Is Mac or PC Better for Graphic Designers?

It’s astounding to me that in 2015 the question of which operating system you should use is still a debate. Many designers find themselves turned down for jobs if they prefer using a PC rather than a Mac. Many designers feel that if they can’t afford a Mac they won’t be taken seriously, so they’ll even invest in buying a used Mac that cost twice as much as a newer Windows PC.

In reality these “marketing optics” do matter to some people, even if they shouldn’t. You will in fact be judged by whether or not you use or own a Mac as a Graphic Designer. There is a reason, it’s not a practical one… (in my opinion) but it is a reason. Tradition.

The History of Macs and Graphic Design

In my opinion, the bias towards using Macs today is based on the long-standing history and tradition of Graphic Designers using Macs. It has no technical basis (currently in terms of performance and hardware), since Apple moved to using 3rd party components from Intel and other companies.

Adobe has gone on record via their Adobe Hardware Performance Whitepaper to point out that the performance of their software comes down to specs, not operating system. So there is no real evidence for the old saying “Adobe software runs better on Mac.” Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator etc were not designed to perform better due to OS preference.

Digital Typography was Born on the Mac

In the early days of Graphic Design and Digital Typography (early 1980s) the Apple Macintosh was the first computer to truly allow for Digital Typography. Susan Kare was a pioneer in this field.

Adobe Photoshop Was Born on the Mac

Over 25 Years Ago (1988) John and Thomas Knoll built the first version of Photoshop on a Macintosh Computer, because it was essentially the only computer with a color display and the capacity to handle the program they were building. It was released exclusively for the Mac in 1990 (a Windows version followed over two years later). The Knolls pitched Photoshop to two companies in Silicon Valley, Adobe and Apple… the rest is history.

So What Does That Have To Do With Mac vs PC?

The reason many designers gravitate to buying a Mac and are looked down on in the industry if they don’t is mostly a matter of tradition, not substance. Most people who have been in the industry with 20 years or more of experience have a preference for Mac, because for a very long time it was the only option, and in their minds it still is. Apple has been good to them and good for their careers and they know it works, so they remain loyal.

This culture has been handed down to their “disciples”, because they respect the experience of their mentors and then it becomes their experience as well, and the cycle continues.

You also have to remember that until recently, technology was a mystery to the people using it. Most computer users no matter how intelligent, didn’t have a clue about how things work under the hood, many still don’t. They just know how to use them to get their job done.

Mac vs. PC Today in Graphic Design

Due to changes in how users understand and relate to technology there are many graphic designers today who use Windows-based PCs to get their work done. I use both Mac and PC myself and see very little difference in my ability to get my work done if both machines have similar hardware.

Part of the shift is that many designers also are gamers or video editors and want to take advantage of the ability to customize their hardware and get more power for the price, something they can’t easily do with a Mac.

As a result, more designers are dropping the bias towards Mac, having experienced a certain degree of freedom in choosing what components and hardware they use, and having more options based on their budgets.

Legitimate Reasons to Prefer a Mac:

Of course, there are legitimate technical reasons why some people should choose a Mac for their design workflow. Here are a few.

  • Using Thunderbolt 2 for large file transfers or connecting to 4K monitors, especially when using laptops
  • Integrating a workflow that uses other Apple devices such as the iPad and iPhone.
  • You’re a Motion Graphic Designer that uses Apple Motion and Final Cut Pro in addition to your Adobe applications.
  • Operating System preference for usability and minor features.

Legitimate Reasons to Prefer a Windows PC:

Likewise, here are some important reasons you might opt for a PC.

  • Windows Computers cost dramatically less for the same performance specs, particularly in laptops.
  • Access to Windows-only productivity and business software.
  • System compatibility with your business clients, especially if they are outside the creative services industry (90% Windows Users).
  • The ability to upgrade and customize hardware to specific needs.
  • You’re doing high-end animation or video production in addition to design and need to leverage multiple hard drives and graphics cards in your workflow.
  • Operating System preference for usability and minor features.

In The End It’s a Matter of Preference

Ultimately, it’s up to each person to choose the tools they feel help them get their job done and will be reliable. Quality tools are quality tools regardless of the brand.

Those of you who are photographers in your spare time may remember there are similar debates between Canon and Nikon users, but at the end of the day you can’t tell if a picture was shot on one or the other just by looking.

The same is true of design work. The “Real Designers Use Mac” argument dies the moment you are shown quality work, regardless of what device was used in its creation.

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Posted on: May 22, 2015

Roberto Blake

Roberto Blake is a Graphic Designer helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses improve their branding and presentations. Roberto also teaches Graphic Design and Adobe Tutorials through his YouTube channel and community. Roberto's Photoshop artwork has been featured in publications such as Advanced Photoshop and Photoshop Creative Magazine. See robertoblake.com

73 Comments on Is Mac or PC Better for Graphic Designers?

  1. Mac has one big advantage over PC: Applescript.

    It’s easier to learn than Java and it automates a ton of my work. Of course, Java is cross-platform and preferred, but Applescript has made me loyal to Apple. I couldn’t work without my scripts.

    • David Blatner

      May 22, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      Bryan, just for clarification: I think you mean Javascript, not Java (for application automation). Or, in the case of Adobe apps, I believe it’s technically Extendscript.

      Extendscript is awesome because the same script can automate InDesign (or Photoshop or whatever) on both Mac and Windows. But it has a crucial failing: You cannot easily use it to automate more than one program at a time. This is an area where Applescript (and Automator, etc.) on the Mac shines.

      • MaComfort free demo easily brings quicklook to windows explorer. This bugged me too when I got my first work PC after being a life long mac user, but the cool thing with windows is that there’s pretty much a fix for everything if you look for it. Some are easier than others, and this is an extremely easy fix.

    • Applescript, Automator, and above all, Quick Look. No Quick Look is a deal breaker for us forced to switch in the corporate world. (read lame, lazy i.t. dept.)

