files tab, but I use the cloud storage for Creative Cloud for both syncing across devices, my, um, my screenshots auto save there. And I really like having them accessible in the creative apps. Um, as well as a lot of our creative files we'll work, uh, you know, especially with Adobe's latest updates to have more collaborative features.
Um, we store a lot of our Adobe files in the Creative Cloud.
I use Photoshop to mostly prepare GIFs either from still frames or from video content. Uh, and then every once in a while, we'll use it to like punch out a background.
Use Illustrator, mostly for print materials, which has worked with Nextdoor for their IPO. And so these were the banners that were on the outside of the New York Stock Exchange. A lot of those assets, you definitely want to prepare in, you know, CMYK and so I'll use Illustrator a lot for that.
I still love using InDesign. I have to hide the interface here because I can't show the project that I'm working on in it. But we have one client whose presentation is built in InDesign. And like I said, we'll work with our clients and whatever software they need us to use. Um, I also have a soft spot from learning InDesign at university, and then, you know, designing menus and books in it.
I also use Adobe XD. Just like with presentation software how sometimes our clients have preferences, same with using Figma or Adobe XD or Sketch. If that's what the client works with, then, you know, we're happy to work with them, so use Adobe XD sometimes. And to round out the Adobe tools that I use often is After Effects, any animation work, uh, usually happens here,
our website, our blog, presentation.design, and many of our client's websites are built in Webflow. Um, we use Webflow to do a lot of the sort of heavy lifting when it comes to developing websites so that we can kind of design them without necessarily needing a whole development team to build out sites or know somebody that knows WordPress or whatever.
I use Descript for audio editing. It's a really cool audio editing platform. I don't really know any other software like it, cause you can edit the script itself, the transcript, and it will edit the audio or you can edit the audio and it will edit the transcript. It's super great generating transcripts, sometimes I'll just drop a video in here to generate the transcripts so I can create subtitles or captioning. I have three podcasts that I edit currently. Two of which I'm co-host of, uh, this one is Bézier, which is a design interview podcast. And Descript makes the process super fast and easy.
Speaking of podcasting, I use Riverside.fm to record podcasts. It's a higher quality audio and video than you could get on like Zoom or recording a Google Meet or Skype. It backs up the audio tracks to the cloud, but it also has a local copy that it uploads. And so the local copy is able to grab like a higher quality version.
Um, and I find it really easy to use. Nobody has to install anything to like be a guest, so it works pretty well. And while we're still talking about podcasts, I use Google Podcasts on my phone to listen to podcasts. These are the shows that I subscribe to. There's a presentation focused on that's great.
And some of my own in here as well. Our whole team uses Grammarly for work, allows us to set like a style guide terms, common things, and also have snippets for our team to reuse, I won't show you our passwords, but we use 1password as a team as well to share logins and just make sure that all of our data is secure.
I use Twitter on the regular, maybe too much. but it's a great tool for both just, uh, having, uh, that serotonin bump. Really it's great for work. I get tons of clients through there. I can make a bunch of connections. We find people to work with us. So it it's a great tool for that. For contracts and invoicing, we use Bonsai.
Um, here's my referral code. If you want to check it out, I can't show you what the interface looks like cause it's all of our client and invoice information. So I've been using it for a really long time. I use it to organize my freelance work and then it just sort of like, as we grew have been able to use more and more of its features as well.
Um, we use Wethos for scoping. It's an awesome tool for freelancers and small agencies. We build all of our SOWs in there. It's great to get a benchmark for, if you don't know how much to charge for something. There are sort of suggestions built into Wethos, and, uh, you know, that are updated because of what the community charges for things.
So it's really, really helpful and also a great community to be apart of.
Speaking of great communities, SuperHi has got one of the best. I've used SuperHi for years to learn how to code among other things. Also, like I said, the community is like such a huge part. We actually have meetups at the Amsterdam group and a full disclosure, SuperHi does sponsor Bézier. Um, but I would talk and brag about them if they didn't.
And when I'm working, I will either be listening to one of the podcasts they shared earlier or will be listening to TIDAL. Um, I find that my Eighties Vibes playlist, not only the songs are from the eighties, but they have eighties vibes to me, um, can be really helpful to just like, get some work done.