Designing in a Tough Economy: Six Steps to Stay Ahead

Studies have shown that more design professionals are using stock imagery compared to a year ago. From a pragmatic standpoint, this makes sense, as we are facing a tougher economy and must find innovative ways to stretch our budgets.In the spirit of producing more with fewer resources, we’ve listed below a half dozen tips to keep your productivity high while keeping the impact on your wallet low.


Play to your strengths.

Identify which skill sets you’re best at, and focus heavily on these elements. Think about how can you tailor these strengths to multiple projects. A do-it-yourself mindset is essential.

Overdo it – then scale it back.

A great trick for design work entails combining a number of disparate elements, and making them appear together seamlessly. Experiment and cram in as much as possible; this is the time to let yourself loose and get it all out. Then go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. In the morning, become your own “evil editor” – mercilessly cut and revise until you are left with the strongest aspects of yesterday’s draft. Now it’s ready for a second opinion.

Increase your flexibility.

If you’re a freelancer, it could be a great time to expand your horizons. It’s okay to take less-than-exciting projects from time to time; it’s even better to do some volunteer work.

If you’re an in-house designer, it may even be worthwhile to examine how else you could help out around the office – consider organizing a company outing or sitting in on another department’s meeting. This will show everyone else you’re not a one-trick pony.

Have a Plan B.

Sometimes the best plan is a good backup plan. Keep your portfolio and resume fresh and up to date. Not only does this allow you to instantly begin a job search (in a worst case scenario), it is also a good indicator of how balanced your skill sets are. What could you do to become a more well-rounded designer?

Use available resources.

A Shutterstock 25-A-Day subscription provides plenty of material at a reasonable cost. Even if you only download 50 images in a month, that’s still less than $5 per image. With those numbers, you can download plenty of material for all phases of your projects, from planning to execution.

Keep yourself inspired.

In tough times, we often need to work extra hours. For creatives, this means you’ll want to keep your imagination well-fed and in shape. Get lots of rest and keep yourself inspired to get the most mileage!

Final bonus tip: No matter what, maintain a positive attitude. It will show in your work and others will take notice.

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