  2. I read this with great interest. We have a small operation out here in Wyoming. I have gone from handset and linotype to Friden, Varityper, Stripprinter, to ITEK to finally computer.

    Our foray in the digital world started in 1994. Very little was PC then. Our budget made part of the decision for us. We were able to put 2 PCs, two printers (one color and one black and white) and a networking solution for the same price as one MAC and half of the black and white printer. Another part came from the fact our client base was all PC. The final part was our location. Not close to any service techs.

    For a few years, we were one version in software behind the MAC users. That, of course, changed. And with the addition of MAC opening software on our PCs, it doesn’t matter who designed it, we can open it as long as we have the same program. (Which opens another debate – InDesign vs Quark.)

    I had the opportunity to work on a MAC for a little while at another shop. Once I learned the nuances of the OS and the program, I was still able to produce the work.

    My biggest achievement in PC vs MAC came when I was doing some work for the local Pepsi bottler and my art design made it back to New York. I received a call from the graphics department wanting to know how I designed it. When I shared that I was on PC, they were stunned. They did not think a PC could do that.

    I have learned that whether PC or MAC, it still comes down to the fingers operating the keyboard and what they know. I have many friends on MAC and we have bypassed this debate and just talk how we can make our projects better.

    • Roberto Blake

      May 22, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Exactly. At the end of the day it comes down to execution more than anything else. I may actually go into the InDesign/Quark Debate at some point as that might be interesting or for the Photography enthusiast here the Nikon/Canon debate. Those debates have their merits, but at the end of the day looking at the results it will be very hard to judge which tools produced what results.

  3. David Blatner

    May 22, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I totally agree that you can do excellent work on Windows or Mac. But there are three additional issues I think need to be brought up in this discussion:

    First, viruses and malware are very clearly worse on Windows. I’ve been using the Mac for 31 years (I bought my first 128K in 1984) and I think I have gotten a virus exactly zero times.

    Second, and this is the biggest issue: Support. People who work for big companies with IT departments can just call someone to come fix it. The rest of us have to be our own tech support, and you really have to be willing to spend a lot of time doing it on Windows. The Mac isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be, but it just works most of the time. Again, I’ve used both Mac and Windows for decades, and this is as true as it ever has been.

    Third, this is just an extension to what you said: There is software available on Windows that isn’t on Mac, and vice versa. But it goes beyond office and extends to a lot of creative tools, too. My son uses 3D modeling and animation software, as well as creative programming tools, that are Windows only.

    But the good news is that he just runs Windows on his Mac using Fusion (or Parallels). Works incredibly well.

    • Roberto Blake

      May 22, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      Those are excellent points, and it’s absolutely true the Malware issue is worse on the Windows Platform. Using both I’ve just been running Norton on both because I feel the need to protect the investment and client’s work either way, so I chalk that up to a cost of doing business. I even run it on my mobile devices for an extra layer of protection and recommend that if people can afford to the do the same.

      I totally agree with your second point and I’ve found YouTube and Google to be my ally when it comes to that.

      I’ve been considering running either Fusion or Parallels myself. For travel I have a lot less anxiety about lugging around a PC than a Macbook Pro, but that could easily change and that is what insurance is for. I’ve found that using both is likely going to be my situation for quite some time giving the variety of things I continue to do and the diverse group of people that I work with as clients and collaborate with either in creative services or technology. Fortunately for me, the gap between the two is not what it once was.

    • Yeah if you don’t know what you’re doing, then yes it will take forever. If you go on the bad sites, then yes you will get malware and viruses. If you stick to your vertified websites, keep up a good firewall BEFOREHAND, then you will never have a problem. I built my PC from scratch (windows because a hackintosh is ridiculous) because I not only do logo and poster design, but also 3d and animation. Got me a good antivirus (if you talk to people or in the right place at the right time, then anything is free) and I never had a virus EVER. I had this PC for over a year. I recommend taking some computer classes otherwise let apple take all your money whenever you have a hang up issue or you do get hit with the offthewall mac virus.

      • Tevin, I have used my Mac from 2007. I switched from being a long-time windows user because at that time I was always having to solve some kind of issue with my computer. To me, it became ridiculous that I was constantly getting infected with malware or adware. Also, I don’t know how many missing dll files i had to search for.

        I no longer wanted to research what went wrong. So, I tried something new on a friend’s recommendation. I have never, never had a virus, malware, nothing. I was and have been extremely happy that I could just use the tool (not know how to make the tool work again after it failed).

        I’m curious why people like you get snarky and superior over the issue. It’s like “mine is better than yours” or something.

        Anyway, I’m glad you are happy with your computer OS as I am with mine. And I have heard that Windows has improved since 2007.

  4. Nice article but a few extra tidbits:

    When the Mac came out, it was that or DOS. Early versions of Windows were major jokes and very painful. Many designers went to the Mac, regardless of cost because they wanted to spend their time designing not figuring out why their computer was stuck in a blue screen. Similarly, the plug and play that Mac had for many many years also affected these decisions. If a scanner needed to be attached, it had to work right off, not attach and spend a day or so trying to get it to work. Again, deadlines do not wait.

    At this point, however, there isn’t that much difference between the two and most of your “Legitimate Reasons” are well thought out. However, the price difference is a bit less absolute as you imply. The quality of components of the cheap PCs is nothing to be ignored. I’ve known many designers saving a few bucks only to be down the day a project was due and regretting their penny-wise decision. If you want quality, you have to pay for quality, Mac OR PC.

    My biggest regret of being a Mac user is that my 6 year old Mac Pro, which is otherwise running very well, could certainly use a more powerful video card. Unfortunately, the cost of a new Video card for a Mac this old, i might as well buy a new Mac. THAT is the biggest advantage that PC users have in my books. The gamers have driven that market as well as anyone could imagine.

    However, your point about leveraging multiple hard drives makes no sense. That one “Legitimate Reason” is back to rumor and innuendo.

