Tips and Tricks From a Pro on Designing With Ease

Creative Manager Julia Wolf knows the pressure of juggling multiple projects — the usual routine at most agencies. Here are some handy tools she uses to make the job more efficient and work in what she calls “organized chaos.”

  1. Key commands are an essential part of work. As designers, we spend a lot of time editing files, and keyboard shortcuts can be crucial time savers. Despite using non-destructive design techniques, sometimes you still need to hit “undo” or Command + Z (Ctrl + Z for Windows) a bunch of times. A mouth-dropping statistic I recently learned is that you can lose up to 64 hours a year by not using key commands. Here is a list of the default keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop.

  1. Templates are a no-brainer, both in design and regular office work. I like to make my templates in InDesign, which gives the user the greatest control of layouts and text. When making templates, I recommend using paragraph and text styles, which are extremely useful for creating multi-page or text-heavy documents.
  2. If you’re sharing a file with another designer, it’s just common courtesy to use layers and layer masks — and to name them all. Adobe defines layer masking as a reversible way to hide part of a layer. Masks give you more editing flexibility than permanently erasing or deleting part of a layer, and the term for this is called “non-destructive design.” When I first started designing, I used the eraser tool to get rid of backgrounds and unwanted imagery. This technique leaves no room for error, and Photoshop only lets you hit “undo” up to 50 times. A layer mask allows you to edit without damaging the original layer. Oh, and you should copy your background layer as soon as you start your design — that way you can always go back to square one.
  3. My favorite design shortcut is using Creative Cloud libraries. To use a CC library, all you have to do is drag an asset from a CC app to a library and it turns into a reusable element across all Adobe CC apps. An asset can be a color, character style, logo, image, pattern — and so much more. When I start working with a new client, I like to set up a CC library with the client’s branding elements and share it with my coworkers. Your team will love you for it, and you’ll be thanking yourself down the road.
  4. Last but not least, I want to remind everyone to save often. Save your work in more than one location, too, especially if you are using an external hard drive or a USB. I can’t tell you how many meltdowns I witnessed in design school when a student lost a final project that they spent weeks on, or even worse, an entire portfolio of work that was saved to a faulty hard drive. Adobe now has a feature called “autosave,” however, it can still be faulty and it only saves every so often. Your most common key command should be Command + S (Ctrl + S for Windows) for “save.”

With these tips, you will be certain to save yourself both time and headaches during your workday, leaving yourself extra time for important things — like a midday Starbucks run.

Julia Wolf is a Creative Manager at Ceisler Media’s Philadelphia office

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