Speedy design is a bit of an oxymoron. It's important to be able to design quickly and efficiently but you also need enough space and leisure to be able to explore and generate quality ideas. Here are some tips for speedy and efficient graphic design when you already have that quality idea:
(Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator)
"The first thing I do when I walk in is pick up the mouse and turn it upside down." I heard these words from a design efficiency expert years ago at a design conference and they've stuck with me deeply ever since. The message: the mouse is the slowest tool in your repertoire. If you want to be fast, you have learn (and use!) keyboard shortcuts. If a common command you use doesn't have a keyboard shortcut, assign your own custom keyboard shortcut. Make it a game to avoid the menus. Here are keyboard shortcut guides for Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator.
Take the time to create templates (or download templates) for whatever you create a lot of and/or have as a recurring projects. Create the templates in the programs you commonly work in. For example, if you often use Photoshop and InDesign on brochure projects, create brochure tri-fold.psd and brochure tri-fold.indt. Make your template file the right size, adjust margins, add guides and bleeds, add basic text styles, etc. I recommend locking your template files (make them read only) and your templates folder so you won't accidently overwrite your original template files.
Actions are awesome. I don't know how I could be a designer without Photoshop actions, especially batch processing (File > Automate > Batch) using actions. I use actions for everyday operations like converting to 300 ppi CMYK and saving as tif or converting to grayscale. Whatever I find myself doing often, I create an action. I also use actions for project specific tasks like applying a special sepia photo effect or adding photo edges. For even more speed, I assign keyboard shortcuts to my most commonly used actions.
Paragraph and Character Styles
Paragraph and character styles are powerful, flexible, easy to apply and vitally necessary for most InDesign projects. For ease of use, create folders for your styles and organize them by hierarchy (ie. organize them in the order that you apply them in the text: headers first, then subheads, text, bulleted lists, numbered list and the rest). For greater speed, I apply keyboard shortcuts to my styles so header might be Cmd + 1 and subhead Cmd + 2.
Stay tuned for Part 2.