    Best,

    Gary

    • Roberto Blake

      May 22, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      Gary thanks for reading the article. As to the point on leveraging multiple hard drives it may not make sense in the context of the way you design. But for those doing heavy Photo Manipulation or Motion Graphics it makes quite a bit of sense.

      When you do Motion Graphics or Photo Manipulation you need optimal performance from each component including internal bandwidth on the hard drives. Given your experience you are likely familiar with the “Scratch Disk” setting that Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere Pro utilize. The best performance is when this can be set to a dedicated drive completely separate from everything else. Ideally having a “Data Layer Drive” that is separate from the Applications and Operating System is also helpful when working with large files between 500MB and 2GB, which is not uncommon in the scenarios outlined in terms of Photo Manipulation, Motion Graphics, Digital Painting, 3D Design and Typography or 3D Modeling for 3D Printing.

      These may be different facets of graphic design you are not currently pursuing or are unfamiliar with, so you may not have understood the benefits that multiple hard drives offer in these particular situations. I hope this clarifies things.

      • I have to agree with Gary on that final point Roberto. My Mac Pro has 4 hard drives, and an external for backup. One drive is primarily used as a scratch disk and “extra memory” for programs that require it, such as Photoshop. I don’t have any SSDs installed, and frankly don’t feel the need for them with my graphics work, but I am sure that would bump up the speed as well. And there is that option. You can network external raids and do with a Mac what you can with a Windows PC in that respect. I’ve not used the latest Mac Pro (cone) but am sure it has that ability as well. And with the Lightening connection you mentioned, speed should be optimal.
        Your article was interesting and laid out the age-old debate fairly well. I agree with most of it. I started doing graphics on Macs (actually a VIC-20), but have used DOS or Windows PCs since the late 80s as well. I just prefer the interface of Apple products and have had mixed results using Adobe programs on Windows PCs that were supposedly better speced than my Mac. Perhaps in part to the variety of components and compatibility issues that can crop up in Windows machines. But to end this long winded response, yes, both work about the same these days and it comes down to preference and what you are willing to spend.

        • Roberto Blake

          May 27, 2015 at 7:04 pm

          You’re referring to the “Old Mac Pro Tower” when I was referring to the Mac Pro in my article I was referring to the Mac Pro of 2013, the current incarnation, you know the “Mac Pro Trash Can”, the common phrase, not my feelings on it. I think that makes a difference. As for the Mac Pro Tower, it would be viable for the multiple hard drives etc. But as wanting to Network RAID in order to get that PC desktop capability, if one of the big selling points of the Mac is comparable simplicity, then that seems a bit more technical and if I’m making that investment, then it seems I’m paying quite a pretty penny for the Mac experience. For general graphic design work I could make the argument that it is worth it if you go the iMac route (I love my iMac) or even the Mac Mini route. But if you have demands for high performance, such as motion graphics, 3D artwork or video editing, then I would say that the Windows PC is the better option once high end production in those arenas is on the table, though a few years ago that wouldn’t have been the case.

          As we’ve gone round and round it always comes back to, in depends on what you’re doing, what your budget is, and what you are personally comfortable with.

  5. Great article Roberto. Falls right along the lines of Canon vs Nikon. Both have their pros and cons and much depends on what you spent your first dollar on.

    I myself started designing on the Mac late 80’s, early 90’s. I was a Mac geek for many years, even becoming the Mac network guy at a Mac-based design studio. At the time it was definitely about the availability of software on the Mac to do the work required and many times the fonts requested by the client.

    Over the years, with Adobe moving cross-platform, fonts becoming truetype and me freelancing for anyone, I found it was getting easier and in some cases necessary to do my work in windows. I’ve tried the VM on the Mac. Never caught on with the amount of lag it caused.

    As the creative suite sync’d up with windows and Mac, I split my web design to windows, networking/coding/etc based, and my graphic design and photography work to the Mac, mainly due to tradition and eventually because of the better monitor, 27″ Thunder.

    These days, the bulk of my clients run windows environments. And since I provide those clients their files when requested, I found it much easier giving them windows files for their archive. On occasion, I get projects from companies that had files provided from designers on Macs. It’s been a plus saying I work in both environments with the exact version of software on both.

    Is Mac or PC better? Only when I need one or the other to sell a prospect to gain their business…or when I need to save the world in the latest MMO.

  6. Let’s not forget how far behind windows was for many years. As designers in the 80s and 90s we mocked people who were stuck using windows. Windows was seen as a platform for accountants and engineers, not creative professionals.

    Also remember that Illustrator on the PC languished for years. The real turn around for the PC was when Adobe decided to make the different versions equal in features and technology. But it took a long time for the creative industry to accept that there was platform parity.

    The Mac suffered from being tied to processors that were falling behind due to lack of developer commitment. When some decided to try the PC for the first time and discovered it was faster, that opened the door to more PC use. Still there was a lot of Mac loyalty among designers. We loved the user experience and interface, even if it meant our hardware was not the fastest in the world.

    And we had no viruses!

    In the present we have a lot of parity in performance and software. However their is a new trend in smaller developers creating designed-focused apps exclusively for the Mac. Whether any of these apps will really take off is anyone’s guess, but Adobe’s move to a subscription model has certainly opened the door to competition. And these developers may decide to release versions for other platforms later and that would make the whole argument mute.

    I am very happy that I have been a loyal and sometimes snobbish Mac user since about 1990. I suffered through the dark 90s, not knowing if Apple would survive. Now we all know that Apple is going to be around for a very long time and I look forward to what they have to offer in the future. I have no need or desire to move to the other platform.

