Workstation vs. laptop

jchgf's picture


I have been drawing sketches of typefaces for a long time and I would like to learn to turn my ideas into digital fonts. I currently own a laptop running Ubuntu. I haven't searched seriously, but I doubt there a lot of interesting tools for typographical design on Linux. (Prove me wrong if you wish!)

So I am considering getting a new mac. My question is this: what components of the computer should I consider for the specific task of designing typography? For example,

- Does designing a typeface on a laptop somehow affects the working habits of a designer?
- Is a large screen essential to perform this task? Can you get away with a 15" or 12" screen?
- Are the type-design softwares typically hungry for RAM or processor speed?

So basically, I am asking for advice to put together a nice and effective workstation for type design.



BlueStreak's picture

Christian, I just upgraded to a Mac Book Pro laptop. But I use it more as a desktop machine. Meaning it mostly stays plugged into a large monitor and USB keyboard, plus a speaker system and ethernet. When I want to get away, I just unplug and go. It's the best of both worlds.

HaleyFiege's picture

- Depends on the designer I guess. You'll have to examine your own working habits. I'm a laptop user for lyfe because I spend most of my waking hours on the computer and like to have the freedom to move around.

- I use a 15" macbook. I have a large dual monitor setup but rarely use it for type design work.

- My macbook only has 512mb of RAM right now and it's perfectly fine for running the 2 programs I use - illustrator and fontlab studio.

If you do get a mac for the love of all things holy, GET THE 3 YEAR APPLECARE!

blank's picture

Like Dan, I keep my Macbook plugged into a 19" LCD most of the time. I feel like no matter what kind of design I’m doing, it’s just a lot easier on a big, hi-res screen.

As far as performance goes, none of the popular font applications need too much RAM, and with all of Apple’s systems selling with at least a gigabyte of RAM, so you should be fine there. Of course, if you want to simultaneously rock out in Indesign and Photoshop, you might want more.

If you already have a good external monitor there’s no reason that the $600 Mac Mini won’t be all you need.

jchgf's picture

Thank you Dan, Haley and James, you've answered my concerns, which was mainly the screen size. I hadn't thought about the Mac Mini at all.


PS: Is there a directory of classic Typophile threads somewhere? I have stumbled on the FAQ for posting guidelines, but I was wondering if there is a shortcut to frequently asked subjects or highly informative threads, apart from the search box above.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Many people here recommend using Google to run searches about Typophile posts...

greentea's picture

Have you checked out FontForge?

aluminum's picture

laptop vs. desktop is less about performance these days and more about 'lifestyle'.

Note that once you get a laptop, it's REALLY hard to go back to a desktop. ;o)

Personally, my view on laptops these days is to go cheap and upgrade more frequently. I used to have a TiBook and 'upgraded' to a Plain-Jane Macbook for half the price 2 years later.

William Berkson's picture

>tools for typographical design on Linux

For recent discussions on Typophile of FontForge see this and this.

I very much like having a wide screen to do type design on, so that I can have lots of windows open in FontLab. It is also good for previews, and I and can rotate it to portrait orientation for really big previews. I also have a smaller screen with the tools on it and a text file open.

Endre Berentzen's picture

Same as BlueStreak here (but I find that I wish I had a bit more harddrive space on my macBook Pro:-()

tina's picture

My favorite typophile search method is by Grant Hutchinson's bookmarklet, see here:

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