How To Stop Being A Lazy Designer


From working with wide range of projects, I have learned one thing: designers are lazy (sometimes myself included). Most often it comes from our desire to get a quick signoff and move on with the next project. While several posts could have been written on this, I offer here a few suggestions guaranteed to make things at least a little bit easier in the end:

  • Name your layers and folders.
    What the heck do “Layer 234″ and “Block Right Copy 23″ mean? Have you ever tried to work with someone else’s files and find that one layer within several hundreds of them?
  • Make sure you cover most case scenarios.
    Nothing can be worse for integration developers to guess how something needs to look or interact. Design for the worst case scenario first and only then look at the best case scenario — you are always good at that!
  • One file to rule them all.
    By using one Photoshop file and doing all work there, your edits will be easier and you will avoid the duplication of work. Layer Comps have been invented for a reason – use them!
  • Don’t use perfect images.
    Are you using great looking images to hide the flaws of your design? Consider your job well done only when you can sell your stunning design to the client with any kind of image in it.

None of these suggestions require major effort, right? By turning them into habits you can simply later work and make friends down the project line! The world becomes such a better place!

Do you have any suggestions for those lazy designers?

About the author

Jānis Lanka1, equal parts entrepreneur, designer, and coder, enjoys the hybrid perspective that comes with this multiple identity. Captivated by innovation, he is particularly drawn to fresh thinking in areas such as entrepreneurship, e-commerce, marketing, design and user-interface. Currently he is heading front-end department at Elastic Path Software2.

Editor’s note

This post is one of the winners of our guest author contest3. Over three weeks selected top-10-lists and discussion articles will be published. To rate the articles we’ll analyze their popularity, users activity, quality of backlinks, traffic and further data.


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  1. 1

    * Even before beginning with a new design / job, first get rid of all the previous designs, notes, and drawings from the old job or you get stuck with influences from the previous work. Clean up your computer desktop and create a structured folder for the new job on your computer or server

    * Use Smart Layers; This will make the work flow easier and quicker. Buttons that are used multiple times can be edited in one quick design fix. This will also guarantee a uniform design.

    * Use Rulers / Guides and snap them right on the pixel. If you don’t snap your ruler correct you will see so called “feather lines” in your design. these “feather lines” may look something is out of a grid by half a pixel. Hail To the pixel fuckers!

    * Know the standards! This means when designing something for in HTML or designing an application in Flash or even C# or C++ All these languages have many different standards and boundaries to work with. You will need to dive into the standards before you even begin.

    * Take a break!!! it’s not good for you and bad for the creative mind to just sit and design to your death. Take every 1,5 / 2 hours a five minute walk to clear your head.No really!!! Take an apple!

  2. 52

    exelenct and so true^^

  3. 103

    Here’s a tip when having to find one layer among dozens or hundreds. Create a new layer and fill it with a contrasting color to that of the image you’re trying to find (this only works if the image is currently visible). Move this “helper” layer up and down through the layers (I like to start somewhere in the middle) until you either cover or reveal the image. Presto, you’ve found the elusive layer! This is much preferred to clicking the eyeball icon a hundred times until you come to the right one.

  4. 154

    Actually u ar right, good point in that, but I think there are much more things,,,we have think over them and add)

  5. 205

    With the move tool selected, hold cmd (cntrl) then left click on the graphic/text/image that you are trying to locate. It should jump right to it in the layers palette.

  6. 256

    Thanks for this article. Smashing Magazine is for new and old designers alike, and it’s all to easy to forget to repeat the fundamentals for the inexperienced (or lazy). Even though the article was short, it paved the way for many comments here with additional advice. Good joint effort all in :)

  7. 307

    The theme was good, but the content was too short.
    Grammar was a little off, doesn’t SM proof-read the articles?

  8. 358

    pretty good article. Sure it could have been longer but its short, hitting and effective because from now on I will name my layers. Thanks so much. Is there an email to contact the author somewhere? Cheers

  9. 409

    @V1 – I’m making assumption that powerful computers are being used. Every time I get a new computer I’m shocked how much RAM is a “standard” these days. By suggesting to use one file I am not suggesting to do that all the time. There are exceptions, like what you said, where file is too big and it takes too slow to work with it. But try to keep it as few as possible.

    Stop beeing lazy and do research before u do “assumptions”,
    I’m using the latest apple mac book pro, upgraded as high as possible and it using layer comps the way u say simply sucks.

    Also, the title says: how to stop being a lazy designer, stuffing all your pages in to layercomps so u only have to work with one file….. * cough * lazy * cough *


    If u want rapid development using layer comps, go work with Fireworks, that is what its been build for, and for a reason.

  10. 460

    Good one, if you’re a complete newbie. The four things you mentioned are everyone’s who made more than few .PSD-s habit, I believe.