    • Roberto Blake

      May 27, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      That makes a lot of sense and is interesting Steven, I think it actually demonstrates exactly what I brought up in my article overall. I’m platform agnostic. I try to replicate my skills and results with every set of tools I can. With that said I can’t justify trying to design on Linux, although since I’ve learned the Open Source Equivalents of each Adobe Software as a precaution it wouldn’t be the hardest thing in the world for me to do…

      I’ve invest in all the major ecosystems between Windows, Apple Google and Samsung when it comes to my devices, to not be bound by limitations or loyalty, and to be better understand clients and other creatives. I don’t suggest everyone do that, but what it has taught me is that a painter isn’t defined by what brand of brushes he or she uses, but what they create with them. With that said, I think it’s time that the idea that “real designers” use Mac/Apple finally died. “Real Designers”, design with whatever they have, to the best of their creative ability. To this day I can still do a layout on a napkin if called upon, and communicate an idea without being beholden to either a Mac or PC and in the end I think that is what we should really be concerned about when interviewing younger designers than asking they are “Mac or PC” those are just tools of execution. I more concerned with “are you a creative or not?”.

      • Precisely! (regarding this response, Roberto) Couldn’t agree more. I use both, all, anything, everything and many times nothing! Thanks for your balanced responses and articles, it’s refreshing!

  7. I’ve been on the Mac since 1988, and was a graphic design professional until a few years ago. Another reason why the graphic design field developed along with the Mac was that Apple was designing the platform specifically with us in mind. Screen gamma lined up with print output, 72 pixels per inch resolution lined up with traditional point sizes in typography, and Apple (and Adobe) took pains to respond to the needs of graphic professionals in their hardware development.

    While it is true that these are no longer good reasons to prefer a Mac, when you develop a user base over decades, while at the same time emphasizing good design as a corporate strategy, you will get and retain the attention of design professionals.

    • Roberto Blake

      May 27, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      Agreed, Apple has done a good job of positioning themselves as a standard. We tend to want to rationalize it, but that dominance is more a matter of marketing and tradition than performance and reality at this point. I would argue that is in contrast to Adobe, who is also a market leader among professionals, but emphasizes marketing less and lets their customers champion their products and establish their dominance.

  8. Kevin Boulier

    May 27, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    I’m an in-house graphic designer for a fortune 500 company and I work across Mac and PC. PC performance is so bogged down by IT Security software and encryption, I go out of my way to stay on my MAC, which is for the most part ignored by our IT department. I only switch over to pc for projects that just cannot be done on my MAC.

    • Roberto Blake

      May 27, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      In many cases that has a lot to do with the IT department’s preferences and policy. Mac’s are not invulnerable to viruses, and even with less viruses that doesn’t account for Hacking if they are not leveraging encryption or putting the Mac behind the same firewall. A lot of companies have had issues in the past as a result of not properly securing their Mac’s and taking that for granted. Its one of the most dangerous myths in technology that you don’t have to encrypt or secure a Mac computer. Also they could resolve your “bogged down” issue by loading you up with a powerful enough process and enough ram and SSDs. When you’re running 32GB of Ram, that security can’t really “bog down” your machine. When your hardware has enough internal bandwidth and read and write speeds that are blazing fast, that added security doesn’t slow you down while keeping you safe.

  9. Call it what it is: mythology. It’s a myth that Mac is superior for graphics. I would say a PC user has a much better understanding of what goes on under the hood than a Mac user, unless of course they started using one yesterday. Microsoft and Apple have been neck in neck to out-do each other for so long they’ve cross pollinated technology. I find my Apple products now have more issues than my very stable PC, especially when the updates come. Go figure!

  10. Healthy competition always leads to innovation for the end user. I’m glad that PCs have sought to compete with Macs to be relevant and useful to the creative communities. In some aspects, as this article points out, PCs may even exceed. But I still see the Mac workspace as the creative industry leader and standard, in part because I’ve worked on Macs since the mid 80’s, and have never had a compelling reason to switch. Then again, I prefer several flavors of Mac OS to operate my perfect graphic design workflow: 1. a sparkling new Mac with Yosemite to use the wonderful new QuarkXpress 2015 at peak performance, as well as Adobe CC; and 2. an iMac running Snow Leopard to keep my trusty Macromedia Freehand up and running.

  11. Bret Donaldson

    May 27, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    There was a time when the Mac was superior for graphics. Earlier PC’s did not have the color space control that Mac’s did, and viewing accurate color was spotty. That has since changed and PC’s have obviously improved.

    It’s worth noting too that Adobe has formed an alliance with Microsoft, as demonstrated at last year’s Adobe MAX conference. All of us in attendance went home home with Surface Pro 3’s as a gift. While I haven’t done any creative work on it, I do have my full Adobe CC package installed on the Surface.

    My solution to the Mac price aspect was to go with a Mac Mini as my home machine. For the price of (1) iMac, I can upgrade Mini’s (3) times. While I haven’t taxed it very heavily, the Mini has performed well.

  12. Barbara Olsher

    May 27, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    I started out with an Apple IIe many, many years ago! I stuck with Mac at home though eventually I had to use the PC with Unix and then DOS. When I got my degree in Graphic Design, I had a PC but quickly moved back to Mac for three reasons. First, virus protection. Second, when a PC shows you an error message, that’s what you see — an error message. On a Mac, you see the error message AND what to do about it! There is no doubt that Apple customer service is far, far superior to most PC customer service.

  13. Apple has lost it’s edge with the release of Yosemite. I’m on a 2010 macpro with 48 gigs of ram and everything is just so slow compared to 10.6 (the last great version of OS X)

  14. Thank You for the article. I hate PCs, I use PCs and Macs since 25 years. I think this is true: Mac is for working, LInux is for networking, Windows is for Solitaire.

  15. I think one major issue has been forgotten in this conversation ( and id doesn’t really help the conversation).

    Mac user (studio/creative studio/whatever) with a long history of using macs and have invested many thousands and thousand of dollars in purchasing mac based font technology and font licenses are often loathe to switch platforms because of this investment.

    Starting out now with the option to use Opentype fonts is a big advantage to being able to swap between platforms.

