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Ben Hartley's Design Toolkit

Megan Hill
Quentin Sans Bold - glyph set—a typeface designed by Ben Hartley.

Visualist speaks with top designers and creative directors to find out what essential tools they keep in their daily design toolkit.

Ben Hartley—digital designer

Name: Ben Hartley

Profession: Digital designer

Location: London, England

Ben Hartley is a freelance digital designer specialising in type-driven visual design, branding and digital experiences. We asked Ben what tricks and tools he keeps in his daily design toolkit...


Picture shows a sketch n dotted paper depicting potential designs for webpages
A page taken from Ben Hartley's working notebook.

Dotted. My thought process is very structured.

For the first step of a project, I like to plan things out on paper in connected notes and sketches. This is fairly obvious when it comes to web design when you have blocks of content to organise. But even with illustration and font design, dotted paper helps me estimate proportion and divide the page up neatly.


I’m using this green and yellow combo for a client branding project at the moment and it's giving me such fun, light-hearted energy. I've always loved yellow and how it seems inherently more bright and vivid than other colours—as though it refuses to calm down and step back.


For aesthetics alone, I love Art Nouveau for its shameless indulgence and organic textures. Especially when I need a break from the digital, and at times cold, design space we're in.

But Mid-Century Modern design is my go-to for communicating information and ideas clearly and pragmatically—distilling the content into a structured layout, bold typography and vivid colours.

Designer on speed-dial:

Bethany Heck. I read her article on multi typeface design when I was in a formative stage of my growth as a designer and it completely blew my mind.

I had always been spoon-fed the idea that you should only use a maximum of 2 typefaces in a design but her rebellion against that taught me to question design conventions.


Inter by Rasmus Andersson. If I ever need a reliable font that I can set and forget, this is what I fall back on. It’s open source, optimised for readability, and has a nice, neutral tone. It doesn't look half bad at headline sizes either!

Voyage by VJ Type. For me, it’s the peak of type design as art—with the most indulgent curves and details. However, I’ve never had a client project that I could justify using it in—it’s almost too dominant in its personality.

I have tried it out on a personal project, where I could let it be the focus of the design. I've even considered getting the ampersand as a tattoo, it's just that stunning.

Favorit by Dinamo. It’s not that I think it’s a bad typeface, it's a great design, but I had to use it as the primary font for a company I worked at where it just didn’t suit the information-heavy design I was doing.

The quirks were a constant irritation—the 8 is heavier on top and I would constantly be asked if a bug had flipped it upside down!

Organisational method:

Digital tools, but as basic as possible.

Simplenote and Clear are my go-to. The minimal functionality keeps me focused on the work itself, not the productivity.

Trusted advisor:

This may be an unpopular opinion, but... clients. At the end of the day, they know what the result needs to be.

I had to learn how to navigate client relationships in a way that gets the right kind of feedback from them. Of course, there are difficult clients that make things hard but the good ones have helped me produce some of my best work.

Ben's calendar is now open for freelance work, find out more about his services on his website. Find an archive of Ben's past projects documented on his Instagram.