By Karl Hodge Macworld UK | on June 08, 2009
Pros: Saved projects serve as templates; great texture generation capabilities.
Cons: Generative workflow feels cumbersome for serious design work. Mac-only.
Graphic Designer Toolbox is a Mac-only program targeted at design professionals, giving them tools to create buttons, textures, logos, icons and other image components. If that sounds like what you use Photoshop or Illustrator, you shouldn’t write GDT off, as it uses an usual workflow that some creatives will love and some will take to like a duck to Marmite.
Sidestepping traditional methods of drawing and image creation, vector or bitmap graphics are built using configurable building blocks on a grid. You want some text? You start with a ‘Text’ block. To add a bit of blur you drag, drop and connect a ‘Blur’ block. The blocks get more complicated and more crazy the deeper you delve into the application.
Described as a ‘Graphics Synthesizer’, we've seen this workflow before. It reminds us of audio tools like Reason, where filters are chained together and tweaked to create unique sounds.
During our first frustrating hours with Graphic Designer Toolbox, we thought we'd found a truly original tool. Then, we had a flashback. Loading up some of the sample files, looking at a luridly rendered texture that could be manipulated in real time by increasing seed parameters, it all came back to us; 90s mathematical graphics creation suite, Kai Power Tools.
The ornate interface in KPT was deliberately obtuse and ornate, with controls hidden and explanations arcane. The point of the software was that chance should guide you to new creative heights. That's not the intention here. Graphic Designer Toolbox's grey and plain layout is logical to the core - but it's driven by mathematical thinking, just like KPT. It brings a left brain, scientific approach to a right brain, creative activity.
There's a lot to like about Graphic Designer Toolbox, but there's also steep learning curve to climb. We might stick with Adobe’s tools the next time we need to knock out some buttons for the web – but keep Graphic Designer Toolbox just to play with.