How can I design faster?

Iggy

WARNING, spoiler! We will not argue that you need to have a smart computer, drink a cocktail of coffee and Red Bull, or learn by heart all the hotkeys of your favorite design tools (although the latter option may be useful). We will share 5 working life hacks that helped us design faster, and we hope that they will help you. But first, let's understand why you need to design fast.

Why?

Designers need a lot of time to create something worthwhile. Time to find inspiration, time to think, time to research, time for a couple of articles on Reddit... You know, it's all part of a significant creative process, and it's hard to argue with that. But the real world is cruel, and there is no fairy godmother, so most often, you find yourself in a situation where you had to do something yesterday.

And there are also situations when deadlines are burning, and you will probably spend most of your time looking for "inspiration". Because of this, you will have to speed up to complete the project.In short, if you have a tight deadline, the ability to design quickly will help you.

1. Define Your Goals

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When you're in a hurry, it's tempting to skip a few steps and go straight to "design mode". But it doesn't work that way: this approach can only slow down the whole process. Before you start working, think about the points you want to achieve. Start working when you have a clearly defined goal. Not identifying targets is the same as shooting bottles with your eyes closed and expecting you to win the bear without fail. Setting goals shouldn't take forever, but don't use it as an excuse for procrastination.

2. Share Your Progress

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The sooner you share your work progress, the better. The main focus of designing quickly is to save time, no matter how banal it may sound. You will get feedback, and you may realize your mistakes earlier or be inspired by new ideas. Another advantage of showing off your work is sharing a sense of ownership with others. For example, if you work in a team and share your work with colleagues to criticize the design, they will more likely support you, which will help you sell your idea.

3. Don't Wait for a Muse

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This is not the weather by the sea.

If you are waiting for a brilliant insight and do not think that this is a waste of time, we have bad news. This is a waste of time if you want to design quickly. While you wait for inspiration, someone will do the work for you. This story/experiment from the book Art & Fear perfectly illustrates this point. In short: the teacher announced to his class that they would be divided into two groups, one being judged solely on quality, the other on quantity. When it came to evaluating the works, it turned out that the results of the highest quality were made by a group that should have been assessed by quantity. This means that quantity leads to quality, so instead of waiting for the best idea to fall from the sky, just start working.

4. Make Sketches

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Start your design with sketches. This is one of the most effective ways to turn abstract ideas into something tangible. From the outside, it's easier to see if your design works. It won't take much time, but it will help you look at your work from a new angle. Would you say that this is unproductive? Yes, a drawing may seem like a waste of time, but it's not. Sketches will help you understand exactly what you want to see in the final product. Here are some programs that will help with prototyping:

  • Sketch. The most significant advantage of Sketch is its intuitive and straightforward functionality. It can be used both as a prototyping tool and as software for creating icons and illustrations. The program is vector and allows you to work with layers and shapes, easily controlled using the toolbar.
  • InVision. This is a free tool for creating interactive prototypes. InVision has gained popularity because it makes it easy to import Sketch or Photoshop files and create vibrant designs. An interactive prototype in InVision looks like a real project because designers can link pages together, simulating the use of an actual website or mobile app.
  • Principle. This is a relatively simple application that aims to create an animated user interface design. The distinctive feature of Principle is that it can work even in offline mode, so your progress does not depend on your Internet connection quality. Interactive prototypes can be easily converted into GIF's or videos and shared in a portfolio on Dribbble or elsewhere. This tool's interface is very similar to Sketch, so it will be easy to learn for many designers.
  • FlowMapp. The app has a sitemap where you can create your individual pages and plan what content will be on those specific pages, allowing your client to view and collaborate with you, clearly defining each page's purpose.
FLOWMAPP interface

5. Design in Stages

If you want to work fast, you can't waste time on the details; you need to focus on what's important. To not miss some points that seem insignificant at first glance, you can break the project into stages. For example, these are:

  • Step 1. The General idea. A schematic sketch illustrates your logo; a couple of wireframes that show the interaction scenario; or some keyframes that show what the animation should be.
  • Step 2. Expand the boundaries. When you make a rough version of what your idea might become, you don't worry about the details yet.
  • Stage 3. Final. You are close to completion, and add toppings to your work using the golden ratio.

6. Calm Down - Relax - Lie Down

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This advice may sound strange, but the moment you take a break and step back from the problem may be just the time when a solution comes to your mind. This is for the same reason that the best ideas come to you when you take a shower or exercise. There is a scientific explanation for this; just think of Newton. The fact that you stop actively trying to solve a problem gives your brain a break, and you let it "run" in the background. Subconsciously, you make a series of deep connections and don't even realize it – BANG – the idea pops into your head. This means that a break allows you to have a conversation with colleagues at the coffee machine and gives you energy, and allows your brain to digest ideas and find new solutions. Try the Pomodoro technique; it looks something like this:

  • Make a list of tasks that need to be done soon (for example, a week). These tasks are called active tasks.
  • From the list of active tasks, select the ones you want to do today. Add them to your daily task list.
  • Set the tasks for the day from the most to the least priority. Turn on the timer for 30 minutes. Work, not look at the ceiling!
  • 30 minutes have passed — take a break of 5-10 minutes. After 4 "pomodoro", take a full rupture of 15-20 minutes.
  • Repeat steps 4-6 until you close all the tasks from the list for the day.

Apps that will help:

  • Tomato’Clock — is an extension for Google Chrome. By default, there is a standard duration of the "tomato" (25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest); you can configure each of the parameters.
  • BeFocused — the app helps you separate large goals into small stages to not look cumbersome.

This will help you focus, but it will also help others look at your work and give adequate feedback to the stage at which it is located. For example, you'll avoid comments about color when you're just trying to see how the overall idea works. In short, it's never a good idea to do something from the top down and then share it because when you spend time on the details, you get attached, and then you may realize that it's all for nothing. Optimize your time and focus on the right things at the right time.

Some useful tips and tricks you can also find in the article How can I improve my creativity in design.

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