A Designer’s Most Underrated Tool: The Highlighter

by | Mar 13, 2016 | Design

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Designers use a lot of different tools in their day-to-day life. But the one that I don’t see many using is the simple and unassuming highlighter. Yes, you read that right. Not the latest prototyping software du jour, or the Macbook Pro. The highlighter. It’s the tool I miss the most when I don’t have one on me.

Get a highlighter.

Proofreader's Marks

Credit: http://bit.ly/1XoPiyP

When I was first starting out in my career, I remember getting one of my layouts returned to me for revisions. It was covered in proofreader’s marks. I hadn’t learned how to read proofreader’s marks in school. I was embarrassed. But I still went to the creative director to help me decipher what I needed to do. And he showed me the best trick ever:

“Every time you make an edit on the screen, mark the proofreader’s mark off with a highlighter on the hard copy. That way you know you did the edit and you won’t miss one.”

And that’s what I did. I highlighted all the corrections on the hard copy so that I knew that I had done them all. When I was done, I printed off a new hard copy. I placed the new version and the one with the proofreader’s marks in the job jacket. When I turned it back into proofing, I added my initials. If there were any problems, they could find me.

I didn’t even have a highlighter, because I never thought I would need one. The creative director gave me his to use that day. It was a bit fancier than a standard office one. Refillable. And for years, I just used whatever highlighter was in the supply closet at my various jobs.

Every designer who has ever worked for me has heard this story in some variation or another. Inevitably, I have one repeat the same actions I took all those years ago. Now and again, one of them comes into my office with a perplexed look at how to read proofreader’s marks. And I always end with the same thing. Get. A. Good. Highlighter.

This week, after being annoyed at not having a highlighter on hand and finding none in the office supply closet, I purchased a Platinum Preppy Flourescent Highligher Pen. I love Platinum’s Preppy line of products. Cheap, but well made. Durable. It cost me $2.50 for the highlighter and $2.50 for a pack of three refills on JetPens.com. That ought to last me for a year or so.

If you’re a designer, do yourself a favor and get some highlighters. It saves you time with revisions, which in turn saves the company money. More importantly, it saves your clients’ money. And steal my story. Share it with your own team. Or with a client. Using a highlighter for revisions just shows you are paying attention to details. That you take your job seriously. You can’t lose.

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