Uses This is a website where they interview people about the systems, tools and apps a variety of people use to get their work done. It’s a fascinating insight into how people use things to create things. I thought it might be interesting to do my own and see how that turns out.
Who are you, and what do you do?
Hello, I’m Duncan and I’m a designer. I went through a whole phase of being undecided of what I actually wanted to call myself because I do a whole bunch of vaguely related creative stuff and finally decided on just saying ‘designer’ and leaving it at that.
Some of the time I design things for laser machines to cut as part of the Bristol Design Forge, which is great fun. A lot of the rest of the time I can be found creating weird projects and trying to sell bits of them (unsuccessfully); working on designing small, beautiful games over at Sparkwood and 21; writing weird, bleepy, crappy music as Skinny Feels; and barking at strangers in the park.
What hardware do you use?
I have an early 2015 Retina 13″ MacBook Pro which is my main tool for being creative. It’s maxed out on its RAMs and SSDs so it should last me a while. It’s got an amazing little MIDI keyboard that attaches to it that helps me make musical noises when I can’t sleep and one of them adaptors that turns a string plucked on a guitar into a digital signal ready to be picked up by GarageBand.
I’ve also got a huge old beast of a hand-built PC with 16GB RAM and 1TB HDD and one 256GB SSD for the OS. This is attached to a magnificent Philips soundbar and an equally magnificent Philips 42″ monitor. And a fat pipe direct to the Internet.
Then there’s the backup machine: an old Thinkpad Edge which is about 12 years old and still holds it own when it comes to daily tasks.
I can’t live without my iPhone 7Plus with its 256GB SSD or my Kindle Fire. Somewhere there’s an old iPad One with a whole bunch of manuals stuck on it as all it can do is read PDFs. Plus, I have a Nokia Windows phone that I use as the number I give out for work and switches off at 1800hrs until 1000hrs the next day. No voicemail. Voicemail is bad.
Having said all of that, my most productive thing I own is an A5 handmade leather journal that I made myself. I designed a whole joad of journal pages, dotted notepaper and lists and stuff. Pretty much everything starts as a scribble in this notebook.
Top that with a bunch of guitars by Tanglewood, Fender and Gibson and a Trace Elliot Amplifier, a MIDI Keyboard whose name escapes me, two Trotec Lasercutters and a fully working wood working workshop and I reckon that’s about it.
Oh, and pens, paper, crayons, chalk, charcoal, watercolours, acrylics, bits of leather and a whole bunch of small detail hand tools.
And what software?
I’ve quit using Adobe stuff recently as I no longer felt I was getting value for money out of them so my Mac is full of Affinity Photo / Designer which are my main workhorses. Plus Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Notes and Reminders. I seem to use Atom and Brackets for offline and online coding respectively and occasionally stick stuff on Github or Gitlab. All my websites run off WordPress because it’s the best. I love all the things that Automattic are trying to do.
Music is on GarageBand, interactive stories are through Twine or Inform 7, games through Godot and I pretend to project manage through Trello.
My Thinkpad has elementaryOS and a whole bunch of open source tools for gamedev including Blender, Krita and Godot. All these are excellent products and I’m continually surprised that I don’t have to pay for them. Go Open Source!
The big PC beast has Steam, Twitch and Discord on it. And is synced with SheepIt render farm so I can quickly render Blender scenes / models when I’m not trying to blow things up, shoot things or drive things around cities really fast.
I can’t seem to live without iCloud, Twitter, Instagram and Wave Apps.
What would be your dream setup?
A online and an offline business set up in a warm studio / workshop full of up-to-date devices, standing desks, relaxing tables, the smell of coffee, leather and sawdust. And Radio 4. Plus a couple of good friends to share my life with.
If you want to see what other people use to get the job done, then go check out the Uses This website and get lost down a hole for hours.