The core of all design and development workflows, these computers provide a variety of screen sizes, processors, operating system options.
2021 Apple 14-inch MacBook ProView
- M1 Pro (10-core CPU, 16-core GPU)
This is the computer I use for work at my full-time job at UserEvidence. Of the devices listed on this page, it's the only one that I did not purchase. It is a highly efficient machine, and the battery life is outstanding. I'm glad that Apple made the device a little thicker and heavier to accommodate the additional ports (HDMI, SDXC, and MagSafe) as well as larger capacity battery. The removal of the Touch Bar is also a welcome change. Absolutely would recommend this computer.
2020 Apple 13-inch MacBook ProView
- 2 GHz 4-core Intel Core i5
- 32GB (3733 MHz, LPDDR4X)
This is my current computer for personal and freelance projects. While performance is acceptable most of the time, it reaches unusably hot temperatures too often and has a relatively short battery life - making it a machine I don't recommend. Luckily, the most recent generation of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro (with M1 and M1 Pro/M1 Max chips, respectively) models are much better in the heat and battery life category. Having use Apple laptops for nearly 20 years, this is the first one that has disappointed me.
2017 Acer Chromebook R11View
- 1.6 GHz 4-core Intel Celeron N3150
- 4GB (1600 MHz, DDR3L)
Originally purchased with the intention of being an air-gapped, cold storage wallet for cryptocurrency, I now use this Chromebook for responsive UI and performance tests. The limited specifications make it more representative of an average consumer, and ideal for ensuring users aren't encountering poor experiences. Plus, the 2-in-1 tablet functionality makes it a nice, dual-purpose device. The R11 is an older model now, but there are updates from Acer that look to have even more features, such as the Spin 3.
2015 Apple 15-inch MacBook ProView
- 2.2GHz 4-core Intel Core i7
- 16GB (1600 MHz, DDR3L)
This was my primary work computer for several years, but, since purchasing the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, has since been designated as a test/backup computer. I love that it has a selection of HDMI, SDXC, USB and Thunderbolt ports. The performance was acceptable for tasks at the time, but has fallen behind my workflow in terms of being a daily usage machine.
Designing and building digital products means you're typically targeting mobile devices. In turn, this means having a few test devices around to make sure you can address elements that would otherwise become blind spots.
2020 Apple iPhone 12 ProView
- A14 (6-core CPU, 4-core GPU)
My most recently acquired iPhone and currently my primary test phone, the iPhone 12 Pro is a great device. The battery life is fantastic, and the HDR screen provides a great range of brightness and color support. The physical size of the device, being larger than the XS but smaller than the 8 Plus, makes for a nice middle-ground when testing reachability of select UI elements.
2018 Apple iPhone XSView
- A12 (6-core CPU, 4-core GPU)
I had purchased this phone initially for a mobile application project, where I needed to see how the interface limitations would behave with the "notch". I've found it to be a great test device - as well as a nice backup for the iPhone 12 Pro - as the smaller display represents a now quite popular viewport size for many iPhone users (375 x 812).
2017 Apple iPhone 8 PlusView
- A11 (6-core CPU, 3-core GPU)
Released at the same time as the iPhone X (the original, notched iPhone), the 8 Plus was the last of this particular body design. It was among the first models of iPhone to feature a P3 Color Space compatible screen, and still works well to this day. It's nice to be able to test designs on a non-notched iPhone model, and one that has a wider viewport than many other iPhones. The screen size and wide gamut color space support make for an excellent edge-case test device.
2015 LG Nexus 5XView
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (6-core CPU)
While I primarily use iOS devices, it's important to have an Android device in the lineup. I'm planning to purchase another Android device in the near future to replace this Nexus, but it still holds up pretty well for a nearly 7 year old phone. It's nice to be able to test websites on an older, slower phone to ensure that performance is optimized for under-powered devices.
While not completely necessary in the design and development workflows, these peripherals make work easier and more enjoyable.
2017 LG 27-inch 4K MonitorView
With great color accuracy and brightness for the price, this LG 27UD68-W monitor has been a reliable, daily tool for over 5 years, and has adequate input options. I'll likely upgrade to a larger monitor in the near future (this 42-inch 4K monitor has been on my radar for a little while), at which point I would use my current 27-inch 4K monitor as a secondary display.
2021 Apple Magic KeyboardView
The battery life is much better than the older generation version of this keyboard, the size is excellent, and the key travel is nearly identical to my laptops, making switching between laptops and this keyboard seamless. While it's not the most cost-effective option, and I wish it had the same "upside-down T-shape arrow keys" as my laptops, (instead, it has the "equal size" left and right arrow keys), it's a great external keyboard.
2021 Logitech MX Vertical MouseView
I used a Logitech MX Master 2 for years, and while it's feature-packed, and very responsive, I was getting wrist discomfort after using it for long hours each day. Many swear by the latest MX Master 3, so that might be a better option for anyone looking for a more standard mouse orientation, but I've grown to love this ergonomic option. My wrist also thanks me.
