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Is Mac or PC Better for Graphic Design and Desktop Publishing?

Your platform is less critical than your design and technical expertise

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First Apple MC  and first IBM PC computers

Top: The first Apple Mac Bottom: the first IBM PC

Image by Timitrius CC BY SA 2.0 via flickr
At one time the answer to the question "Which is better for graphic design — Mac or PC?" was that Mac might have a bit of an edge but plenty of people work successfully on a PC. These days it doesn't really matter — as long as you can produce proper files for printing. One exception: when it comes to job requirements of specific employers it can often be better to know Mac simply because that was, for many years, the platform of choice for in-house and agency design teams. Employers want designers who can easily slip in and use their platform of choice (whatever that is).

 

Answer:

Employers Want Mac Experience?

(2013) In the About.com Desktop Publishing Forum, member PrincessSacl, a PC user, is looking for a design job and notes that most employers seem to want Mac experience. She writes: "I know Macs are rated as higher quality overall, and I know that Macs have command and option keys rather than control and alt. I also understand that some add-on programs are Mac-only. But in actual day-to-day usage, is there really any difference? Would a person with PC-only experience have trouble adapting to a Mac? What justifies experience in a Mac environment as being an employment requirement?"

Member phoenix has a great answer:

In theory, the only difference in 'design quality' between a Mac and a PC, is the quality of the designer behind the keyboard!

Her answer continues:

If you're quite computer literate (not just program literate), quick to pick up things, then you should have no problems adapting to a Mac environment - but you will obviously be asking some questions for functionality outside of the usual programs.

I use Macs at work and my partner has a PC at home. I am way faster using my usual programs on a Mac, because that's what I'm on all day and I know all my shortcuts without thinking about them. A sales person at work once said my left hand was usually poised like a tarantula over the keyboard, pouncing on short cuts! I know I'm slower using any Adobe programs on a PC because I rely so much on short cuts, I have to stop and check my keys, or the menus - but if I were using it everyday in a PC environment then it wouldn't take long. But I've also been dual platform since the early Apple days (we had an Apple IIc when I was a kid) - I've usually had a Mac for my design work, and tutoring others in the office with how to use a PC/Microsoft!

As an employment requirement it may be because it's an in-house position and everyone else is on a PC, and you're the only one on a Mac so you need to know how to run it and fix it (within reason of course). It might be they want someone to hit the ground running and be fast and efficient, not slowing down to work out what extra key they should be hitting etc.

Would it stop me from hiring the right person? Not at all - for me it comes down to portfolio and personality. Do you have the talent, and will you be a good fit for our company?

Jacci here: For in-house or agency work, employers may be reluctant to take a chance on you, no matter how good your design skills may be, if you aren't already at least somewhat proficient in the platform they use — for many reasons. Unless you can sit down at one of their work stations and demonstrate your abilities they aren't going to just take your word for it. It's possible that employer has never used a PC and really believes they are vastly different. Keep in mind also that there can be differences between Mac and PC versions of the same software package. They are not always identical. Keystrokes and menus can differ. However, being proficient at both Mac and PC (no matter which one you prefer) could enhance your chances of getting the job.

Using a PC or Mac as a Freelance Designer

For contract work, it doesn't really matter what platform you use. As long as you can deliver files in a format that your client or printing service requires it shouldn't be an issue. The biggest potential problem will be the file format and font formats. Many (though not all) major desktop publishing software apps comes in Mac and PC versions which can usually exchange files with no problem. If you and your software can create problem-free PostScript or press-ready PDF files, no problem. If you're using OpenType fonts, the font issues go away.

In my opinion, if your print service provider balks at your platform of choice without even taking a look at the files you supply, take your business elsewhere. If, however, you can't prepare a file that will print properly, that's an issue that goes beyond Mac vs. PC. Learn how to do it right.

Mac and PC Pros and Cons

The following were written over a decade ago (2003). Much has changed. However, attitudes and perceptions are slower to change so you will run into those who stick with the old arguments. See page 2 of each article for what was at one time the primary pros and cons of each platform.
  • Using a Windows PC for Desktop Publishing
    The old standby arguments for why only a Mac will do for serious design work are no longer valid. Either one will work.
  • Using a Macintosh for Desktop Publishing
    The choice between a Windows PC and Mac for professional desktop publishing and graphic design work boils down to personal preference because either one can handle the work. Where possible, having both is an ideal, though costly, situation.

Former About.com Graphic Design Guide, Eric Miller gives Mac only a slight edge:

The handling of graphics, color and type is a significant portion of a graphic designer’s job. Because of Apple’s long history of being the “designer’s computer,” they have focused on improving their handling of colors and fonts, especially when going from screen and file to print. If you had to choose between a Mac and a PC on this factor alone, Apple has the edge. However, the same results can be achieved on a PC. For web design, neither wins out, though be sure to have access to both operating systems to test your sites across all platforms. — Mac vs. PC (2008)

A great quote on how the hardware isn't the deciding factor from former About.com Operations / Technology Guide James Bucki:

...[Microsoft vs. Apple sales] numbers really don't mean anything to the average businessman. When I was in the consulting business, what mattered more was what the software could do for the business rather than what hardware the software runs on. — Mac vs. PC: Hammers vs. Screwdrivers

Bottomline

Either platform works for graphic design and desktop publishing. It comes down to personal preference and the willingness to do what it takes to make up for any real or perceived differences in the two platforms by acquiring and using the right software tools, developing good design skills, and learning how to properly prepare files for printing (or online display) to eliminate Mac vs. PC conflicts.

 

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