Why do designers prefer Mac instead of Windows

12 Oct 2011 - 4:22am
4 years ago
21 replies
9808 reads

Why do designers prefer a Mac instead of the Windows platform?

Probably it is an old topic but I still need to know. I've read substantial amount of blogs, comparisions and write ups on this topic and most of them says there are no big differences between working on a Mac and working on a Windows based PC. However, as I look for universities and colleges across the US which offers Design degrees, especially Interaction Design and Media Arts, almost all of them ask the student to get their own Mac systems.

So please share your views on this.



12 Oct 2011 - 5:07am
Petteri Hiisilä

Three essential Mac exclusives for me. Small things, but they make a big difference:

  • Omnigraffle. It's Mac-only, and currently the best all-around tool for prototyping lo-fi and hi-fi interactions, and creating diagrams of all sorts. Other essential programs are Xscope, Pixelmator/Photoshop and Skitch.
  • System-wide PDF support. It's very easy to copy and paste things around in vector formats, annotate documents etc. Also, the system opens PDF files extremely quickly. Since Omnigraffle can create clickable PDF screens, I can create software prototypes in PDF, which is a very convenient and universal format to share them.
  • System-wide color palettes. Different projects use different palettes. It's important to be able to have a single-click access to shared color palettes when working with multiple programs, and to be able to access old color palettes when returning to an old project.
12 Oct 2011 - 7:27am

For me:

  • Overall, a more fluid user experience -- especially when it comes to multi-tasking (i.e. Exposé)
  • Better performance (I don't feel like my Macbook Pro has to work very hard)
  • And the helpful nuances (i.e. operating system has a highly functional built-in screen capture utility)

12 Oct 2011 - 9:31am
Jack L. Moffett

There have been a number of discussions in the past on this topic: http://www.ixda.org/category/tags/mac-os-vs-windows

You can also check out my musings on the subject  at DesignAday:

http://designaday.tumblr.com/tagged/In_Comparison (This tagged set isn't all about Mac vs. Windows, but a lot of it is.)


12 Oct 2011 - 10:16am
Sean Pook

Good question.

I've known candidates to turn down job offers if they have to use a PC or MAC (depending which they don't like).

12 Oct 2011 - 10:21am
Sean Pook

Deleted my idiotic comment :-)

12 Oct 2011 - 11:14am
Santiago Bustelo

It's an interesting topic. I have witnessed over the last 20 years how regarding and understanding MacOS GUI design decisions (e.g. simplicity, consistent visual language, positioning the menu bar to take advantage of Fitt's law) correlates with producing better design. Conversely, designers and developers who believe the difference between MacOS and Windows is about marketing, eye candy or personal taste, usually perpetrate the worst interfaces ever.

On your research about MacOS GUI design decisions, principles and even history, be ready to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it is extremely difficult to find unbiased assessments of Apple's interaction and industrial design. My words above are of course no exception. Strong attachment to the platform is one of the consequences of its design.

Santiago Bustelo
IxDA BA Buenos Aires local group Coordinator
IxDA.org Central and South America Regional Coordinator

12 Oct 2011 - 12:55pm

Probably because Omnigraffe and other Mac Tools have done the smart thing and given the University Design Departments free unlimited site licences of their software. That way they indoctrinate the students in their tools so they will demand them when they graduate. Hence the students need Macs.

Oil and Gas products that I have been involved with have done very well over the years donating free software to Engineering and Geology departments. The graduates enter the workforce experienced in the toolsets, sometimes better than the existing employees; if they get into smaller companies they become purchase influencers. People even young ones hate change, and they love their tools.

12 Oct 2011 - 1:22pm

Wow, that was a great input I never thought of. Thanks for sharing it.

12 Oct 2011 - 1:51pm
Dave Malouf

I'll give one reason and only one reason:

I can run both OSes (actually any x86 architecture compatable OSes, i.e. Linux) on a single machine, which means I can live a multi-lingual UI life.

All the other reasons are fine, but I always come back to this one.

I also find the following to be true, but have been told that newer PC laptops can "keep up" to this issue. The issue is that Mac's sleep really well. I have never had a PC/Windows laptop sleep without loosing charge rapidly compared to even the oldest macbooks. I'd be interested what Windows laptops have resolved this issue.

