The secret to designing something quickly

If you ever watched a designer or an artist create something super fast and wonder how they did it. If you look up the answer to this question, it usually boils down to experience. And while that’s true, there’s a few other things that kind of mix into that as well.

One of the things that people usually admire when I work is the speed and efficiency that I have when I’m working on a project. While that does come from experience and from even working in fast paced working environments, there’s been a few tricks up my sleeve that have helped me kind of keep my sanity as I’m racing through a project to meet a deadline.

First, it helps to have a defined process.

As an example for this episode let’s imagine that we’re designing a logo. This logo isn’t a huge brand either — its going to be a small use case, like an event.

You aren’t going to have to put a ton of time into creating a fully flashed-out brand here. But jumping in, you should have a good idea of what your process is going to be before you start. Doing this allows you to know what to expect and communicate that to anyone else working with you.

Have an established goal with the client or the person who will be reviewing your work

Before you even put pen to paper, you should know what’s expected of you and what’s expected of the design. If you can’t agree with the client on this, then you’re fighting an uphill battle, which we’ve covered in past episodes. This helps keep both of you on the same page, and avoids a lot of trouble and hassle at the end. It also helps minimize the endless rounds of revisions as they try and get something closer to what they were envisioning.

Keep a sketchbook nearby

This is a big rookie mistake I’ve watched happen over and over. Even I’ve been guilty of it. It’s easy to think that skipping the sketchbook and going straight to Illustrator or Photoshop makes things go faster. Technically, it does get your work on screen quicker. The problem is that it often takes longer to flush out ideas in a digital program versus something analog, like a sketchbook.

One of the things I love about pencil and paper is how quickly you can begin fleshing out a rough idea and deciding if it’s worth pursuing.

If you’re going straight to the computer, it’s harder to part ways if you can easily start applying effects, working with color, or picking fonts without much thought. Then you start down a rabbit hole of not wanting to give up on a bad idea because of the time you’ve invested into it. This sets off a domino effect, because you now have less time to explore other ideas and it puts you farther behind.

Keep the client involved and up to date

In a longer design process, there’s more time to work on initial sketches and meetings with the client. If you have to design something fast, it helps to keep the client closer at hand. You can show sketches along the way and get some initial feedback on the fly. If they’re a client who can understand the end product easily, you may show rougher sketches to help establish a direction sooner. This allows you to change direction quicker if you need to, and keep the project on track and moving forward.

Yes, experience does matter

We couldn’t entirely ignore it. Knowing your tools matter, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Illustrator, Photoshop, Affinity, Sketch, or something else. It helps to know your limits with these programs and what you can do with them.

If you’ve done the other steps, then things at this point start to get easier. Knowing what the end logo mostly looks like can narrow down things like colors, fonts, or styles. You won’t have to dig through 1,000 fonts — maybe only 20. You won’t have to decide on a rainbow of colors; you may only need to consider a few different hues.

By reducing some of the bigger decisions that you have to make at this stage, it helps you look more efficient. You look a lot quicker and usually at the end of the day, produce something a lot faster as well.

Sign up for Finally Friday

Get weekly updates from me, as well as a free sample copy of my typeface Harvest Stout!

Daniel Nisbet will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. You acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.