  11. 511

    I’m a Creative Director for an interactive agency and some of the fundamental practices I always try to communicate and instill in new hires (designers largely) is definately the lay/group naming — it drives me batty when I see production files that have “Layer 123″ or “Copy of Layer 123 copy”. Takes less time overall to name the layer than it does to explain what the layer is for later.

    I definately do not agree with this one: “One file to rule them all.”

    Ever try to design and develop an enterprise site with a minimum of 100 pages? It’s only practical if you’re designing a site less thatn 15 pages, not to mention the headache it causes for developers who try to find the right folders and layers for “Products and services 2.1.1, etc. etc.” — please, some common sense here.

  12. 562

    At our office we use color coding for our layers in photoshop, logo layers are green, text layers are red, blue for images, yellow for photos and grey for a canvas, now you can quick find certain layers in your document.

  13. 613

    @bruno byington – send me a message on Twittter at

  14. 664

    @leenx – this is excellent suggestion!

  15. 715

    saquen un articulo que sea “como explotar a los diseñadores graficos y cambiarse la dentadura a una de platino”

  16. 766

    Next article on smashingmagazine is going to be about how one should name folders with an accurate description of what they hold. This is getting silly.

  17. 817

    Patrick van Oostrom

    August 13, 2008 3:19 am

    As developer from RUnic-Design, I will send this link to our lead designer for sure. The most annoying thing on earth for a developer is to go into the CSS files, and try to add missing elements to it. This usually is the case with forms or lists.

    This article, and the whole site itself is a godsend, and will be passed on to our designing team.

  18. 868

    This article has inspired me to share some of my own great tips:

    1. Separate your mugs from your cups
    Nothing can be worse then putting coffee in a mug when you wanted it in a cup.

    2. Untie your shoelaces
    This means your shoes will be slightly easier to take off.

  19. 919

    Don’t rush in. Start as you mean to go on and it will make any project infinitely easier.

    Taking an organised approach to your work by using and naming Layers and Layer Sets appropriately makes it much easier for other designers to work on your files. The Digital guys who have the pleasure of taking your designs and turning them into a website will also become your best friends!

    In terms of web design I don’t agree with 1 file ruling them all! A website typically contains several pages each containing several layers. Get sign off on your core page templates then produce separate files for separate pages or at least sections of the website and become best friends with your producer or project manager by numbering your designs based on the wireframes you used when producing your designs.

    Organisation makes life easier and projects more profitable. Good times all round.

  20. 970

    Cmmon we all know how to organize the works.No more articles like this please.I m gr8 fan of SM but not with articles like this

  21. 1021

    We get new designers/developers straight out of college and have to make the “unlearn” all the crud that people teach. One of the first things we tell them is not to waste time naming their flipping photoshop layers. In a real production environment, that is a time luxury you cant afford. Much better to learn how to use ctrl-click and right-click effectively. I’d rather be handed a design in two hours with nothing named, than get handed a perfectly sorted and colour coded design after two days.

    I’m also starting to lose faith in Smashing with all this user-submitted crud. I used to look forward to each new post. Is their a way to filter out all these tiny nothing posts? I thought that’s what the side blog was for?

  22. 1072

    Hi Janis,

    Nice to see you “still going aheadf”

    Requirement to write short article does sound Insane, because you’ve already wrote more text in comments that in article itself :)

  23. 1123

    To label every layer is a total madness. It’s a COMPLETE waste of time, which can be approved ONLY if many people will work with those psd files. Eventually AFTER a finished project you can go over and name properly your layers but in the course of work – obviously this designer has never done some more complex layout

    About the images – again very stupid idea. Nice images sell the design easier. This is a marketing approach and is a totally “must do” thing

  24. 1174

    stupid we are not lazy.. do you know designing is not everyones cup of tea…
    like developers.. i think u got an answer

  25. 1225

    I’m surprised that only two people mentioned smart objects. I have to say that I do not agree with the “one file to rule them all” suggestion—our designers LOVE to make lots of layers, resulting in PSDs with very large file sizes. So when I need to go into a design because a designer didn’t account for every scenario, or because I need to export a graphic, it can take 6 minutes to open a file with 3 different pages built in.

    Sure, it will be faster for the designer, but they aren’t simultaneously running a browser, Office, Flash, and Eclipse in order to do their job.

  26. 1276

    Late to this party…

    …I never name my layers while working. When deadlines are tight and I’m creating, deleting, duplicating and merging layers, naming every one of them is often pointless and takes too much time.

    I’m a lead designer for a web company…my coworkers are all very organized and do things by the books with lots of shape layers and smart objects and named layers…and it only takes them twice as long to get a finished project out the door…

    Grouping layers, however, is a god send. I’ll group layers and name the groups..and if I’m passing the design off to someone I’ll label them all…but if it’s just me and it’s gotta be done NOW…all bets are off!

  27. 1327

    What is really happening here? ,

  28. 1378

    Now, if you or I tried to get this E. ,

  29. 1429

    I agree with everyone here. ,


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