I do think that Lion while having it's issues has some key UX features worth looking at, but maybe they are too subtle to be important enough for you.

Good luck!

-- dave

12 Oct 2011 - 2:17pm

Thanks Dave.

I would be glad if you share every single point, however subtle it is! :D

I've been using a Windows machine for long and have tried a Mac for around 3-4 months but wasn't able to figure out much differences; probably because I overlooked them or I'm not a keep observer.

12 Oct 2011 - 2:20pm
Jared M. Spool

Don't underestimate the tribal value to being a Mac owner. 

There's a social reason the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" commercials rang close to home for many.

12 Oct 2011 - 4:49pm

I haven't used a Windows PC in a couple of years in any design sense

– and things might have changed, but in the past the big things were:


- colour management

- earlier integration of Postscript

- anti-aliasing and better rendering of text on-screen

- font management

- ease-of-use

- dealing with PDF's

- support for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and QuarkXpress


Its also cultural, Macs have always been seen as creative machines

and Windows PC's more technical – plus most of us are snobs ; )



12 Oct 2011 - 7:15pm


I have been an avid user or both Macs (personal choice) and PC's (my employer's choice) for years. For me the preference is simply based upon reliability, longevity and quality. 

I have permanently lost important work due to a crashed apps, hard drive failures and PC platform issues. I have lost entire hard drives that were unrecoverable on a PC at lease 5 times in my career, I have NEVER lost work in the last 15 years on my Macs. Even with failing Mac hardrives i was still able to recover my work with ease. 

Apple customer service is better. Macs are easier to fix probelms on. It usually takes 2-3 tries for PC repair folks to find and fix problems on my PC. Ever had to troubleshoot a ".dll" or regisrty keys on a PC?  I can usually fix/tweak my Mac on my own or with a little online research. (The Apple store rocks too!). Trying to get support for a PC? The result is usually a call center hell, a lot of wasted time and a pounding headache. 

Mac interfaces are easier and quicker to use.  PC's have been slowly adopting "Apple" UI standards for a while now to the point where they are almost equal. But  still!  Ever had to find a file from the in network browse functionality (You can't even use your shortcuts!. so lame)


The graphical abilities of Mac laptops have been consistenlty faster and more elegant in display. 


I have 3 old outdated Macs that still work, My old PC's all ended up in the recycle bin because they are trash and will never work again. 


The business practices and technology advancements of the folks at Apple have been consitentely revolutionary, incremental and user centered. PC's not so much (admitted there are exceptions).   I feel like PC manufacturers  and PC app developers are in the market share business and not in the user satisfaction business.  Apple has gone above and beyond in just selling me a product.

PS: I am typing this on my personal 5 year old Macbook Pro because my work's  new PC laptop died after less than a year's worth of use.  



13 Oct 2011 - 1:18am

Thanks Billbarany. The info here is quite meaningful. :)

13 Oct 2011 - 7:36am

I tried to send this yesterday but it got killed.. trying again. :)

For me, it's the built-in dictionary. I mean, not only is it just there and integrated but it looks so nice, too. :-p 

Okay.. I really do like that, but it's also:
- fluidity - yeah, I know, it's a cop out to say something so squishy but it's true; the motion design is just.. right.  Win8 seems like it might be a decent competitor on this front; we'll see. But there's a lot of legacy for them to replace/hide.
- 3rd party apps - probably more than the OS itself, compared to Windows, the 3rd party apps as a rule are well designed and often have interesting/innovative interactions. It's a great source of inspiration. Again, I suspect we'll see more of this on Win8.
- hardware quality feel and look - lately I've seen some pretty decent looking Win machines, and I suspect we'll see more, but so far as I am concerned, Mac rules the roost on hardware aesthetics/industrial design
- image - I mean seriously, let's get real. Designers care more about image than the average Joe; I suspect many people get Macs at least partly for this reason.
- belonging - related to image; it is assumed that "designers prefer Macs" so if you want to be identified as a designer, belong to that group, well, you feel an inclination to do so in this way. Not to say you can't be a good designer without a Mac (by any means!), but still, I think there's something to this rationale.



13 Oct 2011 - 8:08am

Though I don't underestimate Jared's reference to tribalism, I think part of the reason is that designers prefer products that are well designed. You'll find it true of many kinds of products - we appreciate quality and user focus. I've used macs and windows pcs, and my feeling is that macs are friendlier, more seamless and generally less painful to use. I like that. 

