Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Ryan Essmaker
Image by Tina Essmaker.

Ryan Essmaker

Designer, developer (The Great Discontent)

Posted in designer, developer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, I'm Ryan Essmaker, and I'm a creative director and designer/developer in New York City. I cofounded, designed, and built The Great Discontent along with my wife, Tina.

I had my own little one-man design shop in Michigan for 7+ years before moving to NY to work with the folks at Crush & Lovely. Now I'm primarily focused on TGD and content with some digital product stuff mixed in when I have the time.

When I'm not at a computer, I'm hanging out with friends in the city, sipping on some good whiskey, or making photographs. If I'm left alone for an extended period of time, I just play guitar, write, and let my beard and hair grow out - but that hasn't happened in a while.

What hardware do you use?

Right now, I'm rocking the first-gen 15" MacBook Pro Retina with a 500GB SSD and 16 gigs of RAM. It's the fastest, most amazing machine I've ever owned. I connect that to one of two Thunderbolt displays - one at home and another at Crush Studio. I typically set the MBP up on a Rain mStand when using a display. Nothing fancy as far as desks are concerned, but I'm working on that. I sit on an Aeron chair at the studio and a shitty Ikea dining chair at home.

In my pocket, you'll find a space gray iPhone 5S 64gb - I recently upgraded from a white iPhone 4S and, damn, is it fast in comparison. On the desk or in my Sandqvist bag, is my first-gen iPad Mini. I've found myself using the Mini way more than the first iPad, but still not as much as I had thought I would.

I connect to the internet via Apple's Airport Extreme and at home I have that hooked up to my Sonos Playbar and an AppleTV. Sonos' software UI aside, I love the Playbar. Pair that with OSX Mavericks and AirPlay and it makes for one happy Ryan.

For TGD interviews that we conduct online, we use an Apogee MiC, a Logitech C920, and either our Apple earbuds or one of our two B&W P5 headphones. I originally had the black P5s but gave those to Tina when the white ones came out. That turned out to be a really bad decision as they look like total shit after only wearing them for a few months.

For in-person interviews, we use the Roland R-05 recorder, which I can't recommend enough. The thing does an amazing job in high-noise situations, and it's built like a tank.

I've been stocking up on Lacie Rugged Thunderbolt/USB 3 drives since working on more video and that's proved to be a very solid decision. Thunderbolt and USB 3 are well worth the added expense.

For digital photography I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and a 35mm f1.4L lens. I also have the 40mm pancake, but don't find myself using it as much as I had hoped. When shooting film, I sport a Contax G2 with a Zeiss 35mm f2 Planar or one of several 35mm point-and-shoots or stereoscopic cameras. It's getting to the point where it costs around $25 to shoot a roll of 35mm, so I find myself shooting less film, despite preferring the look and process.

And if you're interested in what guitars I play, I own two Martin acoustics - a DC-1E and a much older and beat up, DM. The electric I own was passed down from my grandfather and is an old Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentlemen - it still plays and sounds like a champ, despite being stored in an attic for years. I used to own a lot more electrics and amps and recording gear, but I found myself selling it off or trading it for other things over the years. At some point, I think I'll start buying more stuff and recording again.

And what software?

I'm running OSX Mavericks on my MBP and iOS7 on my iPhone and iPad. My life wouldn't be the same without Dropbox, 1Password, or Alfred. I use and love Adobe Creative Cloud and much prefer it over the older upgrade model. Within CC I work in Photoshop, Lightroom 5, Illustrator, Premiere, Speedgrade, and Audition. InDesign will be used a little more in 2014 as I'm planning to do more print projects.

I use Apple Mail, Numbers, Pages, and Keynote for your typical office tasks. CloudApp and Dropmark are frequented throughout the day to share or collect. Evernote fills in the gaps and Mailchimp is used for email newsletters.

For design and development projects, I use Photoshop for simple "sketches" and do the rest in-browser. For coding tasks, I used to use Coda religiously, but have recently switched to Sublime Text, which I have fallen in love with. I use both Safari and Chrome equally. xScope helps when things don't look quite right and I need a quick measurement. ColorSnapper has been very handy along with ColorSchemer Studio when I need some complimentary colors.

For video editing projects, I'm torn between the aforementioned Adobe Premiere and Apple's Final Cut Pro X. When color grading, I really like Blackmagic's DaVicini Resolve, although the roundtrip from FCP/Premiere to Resolve is a bit of a pain.

Audio Hijack Pro is what we use for recording interview audio and it's performed like a true champ. Any random audio editing is done in Logic 9 or GarageBand.

The tools I use for writing are a mix of Editorially and iA Writer for both Mac and iOS. Marked winds up making its way into the flow for easy conversion of the Markdown files to HTML along with proper character entities.

When it comes to keeping myself organized, I bounce back and forth between TeuxDeux and Things. I don't really like calendars, so I attempt to avoid both Google Calendar and Apple Calendar, but nevertheless they are necessary evils in my daily routine.

Tweetbot is my go-to for Twitter on both Mac and iOS. I use a combination of Apple Messages, Slack, and Campfire for team/friend communication and Skype for most video and audio chats.

Most importantly, Rdio is open the entire day and iTunes fills in the gaps for all my music listening.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty happy with my current setup from a technical standpoint. I walk to the studio on a daily basis so I occasionally wish I had the newer 13" MBP Retina due to its smaller size and weight, but I have a difficult time working on smaller screens, so I don't think I'd use it as much when not plugged in to a monitor. Other than that, I often find myself drooling over the simple desks at Urban Wood Goods and should probably invest in a new chair for my home office for the sake of proper posture and back health in the near future.

When the budget is there, I will definitely be investing in more photography and video gear. In particular, lights from Lite Panels, either a Red or Blackmagic camera setup, along with a few lenses, audio equipment, and all the accessories. There are a lot of video projects in our heads when it comes to TGD and other forms of content, and it will be awesome when, one day, we can just set up and shoot without having to think about how to get our hands on some gear.