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Why is it that graphic designers more often use an Apple Mac? I am studying graphic design and I am hoping to do some freelance work in my spare time. I have a unit in my studies to discover why Macs are used so much in the graphic design industry.

I also want to purchase a MacBook Pro to start off with, but my brother (a PC user) is adamant that I am wasting my money and that I'm only buying it for show as he says:

"Macs are just expensive because they're stylish."

I want to give him a number of valid reasons as to why it will help me in the graphic design industry, as he studies games design and he is adamant that a PC can do just the same as a ac.

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What a ridiculous unit for studying Graphic Design. Mac does not beat PC on anything but price and style. If you compare an equally priced PC to a Mac it's likely that the PC will have more power. Mac is more a guarantee of high quality components all packaged nicely together and not prone to hardware issues. Also, there are less viruses. Unless you're rich it would be foolish to spend that money when you're just starting out, my own goal is to earn enough money through graphic design to buy a state of the art mac at some point. –  Mr E. Upvoter Apr 2 at 11:07
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If you like customization, go with a PC. If you like bang for the buck, go with a PC. If you like bandwagons, go with a Mac. –  John Apr 2 at 14:06
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No viruses on the Mac? I don't even. –  horatio Apr 2 at 14:48
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Microsoft has a longer list of "approved hardware" than Apple, but you are correct that Apple does not sell hardware that is not guaranteed to work with Apple OS, but mostly because Microsoft does not sell hardware. Kind of a red herring. –  horatio Apr 2 at 20:07
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I had more problems with my PC on my first day at a new job, than I have in the 6 year lifespan of my mac. That's why. Needless to say, I had a mac by the end of the next week. –  cclark413 Apr 3 at 1:47

24 Answers 24

There's a seperate question on which is better: Are Macs preferable to PCs for handling graphics software?

For the question of why Macs are more popular, there's a very simple answer:

  • Almost all art colleges and design schools bought Macs back in the days when Macs were unquestionably better for design (Alan G's and Horatio's answers below detail how)
  • Art / design teachers got used to teaching using Macs. Many top teachers are veterans of the pre-computer days, and would not willingly suffer learning a new operating system
  • So, most designers use Macs in their formative college years, and get used to Macs

Art/design colleges are unlikely to change to PC-first as it would be expensive and difficult (not just the cost of buying new machines, but the cost and time of re-training staff and re-writing course materials, and the cost in popularity among senior staff for whoever made the decision...). Many do now have PC suites as well as Mac suites, but they're usually smaller and linked to specialist areas (e.g. video/games/fx design, John's answer below explains why).

Designers are seldom keen to change tools. We're not techies, our tools are a means to an end - "if it ain't broke don't fix it". We usually have a similar attitude to technology as musicians have to the craft of making instruments - "magic happens here - don't mess with the magic you need to do your job".

(there are many exceptions - e.g. designers who write scripts, like there are musicians who make their own instruments - but they are exceptions, and the reaction to both is often similar: "What dark sorcery is this..." with a mixture of awe and suspicion)


So, most designers prefer to stick to the tools they know, which will more often be a Mac.

You could make a Windows machine that is 100% designed for designers - but when any crafts professional knows that their existing way works and is considered normal and correct, they usually won't want to risk invoking the wrath of the Technology Gods, smiting them with the curse of "It fails when you need it the most!" for deviating from the familiar, true path. It is known.


These days, familiarity, comfort and preference are a bigger factor than any objective difference between Mac and PC, and PCs seem to be becoming slowly more popular in design than they were as more people start design school having already done design on a PC. I personally use a Mac at work and a PC at home, and the practical differences are tiny.

If you're already comfortable with one, there's no real reason to switch, unless you fancy a type of machine that is only available to the other (e.g. those snazzy portable Windows pen tablets that run all design software, or, easy resolution toggling on retina Mac screens for testing). If you do, there's no real reason not to switch, so long as you don't mind re-learning a few things and risking a little frustrating unfamiliarity at first.

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really want to emphasize the point that Macs used to be unquestionably better. This isn't as true anymore, but 10 years ago? –  jhocking Apr 2 at 18:59
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+1 for magic and sorcery :) –  Brian S Apr 2 at 21:52
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@jhocking: 10 years ago? Try 15. Macs had that edge back in the 20th century, but since then... not really. –  Mason Wheeler Apr 3 at 0:13
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I'm a programmer, and I use Windows at work and a Mac at home. So yeah. People have interesting preferences. –  Almo Apr 4 at 18:24
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I think Macs did have one advantage in the early 2000s - they were the first to only crash one application at a time. PC designers could have a doc's layout open in InDesign, placed graphics open in Illustrator, edited photos open in Photoshop, then they'd open a Word doc to copy some text, Word would crash bringing everything else down with it, and they'd lose all their recent work in everything. Then Windows sorted that out (can't remember which version), and the differences have been tiny ever since. –  user568458 Apr 5 at 11:23

Super short answer:

History. In 1984, when the Mac was launched, it was the first computer that was ideal for desktop publishing needs. This included a GUI, WYSIWYG drawing tools, decent typographic tools (for the time) and a nice relationship to the laser printer (The Apple LaserWriter). It got a foothold, and that's that.

Today, it's just a preference. Some like OSX. Some like Windows. Some like Linux. Some like them all. Doesn't matter really. Use what you like.