2021 Apple Magic TrackpadView
Yes, I use both a mouse and trackpad, together. I like using the mouse for standard navigation, but find the trackpad to be much faster for quickly zooming in/out and moving around Sketch, Figma, and Illustrator files. Swipe gestures are easily accessible, and having the trackpad directly to the left of my keyboard has been a welcome addition to the desk setup.
2016 Universal Audio Apollo Twin InterfaceView
I love listening to music while I work, and this audio interface provides crystal clear audio, with an onboard processor for handling the audio engine side of things, ensuring performance to run audio doesn't throttle the rest of the computer's tasks. I have the previous generation, Thunderbolt 2 version, and use the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter to connect the Apollo to my 2020 MacBook Pro. It works perfectly, including keyboard shortcuts for changing volume/muting.
2016 Yamaha HS8 Studio MonitorsView
Powered by the Universal Audio Apollo Twin Interface, these great reference monitors (a fancy term for neutral sounding speakers) provide a fantastic listening experience. While the neutral sound profile isn't for everyone, I really enjoy listening to a variety of genres through the HS8's. They have a few room control switches, so I can dial down or up the low-end, along with dropping a little bit of the top so nothing is too harsh-sounding. If you prefer smaller speakers, both the HS5 and HS7 variations of this speaker are very popular choices. On the other end, if you'd prefer even more bass to add to your HS8's, you can add the subwoofer to your setup.
Though web applications have become more common in recent years, I prefer native desktop applications when possible. Being able to leverage hardware acceleration, as well as easily manage desktop workflows (as opposed to hunting through browser tabs), these applications are the foundation of my design and development workflows.
Figma (available for: macOS, Windows, and web)Visit Site
A popular design tool these days, I've been using Figma more and more for design projects lately. While it hasn't quite caught on with larger companies, many small-to-medium sized businesses have been rapidly switching to Figma from Sketch, XD, and Photoshop in recent years. I especially like the real-time collaboration and commenting features, along with the ability to simply share a design file with anyone, directly from the application itself (as opposed to having to export, then upload a file somewhere, and then provide the link).
Illustrator (available for: macOS, and Windows)Visit Site
The first vector editing program I started using (back in 2013, wow, time flies), and one that I used exclusively for many years when creating illustrations, logos, and icons, I still find Illustrator to be the best tool for certain tasks. The Image Trace function is a particularly helpful feature, that allows you to take a bitmap image, and convert it into a vector image. Certain images work better than others, and I personally use this feature most commonly for creating vector versions of bitmap (PNG or JPG) format logos. Additionally, the ability to rotate copies of shapes and paths is great for easily creating vector patterns, which I can then export as SVG and use inside Figma, Sketch, or directly in the codebase of a product.
Nucleo Icons (available for: macOS, Windows, and web)Visit Site
Though I've changed the primary design gear that I use for projects over the years, I've consistently used Nucleo Icons since 2015. This application simply works. Whenever I need to pull in an icon to a project, I'll open Nucleo, search and filter by size/style, then drag and drop the vector icon directly into my design tool. It's an incredible tool, and one that I'd recommend to any designer (as well as non-designers, who would just like to have an icon library always available). It's run by a great team, whoe consistently updates the icon library and app features. Though I will often make custom icons for a project, when I'm just starting a project, or if the client's budget doesn't allow for custom iconography, I love having a high quality icon library that I can easily use to add a level of detail to projects that can't be replicated by other icon libraries.
Photoshop (available for: macOS, and Windows)Visit Site
While I no longer use Photoshop for application/site design, I still find it useful for creating GIF animations out of screen recording MP4 files, as well as its image compression algorithms - which allow for various customizations, including keeping the original color profile in tact.
Sketch (available for: macOS, and web)Visit Site
Prior to switching to Figma, I used Sketch for all visual, web, and product design work. I still use Sketch for client projects that are already created in Sketch, as well as for any project that benefits from P3 Color Space usage. At the time of writing, Figma doesn't support the P3 Color Space (learn more about color management here), which limits access to a more vibrant color space than sRGB. Sketch is also particularly well-suited for leveraging Mac hardware, as it is a native macOS application (as opposed to Electron applications, such as Figma), which allows the GPU and CPU to provide additional hardware accelaration when necessary.
GitHub Desktop (available for: macOS, and Windows)Visit Site
Although I use the command line for certain tasks and projects, version control is a tricky thing to wrangle at times. Having a GUI like GitHub Desktop makes it easy to manage version control flow (especially useful when working on multiple development projects).
MAMP (available for: macOS, Windows, and web)Visit Site
When creating websites, it's important to be able to test them locally before pushing to production. MAMP makes it easy to switch between different web projects and run them locally - testing on desktop and mobile devices alike.
Sublime Text (available for: macOS, and web)Visit Site
My primary code editor, I use Sublime Text for developing web sites as well as web applications. I don't use many development plugins, but have found HTML/CSS/JS Prettify to be very helpful.
