Mac vs PC: Which is Better for Design?
The age-old question and argument among creative professionals: Mac or PC? When you’re starting out in the creative field, you will hear a lot of people tell you that you need to get a Mac laptop or desktop because that’s what all creatives use. There is some truth to that because a majority of designers do use the Mac set up for their work. This was because when graphic design had its digital revolution with the advent of the personal computer and advancing technology, the software was built primary for Mac’s operating system (OS). However, in today’s society, technology has come leaps and bounds in advancements that there is minute differences in PC and Mac capability. I say capability because sometimes the execution of certain updates and features are misguided to put it nicely (I’m looking at you Windows Vista)
In this article, I will go over both the pros and cons for both types of machines to help you make the best decision that works for you and what you want to do. This article isn’t about computer specs, which I have gone over basics in Design Discussions #3. Those specs on building your computer applies to both Mac and PC laptops or desktops.
I grew up on PCs long before I ever did any design work and so that familiarity with that OS was nice because no matter what programs I had to learn for graphic design, I wouldn’t have to adapt to a new OS and different work flow. I was dead set against Macs because I was never really exposed to them, and we all want to stick with what we know. However, when I got my first graphic design job, my mentor would always jokingly tell me that I need to get a Mac and not use a PC. I even use a 27” iMac at my design job. It is a very nice machine but after working on both PC and Mac, I can tell you from experience, you can do quality work on either, so don’t be bullied or peer pressured into getting a machine you’re not comfortable with. My dad always used to say, “it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools,” which is the crux of the whole debate on superior quality. Whatever computer you decide to go with is just a tool to help you master your craft of design.
When working as a graphic designer, you often need to move your work around a lot, from your home office to the coffee house you’re meeting a client in to your work office. Now this can be helped by having a laptop for portability, but I will go more into laptops and desktops in a future article. Often times though you are working on a group project or collaborating with other professionals on large projects and you need to have a way to seamlessly go from your phone, to your tablet, to your computer. The Mac OS and Apple products have this capability easily built in so you can go from your iPhone, to your iMac no problem. The same can’t quite be said for PC. There are a lot of third party applications that are making this easier on PCs but none of them work quite as seamlessly as the Apple products.
You might be wondering how often you will need to switch from one platform to the other since phones now are basically miniaturized computers. I’ll give you an example. Say you have an initial client meeting and he sketches a quick idea of what he wants his logo to be. You take a picture of that in your phone, then you transfer it to your computer to start working off his idea and creating comps. You have a follow up meeting to pitch your ideas but you have a desktop. Your phone’s screen is too small or can’t handle large file types, so you go to your tablet and present off of that and can even make quick color changes right on the spot. But you need to do more revisions and more work because your client wants even more branding, so you go back to your main computer and just easily transfer your updated file from the second meeting and jump straight to work.
Now you can do that seamlessly with Apple products, but if you try that with PCs you need flash drives or cloud drives and just other third party systems and have to worry about whether or not that file type is supported. It’s just not as smooth a transition. Your workflow is affected and your time is slowed down and time is important.
So, in terms of inter-connectivity, Mac Wins… Hands down
Sorry Window’s fans, there is just simply no denying that since Windows XP, there hasn’t been an extremely excellent OS version that hasn’t had its faults. I do have to say, I am currently operating on Windows 10 which is far superior it it’s 7 and 8 counterparts, and so far, I haven’t had any major issues with this version.
But, after working on a Mac for more than a year now at my job, I do have to admit that they have a better operating system in the fact that it just runs smoother and seems to have less problems. It is a lot harder to get a virus on a Mac (not impossible though) mainly because there just aren’t as many viruses out there. There is however great antivirus software for PCs to help with security, but typically there is less threat on a Mac. The only negative about the Mac OS is that if it does lock up or crash on you, it crashes hard. It is a lot easier to figure out what is wrong on a PC than a Mac, but that could be because things go wrong a lot more on a Windows OS.
And I know some of you out there are saying you don’t need to get a Windows OS for a PC, you can run Linux instead. This is true but Linux is usually used by coders and IT people. So if you have a background in coding, go for it, but if you’re like me, and more of a visual person and don’t know really in depth coding, you’re probably better sticking to Windows or the Mac OS.
So, in this round, Mac wins with a solid history of stellar OS systems.
There is no denying that technology is advancing at an exponential rate. The new phone you got last month is going to be out of date in two months’ time, and your next computer is no exception. So as fast as technology is advancing, you need to be aware of how to adapt and have your machine adapt as well. Now I am by no means saying you have to have the newest technology to be the best designer, far from it actually. But there does come a point in time where you just need to upgrade to so you can stay up to date with the times and to make sure your programs can operate at full potential. I have already said you probably should look into the adobe suite which is now constantly updating and while most new machines are capable of handling those updates, in 5 years they might not be and you will need to upgrade your processor or video card. Maybe not those specific parts, but you get the idea.
While it is possible to upgrade Macs, it is a lot harder to do because they’re not designed to be upgraded on hardware. Apple will update the hardware for you and sell you a new computer for ease of purchase. This is where PCs rank a little better. You can easily upgrade one part or multiple parts at a time inside your machine without getting a whole new machine. There is plenty of free information out there as well to help you make sure your new parts are compatible with everything else in your computer, like pcpartpicker.com.
So, in terms of upgrade capability, I say PC has the upper hand.
So, what you’re just starting to look at buying a machine and everyone is raving about Macs, so you go and look at them and then see the price tag…and back away slowly. You know these are quality machines but they are quite expensive. Macs have these high prices due their status, their quality, and their marketing. If someone sees you have a Mac, or an ipone it is automatically seen as a status symbol and an extension of that person’s personality. It is a genius marketing strategy and allows Apple to charge a little extra for their products. This can be a big contributing factor when buying your first machine especially when you’re right out of school and money is tight, so PC might be the better option for you, as it was for me. When I was right out of school I didn’t have money for the high end iMac with the specs I knew I needed on my machine to make it a workhorse and last me for years. But I could find a similar machine, with all the specs I wanted exactly how I wanted them for a good $1,000 cheaper.
So, in terms of price, I think PC wins out because you can find a way to build one for a better price. I will put a link below to where I built my home PC to help you get started.
Which is better quality. The answer is, it depends. Apple does make quality products and stands behind its products. However, it is harder to fix them or find an Apple store especially if you live in a smaller town. PC products, it honestly depends on the brand, because there are so many out there. If you go to PCs R us (I don’t this is a real store, just making this an example) and they’re selling in bulk, it might not be as quality of a product. But if it is a well-known and trusted brand, like Asus or Dell, it’s bound to more likely be a better quality, but you have to do your research on the brand and the product.
So, this round is a tie, because the quality depends on the brand.
So, the final count is 2-2-1. It’s a tie. There are many factors you need to consider when buying your next machine but hopefully this has helped you realize you can do great work no matter what platform you want to use as your main machine. You just need to figure out what works for you and your work flow.
Keep in mind, every designer is different with different experiences and backgrounds. As for my experience, I work on a PC desktop as my primary machine at home but during my day job as a designer I use an iMac, so I would recommend at the very least, if you have access to it, try to become familiar with both operating systems so you can work on either. If you have the opportunity to work on both, and know how to do your work on either platform you will have an upper hand when trying to find a job because you can easily adapt to whatever system your potential employer uses.
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