    • Roberto Blake

      June 17, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Agreed. Back then the whole concept of font creation and digital typography was really a conversation that started with the first Mac. And that historically is very significant. Today its a level playing field, but that is a recent development, and once you’ve invested deeply in something, its hard to shake loose from that even if the circumstances have changed..

  16. I am an IT person now, but started my career in graphic design with Macs over 25 years ago. You might say I grew up with Apple. Although I still work with computer design software and office software, I do more on the IT side now for our design based company. We also have a number of PC users as well, soI have used Windows machines as well as Macs for certain application based reasons. My comment goes to what you were saying about the hardware – you seem to think that PCs are much cheaper than a Mac, but you fail to compare apples to apples (pun intended). Apple hardware is far superior in that they include certain functionality that is superior or has to be upgraded on a pc for similar functionality. I have had plenty of people come to me and say “why can’t I do that on my PC?” and ultimately its because they “cheaper out” on a less expensive computer due to lack of understanding what they were looking for when they bought an out of the box pc. If a pc is upgraded to the level of a Mac, then the cost becomes less of an issue. That isn’t to say that they aren’t getting the hardware isn’t the exact same manufacturer – it simply means that the Mac is just capable of so much more directly out of the box. You have to upgrade any similarly equipped PC and the cost difference becomes less of an issue. Secondly, Macs just flat out work. Along with several other readers, I have been working on a Mac for years and have experienced very few problems that are hardware related over that time period. The OS is more solid. That alone means less down time and more production – and isn’t that really what its all about? Few viruses, malware issues, and less hardware or OS failure makes it a no brainer. I can’t think of anyone on a PC who hasn’t had any of these issues, and from our business end, I can tell you more problems come through on the PC side than on the Mac side.

    • Roberto Blake

      June 17, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      I would be one of those people on a PC, that also owns Macs, that hasn’t had those issues. I have yet to get a virus on a PC over the last 5 years. I keep Norton on both Mac and PC because neither is immune if you download something or your network is compromised. Yes, Mac’s work out of the box, so do PC’s, but in my case, yes I know what I’m looking for. At the end of the day for me it comes down to a few things. I primarily work in Adobe, I experience very little of either OS overall, but I will say I like some of the workflow advantages native to Mac. It took me all of 10 minutes to get most of them going on my PC, but I am knowledgeable in those things, so that is not a barrier for me or those like me in particular. At the end of the day, hardware is a tool. Mac may be a tool that has less of learning curve, and we pay for the convenience. But I don’t feel that any creative should be judged more by their tools than their results and both tools in the right hands of the right craftsman or craftswoman will produce a stellar result. I can’t go to a Creative’s work and instantly know whether it was done on a Mac or PC and that is the point.

  17. I’ve encountered more malware on Mac than on Windows. Users of either platform may be fooling themselves if they think a particular platform is more secure. It is most often the apps that run on these platforms that invite exploit (Flash, Java, Quicktime, etc). It does not matter if there are statistically more exploits on Windows. It only takes one well-crafted exploit to ruin your day on a Mac. Sadly, many people have antiquated ideas about malware deleting files or showing ads. Malware does not want to be obvious. Regardless of platform, one should employ some intrusion detection software to be certain a criminal is not silently watching what you’re doing.

    There’s nothing one can’t do on one platform that cannot be done on the other. I also do video/webdev/paint on Linux. Platforms mean very little today. That is why their prices have dropped so dramatically.

  18. Having a Mac is like having a Harley. If I have to explain it then you just won’t understand! You don’t screw with other peoples Harleys and you don’t screw (viruses) with other peoples Macs.

  19. So I’m late to the party but need some advice if anyone is out there!

    Someone cracked the screen my glorious (albeit not well equipped) PC all-in-one so I’m back to the debate between PC and Mac. I do very, very light coding for our ecommerce as well as layout our large catalogs with InDesign and edit high res images for large scale graphics printing. So mostly I want something that can keep up with running those programs (with thousands of images in my catalog files) and a lovely glossy screen that presents the files the way the final print will actually look. After realizing that this cracked PC wasn’t nearly right for the job, I configured a Dell with two HD monitors. Of course my Adobe programs were miniature when I tried to run them upon setup, something with the monitors not reading the software correctly? So he got returned promptly. Apparently I should have researched more before purchasing. I’ve tried our Macs on multiple occasions, the screen is obviously amazing but I’m concerned that some of the software isn’t quite the same. I also do a lot of spreadsheets, accounting and run some web based programs that the Mac doesn’t seem to love. Anyone have a favorite equipped PC or a screen that feels similar to the Mac? Or any advice for jumping from PC to Mac if that’s your vote?

    Our Mac certainly has had fewer viruses than my slew of PCs but I don’t find that to be reason enough to go that direction. Nor the price tag, I agree that outfitting a PC correctly will end up around the same cost as the Mac.

    Thanks for the post, I do appreciate it as a starting point for my next purchase!

    • I actually have a ton of advice on this exact thing and specific model recommendations over on my YouTube channel. What I will say is when it comes to color accuracy, whether going with a PC or a Mac the right answer is going to be a color calibrator like the ColorMunkie Display or Smile. As for the resolution issue, that is mostly a matter of settings, though I will say when it comes to monitors and resolution both for external monitors and PC’s themselves I lean towards Asus. As anyone who has ever been an avid gamer will tell you, Asus is solid when it comes to hardware and visuals. The two primary machines I use each and every day are my Asus laptop and my iMac desktop. Since you do a lot of Web Design and Paperwork, and I’m someone who has been in that world as well, I understand exactly where you’re coming from in terms of how you feel about Mac not always playing friends in this space. What I will say is that like Adobe, Microsoft has done a great job with their subscription model software and its compatibility across multiple platforms. If a Macbook Pro feels like overkill, consider getting a solid Asus laptop and you should be fine.

