In 2015, photo-sharing giant Flickr announced a shocking statistic. A game changing declaration. The number one most used camera on Flickr was not a camera at all. It was… a smartphone.

A year later, smartphones continue to dominate the platform, noting 48 percent of the photos uploaded in 2016 were captured via mobile phones.

But WHY? Why choose a piece of equipment to take photos – that is NOT a camera at all.  

A recent photography workshop I attended provided the answer (and surprisingly, it had nothing to do with vintage filters).

During the Q&A section of the course, an attendee asked, “What camera do you recommend for aspiring photographers?” The instructor (who had been demonstrating various photo enhancing f-stop techniques using a Fujifilm X-T1 16 MP Mirrorless DSLR) smiled, put down her professional equipment and said, “The best camera for you, is the one you will use. The one you will carry every day. The one whose functions you understand. The one that feels most comfortable in your hands.”

A Revelation.

The reason our “phones” are our most used and trusted “cameras” ? The same reason we choose all our other live/work tools  – they are consistently by our side, uncomplicated, and make us feel truly comfortable. 

So, when asked to provide a round-up of my go-to productivity, creativity, and empathy tools to share – I paused. I knew that what worked for me, may not work for you. What I find easy and intuitive, you may find clunky and inconvenient.

But then again, this short list may reveal your next soulmate app, product, or process.

1. iPhone notes app

Category: Productivity

What it is: A simple, clean, and easy to understand interface housing a robust note-taking software that effortlessly captures and organizes your thoughts and images.

Why I recommend it: I’ve tried them all. From the cult of Evernote to the artistically styled Paper by Fifty Three. Whenever a new organizational app is promoted – I will give it a test drive – and while novel at first – I ALWAYS come back to my notes app. You can type OR dictate your thoughts, then snap a new image or pull one from your photo library to add more context. Saving is automatic. Folder organization, sketching capabilities, both a quick tap away. Need to quickly get your thoughts off your phone and into a laptop or a co-worker’s hands? Email or text it. Whoosh!

What I use it for: Anything that I want to reliably access at a moment’s notice. From design ideas I’ll discuss with the COO, to my favorite granola recipe (this is sometimes the same thing).

2. Squarespace

Category: Design Tool

What it is: A SaaS-based content management system with integrated website builder, blogging platform, hosting service, and domain name registrar (aka you can build a gorgeous and robust website without knowing a lick of code).

Why I recommend it: At first glance, Squarespace looks like one of many of the drag-and-drop website builders in an ever-growing DIY website world. Yes, they have a host of designer templates to make any project leap off the screen. The support archives are deep and the customer service fantastic. BUT THEN, dig a little deeper and you’ll find the potential (as I did) to build beautiful online experiences that share stories and synchronize incredible insights with imagery.

What I use it for: The Ignite 360 site was built on this platform, and we are currently using the Squarespace system to develop a new client offering - an empathy-rich, customized, long-term research project portal!

3. Swiss Miss

Category: Inspiration and empathy

What it is: A blog. A superior one.

Why I recommend it: Real world knowledge sharing. People, products, places, innovation, deep thoughts, light-hearted whimsy. This design blog run by Tina Roth Eisenberg (founder of CreativeMornings) provides thoughtfully curated fresh content about it all. 

What I use it for: From filling my design idea trough to clearing the creative cobwebs. The Friday Link Pack posts are something I look forward to all week. Once I read them, I am recharged, rejuvenated, and ready to bring insightful ideas to my next team meeting.

Share this with someone who needs some new productivity BFFs. I’d also love to hear what you use (and possibly add more to my list).

Join the conversation on one of our social media channels (what works best for you, of course).