Three Ways to Design more Efficiently

Learn to not waste time so you can do more of what you love.

Tritan Collective is in a state of growth, which is great but not without its challenges. As I look to 2017, the need to get better at how I do what I do is becoming more evident. As operations scale, I need to work more efficiently so that client needs can be met and additional internal projects get the attention they deserve.

Thankfully, improving your efficiency is easier than you’d expect. Yes, you will feel very slow at first—but once you get in a habit of efficiency, you’ll be designing like clockwork.


1. Have all your content ready before you start

Coming from a freelance background, I learned the hard way that this is extremely important. All too often, designers fall victim to headache after headache by starting to work before they have everything they need to get the job done.

Here, I’ll use an antiquated reference that likely won’t make sense after Elon Musk turns the world electric.

Designing without content is like driving a stick shift… without knowing how to drive a stick shift.

Sure, even lurching forward a few feet at a time is progress, but it doesn’t take long for you to start feeling queasy. Don’t put yourself through that.

What happens when you start with all the content you need? You have a smooth, Tesla-like acceleration that allows you to finish your project sooner with fewer setbacks along the way.

Nobody works like this, but it speaks to my point.

2. Keep your working files organized

I wish I could say this is something that is a fault of young designers, but I have witnessed poor file management practices all the way up the design hierarchy!

Name your layers. Everyone will thank you.

Now, I’m not trying to preach from my high horse either. I am guilty of being a lazy designer just like everybody else. For some reason, we like to believe that organization (lol, our job?) is a waste of time.

It really isn’t. Here’s a few benefits of an organized file:

  1. It’s easier to find the elements you want to work with.
  2. Layer Labeling gives you context for why an object exists
  3. Others will be happy to pick-up your working files and won’t bother you for explanations every 5 minutes.

The great thing about better file organization is that it’s simple. Just name things relative to what they are and group things relative to their hierarchy and proximity to other objects.

3. Use (and make) hotkeys

Easily the single most important thing you can do is to get familiar with the applications you use most often. As quick as you think you are, nothing is quicker than just hitting a button.

Force yourself to use hotkeys. Build muscle memory.

Full disclosure, I’m still working on this too. Some of my favorite hotkeys are for Google Chrome—specifically, CMD+T for a new tab and CMD+W to close a tab.

Yes, hotkeys will allow you to work and drink coffee simultaneously.

When working in Sketch, I highly recommend you check out this post by Jon Moore of UX Power Tools:

As he mentions, while a slow and obnoxious habit to build, using hotkeys will help you exponentially increase the speed in which you design. The key to being successful with hotkeys is to commit to only allowing yourself to use them and not your cursor.


Pick up these ideas as soon as you can and you’ll be amazed how much faster (and better) you design. Then, spend your free time building things you want or writing posts on Medium!

Just to review, here are a few key takeaways…

Content

  • Design around your content.
  • Make sure you have everything you need from the beginning.
  • Tell your clients that you need the content first. It sucks, but your business deserves just as much respect as theirs.

Organization

  • Label your layers and group things according to hierarchy.
  • Organization is your job, allow yourself the benefit of knowing how to organize things.
  • Everyone will love you when you hand off your files—and you won’t be embarrassed.

Hotkeys

  • Commit to hotkeys and build muscle memory.
  • Learn hotkeys for your most common applications.
  • Make hotkeys in your settings for global use.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully this served as a helpful reminder and guide to improve your efficiency. Be sure to like & share so others can join us as ultra-dexterous designers! Special thanks to Jon Moore for inspiring this post.

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