Graphic designers have to overcome a slew of productivity hurdles on a daily basis. From missing design assets to frequent distractions, repetitive processes that end up taking up too much of your valuable time, and more. Fortunately, most of these challenges have readily available solutions.
We set out to pinpoint the most commonly overlooked productivity hurdles today’s graphic designers face, so we rounded up 50 tips and insights from professional designers, consultants, and productivity gurus on how to overcome those challenges in your daily work. After all, when you’re more productive, you have more time to focus on producing your best design work. Whether you’re working as a freelancer and navigating the rough solopreneurial waters or you work as part of a larger creative team and frequently succumb to common time sucks, the tips below will help you regain control over your time.
Keep reading for expert advice on:
- Common Productivity Challenges Facing Graphic Designers
- Overcoming Productivity Hurdles for Freelance Graphic Designers
- Workflow Productivity Tips for Graphic Designers
- Technology Challenges and Solutions for Graphic Designers
Common Productivity Challenges Facing Graphic Designers
1. Many graphic designers suffer from inefficient workflow management processes. “Creative teams, whether in-house or agency-based, share a common challenge – managing creative workflow. Demands from clients sometimes defy logic and reason, and most creative teams are better at creating than they are at managing timelines and approval channels. Implementing an effective workflow management process can be the difference between success and failure for these teams.” – Rob Munz, Implementing Best Practices For Creative Workflow Management, GDUSA; Twitter: @GDUSAmagazine
2. The myth of the lone genius plagues may graphic designers – and it can hinder productivity, too. “Over-communication is always better than under-communication. If you want to get things done and by done I mean doing them correctly, you need to communicate. The ‘lone genius’ is a myth, and creativity isn’t an antisocial act. Talk to people, and talk a lot.” – Heidi Taperson, What I’ve Learned as an In-House Designer at a Tech Company, Toggl; Twitter: @toggl
3. Good designers have to stay up-to-date with the latest graphic design trends, which, of course, is a time-consuming endeavor. “The ever going graphic industry advances at such a speed or pace, that one can find it difficult to get itself along with it (graphic design trends). It’s not that easy to find out, that are you a good designer considering this rapidly growing and advancing graphics trends. Skills that you once learned at some stage are those still relevant or worthy. Alternatively, indeed you will have to acquire new and updated skills pertaining to this very field in order to survive, or to even have a chance of employment in the recent coming future. This field requires you to be updated at every single stage of your life. Learning never ends here.” – Muhammad Faisal, 2018 Design Challenges for Graphic Design Company, Graphic Design Junction; Twitter: @graphicdesignju
4. Every graphic designer has experienced the challenge of getting derailed, often repeatedly. “The constant interruptions and distractions, and the unexpected things that come up in the day and take you off course are bound to happen. Derailments are a massive waste of time, yet it turns out, we’re often to blame for our own distraction. Roughly half of interruptions are self-imposed, and it takes about 23 minutes to get back on task, according to Gloria Mark, professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine. That’s why creating a schedule in advance and having it at hand can help avoid distraction.
“Solution: Prep for distractions. At the end of each day, don’t just plan how you’ll spend the following day, ask yourself what potential distractions might come up. This could be anything from the colleague who always seems to be in crisis mode and needing your help to that call from your mom each afternoon.
“Anticipating distractions can help you both figure out ways to avoid them and build them into your schedule.” – Jane Porter, Solutions To The 5 Most Common Productivity Roadblocks, Fast Company; Twitter: @fastcompany
5. Trying to pull 18-hour days consistently will burn you out. “Yes it sounds INSANE! but working with less time, you will be more productive and the quality of your work will always be in top condition. Do not try to work 12-18 hours / day because eventually you will be much slower, your mind will be somewhere outside of work and what is most alarming is the quality of your work will be lower. Research shows that working less than 6 hours in a day will make a person happier, more productive and healthy. Indeed, only few people can do it, but try. At a minimum it can reduce the burden of your work.” – Yesta Desamba, 11 Essential Productivity Tips for Graphic Designers, Jayce-O-Yesta; Twitter: @jayceocorner
6. Graphic designers have creative blocks, too, but we call it designer’s block instead of writer’s block. Overcome it by doodling so you can get back to work. “Doodling is not just great practice and a good way to get your creative juices running and come up with new ideas, it is also a good way to disconnect a little and get away from the screen. Going back to the old-fashioned, good old pen and paper can be refreshing, too, and is a nice way to get back to basics. This way of disconnecting a little from the screen is great because you are doing something you enjoy and that could lead to new discoveries, and it keeps the brain active and concentrated, too.” – Sarah Kearns, 7 Productivity Tips for Rookie Graphic Designers, The Design Range; Twitter: @TheDesignRange
7. Having a vision in your mind before beginning a project can boost productivity. “As a salesperson for Go Media I am afforded a long ramp up phase prior to starting a design project. As part of the sales process, I typically have several meetings with clients, ask lots of questions about their business history, goals and ideas. It may take several weeks from the time I first meet a client until the time I sit down to design. Frequently, by the time I sit down to design – I already know exactly what I’m going to make. The image is clear in my mind. At that point all I need to do is assemble it. It’s more production than ideation. Having a clear vision of my design before I even start designing certainly makes me a much faster designer. How is it that I know exactly what I’m going to design? Obviously, because I’ve been thinking about it during the entire sales process.
