On October 9th, 2018 my wife, Tara, and I had to make the hardest decision any dog parent ever has to make. We had to help our beloved dog, Sammy, leave this life at only age 5–1/2 years.

I know the pain I feel now will probably never go away completely, but in time it will ease then fade to a dull, distant ache. Where thinking of Sammy now brings tears, some day those thoughts will bring a smile to my face for having had the honor of knowing, loving, and being loved by such a wonderful creature. …


NB: I am re-publishing this article I wrote a while back after a series of conversations about the responsibilities of the artist/designer and the boundaries of art.

One of my favorite forms of art is street art or graffiti. I won’t bother trying to deny that graffiti is vandalism. It often is. But it is also art. One has no bearing on the other. The fact that graffiti may be a crime is irrelevant to the argument as to whether or not it is art.

Art Happens. The idea of limiting art to what hangs on gallery or museum walls…


There’s a plugin for that …

Most discussions about Adobe Illustrator tend to focus solely on the off-the-shelf product and its core capabilities. And to be sure, Illustrator is powerful out of the box. But sometimes the native features do not quite do what you need or not quite in the way you need it. There is a very rich ecosystem of Adobe Illustrator plugins. Primary among the makers of those plugins is Astute Graphics, the minds responsible for VectorScribe, the most popular plugin for Adobe Illustrator among vector artists.

Two years ago we reviewed a few of Astute Graphics’s plugins and we asked whether they…


Live by the Tag, Die by the Tag

You have created a masterpiece of icon design. You are ready to release your creation to the icon-buying market. It is time to add some high-quality tags so customers can find them. Tagging on Iconfinder, for the time-being, requires human judgment to evaluate the contents and meaning of each icon to tag them in a meaningful way so that users of the site can find the icons they need.

In this article, we will show you how to prepare your Adobe Illustrator artboards to streamline tagging your icons when you upload them to Iconfinder. When we are finished, you will…


In this post we will review Vectr, a free, web-based vector drawing application. Designers tend to have very strong feelings about their tools. Ask any icon designer or illustrator which vector authoring app they prefer and you will probably get a very passionate reply, not just about the product but also about its makers. This passionate view of one’s tools, however, can occasionally cause us to miss a great opportunity to make our lives easier or to miss a diamond-in-the-rough whose future we have an opportunity to help shape. We believe Vectr offers users one such opportunity.

Iconfinder has published a few vector software reviews over the past few years and we’ve learned a lot about the different software offerings, how to review software in a way that is useful, and some lessons about how not to review software as well. The main thing we have learned is that nobody really cares about our opinions — and that is as it should be. …


We have spent the past 5 weeks reviewing Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, and Sketch for icon designers. We compared identical tasks in each application and our reviewers offered their individual opinions based on creating a series of icons with each tool.

From the beginning of this series, however, we have maintained that our objective is not to tell readers which is the best application for the job — in our case icon design — nor tell readers which application they should use. We are purveyors of information that we hope is useful in helping icon designers become better and more productive at their craft. We leave judgments about which software is best to the reader to explore and decide for himself or herself.

This would not be much of a software review, however, if we did not offer some conclusions and…


“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas…” — Steve Jobs

Sketch does not try to be all things to all users. Whereas Adobe Illustrator tries to provide a tool for every conceivable vector authoring need, the Sketch Team chose to focus on doing one thing and doing it very well. That one thing, of course, is UI/UX design.

As we mentioned in the intro of this series, Iconfinder is narrowly focused on reviewing the three products — Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, and Sketch — for icon designers so Sketch is a bit of an outlier, at least at initial glance. But we would be negligent to not review it simply because of the characteristic peculiarity of many designers in their zeal for the tools they use. That said, we feel obligated to state up front that we think it is a bit of an unfair comparison.

The purpose of this series is to communicate what we hope is…


Elon Musk, in an interview on Foundation, has been quoted as saying “I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. [With analogy] we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.”

Matt Priestley, lead developer for Affinity Designer echoes the same sentiment when he says, “I want our products to be good in their own right: It’s not good enough to be better than ‘x’ or ‘y’, you should just be really good and that be the end of the sentence”.

In Iconfinder’s review of Adobe Illustrator last week, we mentioned that most products compete by analogy, meaning that new, competitor products try to do the same things, only better. Iterations on a theme, as it were. …


It is difficult to write a review of software one has been using for over 20 years. As the most popular vector illustration program, Illustrator is second nature to most illustrators and icon designers. Most product reviews are done by analogy rather than by first principles but in order to do a meaningful review, one must step back from the way one performs a certain task or set of tasks in the software and to examine how one would intuitively perform the same tasks if the tools were not predefined for us.

For instance, to select an object that is behind another object in Illustrator, one can click Option + Command + [ (left square bracket). As useful as this is, one cannot actually see which object has the focus/selection if it is hidden behind another object. It is easy to imagine that one potential solution for solving this problem is to make any objects that are not selected semi-transparent while the selected object remains opaque. The first principle is, “I want to be able to ‘see’ which item in a stack is selected”. …


Two years after our in-depth comparison of Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, and Sketch, it appears that Adobe has taken notice of its two major challengers and has incorporated some key features previously only seen in Sketch and Affinity Designer. By the same token, it appears that Sketch and Affinity Designer have been influenced by some of the stronger points and, in Sketch’s case the subscription model, of Adobe Illustrator.

Given the changes to all three applications over the past two years, it is worth revisiting the comparison and ask the question again, “Can Sketch and Affinity Designer Replace Illustrator”?

Articles in this Series

  1. Introduction & Overview
  2. Adobe Illustrator Review
  3. Affinity Designer 1.5 Beta Review
  4. Sketch Review 2016
  5. Conclusions

Feedback, Criticism, and Responses from the Vendors

This review should not be seen as a one-way conversation. We encourage you to follow this 5-part series and to join the discussion in the comments. The makers of each of these applications are listening, and our original review generated a lot of debate, some heated criticism (some deserved and some not), and some very…

Scott Lewis (@atomiclotus)

Full-stack Developer, digital illustrator, and occasional writer.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store