We received a message from 17 year old Mark asking:
I’ve just signed up for design school and I want to have a decent set up at home to study, practice and improve. What would you recommend?
Well, we can answer based on our personal preference and a lot of designers may disagree. It’s a popular opinion that Apple is the set-up of choice by all established designers. I disagree with the opinion and have always worked on PC systems.
OK, so which PC system?
Right now we are all working on Alienware Aurora R7 systems, we find that they have exactly what you need for 99% of all jobs, straight out of the box. With the Intel i7-8700 processor and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 as standard and for an average price of £1700 (GBP) it’s a lot of machine for the money. You don’t need to splash out on a big powerhouse system, look for second-hand, entry-level gaming PC’s that can be upgraded and updated.
Focus on graphic card power and processors above everything else.
What else do I NEED?
External HDD/SSD… as many as you can afford.
When you think you have too many external drives, buy another one. I can’t stress enough on how important it is to make regular back-ups of your work, then back those up and again (rinse and repeat). I have lost work in 2 seconds that I have spent days creating and that was because of a back-up failure. Store everything you do on these externals… remember to back those up too.
Graphics Tablet… A gift from the design gods
Before you think “Oh god, I can’t afford that much”, relax. As you continue your journey into design, you will realise that there are many types of designer. I don’t just mean motion, animation,web,branding etc. I have already mentioned the designers that ONLY work on Apple, we also have those that will ONLY recommend Wacom graphics tablets. Nonsense!
We use the XP-Pen: Deco 03. This brilliant tablet is full of features and it only costs £99 (GBP) a FRACTION of the price for something at this spec from Wacom. Works great straight out of the box and we have put them through some rigorous tests… including diva designer moments (DESIGNER SMASH!!) Check it out at on Amazon
A Comfy Chair
Nothing can prepare you for the endless hours, sitting down. A nice comfy chair (not a gaming chair) a big, tatty old swivel chair will be your best friend, believe me. Get on to ebay, Facebook Marketplace etc. A gaming chair looks cool and yes it is comfortable… for a while, but after 3 hours of working on that logo, you’ll be wanting a big comfy old chair to cradle you. The appeal to leave what you’re doing to sit on the sofa will fade. Eventually!
The right desk?
Depth over width is my personal preference. Once you get your monitor (will get to monitors next), tablet, mouse, toys and of course the giant mouse mat on there, you will be wishing your desk was deeper (distance between you and the wall). A deeper desk is easier to layout, and you will eventually work out ‘what goes where’ and if anyone moves anything, you may lose your sh*t. If you have room for a coffee machine, get one!!
Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘bigger is best’, we have zoom for a reason. We use 27″ Acer monitors. Minimal bezels and nice colours/ contrast and the perfect size for any design work. (Something like this.)
Having a giant screen plonked in front of your face for hours on end is just no good for you. As I said, whatever software you’re using will have a zoom function anyway.
Dual screens? Again, it’s personal preference. Remember a second monitor takes up more space (no room for coffee machine) and isn’t actually necessary. For convenience, having one monitor for designing and one for emails, notes etc can be handy. Make your second screen small and cheapo!
Keyboards/ Mice (mouses?)
Think I may start to sound like a broken record by this point BUT, it really is a personal preference once again. You won’t need an expensive RGB, Mechanical keyboard that tells you your resting heartbeat or a mouse that works on water. Get yourself down to PC World and try some out. What feels comfortable, is it nice to type on, does it control your music playlist?
A mouse with 78 programmable buttons is a waste of money and time. Your going to spill drinks, drop food on it all the time so, why blow your budget there?
When investing in property its all about ‘Location, Location, Location’ for designers it’s ‘Notepads, Notepads, Notepads’. If you can get them cheap and in bulk, do it. I can’t stress to you how much you’re going to need a LOT of notepads. Notes, sketches, more sketches, doodles, client info, changes, meeting times… Endless and I mean endless uses for the humble notepad.
When you begin your journey into the design industry, you will find what works for you. What works for one person, is not what works for the next person.
Hopefully you found this piece helpful. Feel free to ask us more questions and don’t forget to check us out on social media @designs351