  20. What I would really like to know, especially from a designer that uses both, is whether there is any compatibility issues between Mac and PC, like illustrator files, fonts etc(There are fonts only specific to Mac and to PC??)
    I have always used Windows, and only ever really used a Mac at University. I’d prefer to stick with PC, however I’m hesitant in spending a lot of money, only to start working in a studio where everyone would be using Mac’s, and then having issues with compatibility if I’m the only one on a PC!!!

  21. I have been working as a consultant in the graphic pro market since mid 80’s and I worked for Adobe for 10 years as a BDM (’98 to 2008). I’ve been working a lot on both platforms and my experience is that most designers are not very IT savy, and that’s the best reason to choose a Mac. PC’s needs a lot more system maintenance than a Mac, even today, and time is money. And as others have pointed out here, if you buy a PC similar to a Mac quality wise, you end up paying more for the PC.

  22. Bought my first Mac 20 years ago, but 2/3 years later (when it looked like Apple might go bust – pre iMac), I tried out Photoshop 4 on a PC. True, it had all the same features as the Mac version, but unfortunately it crashed 11 times in one hour (I counted them!). I crossed my fingers that Apple would be ok, and thankfully it all worked out pretty well with Steve Jobs back at the helm. I understand things have gotten much better for PCs over the years, but I’ve just been too scared to be even tempted to go back. Like many here have said already, the beauty of the Mac is that you don’t have to spend time dealing with computer issues – it just works. And that, when you’ve got a looming deadline, is what makes the difference.

  23. OK. I have read all the responses and it is clear that many are still prejudiced against PCs for creative work.
    I have a question then. I am a high-school art teacher. Part of the reason I left design and went into teaching was that because I was trained on a PC finding a job as a “real designer” was difficult – but that was about 15 years ago.
    I work cross platform a little at the moment – but am really only comfortable on PC – and 95% of my students have PC devices not Mac. We are looking at setting up a new lab at school. Would we be disadvantaging our students if we stuck with PC? Is the prejudice still so ingrained in the industry that they would struggle to get a foot in the door?

    • If they are going to work at an ad agency or media company they will likely be in a Mac environment. However if they work for a commercial company that is not media or tech based they will not be given a Mac or made special because they are a designer, they will be made to work on a Windows PC like everyone else in the company. So the question becomes what you are positioning them to do. On the other hand most will have a PC at home or access to one and not have access to a Mac. Being educated and comfortable to work on both is ideal.

  24. This was an interesting read. It’s certainly something I pay attention to. I’m a designer, and PC user. I remember at university pretty much everyone had a Macbook, and I had a 2-year old Windows laptop. Everyone thought I was an idiot, until we compared specs, and it turned out my 2-year old laptop performed better than even the top end newest Macbook at the time.

    Personally, it’s about power. I totally understand your points about gamers. I use my laptop for gaming, animation, and dealing with HUGE files a lot, so for me, the more power I can get for my money, the better. Plus the ability to actually take the laptop apart and add more RAM, replace the hard drives, etc, is a good bonus.

    I liked your point about designers choosing Mac because of tradition. I think we can all agree there was a time when Macs were pretty much the only way to do design work digitally. It annoys me to see so many people spending so much money on Macbooks now because they think they’re ‘better’, when they could get twice the specs for half the price in a PC.

    • The no issues with viruses and malware is false. In the same way that you’d still lock your doors in a gated community. Sure you will have 99% less issues with regard to saftey, that 1% will be just as devestating when it happens…

  25. My path is the opposite as I used just Windows during 18 years before switching to Mac 3 years ago. The edge on performance Mac once had is not relevant anymore, but a number of other factors still make me prefer the Apple platform:

    01. Much less time consumed with OS updates, adjusts and corrections;
    02. No issues with viruses and malware;
    03. QuickLook;
    04. Native PDF support;
    05. An app uninstall does not disrupts the OS;
    06. Font editors;
    07. text expander apps;
    08. dozens of cheap apps to help productivity;
    09. Better Touch Tool;
    10. PopClip;
    11. Quiver;
    12. My 3-year old MBPr is still a top device with good resale value.

    • I would disagree with number 1 since most of those updates can be done when you are inactive and Mac OS still has OS updates as well. As for Number 2 that is a myth for the most part. Even if you live in a gated community you should still lock your doors… lack viruses doesn’t equal lack of Malware. And that still doesn’t exclude browser based exploits or spoofing or other security issues that you need software to protect against… I.E. you are paying to live in a nice neighborhood and just leaving the windows and doors unlocked..

  26. Great post. I was looking for an article like this that breaks it down. I’ve been using Windows forever and just recently considered getting a Mac.
    I seem to have more problems than I need when it comes to using Windows to create and design.
    What would you suggest purchasing for a first time Mac user?

    • I would suggest getting a used 2012 Mac Mini and upgrading the hard drive to an SSD and the Ram to 16GB it is easy and there are YouTube videos walking you through it.

  27. I’ve worked in design on both platforms, professionally…20 years on a mac and 2 years on a window pc.

    Before windows, I never needed an IT guy. For ANYTHING. I knew my mac inside and out and could fix any problems it had. Once I was made to use a PC… the IT guy was a regular part of my working life.

    So when I left that job, I found a place that was entirely MAC BASED. The whole building! Every employee, and not just the designers, were using macs. Paradise!

  28. I am so happy to see a more recent discussion on this from a legitimate graphic designer. About 10 years ago I was shadowing someone whom I was replacing at a company, and said person was telling me about the pros and cons of whom I was working for. This person mentioned the PC and said, “I know, art on a PC, right? *laugh*” I just smiled and nodded while I thought how stupid the statement was. The only time I’ve seen this “argument” was by elitists. I think I’ve mainly avoided macs because of snobby people, not the product itself. If I ran into less who acted like they were part of some clique, I may actually consider one for giggles.

