You know that "Get a Mac" ad campaign? The one where one person represents a Mac and the other a Windows PC? It’s obviously a cheeky way for Apple to differentiate itself from its competition, but the Mac versus Windows difference they portray is actually a good analogy and question for designers: When it comes to your design work, are you a Mac or a PC?
Do you want to focus on creating the absolute best designs and be more limited to the types of clients that will choose your service? Or do you want to be more prolific and have a broader mass-appeal towards clients and design projects?
Like with anything in life, there’s a natural balance: the more you do of one, the less you’ll have of the other.
Answering this question for yourself can give you greater clarity and direction with your design career. You’ll know what values are important to you and what ideals you should be striving for.
Note: For the sake of this article, the term PC shall refer to a computer running the Windows operating system, following the terminology Apple uses to refer to any computer that isn’t a Mac. We recognize that a PC (short for personal computer) technically applies to any general-purpose computer, whether it’s a Mac, Linux, or Windows machine.
Hi, I’m a Mac
A Mac of designers is someone who strives for the best design work possible, at the expense of time, cost, more projects, and possibly financial gain. A Mac is fine with a smaller market share. In 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, "Our goal is to make the best devices in the world, not to be the biggest."
The Mac looks for the right users; people who appreciate quality (or perceived quality), even if it means paying more for a Mac versus comparable PCs.
A Mac doesn’t sell the design work short. At a 2007 Mac event, Steve Jobs stated:
We can’t ship junk. There are thresholds we can’t cross because of who we are. And we think that there’s a very significant slice of the [market] that wants that too. You’ll find that our products are not premium priced. You price out our competitors’ products, and add features that actually make them useful, and they’re the same or actually more expensive. We don’t offer stripped-down, lousy products.
Instead of being able to do anything and everything for the client, a Mac of designers will only design certain things and in certain ways: be it a website, the logo, banners, flyers, and whatever else. "It’s my way or the highway," basically.
A Mac of designers generally will:
- hold perfection and details to a higher standard.
- strive to become the best at what they do.
- be pickier when choosing clients and projects.
- be suitable only to the "right" clients and projects.
- have fewer projects completed.
And I’m a PC
A PC of designers is someone who caters to as many clients as possible at the expense of being the best at any one thing. A PC isn’t as concerned with getting every detail right or making the absolute best and most perfect design possible. They are more concerned about getting things done on time, on budget, and as efficiently as possible. They are prolific; they can accomplish things quickly and they hold time, productivity, and value to high standards.
But the natural result of being prolific is that there won’t be as much focus on creating the best possible design. Client satisfaction may not be as high, and quality may be mediocre, but the designs work, are cost-effective, are practical, and are functional. This can be analogous to how, although Windows has a larger piece of the market, Mac users top user satisfaction surveys; Windows is happy being second as long as it has more users.
A PC of designers generally will:
- be more flexible and will aim to be a solution to all types of projects and clients.
- be a more prolific producer of designs.
- balance quality, time, and cost.
- not strive to be the best in one particular style or area of design.
- be less focused on ideal visions and perfectionism.
- produce fewer/no innovative design work.
- be satisfied with status quo.
Mac or PC: Which One Is Your Persona?
Here’s a simple question you can ask yourself which will determine if you should strive to be a Mac or PC of designers. What’s more important: innovation, quality and perfection or efficiency and cost-effectiveness? The Project Triangle proposes that any given project has the options of being good, fast, and cheap — but you can only choose two options. By focusing on efficiency and cost-effectiveness, you sacrifice quality and being able to perfect your work. By sacrificing speed and cost-effectiveness, you can produce higher-quality work.
Of course, in reality, it’s not so black and white. Apple is one of the most financially successful technology companies in the world. Windows, especially with Window 7, is making their operating system slicker, simpler, and less prone to errors. However, both companies do have their priorities: be the best (Mac) or be the biggest (Windows). This priority affects the company’s core values, decisions, and direction.