Process, process, process…I touched on this topic briefly in a part 1 blog, outlining how too many processes in your working environment could hinder your creative output, however, without process, strategy and design can struggle to happen. I concluded that process driven design, as well as a process driven workflow, improves the final output. In this update to Strategy Vs Creativity I talk more about personal/individual processes and systems rather than company-wide processes and how keeping your own workflow tidy could massively help with your creative output.
I’m an extremely process driven designer, everything I do is organised from note taking, to-do lists, my desk and my personal working process is structured, which varies per client, project and per design discipline. All too often in my career do I see bad working processes or unstructured workflows that hinder the creative output and general productivity of a designer, this usually presents itself in missing feedback, amends or just straight up not managing what needs to be done to hit a deadline. Here are a few of my own personal utilities and tips for managing the day to day.
Back to basics: Personal Workflow and Tasks
Notepad – Who doesn’t keep a notepad to hand nowadays anyway, if you don’t have one, get one. It lives by my side day and night. Obvious one right.
Evernote – My go-to choice for note taking, tasks tracking, project notes, blog writing and your Tesco shopping list. Synched to all your devices I use this every day, all day. Plenty of alternatives to this too, but this is my personal choice.
Email – I’m so OCD about my email, I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like having apps on my phone with little red circle notification marker. I flag, folder and organise every email as soon as it lands in my inbox. Apple Mail works perfectly fine, there’s a lot of amazing third party email clients out there too, find the one that works best for you and keep on top of it.
Calendar – I’m lost without it. I keep this tidier than my house, and that’s tidy. Set alerts, and set second alerts, add notes, colour events, however, you want to do it, but keep it up to date. It’s the skynet that reminds you of all the things you forget.
Workflow: Getting things done
Small tasks – For the past few years I really struggled to manage the sheer amount of tasks that a designer might have to do across multiple projects, especially in a busy agency environment. The single best thing I do to keep my mind focused on the more important tasks is to instantly complete anything that takes less than 5 minutes to finish. If it’s a quick job, get it out the way. They can linger and build up over time which results in the need to block out time to complete them all in one go. If it takes no time at all, then do it first.
Monday mornings – It’s the start of the week, and yet no amount of coffee sometimes can prepare you for it. Make sure you set yourself up for the week, take 5 mins on Sunday night or Monday morning before work to gather notes and organise your own tasks before walking through the door. Evernote being my go to app prepares me for this and I set up regular notes that cover my workflow, and my week for both work and personal.
Project/client meetings: Effective solutions to problems
Reverse thought process – I’ve lost count of the amount of client briefing meetings I’ve had, at Brandwave this is a very regular occurrence and we’re famous for our creative meetings in the forest room, but when it comes to strategically tackling the clients brief and solving the problem, a trick I like to use is enter the meeting in your mind as if you’re the client. Read the brief and put yourself in the client’s seat, what is it exactly they are trying to achieve?
A great example of this is our recent and ongoing work with Pertex, one of the most strategic and in-depth projects I’ve worked on to date. They not only needed to completely restructure their fabric line, for a more clear consumer understanding, but they also needd to create the biggest brand guidelines document in all of Brandwave history. Entering the meeting with a clear frame of mind, working backwards and clearly understanding what the problem is from the clients perspective was the only way we achieved the perfect outcome for the client and produced an in-depth guidelines document as well as an updated look and feel for the brand identity and communications.
You can see this project here: https://brandwavemark.wpengine.com/portfolio/pertex-brand-update/
Work backwards – It’s always great if you have an idea for the brief instantly, and sometimes this happens, you just smash it. But if you’re struggling, work backwards from what the final outcome is (global print campaign? Social media launch?), what does it need to communicate and what assets will you need (photography, copy etc..) and finally how you are going to do this, this is where you begin to visualise a creative idea and strapline to work with.
Solutions to problems – There’s nothing worse than someone giving you negative feedback, equally there is nothing worse than a negative Nancy. We have a rule in our creative meetings, if you’re going to give negative feedback on an idea, or a comment that it will not work, you must follow up with a solution. It’s all too easy to shoot an idea down, but always have an alternative or suggestion of how else to do it.