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Also the first affordable printer that was good for graphic design was sold by apple and only worked well on the Mac. If I recall correctly Windows and PC only started to become a good option in the 90s. –  Ian Ringrose Apr 3 at 12:24
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Believe it or not, for me; Terminal. It drove me mad when Windows dropped dos as the underlying structure in Win8. –  Benteh Apr 3 at 16:21
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@RandomO'Reilly You're about fourteen years late on that, MS-DOS was dropped when Microsoft switched to the NT kernel (the core of the OS) for consumer versions of Windows starting with Windows 2000. They just had emulation built in for 32-bit members of the NT family (and even then you could get issues when trying to run some 16-bit applications even in a compatibility mode). 64-bit versions of Windows don't have that emulation built in, but it's still possible to run DOS applications, you just need to use some sort of virtual machine program (DOSBox, Microsoft's Virtual PC, etc.). –  JAB Apr 3 at 16:43
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Unix just makes more sense to me. I grew up with DOS as OS. Virtual machine, emulators, "can do most things" is not for me. I have been on mac for seven years so not updated on command prompt on pc, but from what I have seen, a tad to messy. –  Benteh Apr 3 at 17:35
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It was not the first, there was Acorn and no doubt others. But it was the most widespread. –  JamesRyan Apr 5 at 13:08

I think a lot of the legacy reasons have been established here, so I won't address that.

I recently purchased a new computer (after asking this community about what hardware matters to a designer), and I went with a Mac Mini. My full-time job for four years had me working on a PC, I like Windows 7 just fine, and I'm comfortable with Ubuntu as well, so when I started thinking about a new system, I had a lot of angles to consider.

Here are a few reasons why I stayed in the Mac world:

  1. The software ecosystem. Because a lot of designers are Mac-only, I feel like some of the best software and productivity tools are on OSX. Panic makes amazing software, but it's Mac-only. Pixelmator and Sketch are promising possibilities to challenge the Adobe hegemony, and they're Mac-only.
  2. Compatibility. This is probably the most objective and important point to make: Getting a Mac is the only legal way to run every major operating system. Not only is a Hackintosh a hack that would take some time to get running, doing so would violate the terms of service. However, I've legally run a licensed copy of Windows 7 (and my ever-aging copy of Civilization III) on my laptop for years. Also, with my new job, we used VirtualBox to set up a VM that runs Ubuntu for running Python servers. Microsoft even provides free VMs for testing sites on old browsers and old operating systems! But if you run a Windows or Linux device, you don't get to try Mac apps or test things on Safari, at least not without needing some kind of specific solution for that.
  3. The mobile connection. If you ever want to design for mobile, it's good to have a solid link to iOS. If you don't have an iPhone, iOS Simulator is incredibly useful for mobile testing. While you can make iOS apps on Windows, it's not the preferred way to do things, and since most iOS developers are on the Mac, it's good to be on that platform as well. Also, if you have an iOS device and like it, Macs will give you better integration with your device.
  4. Simplicity. Choosing hardware is a lot easier with Apple. Sure, you have fewer overall choices, but I personally get overwhelmed by too many choices. There are a bunch of PC OEMs that have a ton of choices, but Apple has a relatively simple grid of products and prices. Do I wish that they'd put iMac parts in a Mini? Do I wish that it was easier to add an SSD to mine? Yeah. But I know that I can shop for a Mac without doing a ton of homework.
  5. The hardware ecosystem. Because Macs are popular and relatively standardized, a nice ecosystem can thrive around it. If you want a protective laptop case, you'll have more options if you get an Air over a PC laptop. If you want a charging system designed to work with your keyboard, you can get that. If you want a backup drive or a laptop stand that looks like your desktop, you're more likely to get it. Which leads me to my next point:
  6. Style. Not my most important reason, but I might as well embrace it. I'm a designer, a visual person. I have a Magic Trackpad and an Apple Wireless Keyboard on my desk. They look fantastic; the trackpad matches up with the keyboard perfectly. The Mini looks great next to my desk. We're visual people, so visuals matter to us. And to a certain extent, that's okay. They're luxuries, sure. But everyone has luxuries that they like to indulge in, and for me it's amazingly-designed hardware. This argument is true with software as well. FileZilla and Transmit do a lot of the same things, but Transmit is a beautiful piece of software. I love the attention to detail that tends to go into Mac apps more than Windows apps.

Don't let people criticize you for that last one. Any component and software comparison will tell you that Mac prices are at least close enough to make the overpriced argument marginal, so it's not like you're paying $100,000 for a Lamborghini when a $2,000 car would do just fine.

We live in a world where people sell $100 purses to the masses and the masses love it because of the style and cachet that comes with it. Where a guy like me irrationally likes the Under Armour and Nalgene brands. Where people will spend hundreds of thousands on a logo redesign. If you want a world without that stuff, then we can go back to the days where you'd go and get "rice" and "meat" from the "store", and graphic designers wouldn't have much work to do! Some people don't care about design and style and that's one hundred percent okay. I'm not advocating rampant materialism here, just saying that if you like Macs because they're stylish and because they care about good design as much as you do, that's not a bad reason to get one.

