An Atlas of Tools

It was to be expected that such an eclectic mix of people who make things uses an eclectic mix of tools. If this chapter about tools in my Atlas of Makers shows one thing, it is that people all have different needs.

Many different

Some people use a wide variety of tools to get their job done. Someone like Maarten works with a huge range of different tools to build his sets for theatre companies. Stefanos’s kitchen is filled with pots, pans, freezers, furnaces, ovens, cutting boards, dishwashers, you name it. Many developers, like Titus and Joost work with a wide array of software programs. Marrije uses quite some tools; both software and hardware. Most of them are red.


Then there are the people who use whatever they need for the job. When Vasilis needs a 3d printer or a laser cutter he’ll use one. For other things he’ll use a text editor, mind map software, a camera, pen and paper, chalk, an audio recorder. Whatever he needs. Just like Astrid. She has a set of favourite tools she always carries around, but she uses much more. For Joke a tool can be a form of inspiration as well. The series of things she’s making right now started out when she found a knitting spool at a dump store. Harold is a bit more picky about his tools, but just like Joke he does use them as a form of inspiration.


And then there are people who depend on one or two very specialist tools. Marie needs pen and paper as a ways of communicating when people don’t understand her. Another tool she uses whenever available is a sign language interpreter. Willemijn does most of her design work in Illustrator. Many of the tools that Arnold used to use are now replaced by one computer with several programs on it. His specialist extended lexicons are still made from paper though. Robert Jan’s favourite tool is a large empty wall.

Questions and conclusions

When a designer designs a product, be it software or hardware, they work on it for days or weeks. Oftentimes they forget that not everybody in the world will use their tool, and that most users of their product will probably only use it for just a few minutes. Most people probably don’t care very much about it. This overview of tools illustrates that. People use a very wide variety of tools. There is some overlap, but not very much. So if there’s any conclusion it is that people use many different things to get their job done. It’s diverse or chaotic, whichever word you like best.