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What Every Designer Should Do Right Now

While trying to balance the different areas of our life, there are things that we often forget and neglect to do. With today’s fast-paced society and the busyness of our every day, we tend to overlook some important things. I would like to remind every designer today about some of these tasks that we often put-off but are so important and necessary to get done.

You may also be interested in the following articles we published earlier:

1. Back Up All Your Files Now Link

“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” – Napoleon Hill

Back Up

I’m sure that you’ve heard this over and over again but how many of you have actually taken the time to actually do it? Just a few days ago, I read about a designer on Twitter who lost some of his files due to some of his hardware malfunctioning. That is such a bummer. Let’s learn from his experience and let’s backup our files right away. How sad would that be to lose all your important photos, projects, documents and sensitive and irreplaceable data. I am guilty of this myself. I don’t even remember the last time I backed up my data. (Currently 483 GB of files) As I am writing this article, I am already buying an external hard drive to back up my files.

Another good idea is to not only backup your local files but to backup your website files as well. If you have a WordPress blog, make sure to backup4 your database as well. A few months ago, my blog was hacked but thankfully, I had a backup of all my files so fixing it wasn’t too much of a hassle.

By the way, if you only want to backup your important files and not your entire hard drive, then you can try using Dropbox5 as well. It’s one of the best apps that I’ve used recently.

Backup Articles and Resources: Link

2. Get Your Online Portfolio Up or Updated Now Link

“There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back.” -Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister

Show Off Your Portfolio

If there is one thing that a designer needs today, it is an online portfolio. No longer is just a physical portfolio enough, but with the internet, every designer needs a good looking online portfolio.

I have met so many designers who either have a portfolio that was updated years ago and full of old projects, as well as designers who don’t even have an online portfolio. When I’m reading through comments on different blogs and on this blog, I usually click on some of the author’s names to check out their site. A lot of the names that I click on take me to a page where it says, “Coming Soon” or “Under Construction.” There is no excuse to not having an online portfolio. I know that we all suffer with the disease of never thinking our design is good enough, but we need to get over that and just get our portfolio up. (Believe me, it took me months to finally be pleased with my site and put it online.) Some graphic designers give the excuse that their web design skills just aren’t up to par but that is simply no excuse. Use the different sites out there where you don’t need to have web design knowledge in order for you to showcase your work.

List of Online Portfolio Sites: Link

3. Finish That Project Right Now Link

“What may be done at any time will be done at no time.” – Scottish Proverb

Show Off Your Portfolio

We all have projects on the back burner. Maybe it’s a blog that you have been wanting to start. For some, it could be a client design that they are not particularly thrilled about doing. Whatever it is, you need to do it now. Sometimes, it would be helpful if we can just tune out the distractions around us and just find a way to finish that project now. Many designers are guilty of not getting their projects in on time. A survey on CSS-Tricks13 shows that 38% of the designers usually get their projects turned in late and they fail to meet the deadlines that were originally agreed on. This is a big deal. You can hurt your business by not getting your projects done and you can even lose your clients. So what are you waiting for? Finish reading this article and get started on that project.

4. Clean Your Desk and Organize Your Files Now Link

“Someday is not a day of the week.”

Messy Desk

If you are like the average designer, there are times that you get very busy. In all that activity, everything that you do seem to revolve around your computer desk. It’s not uncommon to find scratch paper, pens, doodles, notepads, stickies, food wrappers, sodas, empty cups and other paraphernalia on your desk after working on it for 10 straight hours. A simple thing that you can do is before you stop working every day, take the last five minutes and just tidy up your desk and get it ready for the next day. This will greatly increase your productivity the next day when you start work on a clean and neat desk.

What kind of desktop wallpaper do you have? Oh what’s that? You can’t even see it. When we get busy, we tend to just drop files on our desktop and we neglect to put them in their rightful place. A messy desktop leads to an unproductive day because instead of knowing where everything is, you have to sit there and search for the file you are looking for. Here are some tips that I use to organize my desktop.

  • Simplify everything us much as possible.
  • Use folders.
  • Customize your icons.
  • Come up with a file naming convention that works for you.
  • Have a folder called “Sort Out” where you just put files that you just don’t have time to sort out yet. Then once a week, go through that folder and arrange it and put everything where it belongs.