But hopefully my other reasons will help you out as well. :)

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I'd just like to reiterate the software ecosystem point. For me, the defining element of the Mac is a carefully-thought-out, unified software experience (keyboard shortcuts shared across apps, drag and drop in and out of apps, etc). That seems to attract developers like the Pixelmator, Sketch, or Scrivener people: Niche products that work incredibly well inside their niche. –  AncientToaster Apr 2 at 21:16
    
a hackintosh is perfectly legal. Violating terms and conditions is not considered illegal. –  WiseStrawberry Apr 7 at 9:58
    
@WiseStrawberry - Citation needed. –  Brendan Apr 7 at 13:58

Two things not mentioned in other answers that were keys to establishing the Mac as a DTP platform in the early days:

  • The original Mac supported PostScript out of the box due to a brilliant collaboration between Adobe and Apple, so that it could provide hinting for low-resolution output on screens and laser printers (300 dpi is low resolution in typesetting terms). PostScript and the LaserWriter made it possible to create great looking documents incredibly cheaply.

  • July 1985 saw the launch of Aldus Pagemaker, the first DTP application. It was Mac-only, it took off in the design community, and it created the DTP industry.

There's a wonderful story in the Introduction to John McWade's Before and After - Page Design in which he describes how he established the first DTP company in the world. John was the original beta tester for PageMaker and did a great deal to ensure it had all the essential capabilities for professional grade page layout. He goes on to relate what happened when Apple asked him to design a poster for them:

I created How to Design a Page on Saturday and on Monday drove to Cupertino with proofs. "You did this on our computer?" they asked. I was surprised by their surprise. "No one here does this," they said. "I just used PageMaker," I said. "But you're using it," they said, "to design cool stuff."

Just as Visicalc had given a new lease on life to the Apple II a few years earlier, PageMaker created the DTP market for the Mac (which was selling very poorly at the time, mostly due to being very expensive and lacking useful, reliable applications).

Ventura Publisher followed later on the PC platform, but it was late to the party and hindered by the poor graphics support then available for DOS.

As so often happens in a new market, being there firstest with the mostest is a huge advantage.

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This is the 'correct' answer. –  foamcow Apr 3 at 16:49

The main reason for Apple having a large design presence is "tradition." Apple went all out inserting their computers into the design school workflow as far back as the late 1980s. Because of this, the OS became the standard target for prepress and commercial printing hardware and the Windows versions of the drivers for these RIP devices (etc) was a secondary consideration.

I went to school in the 80s and believe me, Macs were slicker then than now.

This also meant that people like Linotype (etc), Adobe and QuarkXpress wrote for the Mac first and the PC second.

One huge problem was typefaces which were not generally cross-platform which meant that even if all the other software was (and over time the software was more and more capable of interchange), you still had re-flow and glyph substitution from font replacement. Both of these problems are insidious and hard to spot.

When fonts became more cross-platform, there was still a problem with the Mac dual-fork file system which usually resulted in naive users dragging the wrong fork of the file over for sharing. This meant the font data never got sent.

All of these problems helped to enforce the design preference for macs, but most of these issues no longer exist, and in fact Macs are the very nearly the exact same hardware as any generic PC with Windows or Linux on them (excepting BIOS/CMOS locks to restrict OS installation). The change to intel/x86/amd64 hardware has helped a lot on the driver side as well, because things like the old motorola stuff had a different byte order which introduced a lot of problems porting code between OS.

Once you get into the software packages themselves which generally have a unified functionality across platforms, the underlying OS makes little difference.

I have used or owned original Mac, apple 2c, amiga, c64, atari 800, CP/M, MS DOS, linux, and even vax. The OS is only relevant when it gets in the way of the work you need to do.

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Mac or PC--pffftt--the c64 was still the best computer EVAR! :) –  DA01 Apr 2 at 16:56
    
I preferred the Atari 800, but probably because my father had access to tons of "demo games," being a partner in a small computer retailer. We had at least 3 different computer systems and multiple OSses side by side at any given time. I was what you called "free data entry." –  horatio Apr 2 at 17:13
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Not an 800, but this is a fun bit of Atari computer history I stumbled upon last week: youtube.com/watch?v=yea4I8EgdqQ&t=7m20s –  DA01 Apr 2 at 17:21
    
I think that is hilarious. Also, a great real-world example of what some of us in this thread have been talking about: the tool to do the job. –  horatio Apr 2 at 17:27

I believe many years ago Mac were better suited to Graphic Design. I remember hearing about the screen being superior at least. These days there is no difference as the majority of features and software are comparable.

I think once you establish yourself in an industry as the go-to brand, old habits die hard. It is like Bing trying to compete with Google - even though they offer the same ability to search the web, people never refer to "Binging" something (vs "Googling"). IMO that is why Mac is the default in the Graphic Design industry (besides being stylish).

A related industry that is pro Mac is video production. Final Cut Pro, which is only on Mac can be a decision maker for many budget editors/studios, even though Adobe Premiere (or the top-end expensive Avid suite) is very capable on the PC. In contrast, most games/fx companies are on PC because they need more horsepower and the ability to put in custom hardware like bigger processors, more RAM and high end graphics cards etc. They can build machines for specific tasks like render farms for example at a fraction of the cost.

PC is more customizable and cheaper, while Mac lock everything down (and overcharge for the exclusivity). Yes there are more viruses on PC, but that comes with popularity. Install anti-virus and be responsible with your internet browsing and downloading and you won't have an issue.

