Inspired by Jacob Cass’ recent post: http://bit.ly/sTC5w5 I decided to do one of my own “tools I use” articles. This first part is hardware-based and the second will be the apps and software that run on said hardware. Hopefully it will show you an insight into what I do and how I do it, secondly introducing you to some design tools that you may not have heard of.
I have also included some ‘recreational’ gadgets that deserve inclusion, although not directly relatable to graphic design.
27″ iMac with 12GB RAM, running Mac OSX Lion.
I love this computer. It’s rarely turned off unless for a software update or weekly clean. My previous machine was a 17″ Macbook pro with 2GB RAM which got me through University. It was great until the end, having zero problems (except one battery that needed replacing) and despite it’s relatively low amount of processing power, ran Photoshop and iTunes flawlessly.
The iMac was bought mid-2011 and came shipped with 4GB RAM by default. For the sake of an extra £40 off Crucial.com (http://www.crucial.com/mac/) the boost to 12GB is worth it – it’s maximum can be 16Gb but for the time being that’s an unnecessary luxury. The 27″ allows for excellent viewing when designing logos as there is so much screen real-estate to work with.
A final point is that it’s gorgeous. Sitting upon a glass desk it looks amazing, especially when accompanied with the wireless Apple mouse and keyboard. It’s no surprise that it tends to be the computer of choice for designers worldwide.
The ‘Mini’ Mac.
No, not the iPad, it’s the iPhone 4. Like many others I scoffed the release of the iPad wondering if anyone would waste their money on it – how wrong could I be? Anyways, I still haven’t got one as the iPhone does for me what I need in a portable device. It’s my first choice for quickly checking emails, RSS, and the social media sites, and it fits in my pocket!
Replying to emails on the iPhone is a little more hassle and I tend to wait to get back to the computer before doing it – a task I admit may be easier on the iPad.
The camera is a nice addition, the quality isn’t bad at all when you think of the size of it. I do try to carry a dSLR everywhere so the iPhone camera is more for snaps or quick video.
I’m by no means a WD fanboy, these were just purchased as they were the most popular choice on Amazon at the time, coming in around £80 each. They do look good and sit well with the Apple design ethos, which is nice.
The first contains my iTunes music, podcasts, videos, etc and RAW photos, with the second being given two 500GB partitions for Time Machine backups and manual backup of client work, folders and software. This setup may not be ideal, but it works for me.
I use the Canon Pixma iX6550 for all my printing needs recently, which I talked about in a previous post found here: http://inkbotdesign.com/2011/12/the-best-budget-printer-for-designers/
When I find pens or pencils I like, buying them in bulk seems like an obvious choice, in case they stop making them. Current favourites are the Pentel P205 mechanical pencil with spare leads and the Uni Pin sets. Usually I will sway toward a 0.1 or 0.3 for illustrating, but it’s good to have a range for shading or block colour.
I’m not a paper snob and will draw on anything generally. Moleskine tends to be the sketchpad of choice for designers, but I think that’s an image thing (unless Moleskine are reading this, in which case they are ‘great’ and I would use them if they send me some!) For logo design, I sometimes like to use standard graph paper, as the lines are faint and allow for detailed line/shape balance. Logonest’s “My Nest” dotted sketchpad is also a great little pad to have in your bag.
Digital Camera and Lenses
The Canon ‘Digital Rebel’ or 450d here in the Uk has been great for me over the learning stage of photography. I started with a Canon Powershot many years ago and upgraded just over a year ago to an intermediate one. I’m only starting to see the restrictions now as I learn new techniques and a full-frame upgrade may happen in the near future.
Along with the kit 18-55mm lens I purchased a great accompaniment of the 55-250mm zoom lens. A perfect partner. The ‘nifty-fifty’ also became a firm favourite early on, and it’s what sits on the camera as I write this. Essentially, these three lenses are all you need, with one super-wide, one excellent zoom and a 50mm prime that works in low-light conditions. Before a trip to Italy I did purchase a 100mm f2.8 macro which I later sold on as the £400 price was a lot for a serious-amateur. The macro lens will undoubtedly be re-purchased at some point as it’s an incredible lens for street and close-up shots.
I use a cheap (fake) version of a BlackRapid strap that I found on eBay at a fraction of the price. It works just as well and until someone persuades me otherwise, I wouldn’t pay upwards of £50 for a strap. Ebay is amazing for budget camera accessories such as batteries, SD cards and filters, you just have to do your research.
Work and music tend to go hand in hand but blasting Amon Tobin at 2am doesn’t always work. I have two pairs that I like, for home and gaming I use the Sennheiser HD202′s. Incredible sound, noise-cancelling and top-scoring reviews for under £40 are good in anyone’s books.
For out-and-about I tend to prefer something less obvious with the iPod. Shure’s SE115 ( http://bit.ly/zsZi4U ) are incredible value for money. Walking down a busy street all you hear is the music, not even the construction worker drilling 5 feet away! They do take a little while to get used to, hearing your own heart beat in-between songs for example is a little odd.
Xbox 360. That is all.
If I could afford a top-grade gaming PC I would buy one, but the console is perfect at the minute for me. Current games include Fifa 12 and Battlefield 3. Don’t get me started on Call of Dooty, that’s child’s play.
My TV is a 40″ Sony Bravia which has incredible colour and contrast for both movies and gaming. I don’t think bigger is always better, 40″ is certainly fine for the room it’s in. I tend to watch movies and TV shows through the xbox (via USB pen) or DVD, the PS3′s blu-ray is tempting if not future-proof.
Other gadgets used on a daily basis are much too uninteresting, such as an electric toothbrush and re-chargeable batteries – if you are still reading by now that would only force you to leave!
That concludes part one of the “tools I use ” post. The second part will list the applications and software that have found their way into my dock through daily use. Hopefully you will find something here of use, by all means try the things I use and see if they work for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything I’ve talked about – is there a better option? What do you use?
The second part of the tools I use can be found here.