Computer & Software Recommendations for Graphic Design Majors

Plymouth State University Graphic Design Program

You may first be asking yourself if you need to purchase a computer for use in the PSU Graphic Design program. The answer is: you do not have to own your own computer to be enrolled in the Graphic Design program. Some students are opting to purchase their own computers, but we do have an excellent 20-station iMac computer Lab at PSU dedicated for Graphic Design student use, which is open extended hours for ease of access. Whether to buy a computer or not is a personal choice, and students sometimes prefer to use their own laptops and software.

We are on the Macintosh platform in graphic design, so Macs are the recommendation (over PC models). Most graphic design studios are on the Mac platform, so most graphic design internships and jobs after graduation will likely be done on a Mac as well. All in all, I really recommend buying a Mac instead of a PC. You will find that even with a slightly higher initial outlay, the Macs perform with fewer viruses and fewer operating problems, overall.

If you buy your own Mac computer, you can still print out on our 11” x 17” color printer. We have wireless Internet access throughout the Art building, so students can print out when necessary.

Another decision to make is whether to buy a laptop or a desk-model Mac computer. I recommend the Mac laptop—the MacBook Pro model—because it can be carried to class and all around campus, to work whenever time permits. Plus, laptops are just as powerful as the desk models now anyway and the batteries have been highly improved over earlier models.

All MacBook Pro models are Intel processors, and very quick, so it’s just a matter of picking the size of the screen. MacBook Pros come in 13” (starting price about $1,199), 15” (starting price about $1,799) and 17” (starting price about $2,400) screen sizes. Personally, I use the 13”, and it’s a light, easy and comfortable size to work with.

For a tabletop/apartment version, I recommend the iMac. There are 2 models: the 21.5” and the 27” screen model. These are about the same price range as some of the MacBook Pro laptops. The smaller screen is about $1,200, and the larger one is about $1,700. The computer hard-drive is built into the monitor screen, so these models are great looking, compact, and work very well. These are the computers we use in the PSU Lab (27”). So if you prefer a desktop model, this is the one to get.

Printers and scanners are other issues to consider, but remember to purchase peripherals are Mac compatible. Places like MacMall (online at macmall.com) and MacConnection (macconnection.com) sometimes offer system prices that include rebates and/or free printers, and generally are close to Apple.com prices—even with educational discounts (generally 10% at Apple). I suggest that you compare prices at a few different locations before you buy. The extended warranty is something I would also recommend for your laptop or desktop computer purchase. It’s only a little extra, but offers great piece of mind.

Software is the final purchase to consider. The best recommendation is to purchase the Adobe Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks and Acrobat in one box. Be sure to specify Mac format software. We are using CS5 currently. The Adobe CS5 Design Premium software (for Mac) runs about $999 online. Compare prices for the best deal. You may also contact IT at PSU to see about package deals for Adobe CS5 software at reduced pricing for students—(603) 535-2929.

Good luck, and I hope this info has been helpful! E-mail me if you have further questions.

David Martin/Instructor & Graphic Design Coordinator/Plymouth State University  <dmartin@plymouth.edu>

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