    • There are actually a lot of creatives who feel that way too and feel they will not be take seriously if they are not in the Apple club. If you go work in-house at a regular business rather than a design or media based company, the odds are you will have to work Windows/PC. If you work at an agency or media based company the odds are you will be on Mac. Unless. you feel you are talented and clever enough to work wherever you want at all times, the practical answer is that you should be comfortable to do your best work on both..

  29. I just recieved an Alienware PC 2 weeks ago. I have an i7 processor and added 2 of the 6g video cards. i notice the computer is having problems handling my Adobe Illustrator files. Is this computer not capable of working smoothly with the Adobe Suite?

    • It is probably not the computer some much as the settings or configuration. Though admittedly I’m less familiar with Alienware than doing a custom build or utilizing Dell, Asus or Lenovo which are my go-to brands on the PC side.

  30. I’ve worked on both platforms since 1983 working with print publication design. Early days huge difference and no question.
    In 2016 blurred lines in many cases, but mostly when you need it to work and you are your own IT, use the product built for it. Professional equipment out of the box, with super high reliability and (as mentioned above concerning IT issues) Apple has it hands down.
    The last 16 years working in multimedia (websites, broadcast, 3D and print) I’ve found the ability to use a hardware product that is UNIX BSD based, to allow me to develop and design in the webspace, test and understand better why something is or is not working. The pro end video editing tools for Macs are great but the PC still is the standard for broadcast multimedia… the old timers stick with what they know and PC for broadcast used to be a must, but today it is not an issue most of the time.

    I’ve used PC, I worked 12 years in a space that I had to use both so it doesn’t bother me to switch between the two (don’t like the “amateurish set-up” of the PC, but hey you get what you pay for).

    By the time you upgrade the PC with the higher quality parts you spend roughly the same money, but on the plus side you will learn all about rebuilding, tweaking and generally becoming a part time PC tech.

    … I say if you are not tech savy or just want the hardware to be plug and play, buy the Mac. If you can’t afford the Mac use the “FrankenPC”. There are legit reasons for both, so just know your profession.

    If you can afford it buy both. I’ve never owned a PC that I wasn’t constantly upgrading something on it, so it’s a great way to spend the afternoon away from your family and friends. Know your tools, know what you need in your field… You will be made to care what you choose!

  31. BFA & 45 years as a professional designer. The PC/Mac technical hardware arguments have some validity, but the actual truth is that either one will work if you know what you’re doing. But the Mac is definitely slicker & easier, and the bias in the professional market place is not to be underestimated. It’s a little like Corel vs. Adobe – Corel is probably a better (certainly more affordable) graphics package, but Adobe captured the field. If you’re going to pursue graphics as a career and would rather work than debate the issue, get the Mac. The extra money is well worth it.

  32. Hi, thank you so much for your post! I have been a trainee in different IT departments and have literally watched MAC vs PC debates, with both sides convinced that they were right. I am currently university and everywhere I go I see a MAC (I have always used a PC). I have been pressured directly and indirectly to get MAC but your post helped to clear up a lot of misconceptions.

    I aspire to become a freelance graphic designer but I am hesitant about using MAC simply because I have no idea how to, and it is not in my budget to purchase one any time soon. What would you recommend to a beginner graphic designer on a budget (Software, MAC or PC and what type, etc)keeping in mind there is a bias in the industry?

  33. James Halstead

    May 17, 2016 at 5:51 am

    I have used Mac OS X and i really don’t like it, it has it’s limitations, it has security holes (vulnerabilities) too just like any other Operative System on the market, when you buy an iMac Pro you barely get a cheap low-end Core i5 with a crap GPU from AMD.

    Lets be honest AMD isn’t the best GPU manufacturer out there and there are some iMacs that are coming with every component soldered to the Motherboard, even the RAM Modules are soldered to Motherboard, so if something goes wrong with the RAM you have to change the entire Motherboard and thats even more expensive, so where is the quality everybody is talking about?.

    I just think must people are fooled by Marketing Campaigns.

    Besides all people i know who use Apple products are non-technological people, they really aren’t tech savvy at all, they just seem use Apple products because they heard others talking an spreading the myth that Mac OS X and iOS have no virus, which of course is a lie.

    There are many new malware and ransom-ware that were recently released for Mac OS X, sadly many users are unaware of it because they are too fooled with the marketing campaign myths that told them that Mac OS X had no virus at all.

    And those who think that using a Windows PC are too damn poor to afford a Computer from Apple are really wrong.

    Here is an example of one of many Windows PC’s that are way more expensive than any Apple Computer (iMac, iMac Pro, Macbook, Macbook Pro) that has ever been made:

    http://lpc.pcgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/what_is_lpc_904x678.mp4

    http://lpc.pcgamer.com/

    A $10, 000 dollar compute, so Windows computers are not for poor people, they are for all kind of pockets.

    Also most people i know with Mac computers tend to use Parallels to virtualize Windows because many of the software they need is only for Windows.

    So it’s kinda dumb to buy a Mac if you are virtualizing Windows at the end of the day.

    Also rejoice knowing that Apple uses Windows to produce and test many of their products:

    http://i.bullfax.com/imgs/0b35d898a9c304352292680a49f07866110571ee.jpg

    http://betanews.com/2014/09/26/apple-tests-the-iphone-6s-durability-using-windows-xp/

    So big LOL for all of those Apple fans.

  34. I took a job that, starting tomorrow, will require me to use a PC laptop running Windows 7 and early versions of most software, including QuarkXPress 8-point-something, to produce a large newspaper on a very tense deadline. I have been a Mac user since 1985 and I am dreading this! Interestingly. when I search the Internet for tips that might ease my 9-to-5 transition, all I could find were tips to help PC users migrate to Mac — even when I specifically searched for migration going the other way. What does that tell you?

  35. Great article! I’m working on an assignment where I am tasked to confer with start-up companies, and one of the companies is a small interior design firm. I have always viewed Macs as the go-to for design because of its usability and its history in the world of computing, and your article enhanced my vision.

