10 productivity tools for designers (plus tips to boost efficiency)

Getting feedback on deliverables from team members and clients, managing tasks and projects, tracking billable hours… 

That can drain your creativity and productivity before you’ve even begun the actual work. 

If only there were collaboration tools made to make your life easier as a designer… 🤔 

Image Source: Giphy

In this guide, you’ll find a selection of the best productivity tools for designers. These apps can help you focus on your work and boost efficiency.

Let’s get started!

Disclaimer: The information below is accurate as of December 29, 2022.

Table of contents

Best productivity tools for designers: an overview [with features & pricing]

What are your biggest challenges as a designer? Communication with clients? Staying on task?  

Whatever your productivity struggles are, there’s at least one tool to help you overcome them. 

To help you find the right solution for your pain points faster, we’ve gathered and analyzed 10 of the best productivity tools for designers — from project management tools to time-tracking apps. 

Here’s an overview:

10 productivity tools for designers comparison table

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details of each tool, let’s take a look at a breakdown of these productivity apps by use case.

Designer productivity tools by use case

To be more productive, you must have the right tools in your toolbox. Like the tools you would use if you worked in, say, construction or carpentry, each tool has its specific purpose. 

You wouldn’t use a hammer to drill holes in drywall, would you? Likewise, you shouldn’t use a note-taking app to share design feedback. 

That being said, here’s an overview of the apps we’ll evaluate today:

  • MarkUp.io: a visual annotation app for designers who want to make feedback more effective
  • Toggl: a tool for teams that need robust time tracking 
  • Figma: a platform for companies that want to collaborate on product design in real-time
  • Fontshare: a collection of nice, free fonts to use in your design projects
  • Trello: a project-management platform based on the Kanban board method 
  • InVision: a productivity platform with a real-time online whiteboard for teams looking for a centralized design workflow
  • Slack: an all-in-one communication tool for organizations
  • Evernote: best if you do a lot of research and note-taking
  • Taiga: an agile project management tool with Kanban boards
  • SelfControl: best for those who just can’t quit wasting time on social media

Now, on to the list!

Tool #1: MarkUp.io

Design is an inherently visual field, yet many professionals still rely on outdated ways to ask for and share feedback with their teams and stakeholders. 

Screenshots, long and confusing email chains … you know how annoying this feedback process can be 🙄 

Worse, unclear feedback can lead to misunderstandings that derail your entire project.

Imagine that your inbox is full of comments from stakeholders offering different and contradictory feedback. 

If that’s not frustrating enough, you soon get an email that says the fifth word in the second paragraph on page 53 of an ebook you designed looks weird against the background. 😵‍💫

That happens when you rely on a decentralized feedback process through email or chat apps.

Now, imagine that you requested reviews with MarkUp.io – a visual commenting platform that makes providing feedback more comprehensive and contextual.

MarkUp.io's homepage.

You can use MarkUp.io to quickly turn any web page (or one of the 30+ supported document formats) into a shareable MarkUp

When you send the MarkUp to your team, they can pin pixel-perfect and frame-accurate annotations right onto an image, PDF, text file, video, or live web page. So, you can comment directly on the video itself instead of requesting a video edit by describing the change you want to be made in a lengthy email. This minimizes the risk of miscommunication when relying on traditional, non-visual methods of giving feedback. 

Further, all the feedback is centralized in one location that every team member can access, preventing misunderstandings during the review cycle. 

How does MarkUp.io boost productivity?

Relying on ineffective and confusing ways to collaborate on design projects is horrible for your creative workflow. Using an annotation tool like MarkUp.io saves time and lets team members focus on being creative because it makes feedback easy to understand and implement.

Take it from tourism company TUI Group. Having visible comments on each document section has made it much easier for TUI Group to pinpoint what they need to change. Compared to relying on a big email thread, their creative process is 50% faster now

Meanwhile, the marketing agency di•puentes found that getting feedback from clients is much easier with MarkUp.io than using screenshots.

You can have similar results!

Whatever the size of your business, MarkUp.io lets you collaborate with your entire team and all stakeholders on one platform. The best part is that our platform makes creative collaboration frictionless.

Just imagine how smooth things can go when everybody you’re working with — from designers and marketers to copywriters and web developers — doesn’t have to download, install, or even log into anything to view, review, or approve creative work.

It doesn’t matter that the design team is using Trello and the web dev team is using Jira since all design feedback lives on MarkUp.io.

