A computer is arguably the most important tool of work as a graphic designer. Sure, there is an argument to be made for a tablet, but a fair few designers still require a computer to be efficient, even if they are using a graphics tablet as a means to create designs. So, let’s say you are a graphic designer on the lookout for a new work computer. What are some key things to consider and how to choose a perfect computer as a designer? We will take a look at these below.
Laptop or Desktop?
The first question to answer is whether you should go with a laptop or a desktop computer. It is no secret that both options have notable pros and cons.
Overall, desktop computers are more powerful and cheaper hardware-wise compared to laptops. At the same time, laptops are portable, which means they are better for those who travel or simply want to change their work location.
The decision comes down to your work setup. If it is static, then a desktop computer is probably the go-to option. On the other hand, if you like or have to move often, then you will need to go with a laptop.
Generally speaking, there are not that many notable brands on the market. The choice usually comes down between the operating systems rather than specific manufacturers.
Of course, in the case of Apple, macOS, and MacBooks are associated with the brand right off the bat. But in the case of MS Windows, for example, there are no be-all and end-all manufacturers that dominate the industry. Perhaps you could argue about specific hardware pieces, but even then, there are no monopolies.
Coming back to the brands, if you decide to get a MacBook, expect to pay a premium price. And if you are used to MS Windows UI and UX, then expect to take some time to readjust. Taking a photo on MacBook or carrying out specific commands via keyboard shortcuts is different from MS Windows. But then again, Macs are often associated with creative minds, and graphic designers certainly fall in that category.
It is hard to predict how long your computer will last, especially if you take good care of it while working. Compared to some other lines of work, graphic design does not really take that many resources. Even so, you are still likely to experience some technical difficulties now and then, which might lead to hardware replacements.
Again, you can think about laptops and desktops. The former is easier to carry to a repair store, which is often an underrated advantage. But are you less likely to encounter a problem on a desktop computer? Again, hard to tell. Ultimately, it comes down to how much effort you put into the computer’s maintenance, so this particular point should not play a big role.
If other activities like gaming, watching movies, or doing resource-heavy tasks are on your mind, then you will likely want to buy a computer with powerful hardware.
Naturally, it means spending more money, but cheap hardware will get outdated and is more prone to breaking down. Not spending enough money means paying for the computer hardware twice down the road. On the other hand, if you need a computer for work and nothing more, then there is no real need to overspend on hardware that you are not going to utilize anyway.
Over time, you are bound to run into issues related to storage. It depends on the amount of work you do, but graphic designers often juggle multiple projects simultaneously.
If they are working on tasks that require creating multiple files (including duplicates or very similar pieces that have little differences) and backing up data somewhere, it does not take too long before there are only a few gigabytes of free space left on the disk.
Having said that, most modern computers come with hard drives or solid-state drives that offer a few terabytes of storage. You should be good for the most part. However, if you have had storage issues on a computer in the past due to the sheer number of work files that accumulate, you will want to be extra mindful of how good the HDD or SSD on your future computer will be.
Pro tip: remember that you do not have to put all your eggs in one basket and rely strictly on the built-in hardware. Computer storage problems can be solved with the help of cloud services like Dropbox and iCloud.
Another aspect to consider is accessory compatibility. As a graphic designer, you will likely need more than just a graphics tablet that is compatible with the computer. An external hard drive (continuing with our point about storage) or a USB flash stick can come in quite handy.
If you are going to purchase a laptop, you might need to get a laptop stand or a cooling pad. The latter is great in particular when you want to minimize overheating and loud noises coming from the device (though you should prioritize cleaning the dust inside before relying on a cooling pad).
A computer mouse and a keyboard (even if you are on a laptop and are not fond of the integrated keyboard because its keys are too flat or too close to one another) are also important.
Then there are webcams, microphones, and speakers.
As you have probably guessed or know, a fair few of these accessories are integrated with laptops, so you do not have to worry about them as much. But then again, if you are not happy with one, getting an upgrade in the form of a third-party peripheral is an option. You may want a peripheral mic for your podcast, or better video for a YouTube channel.
If you get a MacBook, expect to stick to Apple-made peripherals since accessories from other brands are unlikely to work. Meanwhile, if you are going to purchase a laptop or a desktop computer with MS Windows, there will be more peripheral options to choose from.
Some manufacturers are known to offer a plethora of various applications, including security and apps dedicated specifically to graphic design. Apple is a great example of this. You can browse through the official Apple App store and find apps that should accommodate all your work-related needs, including design apps and productivity apps.
On the other hand, there are also some tools that work on multiple operating systems, including MS Windows, macOS, and Linux, so you should be fine for the most part when you have to create your work setup and find the right software.
For very specific applications, though, you might have to spend a bit of time finding alternatives or even looking for means to circumvent the problems, such as looking for emulators to launch an app that is not really compatible with your current operating system.
So there you have it. This article should work as a decent reference for graphic designers who are thinking about purchasing a new computer. You can obviously delve deeper, and research other subjects, but the basic guidelines mentioned here should be enough as a starter, particularly if your primary goal is to use the device as a means for work and nothing else.