In the graphic design program I attended at OCAD, one of the expectations was for all students to buy (from the school at a modest discount) a new MacBook Pro with Adobe Creative Suite. This was in part, to ensure that all students had the same resources available to them, but also I believe to establish early in their careers a sense of brand devotion. I was ecstatic to have a reason to buy a MacBook, it was the first year of the aluminum unibody, and the computer I had been using at home was a faceless Dell tower from three years earlier. The love affair with the MacBook Pro lasted until my second year, when the burden of carrying around a four-pound, 15″ slab of metal started to weigh on me. Then, one day a classmate showed up with a lean, shiny, new MacBook Air, and I stood there, with my aluminum anchor stressing the shoulder straps of my backpack thinking “I didn’t know we were allowed to do that”.
Since then, I’ve tried to recognize my own technological priorities, and use tools that are convenient for me, rather than the expectations of the industry norm. A few years later I bought a MacBook Air which at this point doesn’t need an introduction, nor a justification for its use. It can handle photo & video editing, motion graphics, illustration. It’s been able to handle anything I’ve thrown at it. But I still run into other designers who still don’t believe that you can do work on anything less than the top tier. And more distressingly, don’t believe that you an work on anything not made by Apple.
To get my true feelings out of the way, I believe that brand loyalty is a disease. There are many cases where brand loyalty has it’s benefits, but if you find yourself saying that you could never switch to a new brand of computer, phone, detergent or shoe, then I squirm a little in my seat. Because it’s a submission of agency, and an admission that quality and function matter less than name. And you might, say “but the name is the representation of quality and function! So I am still ensuring that I make smart, informed choices”, to which I would say “Of course! But do not say never. Do not tie yourself to a future unknown. Who knows what new names will come to represent the quality and function you desire”.
So there came a time when I had to put my money where my mouth was, and switch to a new brand of personal computer. I bought a Microsoft Surface Pro 4, and got rid of my beloved MacBook Air. The Surface has one feature that, as a digital illustrator is utterly indispensable. A pressure sensitive touch screen on a computer that runs the programs I require. I was extremely wary of leaving the Apple world, but after now a month of using the Surface, I am 100% head over heels. Windows is kinda messy, but I will forgive it’s lack of polish for it’s charm. The hardware is unimaginable. It’s smaller, lighter, more powerful and has a nicer screen than a MacBook Air, and the fact that it turns into a tablet is genuinely very useful. The pen is of terrific design, and the touch screen is an asset I now do not know if I could live without. It scans my face to unlock. The software is fun. It was also really easy to switch over. I bought the computer, moved all my files, set up all of my programs, and was working on projects within an afternoon.
That’s what I think is the true curse of brand loyalty. Not that it locks people into purchase patterns outside of their control, but that it narrows exposure. I’m by no means now a Windows Fan (though Microsoft Apologist, perhaps), but I wish I had given them a chance much earlier. Now I’m keeping my eye out for other patterns that I take for granted, to try and make decisions that are the best for my needs, rather than allowing others to make the decisions for me.