“While most designers aren’t out selling, they can also employ this technique – start thinking about your designs BEFORE you sit down to your computer. If you can get an early look at creative briefs on projects that are coming up READ THEM! Wrap your head around all the details of the project days or weeks in advance. Ideally, you will then use your down time to think about them. Start the design in your head. This may require a conscious effort on your part! That’s right – you may have to WORK. But hopefully, you love this shit, and it doesn’t feel like work. You naturally think about the design in advance because it makes you happy.” – William Beachy, How to Become a Faster Graphic Designer, Go Media; Twitter: @go_media
8. Avoid the trap of feeling like you must respond to emails immediately (that is, if you value your productivity and don’t want to succumb to frequent email interruptions). “Speaking of email … let’s talk a moment about the biggest interruptor of work (besides Facebook, of course). We’re talking about the phone, of course, and it’s companion interruptor, text messages.
“While you can control your addiction to Facebook by simply ignoring, it’s much more difficult to turn your phone or IM off. Who knows who will be calling … a new client, an existing client with more work, the guy from Publisher’s Clearninghouse (oh, wait, he shows up at the doorstep)?
“Needless to say, it’s difficult to not answer the phone or instant messages. But if you make a habit of always responding immediately, you set yourself up for constant distractions. By training your clients, contractors, vendors, staff and everyone else to contact you via email first, you can minimize the distractions while giving yourself time to prepare well-thought-out replies.” – Jeff Kear, 5 business productivity hacks for freelancers and graphic designers (& software tips), Planning Pod; Twitter: @planpod
9. Speaking of emails, keep them brief. “In addition to working at design blog Design*Sponge, Sabrina Smelko is a freelance illustrator and designer. Keeping work hours and personal time separate can be tricky when juggling multiple professional positions.
“Smelko used to only respond to emails during work hours, doing her best to provide lengthy, considered replies. But, she realized this quickly led to emails piling up unanswered.
“Now, she gives herself ‘permission to just shoot back, ‘Hey, I got this, I’ll let you know when it’s posting or I’ll let you know the publishing date.’’
“Smelko says, ‘I think the biggest and best tool for that was putting a signature on my mobile device that says, ‘Sent from my phone, excuse brevity.’ It gave me permission to relax.'” – Sabrina Smelko, as quoted by Rachel MacFarlane, The Best Productivity Tips from Busy Designers, Format Magazine; Twitter: @useformat
10. Failing to establish boundaries can leave you overworked and burnt out, and the quality of your work (and your reputation) will inevitably suffer. “As a graphic designer, you may be working independently, so determining limits for production time versus social interactions is important. Know when to extricate yourself from an endless meeting by pleading deadlines, and know your personal workload limits.
“If you overextend yourself by promising to deliver too many projects in too little time, you are doing your clients and yourself a disservice. Instead, take on only what you can reasonably accomplish in the time allowed, and you won’t find yourself cutting corners or doing substandard work that detracts from your professional reputation.” – 5 Time Management Tips for Graphic Designers, Graphic Design Degree Hub
11. Didn’t back up your design files? You might be spending hours (or more) recreating those assets. “So I turned in this story, and wouldn’t you know it, the next day I had a problem. While installing an update to Creative Cloud, my computer crashed and I had to hard restart. When I booted back up, almost all of my Dropbox folder was gone, minus six folders. As it turns out, my hard drive became corrupted because of that restart (or something, because that was the end result), and now I was hosed.