There are also more hardware manufacturers, which can cause problems, but I've also had more problems with Mac hard drives failing than I've ever had with PC hardware.

Personally, I only buy top end consumer machines. A top of the line HP for example (as of 3 years ago), running i7 6-core, 18gb RAM, 2x 23in monitors and advanced video card. You need these things if you want to maximize your productivity. I haven't checked the current prices, but in my experience, you just can't compare a Mac to a PC for pure horsepower customization or bang for the buck.

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PC isn't cheaper...it's that some PC manufacturers make cheap PCs. Feature for feature, you get what you pay for regardless of the OS. The Mac doesn't lock everything down, either. They use relatively standard parts. But they're not gaming machines for people to soup up with 3 video cards. That's a different market and one Apple doesn't target. If you haven't checked current prices, it's hard to say they are more expensive. :) –  DA01 Apr 2 at 16:38
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I agree it is something they haven't targeted, which is why I can't compare apples (literally) with apples for high end machines. The prices may be comparable on budget priced systems which is why I didn't want to comment there. Also, Mac doesn't use better parts than other manufacturers, they just choose a specific manufacturer and remove the open market for mixing and matching. That is what I referred to when I said 'locked down'. I feel Mac also up-prices everything because there is no shopping around - everything has to be mac-approved. You also have to choose from pre-built machines. –  John Apr 2 at 17:04
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Up until maybe two years ago at least, "locked down" meant mac-approved firmware and 1-2 year lag time on new hardware from e.g. nvidia or AMD. You still can't gather the right parts and install a retail mac OS disk on off-the-shelf hardware AFAIK without custom efi or installer packages. (added during your comment da01) –  horatio Apr 2 at 17:17
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For the record, I've opened up every Mac laptop (and tower) I've owned to upgrade one piece or another. Usually around the 3 to 4 year point when upgrades become worthwhile. If you're moderately competent with small tools, it's no less viable than opening a big brick-size PC laptop. –  plainclothes Apr 2 at 23:54
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@DA01: I have to disagree with you on the pricing, at least in Europe: if you use a (competent) comparison site and search for similar power/weight/etc, the PC will be several hundreds of euros cheaper. The same applies to Iphones and Ipads. Of course no two devices are ever 100 % comparable, but still. That is not to say that there aren't similar price differences between PCs with the same power, by the way. –  Cerberus Apr 3 at 2:43

Fonts

Mac OS X arguably comes with better fonts out of the box, but people can argue about this. Where it has a clear advantage, though, is management and ease of use. The built-in font chooser on a mac is leagues ahead of what you get in Windows programs, and the built-in font manager is simple and powerful (for some purposes you still need 3rd party software, but Windows font management absolutely sucks).

Font smoothing is also vastly better on a Mac. Windows font smoothing still looks blurry in a lot of places, and Linux is just best not discussed. If you're rendering text to images or pdf graphics, having it come out looking good is a huge advantage.

UI Consistency

I'm on a Windows box right now, and I have open four applications that all have subtly different UI styles (not including Windows 8 Metro Apps) - all are Microsoft programs. That's kind of atrocious. By contrast, Apple requires all its in-house applications to adhere to their strict UI guidelines. Most 3rd party applications do so as well, because Apple makes it really easy to do so.

This also extends to deeper concepts like changing application and system settings. With a Mac, nearly everything that's meant to be user-accessible is done through System/Application Preferences, located in the apple menu in the top right corner. With Windows, stuff is all over the place. Control Panel in Windows 8 is increasingly harder to get to, there are new settings you can only find in the Metro interface and not in control panel, some applications use Tools > Options... but others use File > Options or Edit > Settings; sometimes File is a menu and sometimes it's a Windows 8-style screen, and so on and so on. Chances are, if you notice and care about graphic design, you notice and care about the design and function of the UI.

Modifier Keys

This, for me, was always one of the big ones. The Windows key is basically wasted space since 1995; it has a few more functions under 8 but few people know about them and even fewer use them. On a Mac, those keys are mostly available to user applications as modifiers, both for keyboard shortcuts and mode modifiers for e.g. mouse actions. Your average user doesn't notice this much, but power users do, and graphic designers are definitely power users of their applications. As someone who has used Adobe applications under both Windows and OS X, it can make a lot of common tasks easier to have that full complement of modifier keys available. It also helps that the most common modifier key, command, is right next to the space bar where you thumbs can reach it instead of the control key off in the corner.

Power

I don't know whether their components are more energy efficient, or put together better, or they just put better batteries in, but Macs have better battery life than PCs pretty much across the board. If you're an intensive user and you're doing work on the go, having an extra hour or two of juice while you work is a big deal.

