Uses This

1281 interviews since 2009

A picture of Naz Hamid

Naz Hamid

Software designer

in designer, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Naz Hamid, a Malaysian-American third culture kid. My ethnic and cultural identity is important to me as an immigrant, and as someone who struggles with how to identify at times. Having lived in three countries (the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and the United States) and as a frequent traveler (pre-pandemic of course), I find it central to developing empathy with your fellow person, and my own worldview.

For a living, I’m an independent creative director and software designer. Earlier in my 25+ year career, I seemed to care a lot about this side of me, especially amongst peers publicly. In the last decade or so, I’ve been less concerned with my public work persona. I’ve focused on finding good people to work with first, on products that align with my values: generally positive for the world, and not contributing to materialism and the decline of the environment.

I care deeply about a healthy work-life balance and have given talks about it, and in those, I mention cycling and rock climbing. Alongside those: running, photography and recently, overlanding. Those all contribute to me spending as much time as possible outdoors, experiencing the world and nature rather than sitting in front of a screen, which I already do too much of for work.

What hardware do you use?

I keep my set-ups as minimal as possible. I’ve drag out my hardware for as long as possible, investing in items at the time of purchase that provide the best value for the money.

Computing:

  • A 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro M1 Max. 32GB ram. Paired with an Apple Studio Display. I wish the latter weren’t as expensive as it is, but I love having screen real estate. I switched to this set-up once the 16-inch MBP was available as I’ve been working remotely more when I’m on the road camping and in the backcountry or passing through cities and towns. When home, I’m plugged into the monitor, and on the road, I work from a drop down table I built on the back of our truck camper. I’ll ride this computer out for as long as possible. The previous computer was a 6-year old refurbished iMac 5K. And a wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse that came with the iMac from years ago.
  • An iPad Air, gifted to me from a client. I don’t use this as much, and I’ve had iPads in the past which I’ve returned. Mostly it’s a Netflix machine for when my wife and I camp, and I use it to look at backcountry maps when we’re camping.
  • iPhone 14 Pro. I’m on the Apple Upgrade program and since I design and help build iOS apps, I upgrade to keep up to date on the latest capabilities. This is my one concession to the upgrade cycle. If I stopped designing for iOS, I’d keep my phones for as long as possible as I have in the past.
  • AirPods Gen 2. I love these. This is my second pair after the first pair unfortunately died (Apple, please make moves into sustainable hardware with replaceable parts!). I used to wear KEH M500 headphones (which look far more Apple like in design than their AirPods Max), but I get pressure headaches from wearing on-ears too long, and AirPods work for my ears (one of them is smaller than the other), so head- and earphones have always been a difficult thing to nail. AirPods also allow for L-R balancing and that smaller ear is hard of hearing, so I can customize the audio profile some.
  • I use the above sitting in an Aeron chair that’s 19 years old. At one of the start-ups I worked at in 2000 during the first dot-com boom and bust, the company couldn’t afford to pay us anymore, and some of us stayed on for a little while for all of our own various reasons. When the company finally vacated their offices, the founder gave us freight elevator and garage passes, told us they were vacating and that whatever was left in the office would be taken by the building in three day’s time. It was a very big hint to all of us to salvage what we could and try to make some money from what was there. I was able to procure 7 Eames LCWs, and 8 Aerons. I sold most of them off to afford rent and make up the loss in backpay. It still wasn’t enough, but this chair reminds me of the excess of those days and how far the tech industry has come (and how some things haven’t changed).

Camera:

  • I swear by the Sony RX100 series and have owned two. I am on a third, though that’s primarily used by my wife, Jen Schuetz. They are terrific cameras that pack a lot of quality in a small pocketable form.
  • Sony Alpha A7III with a 24-105 F4 G Master lens, and a 35 F2.8 lens. This is my current workhorse as my RX100s have seen a ton of action are are half-working (one even survived a bike accident I had when an Uber driver knocked me off my bike years ago).

And what software?

I’m generally software agnostic for the most part. Working with as many clients over the years as I have, I’ve used just about every tool there is, as I fit in with their software stack and culture. However, I do have a few essentials at this point in time that work very well for me. Again, I try to keep this all as simple as possible.

  • I generally use most of Apple’s default apps. This includes Mail everywhere, Pages, Numbers, with Google products for client work.
  • Figma. No surprise here. They’ve done a phenomenal job in creating a design tool that opens up the ability to anyone to learn how to design — as long as you have access to a computer and the internet (which a lot of us in the industry take for granted). The beauty of having a web-based design tool is that you don’t need a Mac, a cracked version of Photoshop or the ability to afford the flat fee it used to cost decades ago. Also: not having to save your design file? Pure gold.
  • I’m typing this out in Bear. I am pretty much all in on Apple’s ecosystem as it’s just simpler as I use most of their in-built services. I dig Notes, and especially the collaborating and sharing feature, but not being able to change the font and themes pains me so much. Bear has that, tagging, and some other nifty features that makes it a pleasure to use. Not many apps really balance simplicity and just enough aesthetic well. I’ve tried Obsidian as well, but I’m not much for organization — it seems like a really powerful personal knowledge base, but I am very mash-a-keyboard-in-a-file-search-later person.
  • I use iOS Camera a ton. I shoot RAW all the time. And editing it in Lightroom Mobile is a joy and gets me results that I’m always impressed with.
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic for Desktop by Adobe Photoshop by Adobe. I kid! The first four are correct. Adobe needs to do better with naming. I use it begrudgingly at times, but it’s really the best combination of photo editing and management that I’ve found. I wish there was something better, and miss Aperture a bit in that regard. I wish they’d bring it back in some form, and do for Photos what they have done for GarageBand and Logic Pro. It does integrate with Lightroom Mobile well so I have a workflow that I can go back-and-forth on between desktop and mobile.
  • Buttondown for newsletters: Justin Duke, the sole creator is doing some great work and is the epitome of independent software. I publish Weightshifting, a newsletter I produce with my wife, about our camping and overland travels with it and it’s been great. Highly recommended over some of the less ethical services out there.
  • And since the demise of the bird site, I have embraced Mastodon, and Ivory by Tapbots is a lovely iOS app.
  • I still love RSS, and on desktop, I use NetNewsWire, but have primarily used Unread on iOS for years now. It’s such a simple and beautiful app, much like Bear.
  • Gaia GPS is an essential app I rely on for backcountry exploration, recording routes, and marking camp spots we’ve stayed or for the future. There’s a large history of pins and trails in the app now, and it’s pretty cool to see the places we’ve been.

What would be your dream setup?

As mentioned above, I don’t obsess over gear. Just what I need to last a long while (which sometimes feels impossible with technology), but in an old school way, I’ve been embracing the limits of whatever technology I already own. The longer I can keep things going the better.

I suppose then, my dream setup are items that are fixable or have the ability to upgrade components or pieces as necessary, and not entire items as a whole. The climate and environment are things that greatly concern me and the the amount of waste that we have in the world have demonstrated that we need to move towards sustainability and durability in everything we own, and to keep that as minimal as we can.