“But only briefly. That’s because I knew I had my backups in place, and all I needed to do was restore the files. I pulled all of my missing files down from Dropbox, and even though it took a few hours, I had everything back and good to go.
“See? It’s handy to have your machine backed up, because you never know what’s going to happen and when. Like, you know, the day after you turn in an article about backups.” – Kevin Whipps, 5 Infallible Methods to Back Up All Your Crucial Design Files, Creative Market; Twitter: @CreativeMarket
12. Digital clutter can result in wasted time spent searching for assets for clients. “Where can you find the brand guidelines for your latest client? What about a .png file of the company logo or a template for your upcoming Facebook ad campaign? If you gave a different answer to each question, your productivity is suffering. Invest in a Digital Asset Management system and stop wasting time on a digital scavenger hunt. A professional DAM system makes organizing and accessing files easy and fast so projects are never stalled by misplaced files.” – Alayna Frankenberry, How to Increase Marketing Productivity: A Guide for Agencies, BlueSky ETO; Twitter: @BlueSkyETO
13. To-do lists are crucial, but using the wrong task management methodology can set you up for failure. “When I’m really overwhelmed , I grab my notebook, open to a new page, and write down every single thing I have (and want) to do. It feels good to get that cloud of clutter out of my brain and onto paper.
“But, I often end up with something like this (except much longer): finish mid-year report, check out Target’s bathing suit section online, schedule meeting with the account manager, send out all 16 monthly analysis studies, and make hair appointment.
“While these are all items I’d eventually like to check off, my ‘task dump’ really isn’t helpful. Frankly, after the relief of decluttering my head wears off, I’m stressed all over again. Because where do I even start? With my split ends or that time-sensitive project? (Don’t worry— I know the answer).
“To-do lists can be extremely crucial to your productivity, but if you just jot everything down with zero organization, it could end up being quite counterproductive.” – Abby Wolfe, 5 Smarter Ways to Organize Your To-Do List (and Make Sure It’s Actually Helpful), The Muse; Twitter: @shmabbywolfe
Overcoming Productivity Hurdles for Freelance Graphic Designers
14. Tackle larger design projects like an agency. “If you work at a design agency, then you know how powerful it is to have a full team to step up and work on big client projects. You also know how important it is to have a single vision coming from your art director and to have one person in charge of project management. Freelance designers can level up with a similar approach and start taking on larger design projects. Moving towards an art direction and project management role means learning how to lead a team. It can be a difficult move, but will allow for scaling what you can offer your clients well beyond just the time you can personally work on their design projects.” – Sean Hodge, 55 Time-Saving, Productive Workflow Tips for Designers, Envato Tuts+; Twitter: @tutsplus
15. Use time tracking. “Procrastinators: this one’s for you. After you’ve made sure your to-do list is actually achievable and not completely out of reach, it’s really useful to time track everything. This is beneficial on a day-to-day basis but the pros are definitely great for your long-term productivity.
“When I first started out, my estimates were really inaccurate and I ended up not being paid what I should have for a job because I didn’t realise how long something would take. After time tracking various jobs, I had a better idea of time and was able to give estimates to clients that weren’t going to screw my bank balance.
“There are loads of tracker apps that are really easy to use and allow you to input different tasks for one project so use them. Not only will you see how much time you’re spending on specific tasks, allowing you to give better estimates, you can see where you could be faster and more productive on others.” – Jessica Draws, 8 achievable ways to boost your design productivity, Creative Bloq; Twitter: @CreativeBloq
16. Working with clients is kind of like dating. Make sure your clients are a good match. “Let’s face it – some client-designer combinations simply don’t work, and this includes you.
“Client qualification is about discovering whether a potential client is a good match for you. It’s about avoiding the embarrassing situation where you talk about the project for an hour only to discover the client cannot afford your rates (has happened to me more than once).
“Qualification involves asking the client a simple set of questions such as:
- Do you like what you see in my portfolio?
- What’s your budget for this project? I usually charge between X and Y for this type of work.
- How soon would you like to start? I’m currently working on X other projects so I could start in Y days/weeks.
- Can you personally hire me or do you need to ask for someone else’s opinion first?
- Are you ok with 50% down payment?
“Feel free to add anything else you find important. If you like what you hear, you’ve got yourself a qualified client.
17. Eat the frog (aka schedule your most difficult, time-consuming tasks early in the day). “Do you start the day with a mug of coffee and a casual perusal of your inbox? Save this for after you’ve made that important phone call to a client, organized your invoices, or knocked out your creative work first!
