6 Steps to a Wireless Workspace

September 11, 2012
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As a designer, you’re workspace, whether it be in an office, your spare room or just on the couch is an important place. It’s not an important place, like the place you asked your wife to marry you is an important place, or like the place you learned to ride a bike as a child is an important place. It’s an important place because you spend so much of your flippin’ time there! Think about it, you work eight hours a day, five days a week for let’s say forty five weeks of the year (and if you’re anything like me, that’s being VERY modest). That’s a total of 1800 hours every year spent in that environment!  So if there’s anything that irritates you just a little now, you can guarantee it’ll be the bane of your life by the end of those 1800 hours!

For me, two things get under my skin at work.

  1. Noise. Talking, traffic even music irritates me to distraction! Don’t get me wrong, I love music, but unless I’m listening to exactly what I feel like at that exact moment in time, there’s trouble. The radio is my number one enemy. (Click to Tweet this!)
  2. Wires. They’re either too long and get wrapped around your chair legs, or too small and you’re constantly pulling and tugging at them! That, and lets face it, they just look a mess.

Now the noise thing is a pretty easy fix. All it requires is a heavy duty set of headphones and playlists for all occasions (I even have an ambience one of rainfall when I just need some white noise).

The wires however are something that you’ll just have to put up and live with. Everything needs wires so the very best option out there is a cable tidy, right? Wrong. There are wireless solutions out there for almost every scenario in today’s market, so there is no longer any need to suffer the tyranny and clutter of all those stupid wires!  So here they are, six steps to getting your graphic design workspace 100% wireless.

1. Keyboard & Mouse

Ok, so this one’s pretty basic and most of you will probably already have this sorted but for those that don’t, this is a must! As a designer, you’re probably constantly pushing everything on your desk to one side whilst you pull out your drawing pad and scribble down your next awesome idea, so having a keyboard and mouse that can live on a shelf at a moments notice is a real help. When wireless keyboards first came out they weren’t brilliant. The receiver what a huge dome thing that sat on your computer (connected by a wire!) and the signal would drop from time to time meaning you couldn’t type anything, or worse yet, didn’t notice and just had huge chunks of text missing! Well breathe out, because I can happily say that today that’s really not an issue any more and they’re actually really competitively priced too.

I use the Logitech Wireless Combo MK520 and I’m really happy with it. I’ll be honest and say that when I bought it, I intended to swap the wireless mouse out for a wired one so it was a bit more responsive, but I’ve been really surprised by it and am happily still using today. Plus the receiver is this teeny tiny little usb thing that sticks out maybe 5mm so if you’re using a laptop you could just leave it in there and you wouldn’t really notice it.

If money was no object I’d have opted for the Logitech Illuminated Wireless Keyboard for no other reason that it lights up and that’s pretty cool (although it’s much more expensive and doesn’t come with a mouse!).

2. Headphones

Now headphones may well not be an essential design item for you, but I couldn’t work without them so I’m including them here. But even if headphones aren’t your thing you can still grab some pretty neat wireless speakers on the market today. When I was a kid and wireless headphones first came out I was all over that! Unfortunately, they totally sucked. You had to put batteries in them so they weighed a tonne, and they cut out every time you stepped more than a foot away from the stereo. Now though they’re awesome and whilst some of my sound engineer friends have told me that they mean a dip in sound quality, it’s really not something that I’ve noticed.

Personally I use the Sennheiser NM 100 headphones. They’re not the cheapest, but they’re rechargeable meaning that they don’t have any of that weight from batteries. They’re Bluetooth, so they can connect to your phone just as easily as they can to you’re computer  plus they actually have a microphone built in so you can use them for Skype calls and stuff.

In perfect millionaire world I’d so have a pair of Wireless Beats by Dre headphones. I had a friend who had a pair of these any they’re amazing, but he was a session drummer and got a lot of use out of them when he was playing to tracks. As a designer though, try as I might, I just can’t really justify that hefty price tag (especially when 50% of it is for the name!).

3. Graphics Tablet

A Graphics Tablet is an item that is pretty specific to designers and artists and I’ve always wondered how commercially viable it really is as a product?