It really doesn't matter what tools you use. Everyone should choose what works best for them. But I'd say designers lean toward macs because they're the best designed computers around. And we all want to be part of the tribe.

14 Oct 2011 - 4:58am
Richard Carson

Designers have always been led by inspiration and like-minded individuals. Beauty, art... are simply not grown within the confines of Windows and its users. 

14 Oct 2011 - 12:54pm

Expanding on Jared's comment, there's a reason you don't see Windows stickers in peoples' car windows. Tribal association is strong among designers (to a fault, IMO) and Macs are a large part of that association. Beyond tribalism, they're just very well made, they're well designed, and they're easier to use.

I came to Macs in 2003 after working for a decade or so in the Linux/UNIX world. Macs use a UNIX-ish OS that was very familiar to me but they also run proprietary software that no UNIX-ish OS ran in 2003 (Adobe's design/illustration apps, for example) so the switch was a no-brainer for me. I wasn't familiar with Mac OS at all when I got my first iMac, but I picked it up in minutes and I've been a happy camper since. Contrast that with Windows 7 which has been "simplified" but is still a bear to use. Macs get out of your way and let you work.

The tools I use for my web design/development work are available on both platforms with the exception of Internet Explorer, so really I could use either, but I choose to use Macs. At this point, I can't imagine using anything else.

15 Oct 2011 - 8:42pm
Margaret Schultz

:-> The majority of my professional career has been spent on PCs. They need the UX Love probably more than Macs. I've had Macs off and on on my desk at work, and some were better than others. I do own an iPhone (started with the 3G, now a 4), and this was really a breakthrough for me. For the first time, I owned an Apple product for personal use, not business use. 

I find the PC vs. Mac wars interesting, especially from a social and HCI perspective.

25 Oct 2011 - 6:54am

I haven't worked with the new Windows OS yet, but the main differences for me personally are the following:

1. We get influenced by everything that surrounds us, if we like it or not. 

When working for a longer period of time on a PC, I notice that I start overcomplicating things, which is why I will refuse in my next job to work on a PC. I feel it influences quality of my work negatively. Have a look on youtube and search for Derren Brown - Subliminal Advertising. I think this is a great example by what I mean with influence. Now project this in HOW you have to interact with windows OS. It's just a matter of time until you pick up these inappropriate interactions, user flows and overcomplicate your design. The only thing I need a PC for is testing websites in native environments or playing games not available on mac.


2. Quality 

Although I was a poorer student than anyone else, I safed all my money from jobs to spend it on a Mac that was twice as much expensive then a PC would have been. The reason? I saw how many problems everyone with a PC had, and the time, effort and headache wasn't worth getting a cheaper PC over a more expensive Mac. I also didn't need to worry about drivers messing up my systems or weird viruses. My computer would always run, and if there was a problem I was able to fix it myself. 


3. Apple influenced my professional choice

I was 14 or 15 when I did my first internship in a design studio. That was 1992, and computers were not all too common in German design studios yet. I recall everyone was working on their large desks with pen and paper, the design (and cosmetics) was then executed by so called "Design Assistants" who took the concepts from the designers and did what they told them to do. Everyone worked with xerox copies, Letraset foils, grid foils, colored paper, non-permanent glue .... and then there was also a dark corner on the second floor with two small computers. The first time I saw an apple. There was also an Intern who got hired just to teach everyone that worked there how to use these things. Though I never saw anyone working on them in the short time I spent there, but I paid close attention at school that was equipped with PC in how to use them because I liked the idea of becomeing a designer. My experience when working on a PC at school: I HATED it! It didn't make sense, I didn't understand simple basics like how to safe a file, and how to find it again. It made me feel stupid, frustrated, and it all didn't make any sense to me.

That's why I did another internship 1998, after graduation and just before signing up for university to find out if working on computers is really a compromise I could live with and something I could actually learn. In this internship I really saw and experienced for the first time an apple, and boy I loved it. If I hadn't I would have studied biochemistry instead and probably realized too late that there is no way around PCs in this field.

13 Nov 2011 - 1:40am

Apple products represent the best that design has to offer.

Why would designers not practice what they preach when it comes to their tools?

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