Affinity Designer is my new favorite app. It is basically Adobe Illustrator without the years of bloat and cruft mashed in. And now, it seems to be giving Sketch a run for it's money in UX design.
Not all apps should try to be all things. You want apps to be good at what they are intended to do and not drift off into suddenly "intending" to be a whole lot of apps mashed into one. Affinity Designer seems to be falling into the "do what you do best" while at the same time only branching out into areas that are truly a good match for what it does.
When I became familiar with Affinity Designer it was a Apple-only application intended to be an illustrator's application. At that point we already had Adobe Illustrator dominating the market. Why do we need another illustration tool? There are tools built just for iPads and desktop illustration packages that focus on Wacom pen input. What does affinity bring to the party? In short, it takes the best features from common illustration apps, and reimagines workflows that save scores of steps, like the masking capabilities, the gradient tools, the vector illustration couples with a mostly non-destructive raster effects mode. And when you compare it to other tools like InkScape (a free tool) in it's short life it has deeply surpased the InkScape creative toolset and crushed the competition when it comes to listening to the user audience. But this isn't just a tool with promise. It is loaded with competitive professional features right now.
So what does it cost? First, understand that if you want Adobe Illustrator, you are going to pay $20 a month ($240/annually) to "rent" Illustrator at this point. When adobe made that decision, Affinity Designer didn't even exist. I imagine they thought they were the only truly professional tool on the market and so they could force everyone to rent their tools and what choice would they really have right? Enter: Affinity Designer. It costs $39.99 once and you OWN IT! You are not renting it. It's yours at that price. And this tool is award winning (Apple awarded it for it's innovation).
In addition to that they have an amazing photo editing tool, Affinity Photo, and that tool is just as stunning. If ever there was a competitor to Adobe PhotoShop, that tool would be Affinity Photo. And it works on Windows now as well (both Photo and Designer), so cross collaboration is even easier. And promised in the next months is a desktop publishing solution to compete with Adobe inDesign! Frankly, I cannot wait.
UX Application Design
So this is the reason I am here writing today. Because in the latest updates to designer, Affinity has taken their amazing designer tools and made it into an amazing competitor to Sketch. About a year ago I went through some Sketch training to learn how to design apps using Sketch and I loved the tools and workflow for designing app pages. Clearly, Affinity saw that it's workflows matched the innovation going on over at Sketch and decided to make some symbol tweaks and create an elegant workflow for designing mobile apps. Here is a tutorial I've been working through lately and I love that this vector illustration tool has the pixel precision needed to be a real app design tool. The snapping, grids and alignment tools make you want to drool. And mixing some best practices around pixel positioning, allowing color scales to present in RGB HEX, means you aren't trying to create in tools at the wrong resolution where you assets to not transfer to the real world correctly.
My dream is that Affinity will work with InVision, the online application prototyping tool, to introspect the Affinity file formats the way they are able to read PhotoShop and Sketch files today. Frankly, I think that InVision and Affinity Designer would be a massive 1+2 punch to an industry that needs more competition in their tools marketplace.