A Graphics Tablet is an item that is pretty specific to designers and artists and I’ve always wondered how commercially viable it really is as a product? I mean sure, you have that niche of designers cornered who absolutely need one, but it’s not very main stream is it? I mean, not like a mouse is. It concerns me that developers may just make one decent product series and then stick to that to save on development costs, surely they can’t justify the expenditure of developing a wireless tablet can they? Hell yes they can!

The Wacom Intuos4 Wireless Tablet  is only something I’ve recently heard of but already it’s on my Christmas list! I have a Wacom tablet already, and in short, it’s leagues better than any other tablet I’ve tried. But the one I have is wired, so obviously hearing about this got me very excited! I’ve read a lot of reviews on it and apparently it’s awesome and just as responsive as it’s wired counterparts. Battery wise it works like a phone in that it has a built in battery that needs charging every now and again, but I doubt we’re going to get away from that any time soon are we.

If you think the Intuos4 is a little bit pricey, then you’re right, it totally is (quality costs), but don’t worry because if you have one of the recent incarnations of the much cheaper Bamboo Pen & Touch Tablet (which is totally awesome as well and was the tablet I started out with), you can choose to buy one of these nifty Wireless Accessory Kits that’ll convert your wired tablet into a wireless one! Lucky you!

4. Printer

Printers are becoming really smart now and if you buy one that just prints you’re kind cheating yourself. The big innovation at the moment is wireless printers that connect to your computer through your wireless network (which is very cool as it means any computer in your office can use the same printer with no cables), you can even buy ones that allow you to print remotely from your iPhone and have the print out waiting for you when you get home!

Now printer wise I’m a bit lazy. I have a Brother A3 MFC-5890CN (because I use the A3 scanner a lot) and achieve my ‘wireless solution’ by just transferring everything between my computer and the printer via memory cards. Not ideal I know, but if I need something printing, it’s usually for a client so I have it professionally done at the printers down the road. I mainly use my printer for scanning my artwork so I need to be stood next to it to feed it my work anyway. If I had to opt for a wireless printer though, it would be the Brother DCP-J315W Wireless, simply because of how happy I am with my current Brother printer, well that and the fact that it looks REALLY cool (unfortunately for me though it only scans A4, so I’ll need to wait for it’s big brother).

5. External Hard Drive

Now this is really smart! If you were impressed with iClouds and Dropboxes then wait till you hear about this!

Now this is really smart! If you were impressed with iClouds and Dropboxes then wait till you hear about this! You can get wireless external hard drives that you plug into your wireless router (ok, so there is one wire) and connect up to every computer on your network! This is something that’s really great for any Graphic Design companies out there with a few employees, as it means that all of your resources and stock images (as well as all your active projects) can live on what is effectively your own personal 2TB server! That means, no more duplicate files, no more emailing textures and fonts to each other, everyone can access everything in one place. Not only that, but you can log into your hard drive from any computer with an internet connection and download the files you need, which is perfect for those “I’m going to work from home” days.

I use the Western Digital My Book Live as it does all this stuff, it works with both PC and Macs, and it has a cool little app you can download to your iPhone or iPad so you can show clients any work you’ve done before right there in the meeting, which is pretty handy (although I’ll admit I mostly use it for watching movies in bed).

6. Buy a Mac

Just bite the bullet and buy an iMac. The keyboard and mouse are already wireless, the speakers are built into the monitor (as is everything else) and the only wire it has is the one actually giving it power. I mean come on, whether you’re pro Mac or not, you have to admit, those things look gooooooood. You know you want one.

Just so you know, the product links I’ve included are totally affiliate links so I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you decide to buy any of them. These are all products that I either own and use personally or have heard really good things about from several trusted sources and I’m recommending them because I find them genuinely useful.
Photo Credit Seantoyer

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is owner of Hunting Town Design, a small design house based in Manchester UK specialising in Graphic Design and Illustration. Alex is also the founder and editor of The Design Range. Find out more about Alex on his website or follow him on twitter.
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