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Nice post, and welcome to GD.SE! I'll argue about fonts if you'd like :) I would contend that the ClearType fonts are as good as anything that's out there for the screen. They suffer from ubiquity, but not from a lack of quality. –  Brendan Apr 2 at 19:26
    
I actually had an issue with the font smoothing assertion. My understanding is that font smoothing is a "hardware-level display hack" (if you will) using sub-pixel rendering and has no bearing on the raster images with respect to asset creation. (also: maybe its because I play guitar, but pinky-ctrl-key gives me probably 2-3 keys extra reach over thumb-alt-key!) [ graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/7909/… ] –  horatio Apr 2 at 19:31
    
I don't think any of these address the question. For example, no graphic designer I know of picks their hardware based on the installed fonts. :) (FWIW, MS actually has a well respected in-house typography team) –  DA01 Apr 2 at 20:02
    
Six years ago, if you asked me for Mac and Windows pros and cons, free "Gill Sans" and "Lucida" would have been genuine big plus points for Mac. But recently MS have got very good on the typography. Those aforementioned are finally looking dated while fonts like Calibri and Segoe amazingly still look pretty fresh despite nearly a decade (!) as a default font. I can't think of anything fresh from Apple on the typography front in the last 10 years –  user568458 Apr 2 at 22:52
    
@horatio: I freely admit that I don't know the details of image compositing on either platform, but I do know that smoothed fonts look much better on Mac OS X, and I presume that the same transparency effects used in screen display could also be used in rasterizing. As for ctrl vs command, my point is that you don't need to take your fingers away from the home row to use them; you can stick with natural typing position. Even though pinky-control allows you to cover more space, in many cases the Mac way will be faster since there's less hand movement. –  Robotman Apr 3 at 19:18

as a designer that uses BOTH Mac and PC for designing. i'll admit that OSX runs much smoother and more reliably than Win 7 or 8. on similarly spec'd machines. the main advantage is color, well use to be color, if you look in any design program you'll see color profile "Adobe RGB (1998)" all mac monitors stuck to this for years as its standard, allowing the colors to be reliably consistent from one machine to the next. even my canon 5D has uses the adobe 98 color profile. and since windows has no say over which monitor was shipped with your machine, they had no real control over the color gamuts. but that was before flat screens/plasma/led/etc. now any generic monitor can work with any system. but now it's just a legacy thing.

i still prefer osx to win7/8 for designing, but i can use any os really. so thats core of the issue being discussed.

linux, no color standards that'll satisfy adobe, and open source alternatives are awkward in comparison.

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Price is not the issue.

High end hardware comes at a high end price. Apple's hardware is high end because it is intended for performance purposes. Similar quality PCs typically sell at a similar price point, minus a few bucks for their lower status in the market (but not much).

Don't forget about resale value. If you are a freelancer (there are many in the Creative business) resale is a valuable business consideration. Apple hardware has a much slower depreciation curve due to the aforementioned status and reputation for quality build. That essentially wipes out the price differential in my experience.

So what is it?

History plays a part. Apple catered to a performance graphics market for years (as well as power office users). The hardware ecosystem was well suited to the graphics industry. So was SGI, but that's a whole different question ;)

Reliability counts too. In my experience, agencies that choose Mac OS have a smaller IT support staff than those who choose PC. Mac is generally easier for a creative to self manage.

Usability counts more. "Creatives" are not spreadsheet lovers, they are revolted by "corporate" looking interfaces, and they like a free-form workflow. Microsoft is notorious for some of the most unusable interfaces in the business. Apple has some serious interface mistakes in it's history too, but the overall impression is like butter. Steve knew how to give a UI polish.

For myself

On a purely personal level, I can say that the decision to go Mac has followed this breakdown every time in the past 16 years.

  • 60% OS
  • 30% hardware
  • 10% resale value

I'm perfectly proficient on a PC, I just find that I'm not as happy doing it.

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Totally agree with Windows lacking in the UI/style department. Wish there was another mainstream OS option on PC. –  John Apr 2 at 20:04
    
Yes Macs carry better resale value but high end PCs generally have a longer life span in my experience and the ease of upgrading parts extends that life cycle further. So it's better resale value but new machine required sooner vs. not needing to buy a new machine for longer. For Example, a new Mac bought now will be pretty reliable for 2 - 3 years before it gets a bit behind the times whilst a PC of the same value could last 5+ years. –  Mr E. Upvoter Apr 2 at 20:36
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My Macs usually last me about 5 years with a few upgrades to memory and possibly a faster HDD along the way. –  plainclothes Apr 2 at 20:46
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There are Mac fanboys and Mac haters. Then there are the rest of us who can see straight @foamcow ;) –  plainclothes Apr 3 at 15:06
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"TCO on a Mac is lower than a PC." -- especially when you factor in emotional health ;) –  plainclothes Apr 3 at 16:43

Arguments about quality, total cost of ownership, ease of use and style aside...

Historically, the Mac was the only choice for serious, professional DTP and Pre-Press. This was down to its 'WYSIWYG' screen, availability of good software and the far superior font rendering the Mac offered over the PC.

Nowadays it's true to say that the PC has caught up a fair bit and the 2 systems are pretty much comparative.

The Mac is entrenched in the design studio though. It will take an awful lot for Windows to oust it. Personally I'd still rather spend all day working on a Mac than I would a PC. It just feels nicer. My observations from working in a number of design agencies is that the PCs are generally a pain in the backside and the Macs, by and large, just keep doing what they're for.

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From my experience, Macs are widely used in the graphic design industry for two main reasons:
i) Mac OS was easier to use than Windows or Linux in the past. To a lesser degree it still is.
ii) Apple gives great attention to the visual design of its products. This appeals to people who are interested in the visual aspect of things such as graphic designers.

Previous experience is one of the most important reasons when choosing a computer. If you have used a Mac before, and have felt comfortable using it, then I suggest you choose a Mac.

