Designing on the Mac

by Rob Poulter

As usual to keep myself sane during the Summer holidays I've been doing some coding on project ideas that have come up over the year. After over a year or so of tinkering I'm starting to feel like I'm getting the hang of the way that iOS does things with MVC (although I still have trouble reading Apple's documentation), and these holidays I think I finally got something useful finished which I might get around to publishing.

But that's not what this post is about.

For as long as I have been trying to make digital things that aren't only run on the command line (so since the mid-90s or so) the way you created things was usually with Adobe SomethingOrOther. I taught myself how to use (a small fraction of) Photoshop and (a smaller fraction of) Illustrator when I started teaching since we had licenses through school and since then those are what I've used to create and edit graphics.

Last year I saw a link to join the beta program for Serif's Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer software, signed up, downloaded the software, launched it once and quietly forgot about it. Later in the year it popped up in the Mac App Store on sale (at I think around $80AUD for both) so as an impulse buy, I got both of them (and again, quietly forgot about it).

I noticed that through the year that Serif had picked up Apple Design Awards for them, and during the holidays I figured I'd have a go at using them for asset production for my iOS project. After the usual "hey this isn't where Adobe put things" problem (which I'm sure anyone who uses GIMP can sympathise with) I have to say that for someone like me who only needs a small subset of what the Adobe products can do, but more than what programs like Acorn and Pixelmator do (although Pixelmator is actually pretty damned good), Photo and Designer are both quite powerful and more importantly really easy to use. In particular, Designer's path editing feels streets ahead of Illustrator for drawing, combining and modifying paths.

At the end of the day, I'm still not a very good designer, but it's nice to have affordable tools that don't get in my way.