Design budgets are under pressure. The economic outlook seems unclear. So it pays to be prudent with your pennies... right? Well, yes, to a degree. But when it comes to kitting out your workspace, going for cheap and cruddy options are a false economy if they only make you miserable and unproductive.
A happy designer is a more creative and successful designer, so as long as you don’t literally bankrupt yourself, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to the finer things in life.
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In this post, we’ve picked out some alluring items to take your workspace to the next level. You might not be able to afford all of them, right now at least, but hey, it’s great to have something to aim for...
01. iMac Pro (opens in new tab)
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Still spending half of your day swearing at your ageing Mac, as it struggles along, crashing and freezing whenever you’re in the midst of your creative flow? Then maybe it’s time to upgrade to the newest and greatest iMac, the aptly-named Pro.
Apple’s most powerful machine to date, and specifically designed for creative professionals, the iMac Pro (opens in new tab) comes with a beautiful 5K display and works at ridiculously fast speeds. It is, in short, the best desktop computer a designer could wish for.
Okay, we’ll admit it: as we note in our iMac Pro review (opens in new tab), it’s not exactly cheap and most designers don’t actually need all that power. But hey, just because you can’t legally drive a Ferrari at its top speed of 217mph, doesn’t mean you don’t want one, right?
02. Apple Magic Mouse 2
Most designers dream of upgrading their Mac, but what about your mouse? Apple’s been so slow to improve on its classic mouse design, you might not even have heard of the Magic Mouse 2 (opens in new tab), especially as it was initially only available with the purchase of a Mac Pro. But now it’s on sale separately, and it’s well worth checking out.
Beautifully designed in silver finish or space grey, it has no batteries or moving parts, so it’s super-lightweight at just 0.099 kg. In use, it’s incredibly sensitive and can take a bit of getting used to, but it’s specifically designed to minimise the amount of arch in your wrist while your working.
And when you consider how many hours a day you spend using a mouse, and how many years you’re likely to work as a designer, we reckon anything that can reduce the wear and tear on your body is worth investing in.
03. Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless Speaker
Every now and again, you need to get that blood pumping and those creative juices flowing with some banging music. But you don’t want those sweet sounds to be mangled by a tinny speaker.
So investing in some decent sound reproduction for your studio or home office can be a wise investment. And in our roundup of best wireless speakers for 2018 (opens in new tab), the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin (opens in new tab) came out the clear winner.
With an eye-catching retro design (in walnut or soft grey) that’s perfect for a design studio, these little beauties offer the closest thing to a true audiophile experience in a set of Bluetooth speakers. They also come with a wide range of inputs and a portable power supply that makes them fully wireless, which means you can move them around your studio at will. So why not treat yourself? Your ears will thank you.
04. Sage by Heston Blumenthal Smart Kettle (opens in new tab)
Few designers can function without their morning tea or coffee, so every studio needs a kettle. But why put up with a boring, standard model when there are so many more creative design solutions on the market right now?
When it comes to creativity in the kitchen, innovative celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal is a name that always comes to mind. And so it’s not surprising that his smart kettle (opens in new tab) truly pushes the envelope.
Not only is its sleek, steel look aesthetically delightful, it also offers some genuinely useful features. These include five different temperature settings (for green, white, oolong and black tea, as well as coffee), a rapid boil setting, a soft opening lid to prevent hot water splatter, and a keep warm function.
Apart from anything, it’s a great talking point for those awkward ‘meet at the kettle’ moments with colleagues you don’t really know that well.
05. Wilfa Precision coffee maker (opens in new tab)
Instant coffee just not cutting it? Then you need a decent coffee machine. And if you’re serious about the quality of your brew, we’d highly recommend the Wilfa Precision (opens in new tab) from Norwegian barista Tim Wendelboe.
With a sleek minimalist design, this machine is dedicated to providing you with the perfect coffee by ensuring the precise ratio between coffee and water.
