Affinity Designer has begun to gain some real traction over the last year and is fast becoming a more and more viable option for designers and creatives alike. Sketch has become the go-to tool for user interface and web designers over the past number of years. It filled a void that Adobe Fireworks left and has enabled designers to work in a dedicated application, instead of a photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. Sketch has consistently introduced new features that make it hard to anticipate being without, such as symbols, artboards, and export functionality.
With Sketch having eaten into Adobe Photoshop’s share of the design software market, a number of competitors have also risen to fruition. They include Figma, Affinity Designer, and even new softwares from Adobe itself such as Experience Design CC. What was once a market dominated by one player has since become highly competitive. This is having a great benefit for designers who are now equipped with exceptional tools, and competitors who are willing to innovate, refine their software, and consistently introduce new features.
It has also lead to competition on the price point. Adobe Photoshop once cost high into the hundreds. As it stands, it’s now accessible for less than $10 a month. Sketch is $99. Affinity Designer is $39. Figma is currently free.
While integrating these softwares into my daily workflow, the biggest competitor to Sketch is, in my opinion, Affinity Designer. The reasons will be outlined below as we take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Vector + Pixel
One of my favourite features from Affinity is the ability to switch from draw persona to pixel persona, allowing you to work in both vector and raster formats within the same file, and just the click of a tab. It takes the design software a step further than Sketch, almost seeming to combine features of Sketch and Adobe Photoshop into one, albeit with some loss of features. This is particularly useful when working with images and illustration work. It effectively eliminates the need for a complimentary app to Sketch. It’s ability to open and edit Adobe Illustrator files further expands its capabilities, and allows for the potential cancellation of an Adobe Illustrator plan.
Affinity Designer is priced extremely attractively, even compared with Sketch. Its $39 price-point is well below that of Sketch at $99. Targeted toward mass adoption of the software, it has a good chance of becoming industry standard in the next few years. Adobe CC pales in comparison to Affinity’s pricing model. A one month full Adobe CC plan can cost more than a lifetime licence for Affinity. With Adobe’s inconsistent updates to their suite, it makes the pricing model even less competitive.
Bohemian Coding, the creators of Sketch, are an exceptional small company. There can be issues, however, when beginning to compete with the likes of Serif (who produce Affinity). The resources and investment of a company like Serif are on another level, and make it very difficult to compete with on aspects such as scalability, human resources, pricing, and marketing just to name a few. Sketch is becoming better and better at fixing bugs, however some aspects of the software trail well behind Affinity Designer, such as undo performance and history.
Following on from this, Sketch has also ruled out the possibility of developing a Windows app. This is likely to be down to lack of resources to maintain software to a high level, cross-platform, and the potential for it gaining little traction on a new OS with it catering to a Mac-dominated industry. This could be extremely short-sighted, particularly with the growing discontent in regard to Apple’s Mac division. As Windows machines continue to improve, some designers may look to softwares that have cross-platform functionality when working in teams. The iMac is no longer the dominant all-in-one product it once was, and its disregard for Mac Pro users now sees them cater more to the more average user than ever. A setup such as the high-spec Razer Blade or HP Spectre laptop alongside Affinity Designer has the potential to attract current Mac users, and in doing so would leave Sketch behind.
Overall Winner: Affinity
Affinity Designer will continue to iterate and build upon the software to the point where it is likely to offer the functionality of Sketch alongside a host of other useful features, across both major desktop operating systems, and at a price point verging on the ridiculous. All this taken into account leads me to conclude that Affinity Designer is Sketch’s biggest current competitor as the go-to tool for UI and web designers, and time will tell whether it can replace it in the coming years.