A QUICK SCAN OF SOME HIGHLY CREATIVE DESKTOP ENVIRONMENTS

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Carlos Segura

Principal, Segura Inc. and T-26, Chicago

Carlos Segura is a rare specimen in the zoo of creative computer geeks. Although he has owned computers since the Dark Ages of 1984, he has never played a computer game. Nary a one. "I just don't have time," he explains. He does, however, love playing with typography. "Without a doubt, my favorite thing," he says, and he doesn't even need color, b&w is just fine.

Not that he is bereft of bells and whistles. He has a Quadra 800 with 72 megs of RAM, a 1.2 gigabyte external drive, a 1.2 gigabyte internal drive, two optical external drives (600 and 128 megs) and an 88 meg SyQuest, not to mention a 20-inch SuperMatch color monitor and a 3x CD-ROM drive.

Although one of his companies is a digital type foundry, Segura mostly works as a graphic designer, toiling over record labels, brochures, posters, and even snowboards. He uses Quark, Photoshop, Dimensions (a 3D rendering program), FreeHand, Retrospect (a DAT backup program), Streamline (it converts scans into Postscript outlines) and Director. Although he uses common type tools such as Fontographer and Suitcase, Segura prefers designing fonts with Illustrator, which he likes for its friendly interface.

Segura is content with his current configuration, at least for another six months or so, but is anxiously awaiting Apple's release of its operating system. He still doesn't plan to play games, however. So what does he do for fun?

"I ride my motorcycle," he says.

P. Scott Makela

Principal, Words & Pictures For Business & Culture, Minneapolis

"We're multihybrids here; if it has language and content, we're interested," says P. Scott Makela about what he calls his "avant-garde research and development propaganda house," which is still "small enough to work with cool clients." With projects ranging from the type for a recent Lotus Notes campaign to a new identity for Propaganda Films to a 1997 international touring show, "Digital Campfires," for the Walker

Art Center, Makela needs to make every byte count.

His current computer stable includes a Macintosh 840 AV with 48 megs of RAM, a hot rod PowerBook 520C with 20 megs of RAM and a Global Village Mercury modem, and an accelerated MacIIci. They share about 3 gigabytes of hard drive space on a network, with support available from two 650-meg magneto-optical drives, plus a few SyQuests. He says a PowerMac 8100/110 is on the way, and upgrades into PowerPC territory are due within a couple of months.

His gripes are the usual ones: "Not fast enough, and we're always running out of space." The Mac AV does work particularly well for video, especially when using Premiere. "It's a really great machine, even though it's touchy for other things," Makela says.

To the standards (Photoshop, Quark, FreeHand, Illustrator, Premiere, Director), he adds Typestry by Pixar and, for morphing, Elastic Reality. "We're especially naive and excited about that one," he says.

The company also finds Netscape invaluable: "Mobility is everything for us. We transfer files electronically, if people on the other end are smart enough to have a Web site. Otherwise, it's good old FedEx and a SyQuest."

Makela particularly likes Premiere because it's a cheap way to dummy up commercials to show clients. He used to hate Photoshop but finds its new layering option a saving grace. He finds Director limiting ("You can only show one Quicktime movie easily at a time") and says those who use it for multimedia unfortunately "start to get pragmatic and design around the limitations." And he hates not being able to fax out of Quark without "doing bullshit little things" with key commands. "It makes day-to-day life a headache."

Anya Bruno

Art Director, Woolward & Partners, San Francisco

"Powerful but temperamental" is how Anya Bruno describes her PowerMac 7100. Quark, which she otherwise likes, crashes a lot on it, and compatibility problems send her scurrying to a Quadra in order to edit sound (with SoundEditPro) in Director.

Bruno spends most of her time creating comps for high-tech advertising clients like Logitech, Motorola, Digital Pictures, SyQuest and Delphi. (The high-res images go to the service bureau.) She has 24 megs of RAM on her system but only has applications and fonts on her hard drive; most of the time she works off the server. She also uses a SyQuest drive (only 44 megs, but she's lusting after 200) and a CD-ROM player.

A graduate of California College of Arts & Crafts, Bruno has a definite software fave: Photoshop. "Basically, I paint in it," she says. Illustrator is handy, too, but the latest version (5.5) does not seem to run well with other programs, she reports. Bruno doesn't anticipate major upgrades anytime soon, but she wants more memory in her hard drive. The latest Photoshop may be sleek and speedy, but it's also a hog.

Paul Howalt

Graphic Designer, Charles Spencer Anderson Design, Minneapolis

Charles Spencer Anderson explains that he "absolutely never" does his work on a computer, preferring the "conceptual end," but he absolutely depends on the computer panache of the designers he employs. "Computers have married production so tightly to design," says Anderson, "that everybody has ideas, and the crossover contributes to the overall aesthetic."