MarkUp.io features

The key MarkUp.io features include:

  • Annotation that is pixel-perfect and frame-accurate on a wide range of image, text, and video formats, as well as live web pages
  • Workspaces and Folders to organize projects in an accessible and searchable way
  • Comment attachments 
  • Team management features such as user roles (admin, members, guests) and bulk invites 

MarkUp.io pricing

To get all the functionality MarkUp.io has to offer, you should consider getting the Pro plan.

The Pro tier is $49 a month for unlimited users. Compared to the free option, it gives you unlimited MarkUps, 500GB of cloud storage, and the ability to manage access to shared links. 

Companies that need more can inquire about the custom enterprise plan

Tool #2: Toggl

Toggl Track is a time-tracking platform that lets users monitor team productivity and billable hours. 

Toggl Track's homepage.
Image Source: Toggl

So, if you’re a freelancer looking to accurately record billable hours or a manager wanting more insight into how your team is performing, Toggl Track might be a good tool to add to your tech stack. 

Originally, the Tallinn-based team developed this tool for internal use. The tool was such a success that they made it available to others.

How does it boost productivity?

For freelancers, Toggl can boost efficiency by letting you focus on the design process and stop worrying about tracking billable hours manually.

The easy-to-use app features one-click timers, which allow users to track time across the desktop, web, or mobile app. There is also a browser extension that comes with tracking reminders, idle detection, and a Pomodoro timer.

If you’re a bit forgetful, you can also use automatic background tracking, which auto-tracks every app or site you use for more than 10 seconds. Toggl then turns this data into time entries.

For bigger teams, the ability to know where each team member is spending most of their time can increase productivity. Time tracking software reveals insights managers can leverage to identify productivity bottlenecks and optimize task management.

Toggl features

These are the key Toggl Track features:

  • One-click timers that track and sync time entries across web, mobile, and desktop apps 
  • Calendar integrations that enable users to start tracking time based on calendar entries from Outlook or Google Calendar
  • Over 100+ app integrations, including Jira

Toggl pricing

When considering Toggl, you should know that some features are locked behind paid plans.

Toggl Track's pricing.
Image Source: Toggl

A free tier is available with basic features. To get billable rates tracking, you’ll need the Starter plan at $9 per user per month. For $18 per user per month, you’ll also get native Jira and Salesforce integrations, time-tracking audits, and project forecasts and analysis.

Tool #3: Figma

Figma is a collaborative design platform aimed at web designers and developers.

Figma's homepage.
Image Source: Figma

Using Figma, teams can work together on web design projects while communicating in real time.

It’s an end-to-end design platform covering all phases of web development, from the idea stage, prototyping, and wireframes to shipping the end product.

Figma also comes with FigJam, an online whiteboard that teams can use to brainstorm ideas.

How does it boost productivity?

Figma helps teams establish a single source of truth and manage the entire web development process. That way, teams can spend less time working outside their main tasks since feedback sharing is built in. 

 Figma features

Expect these features from Figma:

  • The ability to collaborate on projects together in real time
  • FigJam online whiteboard for brainstorming and mock-ups
  • Plugins to improve workflow and automate tasks

Figma pricing

There is a free plan to get a taste of what Figma has to offer.

Figma's pricing.
Image Source: Figma

The free version limits you to three  Figma files and three FigJam files. The number of collaborators, however, is unlimited. 

At $12 per editor per month, the Figma Professional plan offers unlimited file-sharing permissions and audio conversations. 

For businesses, the Figma Organization plan is $45 per editor per month and comes with design system analytics and centralized file management. 

One important call-out: FigJam is a separate subscription. While a free version is available, this add-on is  $3 per editor per month for the Professional tier and $5 for the Organization plan. 

Tool #4: Fontshare

The main purpose of Fontshare is right there in its name. It is a free design tool for sharing fonts. 

Fontshare's homepage.
Image Source: Fontshare

Fonts are more important than you might think. If you don’t believe us, just send your next project proposal in Comic Sans and see what happens 😉.

However, licensing nice, professional fonts for your next project can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming for individual freelancers and small businesses.

How does it boost productivity?

Fontshare comes with 50 different fonts that are all free for commercial and personal use. That way, you’ll spend less time tracking down and licensing fonts, instead focusing on your design work.

Fontshare features

Fontshare is a collection of open-source fonts made by various designers and closed-source fonts made by Indian Type Foundry (the company behind Fontshare). 

Because both types are free, you can include them in your projects and reduce time spent designing your own.

Fontshare pricing

Free. Isn’t that nice? 

Tool #5: Trello

Trello is a project management platform that helps organizations delegate, manage, and track tasks.