“If there’s something you’re dreading, do it straight away and you’ll have the rest of the day to work on the more fun and relaxing tasks. This can kick-start your productivity.” – Rachel Macdonald, 6 Habits of Super Productive Freelancers, Millo.co
18. Avoid including everything you’ve ever created in your portfolio. In fact, you may want to focus on select pieces relevant to the industry you’re focusing in – or, maintain a portfolio of relevant work for each industry. “Don’t grab everything you’ve ever created, snap a few photos and include it with a title. Set aside time to go through all of your pieces, exclude anything you’re not proud of or don’t think is your best work.
“Liz Grant’s portfolio is clean, simple and beautiful. It isn’t overwhelming and is so easy to navigate.
“‘I’ve found that what you put in your portfolio for people to view, you get in return. So if you don’t want a certain type of client, don’t show that type of work in your portfolio. Also, show the best of what you have, you don’t need to show it all. People have short attention spans, especially on the web, so show your best first – don’t make them dig through tons of projects to find it,’ says Grant.” – Karen DeFelice, Create An Awesome Design Portfolio With These 20 Pro Tips, Canva; Twitter: @canva
19. Designers can waste a lot of time locating and re-opening frequently used tools. Take the time to set up your workspace in all the design tools you use. “When working, it is important to have all necessary tools and panels readily available to speed up your workflow. However, the tools and panels needed, fluctuate based on the project at hand. Adobe design programs provide several standard default workspace settings, such as Type, Web, Video, etc.
“These are beneficial for a start, but customizing workspaces to fit personal and project needs can further speed your workflow. Experiment with different set-ups to find the best settings. It is best to save a workspace after working within a document for a while rather than at the beginning.” – Michael Shelton, 20 Time-Saving Tips to Improve Designer’s Workflow, Smashing Magazine; Twitter: @smashingmag
20. Set priorities for your work. “Sometimes you have projects running at the same time. So be sure to organize your tasks in relation to their priority. In this way you respect the deadlines and are able to finalize more projects within the prefixed time.” – Mirko Disidoro, How to Be More Productive as a Freelance Designer, twago; Twitter: @freelancewebdes
21. Identify your primary distractors and develop strategies for managing (ideally, avoiding) them. “We all have things we’d rather be doing than work. These are our leisurely activities which make life playful. As a freelancer the line between home life and work life gets blurred very quickly. Therefore it’s important to know where to draw the line and how to discipline yourself.
“Relaxation is always good, but in moderation. One of the best ways to incentivize yourself to work is by promising a small break in the near future. As an example, ‘If you can work for 2 hours straight then you relieve yourself for 30 minutes of relaxation.’ This is a common ritual many have adopted as a way to working life. The numbers are always different (most I know enjoy a 30/30 split) but the resulting achievements seems greatly improved.
“This process can be made simpler by identifying what your distractions are. Some say it’s television or Internet browsing. Others will say it’s chatting with friends, video games, or continuously checking e-mail. Whatever yours is should be clearly defined and accepted as such – a distraction. Once you can move past this stage it’s a lot easier to discipline your time as ‘work’ and ‘play.'” – Productivity Management Tips for Freelance Designers, Design Shack; Twitter: @designshack
Workflow Productivity Tips for Graphic Designers
22. Evaluate your workflow regularly. Is it working for you? If not, improve it. “Essentially a workflow is how you get from A to B– it’s simply the design process, there may be several ways to get to where you’re going but it all about knowing the best way to go – the most productive route.
“So it’s important you evaluate your workflow regularly – varying on what you’re working on, allow for flexibility and for it to adapt. A killer workflow will speed up the design process and make it more fun and fulfilling, work better and smarter, not harder.” – Annemarie Millar, Work better not harder – Ten tips to improve your design workflow, freepik; Twitter: @Freepik_Vectors
23. Use templates for frequent product types. “Templates are something that many designers debate about. In-house designers in particular can benefit from templates as they are frequently in situations where productivity and practicality trump originality. Additionally you can create your own templates for internal use when you know that there are assets you need to frequently generate. For example, creating your own template system with sizes for all of the social media platforms you use can be a huge time saver. The same is true if you produce Google banner ads.” – Roberto Blake, 8 Productivity Tips for Graphic Designers, Creative Pro; Twitter: @CreativeProse
24. Leverage keyboard shortcuts to make quick work of frequent tasks. “Learning keyboard shortcuts is one of the easiest ways to find a bit more time in your day and squeeze out an extra iteration on that design comp.