Simulator (available for: macOS)Visit Site
When testing out mobile websites and applications, it's always best to test on as many physical devices as possible. And while I use several test devices, it's very expensive (time and money wise) to test on all possible devices. This is where Simulator comes in handy. I can switch between a variety of Apple devices quickly, and ensure that the sites and applications function as intended.
Terminal (available for: macOS)Visit Site
A seemingly simple built-in tool, Terminal is a powerful tool, integral to any development project. From installing packages to pulling down repos, and launching servers, Terminal is my go-to command line tool. There are more customizable and feature-rich alternatives, but I like the simplicity and robustness of the default macOS command line tool.
Plugins are hugely important in design and developement work, as they extend the built-in capabilities of the applications used regularly. While any given application might have the features needed for, say, 95% of work you complete, that remaining 5% can be built by independent developers - who add features the first-party software team might not otherwise address, and/or build upcoming features faster than the first-party team.
Stark (available for: Figma, Sketch, and XD)Visit Site
When it comes to creating accessible designs that account for color contrast, impaired vision, and/or color blindness, I haven't found a better all-in-one tool than Stark. A great tool that just simply works, Stark is a plugin available for Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, and as a browser extension for Google Chrome, that allows you to easily find out the color contrast ratio between elements (like seeing if button text will stand out sufficiently against a button's background color), and check a vision simulator to see how your designs will appear to various users.
SVGO Compressor (available for: Sketch)Visit Site
When exporting SVG files from design applications, there is often additional, un-necessary lines of code included. In-and-of-itself, this extra code might not make a difference. However, when a project has multiple (sometimes dozens, or hundreds of) SVG files, these extra lines of code add up to larger-than-necessary asset file sizes. The SVGO Compressor for Sketch Plugin runs in the background, so anytime you export an SVG, you automatically get a minified format SVG, which makes it perfect for bringing directly into a web project, without any extra steps necessary to minify the file.
Word Count (available for: Figma)Visit Site
When designing products that have variable length text sections, it's important to determine the maximum number of characters that will be allowed. Word Count for Figma makes it quick and easy to double-check the length of any particular text section, which is very helpful when denoting maximum character counts to developers.
Context (available for: Sketch)Visit Site
When designing products that have variable length text sections, it's important to determine the maximum number of characters that will be allowed. Context for Sketch makes it quick and easy to double-check the length of any particular text section, which is very helpful when denoting maximum character counts to developers.
Easometric (available for: Figma)Visit Site
Drawing perspective illustrations in 2D design applications can be quite difficult without any kind of reference image/grid. Easometric allows you to easily take a shape, path, or even component in Figma, and adjust the perspective to be from different angles, making isometric presentations and illustrations much easier to create.
Isometry (available for: Sketch)Visit Site
Drawing perspective illustrations in 2D design applications can be quite difficult without any kind of reference image/grid. Isometry allows you to easily take a shape or path in Sketch, and adjust the perspective to be from different angles, making isometric presentations and illustrations much easier to create.
In addition to the software used to design and develop digital products, I use the following services to manage my business, work with application data, and deploy web sites and applications.
A powerful database platform, Airtable makes it easy to manage data in an intuitive yet powerful manner. With a flexible interface, I can compile information into groups, filter by a variety of factors quickly, and output the data into a variety of destinations. With support for a variety of integrations out of the box, a community of users frequently creating and maintaining more use cases, and easy visualizations, Airtable is a fantastic resource for data management.
While working on freelance projects, one of the least interesting yet most important aspects of proper project management is time tracking. Whether it's a flat-rate project and I'm trying to ensure I'm not working beyond a budgeted, effective hourly rate, or a project billed hourly, having an easy-to-use time tracking tool is invaluable. With desktop, web and mobile application, Harvest is accessible wherever I'm currently working. Additionally, it's invoices feature makes for a very quick creation and tracking of invoices. I'm able to analyze projects and time tracked over days, weeks, months, quarters, and years.
Simple, straightforward, intuitive domain management. Reasonable prices and easy overview of domain management. It just works.
iStat MenusVisit Site
A fantastic set of macOS monitoring tools, iStat Menus is a customizable dropdown that can show system information including battery, GPU, CPU, hard drive, networking, memory, weather, and more information at a glance.
When creating applications, having an efficient data structure is near the top of the priority list. MongoDB has great documentation and examples for getting started and provides a robust database structure that underpins the application efficiency and user experience.
Perfect for hosting static sites (such as this one), Netlify offers the right blend of powerful yet intuitive features. I can set up site deploys from specific Github branches, and manage analytics from within the platform. Furthermore, when setting up new projects or experiments, I can easily set up a new staging URL for testing across multiple devices and browsers, all from a nicely laid out web application UI.
Some of the links provided on this page are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from an affiliate link on this page, I might receive a commission for that purchase. I have not received any advertising or non-affiliate compensation to list any of the items on this page.