That means, admittedly that it’s a little effort to use. But that effort will certainly pay off in terms of the quality of your caffeine hit, helping you get fired up for that morning meeting or late-afternoon deadline.
(If, however, you’re looking for a coffee maker that's super-quick and easy to use, we’d recommend the Delonghi Distinta ICMI 211 (opens in new tab)).
06. Humanscale Diffrient Smart office chair (opens in new tab)
Most designers spend a great deal of their lives sitting. And doing so in a cheap and uncomfortable chair that’s bad for your back is the very definition of a false economy. So why not invest in something ergonomic that’s going to be good for your body over the long term (and looks pretty darned great too)?
Included in our roundup of the best office chairs for home working (opens in new tab), the Humanscale Diffrient Smart office chair (opens in new tab) (yes, that is how they spell it) impressed us by the way it adjusts automatically to your size, shape and movements, providing great lumbar support.
This wonderfully minimal mesh chair is available in a variety of styles and fabrics. Plus it comes with a 15-year guarantee, which helps put the fairly substantial price into perspective.
07. Opendesk Studio Desk (opens in new tab)
When it comes to suffering the kind of back pain that typically plagues designers, the first thought is to update your chair. But over time, the kind of desk you use can also have a big impact on the effect design work has on you. A standing desk is better for your body, plus it can make you more productive and creative too.
In our round-up of desks (opens in new tab), our top pick was the Opendesk Studio Desk, (opens in new tab) not least because it’s been created ‘by designers, for designers’. With its minimal design and discreet cable management, it’s made from sustainably grown FSC-certified baltic plywood and is a great compact desk for either home working or a design studio.
What’s more the design is ‘open’, in the sense that you can either get a quote from a local maker, who will put it together and deliver it to you, or download the design and make it yourself.
08. HTC Vive Pro
Maybe your studio is working on VR projects. Maybe you want to pitch VR projects to visiting clients and stakeholders. Or maybe you just want to play VR games in the office because it’s, you know, cool and fun?
Either way, when it comes to having a fulfilling experience in virtual reality, you really do get what you pay for. And the HTC Hive Pro (opens in new tab) is hands-down the best on the market.
With intuitive controls, a wide area of movement and a smooth, immersive and high-resolution experience when connected to a a powerful desktop computer, you simply can’t get better than this right now, whether you want to use VR drawing software like Tilt Brush , start exploring the VR web (opens in new tab) or learn how to create VR games (opens in new tab).
No, it’s not cheap. But if you’re doing any work in VR as a studio, it’s the kind of business expense you’ll probably find surprisingly easy to justify to your boss. As long as they can have a go too, of course...
09. ‘Work hard and be nice to people’ print (opens in new tab)
We all need a jolt of inspiration every now and again, but most inspirational posters are more likely to anger than inspire, based as they are on bland and empty messaging.
This gorgeous letterpress print (opens in new tab) by designer Anthony Burrill avoids that trap, using wise words he overheard spoken by an elderly woman, who was sharing the secret of a happy life in a checkout queue.
Sized at 51 x 76 cm (20 x 30 inches), and with each print signed by the author, this would be a great addition to any design office or home studio. To see more prints to decorate your studio, check out our roundup of inspirational quotes to make you more productive (opens in new tab).
10. Design magazine subscription
When clients and stakeholders come to visit, there’s nothing that says ‘professional environment’ more than a few copies of your profession’s leading magazine liberally spread about the place.
For graphics designers, that of course means our sister title Computer Arts (opens in new tab), while web designers will want net (opens in new tab) or Web Designer (opens in new tab); 3D artists and animators will opt for 3D World (opens in new tab) or 3D Artist (opens in new tab); and for digital artists, the obvious choice will be ImagineFX (opens in new tab).
Of course, these magazines are not just for show. Well-written and beautifully designed, they all offer a great way to keep up with the latest developments and personalities in your profession too.
Taking out a subscription means you’ll never miss an issue, and also save a ton on the cover price. So if you don’t have one, make sure you do something about it.
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