For instance, graphic designer Paul Howalt can often be found working on a CD sampler of about 100 of the company's designs. It is based on a Hypercard stack, which is not only unusual, but also makes it possible for a buyer without an interface to download the line art illustrations. Thus the firm is concerned not only with using technology to create and produce design, but also to distribute it.

Howalt works on a Quadra 650 with a CD player, 24 megs of RAM and a 250-meg hard drive-"I wish it was double that at least," he says. A 21-inch monitor would be nice, he admits, and he has his eye on a PowerMac 8100/110 with CD. This is no idle fantasy. "I sure hope Chuck springs for one."

His software library contains the usual cast of characters. "Right now, I'm having an incredible time with FreeHand 5.0. It was limiting in the past, but it was sold back to the original developer, who beefed it up to work the way it should. It has an open architecture, so I use my Illustrator plug-ins. It's fun and useful, and it saves me a lot of time on commands. It's also very versatile. I can save a document as an Illustrator document and import it right into Photoshop. Before, they were mutually exclusive."

He also likes Streamline, an auto-trace program he says controls subtleties better than FreeHand. "We use a lot of line art illustration in our product lines, which makes it easy to throw stuff into the Mac and toss it around. Photoshop is tougher, and it slows down the machine."

Howalt's favorite escape pastime is creating custom icons, which he does with a program called I Like Icon. So what's next? A home page, of course. "We want to be able to serve our illustrations over the Internet," says Howalt.

Timothy Binkley

Chairman, Graduate Computer Art Program, School of Visual Arts, and Director, Institute for Computers in the Arts, New York

Timothy Binkley, who has been programming computers for more than 30 years, is somewhat sheepish when asked which commercial program he uses most often. "Microsoft Word," he admits. Of course this SVA computer lab maestro can hunker over any of its 100-plus platforms and work on every applicable program, from Photoshop to Director. He spends most of his time doing his own programming (he likes Semantic C++, an object-oriented C program) and also finds Netscape useful for the Internet. He has developed software called Symmetry Studio; it is used by designers for textiles, wallpaper and the like.

What annoys him most is bad design, such as front ends that are clunky and don't make sense, and software designed for one platform

that is moved to another without allowing for environmental differences. In other words, keep that DOS stuff off that Mac. He believes good design is the "key to making computers accessible. We make students take technical courses, but emphasize that it's more important to keep the focus on aesthetics. Ultimately, that's what will make the difference."

His personal stable includes three Macs: a PowerMac 7100 (the best price/performance choice, he says) with 40 megs of RAM, an internal 250-meg drive, and three external gigabyte drives; an old PowerBook 100, which he is upgrading from 2 to 8 megs of RAM and 20 to 500 megs of hard drive; and a Mac II. Is there an upgrade in his future? "Always," he says. "But now is a good time to wait. If you're thinking about getting a Mac, a new generation is coming up soon. Also, the new Pentium is getting some attention, and if you're into Silicon Graphics, the new RISC 10,000 chip will be coming along shortly."

Peter Morada

CD, Magi Group, Seattle

Peter Morada is one of those graphic designer/computer gurus

in software development and interface design who determines the look and feel of interactive presentation materials for sophisticated clients ranging from Microsoft to Nordstrom.

His program palette is larger than usual, but he most often uses Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, CoSa After Effects, StudioPro and Form Z (the last two are 3D-modeling tools). He also uses Director, Painter, and tools like KPT Bryce (3-D landscapes) and Debabelizer, a graphics management program that deals with cross-platform color palettes and chops up images into bite-size pieces.

Morada works on a Quadra 800 with a Power PC upgrade board. "I haven't jumped all the way into a Power PC because some of the software doesn't want to work with it. My Photoshop plug-ins won't work," he explains. He also has two 2.2 gigabyte drives, a CD-ROM player and a SyQuest drive, not to mention the requisite color scanner and Videovision Studio board.

Ben House

Studio Systems Support, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer Euro RSCG, New York

At work on his Macintosh Centris 660AV (36 megs of RAM, 250-meg hard drive), Ben House admits he's on the low end at a technologically advanced shop. Most of his creative cohorts are working on PowerMacs with at least 40 megs of RAM and double the hard drive space. "But that's OK," he says. "I'm the support guy. I tell them I can run circles around them with less."

He does have the resident CD-ROMs and a CD-ROM player, not to mention wishful plans for a recordable CD-ROM drive or two. He also has an auto-loader DAT drive that he thinks is "particularly great." It's a sort of worry-free jukebox for DAT tapes, used to back up files. "It's an especially groovy toy I can't live without," he says.

His department does mostly print with the usual Quark, Photoshop and Illustrator, but excitement has arrived recently in the form of Live Picture. Similar to Photoshop but able to do such tricks as open a 100-meg file in a minute, it's more a production tool than a creative tool, says House. "It's a completely new file format that Kodak has bought into, and it's so much better

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