Tips to making something great out of not-so-great situations

Saturday afternoon, Andrew Nilsen of visualinguist presented in the last round of sessions at this year’s conference. He used juggling as an analogy to explain that in the industry, everyone has to balance multiple projects, tasks and working with other people’s deadlines. So how can we take all of these things and make it easier on ourselves? Simple: Take extra care with the things that are in your control.

Be fast

Organization and preparation are key for being creatively efficient. Even though you may have to wait around on others to get things done in order to really do your work, anything that you can get done early, you should do early.

And one of the most important things in getting things done early, is being organized. Nilsen says really paying attention to folder structures, naming conventions and staying proficient in as many programs as you can is going to make your work even better.

“We want that extra time to think,” Nilsen said in what to do with all the extra time you can gain from being efficient. That thinking should be used to come up with an idea or to work on expanding an idea because according to Nilsen, the ideas should always be the starting point.

Keep it cheap

In order to save costs, especially on a personal level, Nilsen says it’s best to make it from scratch whenever you can’t.

And when you can’t make it from scratch, be smart about the way that you go about a project. Utilize free resources online or tools that will help inspire you and make not only the project you’re working on now better, but also future projects.

Nilsen spoke about resources like and Evernote to keep track of stock images you use or to draw inspiration. One of the best pieces of advice: Recycle your work by saving images that you might need down the road. This can also help draw inspiration later on when searching for images.

Be good

The best way to make good things is to be simple. The less complicated and more clear the idea or concept is, the better the work is going to be. Be authentic and add a splash of cleverness and you’ll be set. Let passion show in your work and be versatile to adjust or move an idea in a different direction if it isn’t working the way it originated. Be hands on, take risks, deadlines are good, but most importantly it’s good to remember to enjoy the ride.

And the overall take away? “I’m not happy with the finish, but I’m happy with the idea. At the end of the day the idea was clear,” said Nilsen.

About Greg Mees

Design Director at the Minneapolis Star Tribune

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