Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Susan Lin

Susan Lin

Artist, designer, developer (Treehouse)

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hello world! I'm Susan Lin, 'bysusanlin' online. I work in a myriad of mediums including design, code, pen, pixel art, and paint. Professionally, I currently work at Treehouse as a designer and spend my after hours as an artist. You may have seen my sketchnotes or one of my watercolor trees.

What hardware do you use?

Let's start with machines. I prefer the 13" MacBook Pro Retina. Its specs are: 3.1GHz i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD. Things are backed-up on a Seagate 4TB USB 3.0 External HD. I wield 2 Thunderbolt monitors. It spoils me to say, but I don't remember how I worked without the second one before -- it's indispensable for coding, exporting UI assets, and updating my prints shop. One of the monitors sits on a Grovemade Maple Stand.

I've previously busted my right arm to overwork and bad posture. I use the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Evoluent Vertical Mouse while resting on a Memory Foam Mousepad and a Memory Foam elbow rest. Super ugly, but very functional. The Magic Trackpack helps keep things symmetrical. I recently upgraded to a GeekDesk at home. I sit in a Mirra 2 Chair, in Dark Turquoise of course.

Miscellaneous tools on my desk are organized by MUJI acrylic pen holders and stands. I own a Wacom Intuos tablet and Yiynova tablet (the poor man's Cintiq). I use them way less than I should. Somewhere on the desk, there's a wireless Xbox controller and receiver. I used to make games in college, but now I usually just play them. I takeover the dining table (an IKEA picnic table where I take most of my instagram shots) and sit in an Aqua Sky Shell Eames Chair when I want to change it up.

Speaking of Ergonomic... 3M's Futuro Wrist Supports are the best. I have a foam roller for back pain therapy. Lying on it for 5 minutes a day helps reverse the damage you're doing working at your desk. I have a custom molded elbow brace made of thermoplastic. Ergonomic equipment is very ugly. I've thought about starting a company that makes stylish ergonomic equipment more than once. Last, but not least, I stick a Salonpas patch anywhere it hurts to power through the day.

Moving on to art. For painting, I choose quality and portability above all. My current set-up is a 24 half-pan Schmincke palette paired with da Vinci Maestro travel brushes at sizes 2, 3 and 5. Schmincke is very expensive, so if you're reading this and thinking about starting watercolor: a great entry level choice would be Kuretake Gansai Tambi. My preferred inking pens are Staedtlers. I just picked up an ink and nib set. Choices were the Tachikawa Comic Pen Nib and extra dark waterproof Deleter ink to try out. The only eraser I trust are the Pentel Hi-Polymer erasers. I've been using the same Staedtler Mars Drafting Pencil 0.7mm since freshmen year of college. For sketchnoting, MUJI giant F4 sketchbooks are key. Notes are scribbled with a Uniball Jetstream 3 Color Pen and shaded with various colors of Kuretake Zig Clean Color watercolor calligraphy pens.] To get the painted effect, I run the Kuretake Zig watercolor brush to dissolve the calligraphy pen's ink.

Some other things I use. I take photos with a Panasonic DMC-GF7KK. A Slik tripod has been the most useful purchase I've made lately. I also bought a mount that holds phones. I'll have the iPhone 5S for about a month more. I'm very happy with my Braun BN0031 for telling time. It's the perfect color and matches my favorite teapot and mug.

And what software?

For email, I stubbornly hang onto Sparrow for Mac and use Mailbox on iPhone.

Like most in my profession, I use Adobe Creative Suite. In the epic battle between Sketch vs Photoshop, I'll use what my team prefers so we can share files easily. Meaning, someone else usually has a strong opinion. Illustrator is prime for SVG graphics and SVGO is prime for trimming the output. In addition to photo editing, there's a great way to set-up Photoshop to do pixel art.

For coding, I use Atom and iTerm2. For making and presenting talks, I use Keynote.

Software I leave running include Caffeine (disables sleep on computer), 1Password (you won't regret using a password manager), f.lux (helps me remember to go to bed on time), Screenhero (best screensharing software I know of), and Dropbox (file storage and syncing).

nvALT on Desktop and Simplenote on iPhone are indispensable to me. I enjoy the plain text aspect of the product... anything more complex would distract from writing what I want written down. Most of my projects (code, design, and art) start as massive plain text braindumps.

I prefer Alfred 2 over the native Spotlight search. Extensions such as Color Converter and Emoji Workflow are amazing.

I have a thing for customizability. I built an RSS page after the decease of Google Reader (RIP). Extensions I use for the browser include AdBlock (I will pay to support your product when prompted, because sorry I don't want to meet hot singles in my area unless they are these hot singles.) I have the Pin it button. I am a packrat on the web, I hoard inspiration and references like a madwoman. Smooth Gestures helps keep things moving fast. User Styles because I overwrite interfaces I find noisy, but still find value in otherwise. And finally, Type-ahead-find searches for links as you type. I'm surprised this isn't native!

I'm crazy about these Ghibli Mac Icons. It makes interacting with my software a delight.

What would be your dream setup?

I've iterated a lot on my tools and am very pleased with the choices themselves. The next level setup would be to find a space that I can manipulate. For once I'd like to be able to drill holes into the walls without worry! My ultimate dream is to live in a MUJI home, I need to space for one of their bead cushions. Ideally, I will have a dog companion in the near future.