“Try opening applications by using spotlight (you know, that search in the upper-right corner). You can open the dialogue box by pressing Command-Space. This will save you from sifting through icons on your taskbar or launchpad and let you keep your hands on your keyboard. Check out this giant list of Mac keyboard shortcuts from Dan Rodney.
“Use these handy combos of keystrokes to spend less time navigating programs and more time becoming a better designer. A sticky note on your monitor, for reference, can help you incorporate new keyboard shortcuts into your workflow in no time. If you’re already a shortcut pro try creating your own keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop.” – Brent Summers, Productivity Tips for Designers, Telepathy; Twitter: @dtelepathy
25. Capitalize on your high-energy time. “Creativity peaks at certain times of the day, and that time varies from one person to the next. Some people are more creative in the early morning, while others are much more creative later in the afternoon.
“Encourage your designers to get the bulk of their creative work done at the time that works best for them (within business hours, of course). The remainder of the time can be spent on menial tasks, organizing and planning.
“Forcing your designers to work inside a box or a certain window of time may kill productivity and their creativity.” – Ivan Widjaya, 6 Productivity Tips for Graphic Design Agencies, SMB CEO; Twitter: @smbizceo
26. Emphasize the “organized” component of “organized chaos.” “Organized chaos is how a lot of us would describe our work areas—paper, pens, notebooks and coffee cups abound, but it’s all organized, right?
“Save yourself some time and distraction by tidying up your workspace and your desktop. Close the 500 tabs open on your browser and clear off the dozens of downloads and images cluttering up your home screen.” – Marianne Litman, 16 Productivity Tips Every Designer Needs to Know, Creative Market; Twitter: @useformat
27. Use batching to make better use of your time. “Supporting processes like accounting, emailing, and communication with clients is an inevitable part of a freelancer’s life. These tasks might not require so much of your creative thinking brainpower, but are nonetheless important to your overall business success.
“The easiest way to speed up tasks in this category is to batch them together. For example, dedicate a time slot in the day for handling all of your emails. Only open your inbox during that time, and deal with your emails until your inbox is empty.
“You can apply the same principle to many other chores: Shop only once a week, prepare your meals in big batches, do all the research at once, etc.
“Batching can save you a lot of time.” – 9 Simple Productivity Tips for Freelance Designers, Webpage FX; Twitter: @webpagefx
28. Organize and better manage your inbox. “Your work email has the potential to be one of the biggest distractions in your day when not managed well. Email is the most often used method of communication in the workplace.
It’s the way clients, coworkers and bosses communicate with you, so checking it to make sure nothing is missed is critical. However, proper management can reduce the chances of falling into the email whirlpool:
- Designating a time to check your email and restricting the time you spend on it can do wonders for your daily productivity. Whether it’s every hour on the hour or once in the morning, once after lunch and once before the end of business day, this will help you gain control over the time you spend in your inbox.
- Organizing your inbox and creating rules for the people you communicate with the most will eliminate overcrowding while also putting into use of prioritization.
- Completing what’s asked of you immediately if it’s something that can be done within the time you allocated for checking your email. It’s easy to try to jump on every request asked of you and lose hours doing things that were requested via email and nothing that was needed to be done for the day. If it can’t be done quickly, schedule it for a later time.” – Joel Black, 5 Tips to Increase Productivity in the Workplace, Black Bear Design; Twitter: @BlackBearDesign
29. Separate your work into phases. “Block off time to work on specific ‘parts’ of your designs. Carefully plan out how much time you think it will take to complete the project and then break that down into different phases, assigning a fraction of the total time to each phase. By doing this you will have a better idea of how much time you have available to attend meetings or work on other projects.” – Andy Rammer, Increase Your Design Productivity with 5 Simple Time Management Tips, Hawk Ridge Systems; Twitter: @Hawk_Ridge_Sys
30. Set a time budget before beginning any project, phase, or task. “Before doing any sketch or design, create a time budget. When you consider the time you have for a new project, it will greatly impact the way you approach your work. Be smart when making design choices. If you can save time using a pre-set font instead of creating a new one (provided the client approves), then go for it.