Another good reason is help availability. If most of your professors and classmates use Macs, help will be easily available in case you run into trouble.

"Macs are just expensive because they're stylish."

Being stylish is in itself a valid reason. Studies performed both in Japan and Israel have shown that "nice looking" products perform better than "ugly" ones. The reason is that people tend to explore and use good looking products more.

To emphasize this point, let me tell you that I am a CS researcher. Personally I prefer PCs but many of my colleagues, people who are very comfortable with computer technology, prefer Macs, simply because they like them.

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Welcome to GD.SE! Would like to read more about those studies...do you have a source? –  Brendan Apr 3 at 14:05
    
@Brendan Thanks for the welcome! Unfortunately I don't know where the studies are published (my field of expertise is Ambient Intelligence). I read about them in a book titled "Emotional Design. Why we love (or hate) everyday things" by Donald A. Norman –  Baqs Apr 4 at 8:40

Other answers have covered the history well. It is agreed that today you can setup a PC or a Mac to work just a well for graphic design work.

So let’s think about a few other things…

There is a factor of control, in a lot of companies all PC are “owned” by the IT department and they try to make everyone have a standard PC, with a standard setup. You have to ask the IT department every time you want some software changing, and then fight them to allow it.

This standard PC is also not a good spec for design work, as it is chosen to be the cheapest option for people that just need to access emails and write a few word documents.

But if you win the war to allow you to buy Macs, then you are in control… (The IT department are unlikely to even have the skills to control your Macs.)


It is hard to buy a bad Mac; however there are lots of traps when buying PCs.

A lot of Max users have brought the wrong PC and hate PCs for life due to the experience.

A lot of PC are made very cheaply with poor quality keyboard and mouse, the bad feeling from using such a machine at school or home may last for a lifetime.

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This is sad, but true! Having spent the past several years working inside Fortune 500 companies, the best way to get out from under the crippling desktop IT policies and managing of hardware is to get a Mac. This is true regardless if you are a designer or not. In fact, at one job, every time we hired new employees, we'd have to order at least 2 macbooks, because at least one would be 'stolen' by upper management as it got passed down to us. :) –  DA01 Apr 3 at 15:12

Super stable, great ui, great file management and storage, superior graphic engine and advanced graphic memory usage and threading.

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Hollywood runs on Linux, even Pixar does that.

Just because for rendering graphics to hard disk, you don't even need a GUI, well, a headless CPU will do the work. So, as long as Linux is capable of execute the same rendering frameworks over the same CPUs / GPUs. It is cheaper.

Mac are used for the creative phase. Any other OS is used for mass-production.

You'll be really out of trouble with a Mac. They can have issues, but nothing compared to a Win/Linux. Here i'm developing software over Java/Spring/Postgres. I came with my own Macbook Air i7 with 4Gb RAM. The guys said to me that the laptop will not do the work. Well, in the lapse of 2 weeks, two guys had issues with their recently installed Ubuntu machines, having 8Gb RAM, they go for a reinstall. When you are developing / designing or doing any work you like, it's costly to spend 1 or 2 days configuring your OS (don't even mind losing a week cleaning a viral LAN infection). Go for a Mac, and can start working in the way back home.

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There is no difference, it comes down to personal preference. You're going to spend a lot of time at your computer, you should love it. You don't have to justify your love to anyone

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After i wrote something like this I was killed by amigdalic explosions –  Ilan Apr 22 at 6:25
    
In the end, this is the best answer I think. You can't figure out your personal preference by asking someone else, so try windows, mac and Linux and see what you like the best. Try to do the same thing on all platforms and see what happens. I always tell people to consider the time spent on the computer not doing work, and realize that may be the bulk of the time spent on the computer. So if you like photoshop on windows better than mac, realize you still have to turn on the windows computer, update the app (and Windows), resize the window, right click, whatever. Don't overlook the day-to-day! –  goodship11 May 1 at 19:20

Price is not the issue: Here is why:

Let's say a mac cost $4000.00. Let's say you use it every workday for 3 years, that's 780 days

So without counting your software or electricity, something you have to pay anyways no matter what hardware you buy : $5.12usd/day == $0.64/h

As you can already see, most freelancer make far more then $0.64/h

Now, if you do your taxes properly, your return value of that mac might be $1000 after the 3 years, making this around 50 cent's a hour.

Very likely your monthly office rental, coffee etc etc is much higher then this.

You see, if you compare a mac with a pc sure a mac is more expensive, but you have to put this in the complete picture of work, and you should, then you will see that the hardware price of the mac itself isn't much accountable for anything.

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So, Macs are used so much in the GD industry because they cost so much that it doesn't matter? –  horatio Apr 2 at 21:34
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Well, first of all, they aren't more expensive. If you need the level of machine that a Macbook has, then you'll pay that much if you go for a Lenovo or Sony as well. Secondly, this doesn't really answer the initial question (why are Macs pervasive in the Graphic Design field). All that said...you have a valid point and that is whether a computer costs $300 or $3000, for a designer billing properly, it should be a relatively moot issue. –  DA01 Apr 2 at 21:38

This seems to be a question that is difficult to avoid opinion, so given that caveat here is a series of my opinions, much of what is based in fact hopefully.

