Illustrator, designer, academic and triathlete John McFaul is a busy man. This much-in-demand creative colossus is known for his prolific output and athletic ability to hurdle daily deadlines, juggling both professional and personal artistic projects.
McFaul’s vector-based illustration, combining the best of Photoshop and Illustrator, has many admirers and a few imitators. Prestigious clients include Harper Collins, Faber & Faber, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Barclays, O2, and Sainsbury’s. Collating and participating in exhibitions in the UK and US, contributing to various creative Web sites, and all the while preparing a book for publication, McFaul operates his busy schedule successfully thanks in part to Apple. A big fan of the company’s iSync synchronizing software, which allows users to organize work and play, McFaul’s enthusiasm is enough to convince anyone to give up organizing life on the back of a fag packet.
Macworld caught up with John prior to a Paris trip and the relaunch of his Web site (www.mcfaul.biz) for a chat.
You’re a big Apple advocate – particularly of iSync helping to maintain a busy life and run a successful business.
The funny thing is that I’m so into all this iSync (www.apple.com/isync) stuff at the moment that I couldn’t live without it. To be honest I couldn’t be without all the tech – especially my iPod, the best £250 I’ve ever spent. That, the digital camera and how everything seamlessly works in Mac OS X makes my life so much easier. I’m away working with designers all over the place quite often so I have to take my iBook – but with iSync everything is always bang up to date.
As for working as a business, I went Limited a couple of months ago and the simplicity of keeping record of all Invoices, transactions and so on means I have everything at my fingertips – which is a definite must when things are as busy as they are at the moment.
The only downside is that I’m still using a G4. The funny thing is that when I left University ten or so years ago, I couldn’t afford a Mac – so I had friends over the years build me super PCs which kept me going up until a few years ago when I landed a part-time position as a Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design: New Media. They gave me a beast of an iBook and I haven’t looked back since. Out went the PCs and in came the G3, then the G4. There’s still one PC left, sitting on the other desk gathering dust.
As a leading illustrator, how has the Mac helped you develop your distinctive yet evolving style?
I find Macs so intuitive. My work pattern is instinctive to me and therefore I don’t want to be sitting in front of a machine that’s causing me to stumble constantly. With Photoshop and Illustrator working so seamlessly these days, working within OS X is a dream. I don’t think the machine has actually crashed under the weight of any of my files for ages – and it feels good to rely on that fact. When it comes to saving, I still stripe all my work though.
I found OS X a real bonus for peripherals. Plugging scanners, printers and cameras in was simple. Plug and play. Again, without this I would lose my momentum, probably drink more coffee, and get less work done.
The ease-of-use of these packages within this more-intuitive situation has allowed me the freedom to actually play more with software – pushing it further every time. I still do a lot of my work off-screen; I like to make people wonder how it was done. There are a lot of secrets in there – 10 years’ worth.
Macs also play a prominent role in a major New York exhibition of 11 of the UK’s top Illustrators you are involved with.
All of us use OS X, iBooks and PowerBooks when out and about. We’re trying to put AirPort cards in all our machines so that when it comes to the show we’ll already be hooked up to the network in the space (the hosts already have AirPort). There will be high-end G5 Macs in the show playing animations and the like – not only for their stability but also for their looks. The show is at The Apartment (http://www.theapt.com/), which began as an adventure in retail and has evolved into a design consultancy that caters to international clients, so these considerations are important to both them and us. We aren’t techie snobs; we just know what works and won’t let us down. It just so happens that this is the stuff that looks the bomb as well.
Apple technology has also helped you after a major move to a new home.
We’ve just moved into a new house of which the attic is now my studio. I control the music to all the rooms through iTunes and AirPort Express plugs. It’s fantastic: all I have in the rooms are speakers. The house is totally wireless now, which is also a bonus when working in front of the telly.
As Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design: New Media, how do you think Macs might aid your students?
As an institute, we already predominantly use Macs and OS X. As a course, we’re toying with the idea of the students all having iBooks with AirPort cards and our New Media area having AirPort Extreme. We’d have our own server and printers, which would definitely benefit the students since the whole institute at our campus is design-based and can therefore be a little congested at the end of term when things have to be printed in bulk.
Again, with iSync we could keep the students up-to-date with all necessary information – and since we only have to keep our staff machines in order (safe in the knowledge that what’s on our machines will be on theirs), we would be left more time to get on with teaching.
What improvements would you like to see in the OS X 10.4 Tiger upgrade?
Well, we pretty much know what's going to be in Tiger thanks to Steve Jobs' presentation a couple of weeks ago (www.apple.com/macosx/tiger) so I'm not sure what I'd be able to add. There are some things I'd like to see that I know aren't coming, such as removal of brushed metal in the Finder and the complete removal of the horizontal stripes, despite their being toned down in Panther.
Stuff that I don't know about for sure but would like to see are a more-active Finder that updates with mounted drives and files without having to focus it first, and an improved Safari that doesn't eventually grind to a halt or become unresponsive on some Flash-intensive sites.
But Spotlight and Dashboard are things I'm really looking forward to next year.