“If you don’t have a specific time budget, set one. You may even challenge yourself. If it usually takes you two days to design a poster, test yourself and try to do it in one day. The side benefit to this is surprising yourself with the output. When you push yourself to be on top of your game, you capitalize best on your design skills and instincts.” – Igor Ovsyannykov, 10 Habits That Help You Design Twice as Fast, Creative Market; Twitter: @CreativeMarket
31. Use mockups and kits rather than reinventing the wheel every time. “So many designers seem to think they have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ with every new project. It’s just not the case. There are plenty of high-quality mockups and kits available – free and paid – that can help you move through projects more quickly.
“The type of work you do will help you determine what type of kit is best for you, but there are options for almost everything from user icons to buttons to mockups that you can use to help clients visualize a design in an actual environment.
“When it comes to using these tools, opt for quality. A poor quality tool will stick out like a sore thumb in almost any project. Weigh time saved against price to figure out which tools are good for you… and your budget.” – Carrie Cousins, How to Become a Faster, More Efficient Designer, Design Shack; Twitter: @designshack
32. Learn to delegate. “As much as we all want to be involved in every single thing that happens in our business, delegating is essential. So leave your ego at the door and allow your employees to do their jobs. Learn to trust others by giving them the power to make and execute decisions without having to consult you all the time. Do you really want to be disturbed and asked about every little assignment or would you rather have an efficient team that can get stuff done?
“Avoid micro-managing by giving team members clear goal and objectives. Don’t forget that different people have different working styles so give team members the freedom to approach tasks in the style that fits them best. Resist the urge to interfere. Once you have given somebody a task, don’t nudge them every half hour to see how they get on. Don’t be that boss.” – 5 Productivity Hacks for Small Business, Fivenson Studios; Twitter: @Fivenson_Studio
33. Create new shortcuts for your frequent processes. “Don’t just memorize the default quick keys; set new ones for anything you do regularly, that has you clicking through menus.” – Ben Brush, 15 Workflow tips that took my design business to the next level, Millo.co
Technology Challenges and Solutions for Graphic Designers
34. Reduce clutter by using two monitors. “For some companies, this is required. But if you’re still working from home or with one monitor, talk with your supervisors and make the two-monitor setup a priority. Streamline your workflow by keeping whatever Creative Cloud program you’re working with open on one monitor, and your visual inspirations and communication apps open on the other. Switching back and forth constantly really eats up valuable time during the workday, as our friends at Digital Telepathy can attest.” – Jordan Merimee, 7 Essential Productivity Tips and Hacks for Designers, Shutterstock; Twitter: @shutterstock
35. Leverage technology tools to streamline project management, plan your schedule, and collaborate with clients and team members. “From learning to organize your schedule with a calendar that syncs all your apps in one place, to putting well-timed breaks in between working hours to avoid dropping your output quality, there’s a tool for everything. Regarding engaging and collaborating with others, especially other teammates and clients, there are also avenues to make interactions less confusing.
“Being able to send or simulate your output on the spot so clients can have a good view of it is necessary for maintaining an understanding of what you both want the final output to look like. Working with a team, on the other hand, requires you to communicate your thoughts efficiently so you can arrive at an understanding of what the final product will be.” – Laura Jonson, 10 Productivity Tools and Tips for Digital Designers, Inkbot Design; Twitter: @Inkbotdesign
36. You’re not limited to your laptop these days when you need to draw vectors. “Sad that you can’t produce a vector drawing unless you have your laptop with you? Have no fear – Adobe Draw is here. This is a modern version of the full-featured drawing app Adobe Ideas – basically Adobe Ideas made a whole lot bigger and better. Basically, it allows you to create vector designs on both the iPad and iPhone, and thanks to Creative Cloud, automatically syncs these files with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. With five expressive pens (and an eraser), up to 10 drawing layers, and unparalleled precision and control, you’ll be designing 24/7.” – Divya Abe, 10 of the Best Productivity Apps for Designers, DesignCrowd; Twitter: @DesignCrowd
37. Make smart investments in technology tools. “There are plenty of awesome tools and apps out there to help increase your productivity in various ways, from to-do-list trackers like WorkFlowy to design-focused resources like ProofHQ and UsersThink. There are plenty of smart folks making tools to help you be more productive at all sorts of tasks, so be inquisitive about what’s out there from time to time. Think about what your processes are, then do a search for tools that might help you make those processes more efficient; you may even find a tool that lets you streamline a process you hadn’t considered streamlining. And be sure to, you know, ask other designers, too.” – Ray Sylvester, Crank Up Your Design Productivity with These 6 Little Known Tips, Shopify; Twitter: @chowza
38. Make use of a sandbox. “Create a place for yourself where you can try new things. Your own website or some other personal projects are usually a good place to start.