    I myself am currently a PC user, but I learned the basics of typography on a Macintosh when I was younger, so I essentially understand the premise of both platforms. Although I myself am not currently working in interior design, I am a technology student, and I know that I will need to be capable of cross-using platforms at my will. Luckily, I do have the background of extensive use on both platforms.

    Again, great article!

  36. I use both PC and Mac as a designer for a Federal Govt agency. Controls and restrictions that the agency applies to all PCs makes use of Adobe software as painful as having a tooth extracted. The programs run slowly and frequently crash, even with the “high end” PCs offered by the agency. I had hoped that the Creative Cloud Federal agency program would improve installation and use problems. I was wrong. Luckily, the agency approves my requests for purchasing Macs as stand-alone work stations not connected to their network. On the Mac Pro wine-bottle-carafe, I have the speed and flexibility to do my work. For example, I can actually install fonts without agency permission (fancy that), and I don’t have to put up with constant “xxxx is not responding”. In summary, having a choice isn’t always a given, but try to find a way to overcome corporate policy so that you can use your preferred OS. I will write requests for approval to purchase Mac, and endure the long bureaucratic approval process, until I retire.

  37. That’s a really good informations. Specially photoshop release on mac.

    Thanks

  38. Very good information you have shared. Specially about photoshop. A a photoshop design i do not have read this before. thanks

  39. Price for buck.., pc all day as you can build or get built for exactly same performance as a MAC. For that extra comfort and build quality MAC.

  40. Gabrielle V Miller

    September 28, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Typesetting is definitely better on a Mac. How do you get an en dash on a Mac? Option + -. How the hell do you do it on a PC? Is it that easy to access special characters, or do you have to use GREP or search and replace? I can get a tilde over an “n” by typing Option + n and n again and you get ñ.

    • The last time I checked, many special characters in Windows were accessed by holding down the alt key and typing a four-digit ANSI char­ac­ter code, which requires a lot more typing (and memorization) than a Mac. To answer the question “Is macOS or Windows better for graphic designers?” we need to ask: “What kind of graphic designers are we talking about?” Print book designers and typesetters who design lengthy texts may notice the unique typographic features of macOS more than other graphic designers who work less with text. The macOS native text system, native PDF system, and automation features (both GUI-based automation and UNIX CLI-based automation) are still very attractive to me as a print book designer and typesetter (among everything else that I do with my Macs). I would be interested to hear from someone who is doing print typesetting on the other side of the fence, though: What features give Windows a comparative advantage over macOS for typesetting? I don’t know the answer to that question.

    • Altn works for me.

  41. Since you are bilingual (Mac & PC), Mr. Blake, may I ask how do you handle fonts between PC and Mac? In the past that was a real nightmare. I have the entire Agfa font collection as of 1994 and most of Adobe’s as of 1997, if I migrate from Mac to PC does that render this huge and once very expensive collection useless? 5 years ago when I aquired my most recent Mac that was still an issue and the primary reason I stick to Macs. Thank you.

    • Your Mac font collection from the mid-1990s is probably in PostScript Type 1 format, which is now an outdated or “legacy” format. OpenType is the current standard font format; it is far superior to PostScript Type 1, because OpenType has access to the vastly larger Unicode character set and advanced typographic features. Adobe had converted their entire font library to OpenType by the end of 2002, and stopped selling PostScript fonts in 2005 (a dozen years ago). If this is new information to you, you may want to use Google and Wikipedia to educate yourself about what has been happening in the world of digital typography in the last twenty years. (A lot has happened, and today’s high-quality fonts give designers a lot more options than were available in 1990s-era fonts.) I don’t know if you can easily use PostScript Type 1 fonts in the latest version of Windows, but I know that OpenType fonts work in both macOS and Windows.

  42. great article

  43. I don’t understand any of these concerns. It’s just a tool. I have used Windows in all its versions incarnate since almost the dawn of time DOS to 3.1 (3.11, 95 98, 98 SE, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and now Windows 10). Never had a desire to touch a Mac during all this time. Most of the work I did was development and Microsoft just had better tools in general. Code development in the Unix environment in general is relegated to the console and sucks. Another reason I was turned off to Macs is that it was so stinking closed. “Do it my way or the highway” is the mentality of Apple.

    For the first time now, I had to do some work on a Macbook, and because I already am familiar with Unix-based environments, it was very easy to pick up and learn. I still jump into the terminal (*gasp*) because I am able to manipulate the system much quicker that way.

    Any hiring manager or anyone for that matter who prejudices one system over another is clearly ignorant and projecting their own fears and doubts onto someone else.

    • Anonymous: You probably “don’t understand any of these concerns” (as you said) because you’re a software developer, not a graphic designer. This site is aimed at graphic designers and the subject of this post reads “Is Mac or PC Better for Graphic Designers?” I agree with your last sentence but I don’t see the relevance of the rest of your work experience that you described. Software development is very different from graphic design. You mention the time of DOS and Windows 3.x, and then you say that “Microsoft just had better tools in general.” Sorry, I can’t think of any graphic designers who would have agreed with your assessment that Microsoft had a “better” platform for graphic design in the era of DOS and Windows 3.x!

  44. i’ll never understand what’s with people and their claims of malware in pcs. most of the time it’s just horny people that click whatever on their browsers or some compromised crack for a game or app. i mean i don’t mind a few extra bucks, but really it’s common sense
    many of you seem to be attached to macs because you grew up with them. maybe the next generation won’t need to feel that way, i hope.
    i have to admit most macs are shiny and beautiful. but the whole cult-like mentality of some of their fans kinda creeps me out.
    since i like to build my own rigs i guess i’ll stay in the pc team, heh. i mean i mostly draw and play, and i know how to keep my pc running. maybe if i had zero maintenance knowledge and didn’t play any videogames i’d switch to mac, if only because of their looks. although have you seen that microsoft surface studio? that thing is a beauty
    thanks for the article. remember to take care of your machines! and backups.

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