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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 Link

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 Link

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.

Footnotes Link

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  1. 1

    Naming Layers in PS is really a big deal – can’t live without anymore! Good article, perhaps a bit short … maybe you could have written on the solutions more detailed, e.g. sorting the fikles and folders etc.


  2. 2

    yea, i accept this

  3. 3

    Agreed. My layers and folders are a complete mess. Maybe I’ll work on that in the coming days :)

  4. 4

    If we have no option to use images, we can use the typography it will show the difference …. Its wright …..

  5. 5

    It is so powerful to name & group the layers + assign color to the layers and groups. It is cruel everytime I open older psd files from colleagues without any sorting & naming.
    Work with the files, that every other designer understand what is what.

    The article is good – first steps to create structured files.

  6. 6

    Come on SM were these really the best articles? The reason you have so many subscribers is because you publish genuinely interesting and thorough articles – this is neither.

  7. 7

    wow – i guess i don’t work with the same files over and over and i am kind of used to being the only designer working on my files, so they tend to make sense to me, but i generally have millions and millions of layers, and it would take me 4 times as long to get something done if i would have to name every layer… point definitely taken though, and i do agree that is definitely a good thing when working on a team…

  8. 8

    I find it rather hard to work with only one big .psd. These things can get really huge :-)
    Great post, anyway.

  9. 9

    Don’t use perfect images.

    Can you elaborate on this point please? Are you referring to, for example, imagery used in content that may have been entered by the client using a CMS?


  10. 10

    nothing worse than comming to use a psd some one else has made, and having to spend a few hours naming hte layers and folders!

  11. 11

    Mark Priestap

    August 11, 2008 6:53 am

    Lazy… sorta true. But most designers I know are workaholics… the “laziness” comes from having too much work to do because the project is underbid and more work needs to come in to pay the bills. Moving on to the next project is a direct result of undervalued work and unrealistic deadlines.

  12. 12

    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!

    It seems like u dont really use allot of layers. each web design i build consist over more than 1000 layers per preview. And the longer u have photoshop open the more memory it will swallow untill it runs so bad and u wished it didnt store it all in one file.

  13. 13

    angela riechers

    August 11, 2008 6:58 am

    My scariest freelance job EVER involved working on someone else’s Photoshop file that had more than 100 un-named layers, on a ridiculous deadline, with studio owner asking me every 5 minutes IS IT DONE? and there I am, clicking the little eyeball icon on and off for each layer, searching for the ones I had to edit. Just assume that you will not be the only one to work on your file, and make it idiot-proof for the next person down the line. The world will definitely be a better place.

  14. 14

    Seems like the designer that wrote this article is being somewhat lazy too by asking for more suggestions on top of 4 others that were suggested by said writer. :P

    How about not using Photoshop and perhaps Fireworks? With a faster workflow, things get done much quicker, which I’m sure is tempting for even the laziest of web designers.

  15. 15

    Layer comps are generally a pain as they are great when you first set them up but as soon as you start moving/editing/adding layers they break down. I understand the theory and was pretty excited to try them out but left them after finding out they break so easily.

    Totally agree with grouping/coloring/naming layers. Also deleting unused layers. Another nice thing is to use folder masks for images so the next person to use the file can drop images into the folder and they are always cropped the same. Try not to render text either if possible so that the next person can use the same file.

    Agree with Eddie though – psd file can get pretty big on large projects. Not always possible to use one file.

  16. 16

    How about using vector shapes in Photoshop and not flattening them? Everything should be editable that was created in Photoshop. Seriously, how hard is it to use vector shapes? They do just about everything Illustrator can do, only not so willy-nilly.

    Organizing and naming layers and folders is a must, I can’t believe people still do the Untitled-1 thing.

    Also too, why isn’t everyone using Layer Comps?! They save you so much time in prototyping stages.

    There is a difference in being a lazy designer and being a smart and efficient one. Using and saving out sets of actions, layer styles, brushes, gradients, keyboard shortcuts, and everything else is a smart way to work.

    In essence, lazy people should learn to love the built in efficiency provided by Photoshop.

  17. 17

    Add to that:

    * Using vector shapes instead of rastered layers.
    * Ensuring to line up elements to a grid or guides (to full pixels too!)
    * Use intelligent cropping ratios on pictures (I’m currently favouring 16:10. Using a ratio enables re-use across the site in multiple sizes).
    * Collect fonts, graphic, picture and logo assets so other designers can re-use and find everything easier.

    Good housekeeping will eventually make your own job easier, especially when re-using rejected layouts on other projects!

  18. 18

    Nice concept for an article, but it reads like an unfinished first draft. Was there some kind of 300 word limit?

    That said, a few of my own suggestions:

    Always take the time for clean, organized CSS files, with comment to help clarify clear sections. SM has some great articles on this, but I’m amazed how often I come across horrific CSS that takes forever to decipher.

    Start with high-resolution files, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. Often I’ve worked on something for the web and created low-res art, only to have someone later request a banner-sized version of the art down the road. Whenever possible now, I like to start with the highest-res possible source art and keep those files as SmartObjects in Photoshop, just in case the art ever needs to be used for print.

    Do logo design in Illustrator, not Photoshop. You never know what someone will want to do with a logo: signs? t-shirts? umbrellas? Vector art > Bitmapped art. There’s nothing worse than having to work in a non-vector logo.

  19. 19

    What about the new photoshop tools like “smart objects”, it has really improved the order in my files.
    And another tip that works great 4 me is to use adjustment layers, is more effective than changing the tones or colors and you can always readjust them.

    …Almost forgot the shorcuts, cant work without them.

  20. 20

    Paul Armstrong

    August 11, 2008 7:54 am

    Layer Styles, Smart Objects, and Paths: All of these items make editing the comps later so much easier. Translating the design over to the web becomes so much eaiser because you can actually get the correct values out of the layer styles for the stroke, shadow, etc.


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