Trello's homepage.
Image Source: Trello

Based on the Kanban-board concept, Trello provides users with a visual overview of their projects and tasks. 

In Trello, tasks are represented by cards that can be assigned to team members. As your team works on the tasks, they drag the cards from one column to another, which can be customized to your team’s workflow. 

Essentially, Trello is a Kanban board in digital form. Unlike a physical board, Trello offers various additional features that can automate your team members’ workflow and provide more clarity to assigned tasks.  There are also calendar and timeline views available.

How does it boost productivity?

Working on projects as an individual or team can get complicated fast, especially when you’re doing design work involving many stakeholders. 

Trello’s Kanban boards help users track tasks and assignments, which is a great way to keep an eye on your team’s efficiency.  

Trello is far from the only productivity tool for teams that can help you with task management; however, it is suitable for those who like web-based apps and visual overviews.

Trello features

Key Trello Features include:

  • Kanban-style boards to track tasks 
  • Templates from industry experts and the Trello community
  • Integrations with popular apps such as Slack, Jira, and GitHub

Trello pricing

The free tier will suffice for people who only need a basic Kanban board.

Trello's pricing
Image Source: Trello

However, by choosing one of the paid plans, you can get additional features like unlimited cloud storage, custom fields,  and different task views (calendar, timeline, dashboard). 

The paid plans start at $5 per user per month for the standard tier. You can also choose the premium plan for $10 or the enterprise plan for $17.50. All plans are charged per user per month.

Tool #6: InVision

InVision is a digital product design tool that combines an online whiteboard with a productivity platform.

InVision's homepage.
Image Source: InVisionapp

Using InVision, you can keep your entire workflow in one place, from kickoff to handoff.

With InVision’s Freehand feature (an infinite whiteboard where team members can brainstorm and collaborate visually), stakeholders can collaborate and communicate through the entire UI design workflow, from ideation to development. 

Within the platform, there are also over 100 templates coming from companies like Microsoft and Atlassian.

How does it boost productivity?

The main draw of using productivity tools like InVision is the centralization of the entire workflow. 

Instead of switching from app to app, nearly everything is done in one place. 

Users can also connect existing tools they use to Invision since it offers integrations with platforms such as Asana, Google Docs, and others.

InVision features

Some of InVision’s main features are:

  • Code-free UI design tools
  • Project management features
  • Real-time meetings and whiteboard 

InVision pricing

A free plan can help you see if InVision is the right tool for you. 

InVision's pricing.
Image Source: InVisionapp

In the free plan, you can work with 30 other active collaborators and use up to three freehands (whiteboard projects). The Pro plan is $4 per user per month and supports  50 active collaborators. Finally, InVision offers an enterprise tier. Interested parties must contact InVision directly for a quote.

Tool #7: Slack

Slack is a team communication tool that supports text, audio, and video communication based on channels.

Slack's homepage.
Image Source: Slack

A channel is similar to the chat room structure you’ll recognize from other communication apps. The difference is that Slack is focused on team productivity. It’s simple to create a new channel in Slack, and it can be dedicated to anything — a team, department, project, event, etc. 

In the channel, team members can send text messages, have one-on-one audio and video calls, or participate in Huddles. A newer Slack feature, Huddles are channel-wide calls people can drop in and out of anytime.

How does it boost productivity?

Slack boosts productivity by collecting all team communication in one place, sorted by topical channels. Unlike email, Slack is based on instant messaging, so reaching out to team members is faster. 

Slack features

These are the most important features:

  • Create a channel for any function of your workflow
  • Leverage Slack Connect to work with people outside of your organization
  • Use Huddles for real-time communication and coworking

Slack pricing

Slack offers a free basic tier as with most of the tools on our list.

Slack's pricing.
Image Source: Slack

The free version enables chatting with teammates and one-on-one calls, though chat history is deleted after 90 days. The standard plan is $7.25 per user per month and provides users with full chat history,  audio and video calls, and supports screen sharing for up to 50 people. Advanced compliance features for large companies start at $12.50 for the business plan. 

Tool #8: Evernote

Evernote is a note-taking app with cloud syncing and project management features.

Evernote's pricing.
Image Source: Evernote

With Evernote, you can add to-do lists to your notes.  Then, you can access all the notes and lists you’ve created through the desktop, web, or Android and iOS apps.

The app features a home view dashboard with various widgets to keep track of tasks, notes, to-dos, and calendar entries.

How does it boost productivity?

