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 Zara Gonzalez Hoang

Zara Gonzalez Hoang

Designer, illustrator, developer, screen printer

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Zara Gonzalez Hoang. I'm a bit of a generalist, I'm design, illustrate and code - basically I like to do a bit of everything so I can pitch in where I'm needed. I run a little creative studio called twistcone which is mostly focused on creating mobile apps although we do other things too. I'm also a part of a sweet screenprinting studio called Big Table Studio.

What hardware do you use?

I'm a one computer girl as of March when I purchased my 2.33GHz Intel Core i7 15" MacBook Pro which I do everything on. It's been working out great so far. I never use a mouse, instead I use a 6x8 Intuos4 wireless tablet - although it's almost always plugged in because I find it lags too much when I use it over Bluetooth. I have an ancient 24" Dell Monitor that I use when I am in the office, but it's not super color accurate so it will probably be upgraded soon. Occasionally I use an Apple Bluetooth keyboard but lately I've been working with my laptop open so I just use the built-in keyboard. I always have a variety of iOS devices around for testing, usually both generations of iPads (one running the iOS 5 beta) as well as an iPhone 3GS and an iPhone 4.

I have a cheap Epson NX515 that I use to scan in sketches and occasionally print things although I use my HP LaserJet CP1525NW more often. For better quality prints I have an Epson R1900. I use a Canon 7D when I need to take better pictures than my phone captures or do quick video shoots.

For note-taking, doodling, and other basic stuff, I always have a small Moleskine or Field Notes notebook and a stash of yellow-tipped pilot pens (The Pilot Razor Point Stick Pen) which are my favorite writing utensils. I have a pile of Letraset and Prismacolor markers that I sketch with and I'm rather fond of india ink and nib pens as well. I just pre-ordered a Wacom Inkling so I'm interested to see how it will change my workflow.

For research and general reading I have a Kindle 3 (wireless only) which I take with me pretty much everywhere.

In addition to doing things digitally I'm also part of a screenprinting studio where I trade in my mac for ink and paper. For screenprinting I tend to use Speedball Acrylic screenprinting ink, metal-framed screens with 220 mesh and squeegees made by Northwest Graphics. Our exposure unit is an Atlas 5-way Vaculite and we print transparencies on an Epson Pro 4000. My favorite paper for printing on is French Paper which comes in a variety of colors and weights that are pretty much perfect.

I also have a Kelsey 5x8 tabletop letterpress that I am currently restoring but hope to be printing with soon.

And what software?

For any graphics-related work I use Adobe Photoshop (CS5) and Illustrator (CS5). Every once in awhile I'll open InDesign (CS5) if I have to do some print work, create an invoice, write a proposal or create a presentation. I can't stand Powerpoint and tend to ignore Keynote in favor of simple full-screen PDF presentations

For coding, I'm actually in the process of finding a new text editor so I'm currently rotating between BBEdit, Coda & Textmate while I figure out which I like best. For iOS development I use Xcode, for FTP I use Transmit and oddly I find that the Calculator is almost always open on my Mac.

General note-taking and head-clearing takes place in Simplenote on iOS and Notational Velocity on the Mac (which syncs to Simplenote). Occasionally I'll write to-do lists in there but mostly I use a combination of scribbled lists in notebooks and teuxdeux. If I'm collaborating with others and need a bit more structure, I'll use Basecamp to organize everything.

Because I often work remotely, Skype, iChat, and FaceTime are great help for staying in touch with people.

I use Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs almost constantly and for backups I use a combination of Dropbox and Crashplan which I've been pretty happy with so far. I use the official Twitter Apps for the Mac & iPhone and switch between Pandora and iTunes for playing music.

For saving inspiration I use a combination of Pinterest, Ffffound, Dribbble and a series of organized folders on my hard drive. I'm one of the few that apparently still use RSS readers, I use Google Reader on the Mac and RSS5000 or Reeder on iOS. For general bookmarking I use Pinboard and for saving web articles, I'm a huge Instapaper fan. I'm addicted to the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and Words With Friends Apps on the iPad.

I've recently been experimenting to see if I can give up paper and comfortably sketch on the iPad so I've been playing around in SketchBook Pro (with a More/Real Stylus Cap) - I'm not sure how I like it yet but it's growing on me.

What would be your dream setup?

My setup is pretty close to perfect for me. It's quite portable (which is fantastic since I tend to work in a variety of different places) and pretty fast. If I could have anything I wanted I'd probably add a new 27" Apple Cinema Display for when I'm in the office, a Cintiq 12WX, and the largest SSD drive out there to speed up my laptop.