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A picture of Jen Christiansen

Jen Christiansen

Senior graphics editor (Scientific American)

in artist, mac, producer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jen Christiansen, currently senior graphics editor at Scientific American where I art direct and produce science-centric data visualizations and illustrated explainer diagrams.

What hardware do you use?

I almost always start with a black Pentel Sharp mechanical drafting pencil, for marking up and sketching in the margins of article manuscript printouts. As my research expands, I'll print key references, and file in tabbed manila folders, the surface of which become covered with more pencil sketches and notes. For complicated topics, I'll break out highlighters for color coding. Or an old set of 36 Faber-Castell colored pencils and scrounged scraps of tracing paper if things get really hairy. Scanning pencil concept sketches with the massive multi-purpose print/scan machines at the office is devoid of joy (totally networked out, requires a passcode/ID scan, very little control over scan settings). So I photograph sketches with my iPhone SE instead of using the scanner.

Then I move on to my company-issued MacBook Pro (Retina, mid 2012), on a Rain Design mStand, adjacent to a 23 inch monitor on a swing arm. (When I'm working from my home studio, I've got the laptop hooked up to a 23 inch Dell U2311H Display, which I swap over to my personal mid 2010(!) Mac Pro tower as needed). In occasional bouts of disgust at the grime that appears on my Apple USB Keyboard keys, I'll use electronics wipes to clean them off. I back things up on a LaCie Rugged external drive (stored in a vintage sewing box). I used to draw with my Wacom Intuos Pro pen tablet daily, but I seem to have slowly shifted to a standard issue Apple mouse for most things.

Key additional pieces of home studio hardware: crocheted cat bed from Etsy (cat to my left, laptop to my right), and wire paper tray on the shelf.

Jen's cat.

And what software?

I use standard print magazine fare --- Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat Pro --- on a daily basis. Also Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint for reading manuscripts, opening scientist-provided data and image files, etc. For research and project management, I dabble in Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Docs/Sheets. I've tried and discarded several organization apps. My favorite no-frills standby: to do lists made in TextEdit saved to my desktop, and Notes on my iPhone.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love a new Mac tower and laptop --- supposing that my current models are due to choke. But otherwise, I'm pretty content with my home studio setup (lots of desk space, natural light, peaceful, resident cat, neutral gray walls). Non-glitchy WiFi for my home studio from a company that I feel better about paying for it would be an improvement. And built-in bookshelves galore, including ones sized perfectly for Moleskine notebooks would be great. Oh, and there's a jagged oversized hole in the ceiling around the radiator pipes in the corner that always seems to be in-frame for video conferences. Hmmmm... maybe I should just fix that.