The Productive Designer

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In an era where deadlines seem to be getting shorter and shorter, thus projects are moving along faster and faster, ‘productivity hacks’ are becoming more and more important with each passing day. If you can find positive ways to go from spending 30 hours on a project, down to 15 hours, then that’s a lot of time you can allocate to another project(s). Here are a few tips that can help you become a more productive designer.

1. Leveraging templates, stock photography and other resources

Using photos, templates and graphics from websites such as Creative Market or PicJumbo can help expedite certain areas of your project. Not every piece of the project has to 100% created by you, or your studio. Leveraging outside resources can help you achieve your project goals, shorten timelines and reduce stress on content creation.

2. Originality is basically extinct

Pretty much every single design project out there originated from something else, and frankly, that’s okay. You don’t always have to bend over backwards with every project. Certain utilities such as WordPress or various other software templates can accelerate your project timelines while also providing what your client is looking for. Yes, you may have projects that require creative summersaults, but more often than not, your client’s needs’ will be more along the straight and narrow. It’s admirable to try, but sometimes it means that the end result won’t always be that original.

3. Being finished is better than being perfect

Which is not to say that quality should be sacrificed in the process. Obviously it’s important. But have you ever looked at a design and said to yourself: “Well, I would’ve added this…” or “I could’ve done this better…”. Odds are, the designer(s) who worked on that project probably had the exact same thoughts and concerns as you did. It comes down to setting concrete deadlines so projects don’t linger for too long and your client leaves happy. Sometimes the game plan is to add that one thing you noticed was missing, to a project, but gets cut short due to deadlines.

4. Never stop learning and improving

Learn your software and your design techniques inside and out. This way, you’re not fumbling around trying to figure how Photoshop or CSS works. Don’t be afraid to add to your skillset either. Most Graphic Designers these days are asked to write code. If that’s not part of your skill set as a designer in 2015, change that. Keep learning new skills and keep refining your current ones. It’ll go a long way towards keep yourself relevant as a designer

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When I first started using programs like InDesign or Photoshop, it used to take me a few minutes to figure certain features or shortcuts within these programs. Now they’re as natural as breathing, and this stems from years of practice. When you think about the seconds that every shortcut saves you, it adds up. Suddenly, a project that would’ve taken 35 hours, get reduced to 20 hours.

5. ‘Measure twice, cut once’

An age-old adage that teaches us to think, then act, not act, then think. Cutting corners as a way to deliver projects on time is a terrible idea. Imagine if a major automotive manufacturer cut corners when it came to the braking system on one of their most popular models. The shoddy work will reel it’s ugly head, there will be a public outcry over it, the product ends up getting recalled, it’ll cost the company millions of dollars and it ends up being a bad reflection on them. Doing something right the first time will effectively eliminate this hazard.

Try to anticipate problems ahead of time and asked questions if you’re unclear about something. Nobody has the energy or the resources to keep going back and revising a project several times, compared to doing something right the first time around because you thought about the project direction for an extra minute or two. Check your work for obvious mistakes and make sure you didn’t leave anything out.

These are some tips that will help you save time and energy. Remember, working smarter, not harder, plays a big role in delivering projects on time without expending more energy then you need to.

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