Design under the gun: survival strategies

Design under the gun

On not too rare an occasion, I find myself with a design deadline crushing down without a concept in sight. While my impulse is to grab the mouse and force the ideas out of my fingertips and into pixels on the screen, I rarely find success with this approach. Paradoxically, sometimes to work faster you need to slow down. Here are some strategies I’ve learned for beating the clock:

  • Re-read the creative brief. Sometimes, in revisiting the goals of the project, a word or two will pop out and provide inspiration or clarification.
  • Sketch it out. Sketching is a quick means for getting ideas out on paper without the commitment. I find that a quality sketch generally translates well to the screen, saving me time in the long run.
  • Switch sides of your brain. Give your visual right-sided brain a break and let your analytical, language-based left brain take the steering wheel. When I’m stuck, sometimes I’ll just list words related to the project theme until inspiration hits.
  • Take a walk (or a field trip). Recently, I’d spent the morning sketching logos and hadn’t made a lot of progress. I packed up my camera and went to the neighborhood where the business was located. I came home with a new sense of the community and prime inspiration for moving forward.
  • Research. Start flipping through design annuals and related publications, search competitor websites and stock photo sites, or Google terms related to the project.

For all of the above activities, plan your time wisely. Allow yourself a set time to diverge and rest, then get back to it!

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