Mac is a well written operating system which is similar to Unix, which is probably the most solid OS which has been emulated by Mac and Linux and has stood the test of time. It is also an OS they are happy to give away if you buy the hardware. Microsoft doesn't sell the hardware, they sell the software so they are competing in a different way. Macs are not more able in the sense of hardware (especially the notebooks). The software is generally better; they do more with less. By standardising on hardware, the software and hardware together are more or less kept in sync and it is easier to support this configuration, so things tend to 'just work' as opposed to Windows and Linux which have to support almost every permutation of hardware configuration possible.

This has a historical component I imagine in that Mac has traditionally catered to the design industry but if you look at current market dynamics, major software vendors need to support the top platforms that people are willing to spend money on software for. This includes Apple and Windows essentially because although Linux is a great operating system everyone expects to get everything for free so software vendors that produce high end products have traditionally not bothered putting their products into the Linux market and so Linux is stuck with almost exclusively open source products which is fine but will never be cutting edge as the companies charging for their products have the money to reinvest into the next iteration.

That being said, the cheapest route to where you want to go may be to buy a reasonably high spec PC, put Linux on it and use VirtualBox to install Windows and Mac in VirtualBox and you can get nearly the best of all worlds. You'll need a bit of technical know how to pull this off and probably a bit of fiddling but it should be possible.

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"Mac is a well written operating system which is similar to Unix" — uh, OS X is based on the BSD flavour of Unix. It's not just "similar" — it is Unix. Also, installing OS X in a VirtualBox isn't strictly legal, easy to do, or very practical. Where do you get a copy of the OS to install? –  ghoppe Apr 4 at 15:18

Have you ever installed graphic drivers on a pc? DTP tools? I had a vinyl cutter, never did get it working right even though it was supposed to be a postscript printer. Depending on your suite you have to install all sorts of stuff that may or may not all get along. It can still be a real challenge.

Coming form the world of linux, a lot of the mac gets in my way. I can't apt-get install things, and even doing simple stuff like mounting a folder on another server to the finder requires install software, fiddling with an unfamiliar command line, etc. This, btw, is one of the great ironies I see: so many non-nerds decry "linux makes you use the command line for everything!" Yet every time I have the smallest problem it inevitably ends up having to cut and paste command lines from help sites.

Software is persnickety on the mac. Things sometimes mysteriously just work after an hour of mucking about, but then it can't be reproduced. I'm not personally a fan of that sort of magic.

But my Mac book is really well designed. If I were going to buy a laptop for myself, I'd probably buy the macbook. Mine is the 13" model with a dual core i7, which I use with a 39" Seiki. My work computer was a pc, my it boss convinced me "the mac is all unix underneath" so I asked for one. It is all unix underneath, but so much of it is buried under a UI that gets in the way at every turn, I hate it.

Thankfully I am able to spend almost all my time in my linux vm. Meanwhile, the vpn software to the office just works. And the OmniGraffle graphics app really does work nice and smooth, like I remember my old SGI workstation back in the day. If I had my choice I'd simply install linux on the mac laptop natively, but then I lose out on the software I need for work. I usually hate working in the mac environment, but it's there if needed.

BTW, don't believe those who say linux can't do creative stuff. Hollywood now runs on linux (not Mac) and I could post screenshots that you would find impossible to tell linux from mac font rendering - the one great difference being I can easily change font size across the desktop in linux, where Apple's brain dead 30 year old answer is still to use screen resolution to set the font size of your desktop. Meanwhile, the linux vm gives access to powerful graphics and music apps which can also integrate with the mac.

So, an Apple is a nice way to get the convenience and power of linux in a stylish platform that is more robust than the MS world. If your work gives you a choice, always get the Mac... even if, like me, you hate the desktop. Mac + Fusion + linux = teh win.

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In terms of graphic design, as an industry, Linux does have the disadvantage of little support from the major software vendors...or rather...*the* major software vendor, Adobe. You can certainly find plenty of good software for Linux, but if you need to be inter-operable within the GD industry, sadly it's not the easiest OS to get by on. –  DA01 Apr 4 at 15:44
    
Like Linux, mac supports different package managers, just not apt-get (at least, not out of the box. You can probably get it working though). Check out [brew.sh] (homebrew), or macports if you're not running mavericks yet. Also there used to be a way to change fonts by editing the preferences, or using a tool called secrets, but it wasn't 100%. Last, I also notice how macs sort of "fix themselves" after a but of "rest," but I like it, hehe. "let it rest for a bit" is the Mac equivalent to "reboot at least 3 times" on windows. :) –  goodship11 May 1 at 19:12

Without Apple there would not be Desktop Publishing as we know it. Macs for a long time where the only game in town (wayyyy back). I think designers and creatives feel a loyalty to a company that has given them some of the most important tools in their toolbox. Folks also appreciate the innovative attitude of Apple and their belief that design is an integral part of a product (being desginers and all).

All this being said. I now work on a PC. When Apple switched to intel chips their was not much reason to purchase a Mac with the same processing power. It all comes down to max processing power for the least amount of $$$ for me. If I had the cash I would get a Mac but for now this will have to do.

Is this how kids do homework now?

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Speaking for myself and the designers/developers I personally know... After working for many years on both Macs and PCs, the windows operating system simply doesn't run with the same stability. (I won't get into why that is, as that's not the question asked) This is why a designer will gladly pay a noticeably larger price tag for an apple computer.

