Most designers are governed by their right brains. This typically means that they’re more likely to be impulsive, social, emotional and tactile as opposed to their more level-headed, left-brained counterparts. This kind of thinking and, by extension, behaving is great for generating ideas and exploring new creative avenues but, without a little management, a creative brain can run riot and get (a lot) less done.
If you’re like me – unsure of whether a left side of your brain exists at all – you’ll receive a new brief and have to fight the urge to dive straight in and ‘idea-vomit’ all over the nearest open Illustrator file. Once you’ve done this (many many hours later) you realize, actually, nothing really productive happened.
I’ve found that if you introduce a little left-brain rigidity into your processes, things tend to run a little more smoothly. This is how I do it:
Create a structure for your design process.
Think about your project. Then do it.
Taking the time to properly consider your brief and its challenges will help you to quickly weed out good and bad ideas, identify potential set-backs and fully understand the needs of your Client. All the things you need to know before you start working.
Among other things, urgency and tight deadlines can make you panic and start on a brief before you’ve really mulled it over. This almost always means you’ll have missed a key directive, followed a poor direction or made a critical error somewhere along the way.
Setting aside a little time to think about a project, in-depth, helps to avoid mishaps and equips you to better create something magical.
Make decisions and stick to them.
Indecision is my best friend. I can literally spend hours fidgeting with one single element of a design. Be it a font, colour, or image; I can place, replace, and tweak it until Halley’s Comet comes around – and all in pursuit of perfection or, at least, the closest thing to it. Experimenting is what helps us learn what looks good and what works best but, if you get carried away, you can find yourself on the wrong side of your deadline. If you find yourself in this situation, experiment with only a few select, considered options and then commit to one; make what you feel is the best choice and marry it.
I like to create mini-deadlines. For each of the individual tasks that make up an entire project I assign a deadline. Things like; research, sourcing images and fonts, picking/exploring colour schemes, experimenting with different ideas, and creating various design options – they all get a deadline. As previously mentioned you can get caught up, carried away and spend far too much time on small tasks which will ultimately compromise your project schedule.
Making mini-deadlines will not only help you to stay on track timewise, it will also help you to gauge, more accurately, how long it takes to complete tasks. And that’s always good to know.
A creative brain needs no excuse to go off on a tangent – so I wouldn’t recommend giving it one. When your mind is tired it’s more likely to wander off and lose focus. When this happens to me I find myself ruining my designs, making silly mistakes and, sometimes, doing things that aren’t even necessary. Nothing good ever comes from an over-worked brain so it’s best avoided.
Taking a break from your work periodically, if only for a couple of minutes, helps tremendously in keeping you sharp which, in turn, saves you time and helps you produce a higher quality of work. Do it, even if you have to force yourself (because you’re on a roll and in the middle of a design binge.)
Get a Routine!
Routine, ugh… but it’s a thing – it works! Having a general routine in your work day helps keep you focused and relaxed which are two things you need to stay inspired! Chaos and stress (in my experience) literally kill any creative spark you might’ve had. Here are some of the ways in which I’ve introduced routine into my day:
Begin and end work at the same time
This might be easier for 9-5ers, but if you’re a freelancer and working your own hours, you’ll probably find it hard to stop working. Eventually you’ll burn out and have no friends. True story.
Prioritize your work
Do your most important, mentally laborious projects in the morning when your mind is at its sharpest. Save the mindless stuff for the afternoon.
Have designated ‘e-mail checking’ times
If you’re checking your mails every five minutes, chances are, something’s going to catch your eye and have you switching between one task and the other. Giving something your full attention means you can address is properly, fully and not run the risk of making errors, overloading your brain, or presenting something half-hearted.