Recently on Twitter I’ve been posting short tips and tricks on various ways to become a better designer by setting up your computer and using various programs to their full advantage.
Below are various techniques I use to keep my computer organized, accessible and favorable that help me be more effective, proficient and more informed designer.
Sure Tweetie looks slick and pretty, but you can’t underestimate the power of Tweetdeck….
Want to find new high quality fonts? Try setting up a search with the keywords ‘free font.’ If your interested in a particular subject of graphic design, such as typography, set up a search and keep an eye on the pulse of information that passes through.
Also, I have a group called “Top Twits” on my Tweetdeck that I organize some of my favorite designers and people into. This allows me to eliminate more chatty banter and focus more on what I want. Also, if you have an iPhone or iPod touch both groups and searches will sync up and stay current whenever you make changes if you have the iPhone/Touch app.
Organize your bookmarks
Ok, so now you have your Tweetdeck set up and you’re catching loads of great information and links. Sure you might not need 600 free design icons right now, but at some point you will… and what better way to access them quickly is keep your bookmarks organized.
Have a look at my bookmarks folders below and start organizing and collecting. The next time you need logo inspiration or looking for beautiful grid systems you have them at your finger tips.
Also, try using Xmarks to keep all of your bookmarks synced and up-to-date across browsers and computers.
Keep an inspirational photo album
Besides bookmarking useful links, I also find web imagery that I like to collect for future inspiration. Try using Evernote, – also has Firefox plugin – Little Snapper or iPhoto (if you’re using a Mac). Create albums/groups and keep them organized.
Organize your fonts
I cannot stress enough how much time this will save you in the long run… organize your typefaces!
How many times have you sifted through thousands of fonts try to find that perfect san serif, while passing by scripts, serifs, etc? Try creating groups such as:
- symbols and icons
- even organize by foundry!
Create template folders to keep clients organized
If you don’t already keep your files and clients organized then now is the time to start. I created a base ‘client template folder’ that has nested folders inside so I’m ready to start adding files and documentation to it as work comes through. Have a look at mine below:
If you can’t read the above the folders are organized by the following: deliverables, fonts, images, inspiration, invoices, project files, project worksheet (questionnaire responses), quote, terms and agreement. I then keep my client folders inside a main folder dated by the year.
Create document templates
Hate having to write out proposals or send out quotes? You can simplify the process and spend more time designing if you create a base terms of agreement, invoice, etc. Just plug in the necessary information and charge the little bit you required and your ready to send it out.
Make it easy to move around
Laptops aren’t just good enough these days. It’s all about the cloud computing and it’s time to take advantage of it as a designer.
I am a huge fan and daily user of Dropbox. It allows me to work on my desktop – for example – and quickly move files across computers to my laptop. It also makes it easy to share large files and folders with clients. This app will definitely help with proficiency.
Organize your mailbox
This helps me out in a big way, especially with all the emails I receive from my readers, clients, etc. Try creating client folders and drag your emails from each client into the right folder. This will help in referencing them later.
Tip: If you’re on a Mac, create smart mailboxes for automatic organization.
Subscribe to blogs using a good aggregator
In a previous article I posted 16 tips on how to become a better designer and one of them was read and subscribe to design blogs.
Besides finding valuable information on Twitter to bookmark, try subscribing to the RSS feeds of your favorite blogs using a good aggregator, such as Google Reader. This will help you stay up-to-date with what’s happen in the design community (which is a really important aspect of improving your skills).