“Treat it like an experiment and don’t be afraid of using unusual layouts or colors. Don’t settle with the first idea that comes to your mind. This is your playground and you’re your own boss. Have some fun with it and be creative.
“If you don’t have any personal projects, create a fake one and pretend like you’re doing a job for someone. If you’re a beginner, those fake projects can be really helpful to build your portfolio and show off.” – Rafal Tomal, 5 Tips To Improve Your Design Skills, Rafal Tomal; Twitter: @RafalTomal
39. 2018 will be the year of the DAM. Leverage a DAM solution for internal knowledge management. “Historically, Digital Asset Management technology has served outward-facing use cases: for publishing, broadcasting, marketing, customer engagement, and the like. 2018 will see an emerging use case around using DAM tools for internal knowledge management use cases, especially as enterprise knowledge becomes more componentized and media-based.” – Tony Byrne, 2018 Predictions for Digital Leaders, Real Story Group; Twitter: @realstorygroup
40. Build an arsenal of cheat sheets and tools. “No matter whether you’re a designer, developer, writer, or consultant, you’ll find that the same arduous tasks tend to crop up time and time again.
- For writers, it could be the task of structuring a document ready to start the writing process.
- For developers, it could the task of setting up a file structure.
- For designers, it could be something as simple as choosing two or more complimentary typefaces for use in a project.
“Whatever the task, there’s bound to be a ‘cheat sheet’ or tool out there that will help to simplify the process in the future.
“Personally, I do a lot of freelance design work and over the years, I’ve gathered up my own arsenal of tools and ‘cheat sheets’ to help simplify a tonne of tasks.” – Shaun Pagin, 5 Simple yet epic productivity hacks for creative entrepreneurs, Millo.co
41. A moderate amount of background noise has been shown to boost creativity. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that negate the need to travel to the nearby coffee shop when you need some ambient noise (unless, of course, that’s your preferred working environment). “By now, most creatives understand the benefits of listening to classical music for getting those innovative juices flowing. (Here are 16 amazing classical compositions that will inspire you.) But if the thought of Canon in D on repeat seems a little tedious, a 2012 study from the University of Illinois suggests that any moderate background noise, whatever that be, offers enough distraction to trigger abstract thinking.
“We’re talking the bustle of a coffee shop, a quiet radio or muffled TV noises from another room. Note the word moderate, however. Complete silence is a no-go, as is Skrillex played at high volume (although we highly recommend it for the gym!). Coffitivity is a multi-device tool that offers a range of coffee shop sounds, from the gentle hum of ‘morning murmur’ to the bustling chatter of ‘lunchtime lounge’.
“White noise is also surprisingly effective. Such dulcet, non-descript tones calm the nerves and help to promote focus. There are numerous free white noise generators available, but we particularly like the White Noise Box iPhone app, and White Noise Light (downloadable on both Apple and Android devices).
“If you want the whole shebang, Noisli not only provides white noise, coffee shop chatter and nature sound effects, but is ideal for those with a second monitor as it also offers a colour generator to stimulate creativity – think blue for creative performance or red for nitty gritty detail work.” – Richard Healy, Productivity hacks for web designers, Creative Bloq; Twitter: @BaseKit
42. Use a tool to select a font palette. “When you’re starting a design, you need to pick typefaces that are going to work well together, not just the ones you like.
“Pick a font that stands out for your titles and headers, but for your subtitles and body content you want to pick a simple font that is visually appealing and easily readable. I like to use Google Fonts and Adobe Typekit when picking my font palette.
“One cool tool that I have found is typegenius, which helps you pick complementary fonts. All you have to do is type in the font that you want to use, and it will generate a range of fonts that work well with it and show you real-life examples!” – Casey Owens, Graphic Design Tips and Tricks We Use Every Day, VIEO Design; Twitter: @vieodesign
43. Having trouble managing and organizing your design assets? That’s where digital asset management comes in. “While some of the most sophisticated enterprises in the world have been effectively managing assets for many years, some enterprises are just starting out on their Digital Asset Management (DAM) journeys. I regularly hear marketers and IT people say, ‘I just need something that’s better than Dropbox or Box to manage our assets.’
