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 Susan Lin

Susan Lin

Artist, designer, developer (Treehouse)

Posted in artist, developer, designer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello world! I'm Susan Lin, 'bysusanlin' online. I work in a myriad of mediums including design, code, pen, pixel art, and paint. Professionally, I currently work at Treehouse as a designer and spend my after hours as an artist. You may have seen my sketchnotes or one of my watercolor trees.

What hardware do you use?

Let's start with machines. I prefer the 13" MacBook Pro Retina. Its specs are: 3.1GHz i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD. Things are backed-up on a Seagate 4TB USB 3.0 External HD. I wield 2 Thunderbolt monitors. It spoils me to say, but I don't remember how I worked without the second one before -- it's indispensable for coding, exporting UI assets, and updating my prints shop. One of the monitors sits on a Grovemade Maple Stand.

I've previously busted my right arm to overwork and bad posture. I use the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Evoluent Vertical Mouse while resting on a Memory Foam Mousepad and a Memory Foam elbow rest. Super ugly, but very functional. The Magic Trackpad helps keep things symmetrical. I recently upgraded to a GeekDesk at home. I sit in a Mirra 2 Chair, in Dark Turquoise of course.

Miscellaneous tools on my desk are organized by MUJI acrylic pen holders and stands. I own a Wacom Intuos tablet and Yiynova tablet (the poor man's Cintiq). I use them way less than I should. Somewhere on the desk, there's a wireless Xbox controller and receiver. I used to make games in college, but now I usually just play them. I takeover the dining table (an IKEA picnic table where I take most of my instagram shots) and sit in an Aqua Sky Shell Eames Chair when I want to change it up.

Speaking of Ergonomic... 3M's Futuro Wrist Supports are the best. I have a foam roller for back pain therapy. Lying on it for 5 minutes a day helps reverse the damage you're doing working at your desk. I have a custom molded elbow brace made of thermoplastic. Ergonomic equipment is very ugly. I've thought about starting a company that makes stylish ergonomic equipment more than once. Last, but not least, I stick a Salonpas patch anywhere it hurts to power through the day.

Moving on to art. For painting, I choose quality and portability above all. My current set-up is a 24 half-pan Schmincke palette paired with da Vinci Maestro travel brushes at sizes 2, 3 and 5. Schmincke is very expensive, so if you're reading this and thinking about starting watercolor: a great entry level choice would be Kuretake Gansai Tambi. My preferred inking pens are Staedtlers. I just picked up an ink and nib set. Choices were the Tachikawa Comic Pen Nib and extra dark waterproof Deleter ink to try out. The only eraser I trust are the Pentel Hi-Polymer erasers. I've been using the same Staedtler Mars Drafting Pencil 0.7mm since freshmen year of college. For sketchnoting, MUJI giant F4 sketchbooks are key. Notes are scribbled with a Uniball Jetstream 3 Color Pen and shaded with various colors of Kuretake Zig Clean Color watercolor calligraphy pens. To get the painted effect, I run the Kuretake Zig watercolor brush to dissolve the calligraphy pen's ink.

Some other things I use. I take photos with a Panasonic DMC-GF7KK. A Slik tripod has been the most useful purchase I've made lately. I also bought a mount that holds phones. I'll have the iPhone 5S for about a month more. I'm very happy with my Braun BN0031 for telling time. It's the perfect color and matches my favorite teapot and mug.

And what software?

For email, I stubbornly hang onto Sparrow for Mac and use Mailbox on iPhone.

Like most in my profession, I use Adobe Creative Suite. In the epic battle between Sketch vs Photoshop, I'll use what my team prefers so we can share files easily. Meaning, someone else usually has a strong opinion. Illustrator is prime for SVG graphics and SVGO is prime for trimming the output. In addition to photo editing, there's a great way to set-up Photoshop to do pixel art.

For coding, I use Atom and iTerm2. For making and presenting talks, I use Keynote.

Software I leave running include Caffeine (disables sleep on computer), 1Password (you won't regret using a password manager), f.lux (helps me remember to go to bed on time), Screenhero (best screensharing software I know of), and Dropbox (file storage and syncing).

nvALT on Desktop and Simplenote on iPhone are indispensable to me. I enjoy the plain text aspect of the product... anything more complex would distract from writing what I want written down. Most of my projects (code, design, and art) start as massive plain text braindumps.

I prefer Alfred 2 over the native Spotlight search. Extensions such as Color Converter and Emoji Workflow are amazing.

I have a thing for customizability. I built an RSS page after the decease of Google Reader (RIP). Extensions I use for the browser include AdBlock (I will pay to support your product when prompted, because sorry I don't want to meet hot singles in my area unless they are these hot singles.) I have the Pin it button. I am a packrat on the web, I hoard inspiration and references like a madwoman. Smooth Gestures helps keep things moving fast. User Styles because I overwrite interfaces I find noisy, but still find value in otherwise. And finally, Type-ahead-find searches for links as you type. I'm surprised this isn't native!

I'm crazy about these Ghibli Mac Icons. It makes interacting with my software a delight.

What would be your dream setup?

I've iterated a lot on my tools and am very pleased with the choices themselves. The next level setup would be to find a space that I can manipulate. For once I'd like to be able to drill holes into the walls without worry! My ultimate dream is to live in a MUJI home, I need to space for one of their bead cushions. Ideally, I will have a dog companion in the near future.