Survival Tips: Digital Designer Edition

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Everywhere you look you are surrounded by screens – phones, tablets, televisions computers, billboards and more. Our world has become one of constant movement and has created a demand for mobility in our technology. With this shift from computers and television screens to portable devices, the design world has been flipped on its head. Print and television advertisements are slowly falling out of favor, and newer targeted advertisements are in, catering to specific individuals instead of to the entire population en masse.

Suddenly design has had to shift from a static being to one with fluidity and finesse, capable of transitioning across many mobile platforms and even back into the static ones with ease. This shift has brought about a new breed of creative – the digital creative. The digital creative is someone who can think across platforms, across mediums and across operating systems. They are people who design for the mobile world we live in – a world of constant change.

This ever-changing world presents many challenges, that while not unique to the digital designer, they present a larger problem in terms of collaboration and number. With constant shifts in technology whether it’s the software updates on a phone or the resolution of a screen, mobile design has to change and be relatively quick about it. So how can a digital creative stay on top of this world without losing their mind? The answer is as varied as the devices they design for, but here are five simple things you can do to keep you on top of it.

Organize It

Being a digital creative is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it can be a neat and sometimes moving experience to see end users interacting with your creation and on the other it can be an absolute nightmare if you aren’t on top of it. Designing for digital, interactive media has many different components than your typical print design. It’s not just about getting the look you want for a static page it’s about breaking that static image into moveable parts that can move seamlessly from one area to another.

With all the slicing of image parts it’s important to be digitally organized. Follow the recommended naming conventions set forth by your company or using the agreed upon terms you have with your programmer – this will save you both lots of headaches down the road. Separate out the different files for the app or website by browser, OS, and/or App Store under the same overarching file name. This way there’s no guessing where the static graphic for the android app store is. It is important that your folder names be quick and to the point, make sure you make use of the additional information slots on folders to give more detailed information if need it or make a master document for main folders containing this information.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Back It Up

Once you have organized your files into easy to find places, it’s time to back those suckers up. Technology is great when it works and a train wreck when it doesn’t. The chances of your computer crashing and your external hard drive blowing up all at the same time are rare, but it does happen. Files go corrupt, a virus sneaks its way in through Aunt Beatrice’s email, wayward hand douses your tower in coffee, a dog chews through a power supply – the inexplicable things happen when they are the least convenient, but fortunately some early due diligence can have sitting pretty when life comes knocking.

Make sure you have backed your work up in as many ways and places as possible. External hard drives are a must, CD copies as well as flash drive copies are also great options to consider. Another option is online storage. There are many great ways of backing up your work online that take very little time to set up and manage. Sites like Dropbox can help you manage your files and retain access them in case of a full blown melt down.  You can also take advantage of features like Google Drive, Gmail, and other email services to keep other copies of your work.

Embrace Paper

As a digital creative your first instinct is probably to head straight to the computer and start working. While your tablet pen might feel like an extension of your arm and you might know your way around Photoshop and Illustrator better than your own neighborhood, producing your work this way in the initial concept stages might hinder your creativity. Heading back to a sketchbook and a pencil allows you to think fluidly – moving from one idea to the next, capturing more thoughts and ideas, rather than trying to perfect it. A sketch book can also travel with you easily, allowing you to capture ideas and inspiration on a bus or train, in a coffee shop, or even at the zoo with your kids, without having to worry about a battery dying or the glare from the sun. Get in the habit of carrying a sketch book around with you everywhere you go, you might just be surprised at what you capture on the page.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Go Outside

This piece of advice is applicable to every designer, not just to digital creatives. Often when we get mired in a problem we sit at our desks and mull it over. We stare at the screen hoping for a solution. We stare at the ceiling waiting for inspiration to hit. The old saying of ‘sleep on it’ really does apply to many walks of life – sleep gives us clarity because it allows us to calm down and allows for us to subconsciously sift through all the data and analyze it. Our mind has been taken off the problem allowing us to gain the clarity we needed in order to solve the problem. A quick walk around the block, grabbing a coffee at the busy Starbucks across the street, a spontaneous trip to a nearby city can give you the inspiration you desperately need to solve the problem at hand. So next time you get stuck give the computer a break and head outside – be sure to grab your sketchbook on the way out the door!

Cheat! (Seriously, this time it’s okay!)

As a graphic artist chances are your computer is loaded down with design software ranging from the Adobe Suite, to GIMP, to CorelDraw, and numerous photo and video editing programs in between. Tools of the trade for any designer, no questions asked. However, chances are no one is coming to you for technical mastery of any one of these programs; they are coming to you for your creativity. You could spend all your free time studying every button, every action, every filter and by the time you finally mastered it completely it would change again. Focus on knowing the core actions, you can YouTube and Google the rest. But every time you look up how to do something, make yourself a cheat sheet of how to complete that action so it’s right at your fingertips.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Printers Matter

As a digital creative your work looks its best on screen, and not necessarily on print. Even though print can’t capture all the interactivity and moving parts of your design, chances are at some point a client or a programmer are going to want to hold something tactile in their hands. At this point it is important that you provide a high quality print out, which shows your design at it’s absolute best. This means investing in a high quality printer or even outsourcing a print job to the print shop down the street. There is nothing worse than having a client get hung up on a printed image because the colors are a little off than they imagined because the printer was running out of ink or the inexpensive inkjet on your desk that’s great for invoices was running out of magenta. A high quality print job will save you a lot of headaches that result from inaccurate print renderings.

w5970_500px_72dpiFor more great tips on how to survive this crazy digital world you’re designing in check out The Digital Creative’s Survival Guide available now at MyDesignShop.com!

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