Work inspiration with Karolina Szczur

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Karolina Szczur

Designer, front-end developer, editor

I'm a designer and front-end developer at &yet and an editor at Smashing Magazine.

I speak at and help run conferences, encourage others to do so, try to educate and give back to the communities.


This year I've switched from 13" Macbook Pro to 15" one with Retina display, 16GB RAM, 2,8 GHz. It's obviously slightly bigger and heavier but gives more real estate to do design work. Also – it's a quite powerful machine, which is necessary for heavy Photoshop work. I've learned to design without the mouse so my only peripheries are either amazing Bowers & Wilkins P5 Headphones or a Jambox speaker.


I'm running OS X Mavericks since the early developer builds. I power up the Finder with Alfred app.

For years I've been using Photoshop (since version 4!) – currently Photoshop CC is still in my toolbelt, although I find Sketch to be way more suited for designers and a great alternative to Illustrator as well. I expect it to soon become my primary tool for design.

Most of my markup work happens in Sublime Text 2 with a handy Git Gutter extension, that shows changes I've made in the current repository. All of the code lives on Github.

While most of designers are afraid of the command line, I'm absolutely in love with it. My terminal of choice is iTerm 2 with Fish shell and tmux for terminal multiplication (say no to ugly tabs!). I run most of the websites/apps locally on Node, either through http-server or an npm start script which is way better than bloated PHP-based solutions.

I test and develop in Chrome. Apart from the Dev Tools the only extension in my browser is LiveReload that handles compilation (for preprocessors and different templating languages) and live-watching for changes – it's extremely useful. My home page is made pretty thanks to Momentum plug-in.

For design storage and feedback rounds I couldn't imagine better piece of software than LayerVault, sometimes it has its' quirks but it's definitely the best tool for receiving and incorporating feedback. It makes shipping and presenting designs so easy and fast.

For quick file or screenshot sharing Cloudup is the jam. Another small menu bar apps that I couldn't live without is f.lux that saves my eyes, Caffeine and Bartender that cleans up the icon mess.

Communication happens on many platforms but mostly – iMessage, Google Hangouts, Tweetbot and our &yet baby product – AndBang which is a compilation of chat/IRC with task management (which basically made me ditch all to do apps whatsoever).

For notes/specs I occassionaly use combination of the following: SimplenoteIA Writer, Google Docs or plain 'ol paper.

Last but not least – I couldn't imagine working without music streamed through either Rdio or SoundCloud.

Dream setup

After trying both 13" and 15" I could settle for a 13" Macbook Air with Retina display. The truth is that once you go Retina, there's no coming back – everything looks blurry. I live quite nomadic life, which is why weight and dimensions of things I carry with me is crucial. For a home office – a Retina Cinema Display (which may never be produced, I guess), a laptop, old wooden desk, an Embody ChairSonos musical system.


I was the slave of inspiration for a long time. I think it's a matter of mindset and maturity. Often when I don't have any good ideas for particular layout or UI fragment I browse Dribbble. But I don't let it overwhelm me. There's a great post that I think everyone should read and if they truly understand and try to incorporate this approach to creativity they will never feel stuck again:

The right time to start working though is right now. Mood and inspiration be damned. If small things help, like a moment of meditation, a word of thanks to the Muse, or a cup of coffee at your desk before you start, by all means: indulge. But if any tool or device becomes necessary for work to happen, it’s become a crutch and needs to be cut out immediately.

Paul Jarvis – When is the best time to create

Creativity comes and goes, work needs to be done anyway. If we constantly waited for inspiration we'd never achieve anything. It's all in your mind.