Evernote offers a Teams version, which comes with the ability  to assign tasks and manage schedules. Team members can collaborate on shared notes too, which helps speed up the research process and the ideation stage of projects.  

Evernote features

Key features of Evernote are:

  • Cloud-enabled note-taking on most modern platforms (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android)
  • Team management capabilities
  • Integrations with Google services, Slack, and Microsoft Teams

Evernote pricing

For individuals, Evernote offers three tiers of subscription.

Evernote's pricing.
Image Source: Evernote

The free plan allows you to sync the app across two devices. A Personal paid subscription is $7.99 a month and comes with the ability to sync unlimited devices. The Professional tier comes with task management features. 

Evernote for Teams is $14.99 per user per month and comes with features like searchable notes, advanced user management, task delegation, and collaboration tools.

Tool #9: Taiga

Taiga is an open-source platform that enables agile project management.

Taiga's homepage.
Image Source: Taiga

More specifically, it’s a project management tool aimed at teams using the agile methodology (a project management framework that helps complete projects in sprints or small increments) and Kanban boards.

How does it boost productivity?

Taiga’s Kanban boards can be customized with subtasks and multiple workflows. This feature makes it easy for Taiga users to visualize their workload and identify bottlenecks in specific work stages. With obstacles so clearly displayed, teams can enhance their efficiency.

Taiga features

Main Taiga features include:

  • Kanban boards
  • Dashboards and reporting tools
  • Activity progress and completed deliverables overview 

Taiga pricing

You can use Taiga for free.

Taiga's pricing.
Image Source: Taiga

At its basic tier, you’re limited to 15 users. 

You can opt for the Premium plan for $5 per seat a month to get more features. 

Enterprises have two options when it comes to using Taiga. One is to self-manage an on-premises installation, which is free. The other is to have the Taiga team manage it for you, for which you’ll need to contact sales.

Tool #10: SelfControl

SelfControl is a free app for macOS that lets you block distractions on the Internet.

SelfControl's homepage.
Image Source: SelfControlapp

We’ve all been there. There’s work to do, but we’re mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, Reddit, or some other time-wasting website or social media platform.

SelfControl is an app that might help you reclaim your time.

Image Source: Giphy

Here’s how it works. You open the app and tell it which websites to block and for how long. Then, you cannot access them during that time. Even if you delete the app! 

This might sound a bit extreme, but if you struggle with procrastination, desperate times call for desperate measures.

How does it boost productivity?

Procrastination is more common than people are willing to admit. By blocking distracting websites, you’ll give yourself more time to work and complete your projects more efficiently.

SelfControl features

There are two main features of SelfControl:

  • Blocks any website for a specified time 
  • There’s no way to unblock the websites before the timer runs out

So, for those who really struggle with spending too much time unproductively, it might be the last line of defense.

SelfControl pricing

The tool is 100% free. ​​🎉

Now that we’re done with our ten picks for the best productivity tools for designers, we’ll give you a few more bonus productivity tips in the next section.

How can designers improve productivity? 

You’re halfway there! Getting your app and tool arsenal up to snuff is a great way to boost efficiency, and now you’ve got a whole list of tools to consider. 

Still, there are other important things you need to think about if your goal is to be an effective designer.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but use it as a jumping-off point to brainstorm how you can be more productive. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Limit distractions: you can outline your day with a to-do list (maybe with something like Evernote) and block distracting sites with tools like SelfControl.
  • Set micro-goals:  breaking down large tasks into smaller chunks is a time-tested way to give yourself a sense of accomplishment and motivation to stay in a  deep work state.
  • Track your time:  using one of the several time-tracking tools we’ve featured, you can monitor your time and get actionable insights on changing your behavior.
  • Take breaks: you know what they say about burning a candle at both ends. So, give yourself time to recover between tasks or use the Pomodoro technique to break work into manageable chunks.

Create a tool stack: picking the right tools to add to your tool stack will help you save time and work more efficiently. Look for tools like MarkUp.io that make important parts of the design process – such as artwork approval – faster and easier.

We’re nearing the end of our list, but don’t go just yet. We’ll sum it all up in the next section.

Now over to you

Using the right productivity tools as a designer can make the difference between delivering projects on time and leaving clients frustrated and unsatisfied. 

You’ll need communication, collaboration, time tracking, and distraction-killing apps to create the best possible tech stack. Like a few of those on this very list.

Platforms like MarkUp.io help streamline parts of your design process, such as feedback or project approval, freeing up time to focus on design work. If you’d like to see how MarkUp.io can help you become a more efficient and productive designer, sign up for the 14-day free trial.