Ways to Design at Lightning Speed

Some of the world’s best designers – and even the best designers where you work – all have something in common: Many of them know how to work at lightning speed. And the work is still good.

While part of this speed work comes with experience, some of it is comes back to solid work habits and great time management. Working quickly and efficiently can be great for helping you make good with the boss, and for freelancers, taking care of tasks quickly can result in the ability to take more jobs (and increase your earning potential).

So how do you get faster without sacrificing quality? Here are seven tips that you can start using today.

1. Create Shortcuts and Styles

No matter what software or tools you prefer, a set of basic libraries, styles and presets will make your life easy. That’s not to say you use the exact specification for every project, but it establishes a starting point so that you can switch fonts, colors or layouts with just a click.

 

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One of the first things you can do is establish a set of universal quick, or shortcut, keys for all programs you commonly use. (I love the “Duplicate” function, but every piece of software uses a different keystroke combination; I always create my own cmd+d, so that the command is universal and not clunky.)

Take this a step further and create basic styles for common text bits – body text, headlines, subheads, captions, quotes – with quick keys. Then when you need to change a font, size or color, styling is universal. (This can make work in Adobe products a breeze and can dramatically speed up the prototyping process before the first line of code is even written.

2. Organize Consistently

There’s no right or wrong way to organize your design files. (We aren’t getting into that here.) What matters is that you have a consistent system for how you do it.

If you organize files in the same manner every time, using folders, layers or labelling, then you will always know where to find things as you move through iterations of the design. Other members of your team will appreciate this consistency as well, because it will make it easier for them to use your projects as well, while understanding the filing system.

This applies both to how you organize objects and information within files and how you create and use folders outside of the actual project file.

3. Have a Go-To List of Typefaces

For the projects that don’t come with a set of typography specifications, it can help to have a short list of go-to typefaces to jumpstart projects. Your arsenal should include a couple of serifs, and few sans serifs and one or two novelty or script options for special use.

 

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You won’t always end up using typefaces from this “de facto palette,” but it will get you moving quickly on the overall design outline. It will help provide a starting point for font pairing combinations that you can actually show a client almost immediately (and get a feel for how they react to those type styles).

Bonus tip: This concept works great for color palettes, too.

 

4. How to Use the Right Tools

Using the right tools for the job can make all the difference in the world (and prevent a lot of rework later). Think of how many times you’ve come across a logo in a raster format when the right tool is vector-based software, such as Adobe Illustrator.

This applies to every aspect of design work, both for online projects and printed materials. As a general rule, anything that’s part of a branding scheme or might be needed for multiple uses (logos, characters, iconography) should be designed in a vector format. You can also scale it down or save other files types, but you can’t go from a gif to a scalable image. One time use objects and elements can be designed using small, raster formats or with CSS tools.

Remember, no matter what file format you need for the final version, save everything in a native file for easy access later. Native files are a lot easier to edit and adjust.

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