Uses This


What do people use to get the job done?

Nick Disabato

Nick Disabato

Designer, tree killer (Distance, Cadence & Slang)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Nick Disabato, although most folks call me nickd. I'm a designer and publisher from Chicago, which is the best city in the world. I have very curly hair. I'm probably most known for making Cadence & Slang, a very small book about interaction design, which was one of Kickstarter's earliest projects. Now I edit, design, and publish Distance, a quarterly journal with long essays about the "why"s of our field. I also have sideburns.

What hardware do you use?

I can't get any work done in my apartment: too many distractions. So for coffee shops and coworking spaces, I use a 13" MacBook Air, the generation before the one that got Thunderbolt. I use an iPhone 4 and an iPad 1; I don't care much for the latest and greatest, and I set them on airplane mode pretty often.

I also have an old iMac from around 2008 that I use as a server and "home base" of sorts. It's connected to a crummy $80 Brother laser printer that doesn't do duplex, a Drobo with four 2TB hard drives for archival, and an Epson Perfection v500 for scanning stuff. I use an AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express for wifi; the latter is necessary because our apartment is long and narrow, and the signal from the front doesn't reach the back very well.

As input devices go, I use a barely-working Logitech MX Revolution and an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard, which I occasionally take out of the house when I want to focus on long-form writing with my iPad or iPhone.

I have used the same kind of pen, a black Uniball Vision Fine 0.7, since 1998. I have been through several dozen of these. I will probably write with the same kind of pen until the day I die. Every passionate person has something that they'll stockpile if they ever hear of its being discontinued, and this pen is my thing.

I write in Field Notes these days, but I'll admit that I'm too sensitive to the material properties of books to be satisfied with any notebook that I didn't spec out myself. The paper stock isn't thick or smooth enough, but I'm fond of having a brown grid. I wish I could write with my Uniball and the ink would dry well on silk finish, but that's probably a pipe dream. So for me, Field Notes are the best ones out there – and I'm happy to support something that's designed in Chicago.

I get around most places on my bike, at least when the weather isn't lousy. I built it up in 2009 so I could teach myself about bike maintenance. It's a Soma Rush frame with straight Nitto bars chopped to my shoulder width, a Sugino KyotoLOCO crank, and a White Industries freewheel cog that will probably outlast me. (I want a Thunder Horn to blare at cars, but if we're being honest with ourselves, 115 dB isn't loud enough.) (And no, I don't want to ride fixed. I like having kneecaps.)

And what software?

On my iOS devices, I use Echofon and Birdbrain for accessing Twitter. I replaced my weather client with Shine and I tend to use Soulver instead of the built-in calculator. Instagram for sharing and discussing mundane photos. iA Writer is invaluable for long-form writing with a Bluetooth keyboard. I use Verbs with push notifications for IMing, especially when collaborating so frequently with my authors over Google Docs and Pages before major deadlines. I use Reeder for RSS, but I don't follow more than a couple dozen feeds. Simplenote and Listary are my favorite apps for note-taking and todo lists; they work very elegantly, especially with each other. And for real-time, GPS-based tracking of exactly how broken the CTA is, there's Buster.

On my Mac, I (very grudgingly) use InDesign to typeset books, iA Writer for long-form writing, BBEdit and Coda for web development stuff, Safari for primary browsing, iTunes for music, nvALT to write notes and short-form stuff (including this!), Apple Mail with the SpamSieve plugin, Adium for chat, Transmit for FTP, OmniGraffle and OmniOutliner for interaction design projects, LittleSnapper for big screenshots of long web pages, and F.lux for controlling my monitor's color temperature.

It's cliché to say at this point, but cloud services have been tremendously useful for me. Listary and Simplenote sync with nvALT on my two computers and iOS devices, and I use CloudApp to share most content, especially images of various interfaces. (I use Cloud2go on my iPhone to post to CloudApp.) I use RSS only on iOS devices, so haven't played with Reeder for Mac much. I use Echofon on every single platform, and I have unread items sync between everything while stridently filtering peripheral clients. Dropbox for syncing the kitchen sink. And finally, I send nearly everything to Instapaper these days; it remains a no-hyperbole life-altering app, one that has caused me to read more than I ever have before.

What would be your dream setup?

A fast bike, no traffic, no headwind, a bonfire from salvaged alley wood, one or two nice beers, and good conversations with smart, kind people. I can't help the headwind or the traffic, but I'm always working on everything else.