Tips for Speedy and Efficient Graphic Design - Part 2

So you want to be a faster graphic designer? More tips for speed:

Clean Up Your Text Before You Start Designing
It's such a pleasure (and it's more efficient) to design with clean text but let's face it: designers rarely receive perfectly ready and clean text. There's always some issue: the bullets don't convert properly, the hyperlinks cause issues, there's all sorts of invisible trash (extra spaces, paragraph marks, tabs, etc.). For those pesky hyperlinks from Microsoft Word: Select all of the text in Word and hit Cmd-6 which strips out all of the hyperlinks (and hyperlink formatting!). In InDesign, use Find & Replace to get rid of the invisible extras: double spaces, extra paragraph marks, tabs and other document trash before you start designing. It will be that much easier to hit the ground running with your design.

Master Selecting Objects and Selecting Tools
(InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator)
Do you know the quickest way to switch from inside a text box to the Selection tool in InDesign? (Hint: hit Escape.) Can you draw and modify a shape in Illustrator without ever selecting a tool with the mouse? Learn the keyboard shortcuts to all of the tools and be able to select, move and modify an object using keyboard shortcuts whenever possible. Those little side trips to the menus and toolbar really add up over the course of a day.

Organize Your Files (Computer & Paper)
It doesn't matter if your desk looks perfect or if it looks like a cyclone hit it. The true measure of organization is function: if you can find a document or file you need in 10 seconds or less, you're doing great. If you can't find your files that fast, you might need a better system. My main organization inspiration comes from Julie Morgenstern's books and Zen Habits. I analyzed my own workflow and tested out different methods until I found the one that worked best for me.

Think Like a Race Car Driver
Race car drivers drive safely at dangerously high speeds (at least most of the time). How do they do it? Training, practice, focus. The same principles apply to designing faster:

  1. Training. Know your design programs backwards and forwards. The more familiar you are with the programs, the less time you spend figuring out how to do something. You just do it.

  2. Practice. Practice, practice and more practice. The more you do something, the better you get at it (at least usually). Also remember to practice skills that don't get used daily in your job. For example, if you rarely work in Illustrator, do something for yourself for fun in Illustrator to keep you skills from getting rusty.

  3. Focus. The research is becoming clearer and clearer: multi-tasking doesn't make you more efficient, it does exactly the opposite. Intense focus for periods of time, focusing only on a single task and ignoring distractions like email and phone calls, is a more efficient and productive way of getting things done. It's also more pleasant! So do whatever you can to help you find that single focus.

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