Every week we post a new interview with someone about what software they use on their Mac, iPhone, or iPad. We do these interviews because not only are they fun, but a glimpse into what tools someone uses and how they use those tools can spark our imagination and give us an idea or insight into how we can do things better.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jeff Sheldon, and I’m the Founder and Designer of Ugmonk. I started Ugmonk back in 2008 as a passion project and creative outlet to design minimal, typographic shirts that I wanted to wear. Since then, it’s grown into a much larger design brand that I now run full-time. I’ve expanded the product range to over 100 different products including leather goods, prints, hoodies, and other accessories, and we’ve shipped products to customers in over 60 countries. With the support of our customers, we’ve also been able to provide over 40,000 meals to kids around the world through our annual Ugmonk Gives Back charity drive. You can read more about my story here.
What is your current setup?
I primarily use my 27″ iMac (2013, 3.2GHz quad-core, Intel Core i5) for the bulk of my daily work. The large screen is really nice for designing, editing photos, and running apps side by side. I built a simple custom monitor stand to raise my iMac for better ergonomics (also one of my most visited blog posts over the years).
For sound I use the Joey Roth Ceramic speakers which sound as amazing as they look. They are the perfect marriage of form and function.
I use an Apple Magic Mouse combined with my natural leather Ugmonk mousepad, which has evolved and darkened over the years as I’ve been using it. It may seem like a small difference, but the leather provides a nice smooth surface and just enough cushion for resting my hand on.
On the left side (I’m left-handed) of my desk, I use a Wacom Bamboo tablet when I’m designing or editing photos.
I also use an 11″ Macbook Air (2010 1.6cpu 4gb ram) for when I’m not at my desk. Though I rarely do design work on it, its small form factor is perfect for traveling, working from a coffee shop, or even just working from my patio when the weather is nice. I love that I can throw it in my bag and not have to worry about its weight or size being too bulky to where I regret carrying it around with me. I find the small screen size actually seems to help me focus on doing one thing at a time like writing. I’m planning to upgrade to the new 12″ Macbook, but this 11″ Air has been the perfect complement to my giant 27″ iMac. If you’re interested, I’ve also posted a full tour of my office.
What software do you use and for what do you use it?
Mail: Communicating via email is a huge portion of how I manage the many aspects of my business, and Mail is a staple in my workflow. I know many people dislike Mail, but its simplicity and lack of features gets the job done for me. I’ve tried using Gmail in the browser and a variety of other more powerful email apps, but I always seem to come back to Mail on both Mac and iOS.
Adobe Illustrator: My design tool of choice. I use Illustrator for most of my product design and lettering. I’ve been using it so long it’s pretty much second nature to me and have it pretty dialed in. I love working with vectors and paths and not having to worry about pixels.
Adobe Photoshop: For advances photo editing and web graphics. I’ve also been using Photoshop for so long that I don’t have to think about it much any more, and the keyboard shortcuts are embedded in my brain. It’s not great at handling typography and shapes, but for designing web graphics and custom product pages it gets the job done.
Adobe Lightroom: For processing and editing raw photos. I’m a huge fan of Lightroom and how much control it gives me to fine-tune and batch-process photos. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone that’s even a little bit serious about photography could do without it.
Simplenote / nvALT: My catch all. I dump everything into Simplenote (links I want to remember, to-do lists, blog drafts, shirt ideas, travel itineraries, etc). I love the it automatically syncs across all my devices and can quickly input from anywhere. Again, it’s not the most robust app compared to things like Evernote, but its simplicity and lack of features is why it works so well for me. It’s super easy to jump in and out of, and the search feature makes it easy to quickly find notes.
Google Docs: An absolute essential in my workflow. I have running Google Docs for all of my ideas, concepts, brainstorms, and ongoing to-do lists. Being able to collaborate in real-time inside Google Docs sure beats emailing Word docs back and forth and comes in handy all of the time. (I try to avoid using Microsoft Office products unless I’m forced to.)
Slack: I used AIM and Google Chat for the longest time, but when Slack came out it was a no-brainer to switch. The best part about Slack is how I can pick up where I left off on any device and communicate with my team.
Dropbox: Dropbox is one of those apps that I can’t remember not having. It’s so convenient for syncing files across all of my devices without having to think about it.
Twitter: Twitter has allowed me to connect with so many amazing people and has played a big part in growing the Ugmonk brand. I’ve been using the native Twitter app for years (ever since the original version of Tweetie launched). I’ve tried so many other apps like TweetDeck, TweetBot, and Twitteriffic, but they all felt too heavy or too loaded with features that never stuck. The Twitter Mac app is in desperate need of an update, but it’s still my daily go-to.
iA Writer: Sure, you can use hundreds of different text editors or word processors to write, but the distraction-free environment and subtle design details of iA Writer make writing so much more enjoyable. It doesn’t look that impressive at first, but once I tried it I was immediately hooked. Whenever I need to really focus on writing, I open iA Writer fullscreen and type away.
Text Expander: I often find myself typing the same email responses or snippets over and over, and Text Expander has saved me so much time. Honestly, it’s another one of those apps that I can’t remember not having and it has become completely integrated into my daily workflow.
Alfred: Launching apps, doing quick calculations, saving multiple text snippets to the clipboard — Alfred does it all. I also love the subtle design details and interactions throughout the app. I’m certainly not an Alfred power user, but I use its basic functions every day.
How would your ideal setup look and function?
My current setup is pretty close to ideal. The only thing I’ll likely change soon is upgrading to the new 12″ MacBook and iPhone 6S when it comes out. I’ve spent a lot of time designing my studio and desk space to make it conducive to how I work and creating an inspiring environment to work in. I’m pretty spoiled with the amount of natural light I get in my office, but it makes a huge difference sitting in the sunlight that pours in from my windows as opposed to being cooped up under fluorescent lighting all day. Having the right tools and a comfortable space that I enjoy spending time in doesn’t necessarily make my work better, but it makes it more enjoyable to work in.
What iPhone do you have?
iPhone 5 (holding out for the 6S or whatever comes next).
What apps do you use the most, and why?
Mail: As much of a pain as it can be, email is a vital part of running my business and I’m constantly using Mail.
Instagram: My visual journal. I’ve been using Instagram for a long time and it’s changed the way I see the world. There’s beauty all around us, even in the mundane day-to-day, and I love capturing memories visually and improving my eye.
Twitter: I’ve bounced around between different Twitter apps, but resorted back to the native Twitter app. Now that Twitter is inserting a lot more ads and breaking the simplicity of the chronological timeline, it’s less enjoyable to use, but I still find value in being on Twitter.
Snapseed: Advanced photo editing before I post to Instagram. The latest version of Snapseed is the best photo editing app I’ve used for fine-tuning all aspects of an image. I still really like the film-like filters in VSCO Cam, but Snapseed has much better control over the main photo adjustments.
Fantastical: I didn’t use a calendar consistently for the longest time until I started using Fantastical. Its natural language input makes it super and easy to input events without having to go through all sorts of menus and dropdowns. I use both the iPhone app and the desktop version every single day.
Which app could you not live without?
Safari — I was going to say Mail, but technically I could manage my email from the browser and still have access to the rest of the web if I only had Safari.
Which app do I enjoy the most? Instagram. I love browsing through beautiful photos in my curated feed and connecting with other like-minded creatives. One of the great things about Instagram is that it’s filled with beautiful, interesting photos that are enjoyable to browse through compared to other social networks that are filled with mostly negativity and complaining.
There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.