1 Be realistic
Sometimes the client needs a bit of education about how long things actually take. They might not know the whole design process, and therefore think you can turn something around in a day – when it’s more likely to be a week. Don’t be afraid to push back on them and explain exactly how long things will take to complete.
2 Be organised
Spending time on up-front planning will really help you deliver a project smoothly. Set interim deadlines and review how you are getting along every day. Although it might seem time-consuming, an agreed timeline – with key milestones that are strictly adhered to by the team and the client – will ensure success.
3 Divide and conquer
Good list writing can help you prioritise your work and clear your head. At the end of the day write the key tasks for the next day, and try crossing out as much as you can throughout the day. There will be new things that come to light, but you’ll know everything you need to do is in one place.
4 Get what you need
It’s really important to spend time with the client to get as much information as possible to fully carry out a project. When a brief comes in, always think about who the project will suit best: does it need illustration, 3D rendering, branding? Who are the best people in your team to undertake that task? Or, if you are working alone, can you manage all aspects of the job yourself? Think about all eventualities up front to ensure you answer the brief.
5 Remember the goal
Always try to see the bigger picture. It’s so easy to get stuck into one thing, but try to work out how much time you have on each design element or task, and encourage yourself to move on. Reading and re-reading the brief is a great way to get a sense of the whole project and what the client wants to achieve. It’s no use creating a lovely illustration if you then don’t have time to slot it into the larger project and end up not delivering. Use your project manager (if you have one) to help you set deadlines and review what you are doing.
6 Stuck? Ask for help
It’s easy to get wrapped up in a project. If you find yourself going around in circles, it’s worth asking your team to get their thoughts – they will be able to give you some objective feedback and might just have an idea that can help you on the way.
7 Work right
We believe that people are much more productive working hard during normal work hours and leaving their work at the door at 6pm. A culture of late nights does nothing for staff morale and it should never be something that is expected. Everyone is happy to ‘pull a late one’ once in a while but it shouldn’t be the norm. If you’re the one asking your team to stay, ensure you reward them afterwards. Your appreciation for a job well done will really make all the difference to the team.
8 Eat right, sleep well
If work starts to take over, try not to get into the habit of checking your emails on your phone. There will always be clients working late or sending feedback over at midnight. They don’t need a response that second. Taking a proper break and sleeping on your thoughts can really help you to hit the ground running when you’re at work. Don’t expect coffee to be your saviour either – too much and you’ll be too wired to do anything.
9 Stay motivated
More often than not you might have a few projects running at the same time. Some might be more exciting than others. Try taking a break from a less exciting project by spending ten minutes brainstorming a fun, new thing you’re working on. Don’t be afraid to surf the web for a bit of inspiration during work time – it could help. And leave the office or your place of work every day if you can, even if it’s just for 10 minutes: it will make all the difference when you get back to your desk again.
10 Stress can be fun
Sometimes the best ideas come when you are pushed for time and only have a few hours to get something done. You’ll be amazed what you can achieve when you are pushed to the limits. Being busy is generally a positive thing and must mean things are going well. Enjoy the challenge.
All illustrations by Sergio Membrillas