  • You can often use it all day for literally months on end without a reboot.
  • The Mac OS will act the same over the years. An apple machine is still VERY useful when it's 5 or more years old. I've yet to have a PC (even the very powerful ones provided by fortune 500 employers) that was of equal use after even 2 years. The OS simply gets buggy over time, responds more slowly, just does odd things. There are many factors for this, again, but the factors are very real...and very frustrating.
  • All the best apps are available for both platforms, but many are designed to run on mac first and it's obvious by the way they run on windows!
  • Resale on a Mac is incredible. You will pay more, but you will get it back...assuming you want to sell it at all. As I mentioned in bullet #2, they are very useful for professional applications for quite some time. If I had to, I could still use my first generation Macbook for full-time employment and actually wouldn't hate my life (that much haha)
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This answer address the lifestyle component of the question and comments.

You could argue that it is a lifestyle choice, because you'll need software for your computer.

Choosing software on Mac vs. Windows is very different. For example, if you need to edit PDF's (adding pages, moving pages, etc), that functionality is built into Mac with the Preview app. However, on windows, you need to buy Adobe Acrobat Standard ($250) or Pro ($400+), or search through the huge selection of freeware, shareware, and 3rd party apps (making sure not to accidentally installed some adware/malware in the process).

There are many other examples (using Textedit to open word docs, built-in network functionality vs. paying an extra $200 for Windows pro), but they can probably be summarized with this quote:

"Windows has tens of thousands of software choices, but Mac has the five I use."

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That's a good point - I think sometimes Windows doesn't want to mess with the ecosystem and anger developers, while Apple has had no problem Sherlocking features over the years. –  Brendan May 1 at 16:34
    
@dominic I'm having trouble thinking of situations where windows beats mac in functionality, unless it's a windows only function :) . At best I'd say there are some that are equal, and mostly I'd say it's user preference that matters. For the PDF example, it was just one of many examples. In that case it was a geology firm that needed to edit pdfs for contracts. I wouldn't suggest a purchase based on one example, I'd say look at many examples and try to understand if the platform tendencies fit your needs. If the platform tends to focus on low price, then you may pay for more functionality. –  goodship11 May 1 at 19:03

Get the cheapest 27" iMac and you have one device with a big screen, high resolution and total silence. Haven't seen the same as PC version anywhere, although there might be.

You can also install Bootcamp to run Windows or even something like VMWare Fusion to run MacOS and Windows at the same time.

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I've used every operating system imaginable; doing animation/design on SGI units before Macs and PCs ever existed; back in the day when CBS and ILM were the few who used them. Macs are hype; period.

All software is the same and the hardware varies. The bugs in each version of software will glitch on both OS, e.g., Photoshop used to leave a 1 pixel halo when cutting; I saw it on both OS'. When the airbrush was stuttering it happened on both OS.

My typography, animations and graphics have been nominated for Emmy's and Clios and I've worked on some of the largest billboards in the world; films where detail is critical. My work's been on both Mac and PC.

As a professor I've worked on Macs; uni's choice, not mine. Again, it's hype. I've seen crashes, freezes and slugglish performance in the Macs and you can't access the system as easily as with PCs.

FWIW, I'm typing this on one of my loaners; a modified Dell from '96; 3GB RAM, not bad. Don't blame the hardware, software or OS; they all fail and users do too.

It's just a computer, not a religion.

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This doesn't answer the question, though, which is asknig why Macs are used so much in this industry. –  DA01 May 5 at 2:36

Nowadays, the answer is pretty simple: it' s all for style, meaning because the hardware is pretty to look at on a desk. It's all about style. Some people, like Mac fanatics, will think they use the most advanced OS on the planet because the hardware design is shinier than a custom built PC tower. High-heels are pretty, but they hurt your feet.

I work with a Mac at the office because the management doesn't allow Windows and every single day is torture regarding workflow speed: can't cut/paste files with keyboard, can't copy/paste file/folders path with keyboard, there's many more annoyances with OS X that I don't need say here. Also it's about workflow. With Windows you can use keyboard commands to do alot more than OS X. Use a MAC if you like OS X's workflow and graphics interface. PC with Windows 7 is the best imo.

Mac fanatics will never accept that PC/Windows is as stable if not more, cost less with better specs hardware. Those people bashes PC/Windows based on their bad experiences from the 1990s. As an example, my boss is a Mac fanatic. When he sees a monitor screen that isn't from Apple, he automatically says the colors looks worse than his Apple monitor. Really? You think a NEC/Eizo Professional matte monitor color reproduction isn't better than an Apple glossy display? Oh c'mon.

My nieces asked me to install Windows 7 on their Macbooks 'cause it's easier for them to use. Now they don't ever boot in OS X.

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Don't waste your money on a Mac. –  Hamstergirl Sep 19 at 17:02
    
This is mainly a personal rant, and not attempting to answering the question in a constructive manner. –  Benteh Sep 19 at 17:48
    
Sounds like you don't know how to use a Mac because I can use shortcuts from the keyboard to cut and paste and I can do a lot more with file path VIA terminal than you can do with Windows. Maybe spend some time and learn how to use a Mac instead of walking into it negatively because your answer passes as an uneducated one.. –  Matt Sep 19 at 17:57

protected by Matt Sep 19 at 17:52

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