“Well, when they are really pressed, these same people realize that their needs are more nuanced than just a better Dropbox. They are really looking for the functionality DAM systems were built to provide.” – Jarrod Gingras, Do You Need Digital Asset Management?, Real Story Group; Twitter: @JarrodGingras
44. The right digital asset management solution can transform the way graphic designers work. “The right DAM transforms the work life of graphic design professionals. It liberates designers from cumbersome, repetitive tasks. Adobe indicates that asset creation can be 28% cheaper when using a DAM system. Additionally, 64% of designers say they’re no longer forced to duplicate efforts, and 62% report that they’re able to collaborate more easily with other designers, local marketers, and brand management.
“In a distributed marketing setting, a DAM that offers print and digital template creation can improve your local affiliates’ chances of success. You’re able to control which aspects of the creative can and can’t be modified. You also eliminate all of the struggles associated with file versioning – local marketers rarely have access to the Creative Cloud apps they’d need for design edits anyway.
“In addition, the right DAM significantly reduces the number of requests that pour in from all directions. With smart search that makes it easier for local marketers to find the assets they’re looking for, local affiliates can run marketing campaigns entirely on their own.” – How to Streamline Your DAM Workflow & Improve Marketing Efficiency in 6 Easy Steps, Pica9; Twitter: @Pica9
45. A DAM is more than merely a sophisticated storage repository. “The DAM goes beyond just being a sophisticated storage tool. It is also a highly-robust production and distribution tool. It can automate approval / versioning processes, file conversions, and distribution workflows. A DAM can deliver content to print, web and social media channels with the click of a button.” – How a DAM Can Help Marketing Leaders Unite Teams, MerlinOne; Twitter: @MerlinOne_Inc
46. Using a DAM with metadata makes it possible to easily find the assets you need, such as stock photography, with a simple search. “A DAM system gives you the ability to add metadata to files and import metadata that already exists, for example, if you’re buying stock photography. This enables you to do a keyword search, filter to narrow your results, and quickly find exactly what you need.
“DAM systems have a number of advanced search methods and browsing features, all tied together by metadata, to empower others to find exactly what’s needed with control.” – Seven ways digital asset management helps designers do what you do best, Widen; Twitter: @WidenEnterprise
47. When setting up a DAM system, establish clear standards and follow them religiously. “DAM survives by way of standards. As a creator, establishing DAM processes should be your first priority. Determine a taxonomy for organizing assets, plus a hierarchy of your team’s access permissions. Then, create guidelines on best practices for searching, tagging, sharing, etc.” – Lisa Callahan, Why Digital Asset Management has Become a Must-Have for Marketing Teams, MarTech Exec; Twitter: @MarTechExec
48. Use artificial intelligence to speed up the process of scheduling meetings. “When it comes to scheduling appointments, Apple and Google have enabled their calendars to find events in emails and add them to your calendar automatically.
“But what if you have to negotiate a day and time first? You can send emails back and forth to find an agreeable time, or you can use x.ai to schedule meetings. The entire process with x.ai takes place in email using invisible software, and it frees you up to do more.
“How much time can it save you? Quite a bit, when you consider x.ai’s data: Scheduling a single meeting takes on average 17 minutes. Stefanie Syman, VP of customer experience & communications and the third-busiest scheduler at x.ai, found that the software has saved her over 21 hours per month over the last three months—a total of 64 hours.
“Compared to Calendly or Doodle, two other scheduling tools, x.ai is a different experience. It lives in your email, has a personal touch, and is practically invisible.” – Jason Tselentis, How Artificial Intelligence Can Boost Your Productivity, HOW Design; Twitter: @HOWbrand
49. Invest in a Pantone reference library. “If you’re working in print, color is everything – and without a reference to keep your colors accurately calibrated your creative process could routinely become jammed. There’s a convenient tool that will help you determine how your colors will print when you’re adding a fifth color to your printer – a Pantone Reference Library. The numerous books and folders contain chips that show you exactly how each color in InDesign, Illustrator, and other programs will print.
“As a professional you simply must have a standardized key that takes any guesswork out of the equation for your colors. While a Pantone Reference Library is an incredible solution for this problem, it’s also quite expensive – ideally, if you work for an agency or in a large department, your supervisors can purchase one for the office. But if not, it’s still worth the cost if you’re constantly printing your creations.” – Eleanor Innis, 10 Indispensable Creative Tools for Graphic Designers and Illustrators, Shutterstock; Twitter: @Shutterstock