Thursday, October 1

Top speed!

Being employed by a local paper, I've come across some interesting challenges. First, speed is a priority. Deadlines are tight and the workload is huge. How can one increase speed while designing? Here are some Basics.

Styles: This applies mostly to layout design when working with text in tandem with images and graphical elements. Neswpapers, magazines, annual reports. You can use styles to format text and graphics. Instead of choosing fonts font parameters, formatting paragraphs and colors use styles to reduce your clicking time. Click here for a crash course in using indesign styles.

Actions: You can program your Adobe software to do a series of operations automatically. Say you have to apply the same level change, unsharp mask and a crop to 8 images. Instead of going through those three steps 8 times do it once and record it. Then playback the action for each image. Very cool!Click here for an in-depth look at actions.

Droplets: These are an extension of actions but even more powerful! They are great for handling large amounts of files and folders. Click here for a droplet tutorial.

Keyboard shortcuts: This is an underused way of saving time. If you spend time memorizing keyboard shortcuts you will gain a lot of speed! A quick search in google for shortcuts for the software you use will yield printable files. I keep sheets of keyboard shortcuts near my computer for quick reference. But I've come to know them by heart so that now it's second nature. I've saved many minutes this way!

Study: Whenever you do have downtime, google tutorials, crack open a book about the software you use, tweak your styles, take a few minutes to learn an extra thing. Knowledge turns into speed down the road.

Be creative in your slow times: If you finally get a breather, look over your designs and analyze ways to improve them. Study how others are practicing their craft for inspiration. Jot down a few ideas you'd like to try. Got a cool layout in mind? Sketch it quickly and post it on the edge of your screen. When it's hammer time a quick look at your notes will jog your memory and save you a minute or two.

Patience: You can only do one thing at a time. If you try to rush it too much you'll make mistakes that will cost you valuable minutes. If you have a snag in your software, don't ignore it. Do your best to make the time to resolve hardware and software issues. When left aside, these issues come back to haunt you and punish you.

Take a break: It may be counter intuitive to stop working when a deadline is hanging like Damocles' sword but in my opinion refreshing your mind and your body for a few minutes encourages productivity. Get some air, stretch your muscles, have a laugh!

I hope these tips help! Did you find ways of increasing your speed? Share them if you like in the comments below!

image: Francis Manapul via DC blog