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.
“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.
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”.
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.
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”?