5. Gather and Collect Design Resources Now Link

“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.” – George Claude Lorimer

Design Resources

Every designer needs a good resource collection. I personally have collected tons of files and other stuff online and have organized an awesome resource collection that I use every day. If you take this advice and run with it, I guarantee that it will definitely save you time, money, effort, and headaches. Do it today! By the way, there are multitudes of websites online that offer up great resources for FREE! Just a quick Google search should solve that problem.

While browsing the web, you should always be searching for free resources, tips, tricks and other files that are available. The work that you spend to find new resources and inspiration will definitely be worth it in the long run.

Here’s a small list of resources that you should be collecting now. Whether you’re already a professional graphic designer or you’re just getting started, gathering these resources for your future use is definitely something that you can’t put off.

  • Actions for Photoshop
  • Brushes
  • Fonts
  • Icons
  • Ideas and Inspiration
  • Layer Styles
  • PSD Files
  • Stock Photos
  • Textures
  • Vector Graphics

What resources have you found helpful? I am always looking to add to my resources as well so please share your favorites in the comments section. Here are a list of articles that I found online that deal about resources in a greater and more in-depth way.

While these points all seem like they are very easy to do, you will be surprised at the amount of designers who haven’t done these things at all. I do suggest that you take a look at the list one more time and see if you need to do some of these things. By the way, I’m sure there are a lot of other things that could have been added to this list. What are your suggestions? What are some other things that designers should be doing today? Please leave your thoughts and ideas below. Thank you!

Footnotes Link

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Former editor in chief of Designinformer.

  1. 1

    i need to organize my resources! they are in a right mess!

  2. 2

    This is all so true, the only one i don’t do enough is collecting resourses, I need to star tdownloading more of the links i see on Twitter and use all the stuff.

    • 3

      No need to worry Alan. What you can also do is just save the links to these resources on a bookmarks folder and you can just refer to it that way, or you can even use Delicious.

  3. 4

    Thanks ! very good post Thank you so much.

  4. 5

    Haha, I recently lost my files too but its not 483 GB’s, just a few MB’s :(

  5. 7

    Excellent post. I especially like the quote “Someday is not a day of the week.”.

    I think it is important to have an automated way of backing up files as nobody likes to back things up and there are plenty of automated systems out there. Time Machine works fine for me.

    • 8

      Agreed. That quote is awesome!

      About Time Machine, it is definitely very useful and it saves so much time. I wish they had something like that on PC. Well, they do, but it’s nowhere as aesthetically pleasing and usable as Time Machine.

  6. 9

    preston d lee

    March 16, 2010 5:47 am


    You’ll never believe this but in the last week, ive had my computer completely crash and my domain hosting temporarily halted. (its all okay now)

    I was so glad i had just backed everything up. What could have been a major disaster has become just a small setback. I also recently updated my portfolio.

    This article is spot on. thanks for sharing

    • 10

      I’m sorry to hear that Preston. But anyway, I’m glad that you had everything backed up. I’m sure that was a relief to know that even though your computer crashed, that you had your files backed up. I know the feeling of losing all your files because it happened to me before.

  7. 11

    Liam O'Leary

    March 16, 2010 7:37 am

    lol good article i agree with all the points, number 1 is the biggest pane if you forget to do it, and 2 and 3 always get pushed back when you have lot’s to do.

    My desk always gets messy after a week of solid work, but feels good when you tidy up!

    • 12

      Haha, I agree. My desk is actually getting messy again, so I think it’s time for me to do a bit of cleaning up. :)

  8. 13

    Yep…I need to print out this list!

  9. 15

    Good article. Very nice and thought provoking. Thank you.

  10. 16

    We often forget to do some small things that can mean a lot to us. That’s a nice reminder :)

  11. 18

    I’m doing all of this today!


  12. 20

    Yeh this reminds me to clean my desk.. thnak you.. what about you :)

    • 21

      My desk is actually pretty clean at the moment. But I do need to clean my desk at home. It’s getting a little messy, but nothing like the picture above. ;)

  13. 22

    Here’s a tip for starting a resource collection if you’re not a freelancer:

    I used to bookmark or create Word Documents of articles and resources I found online and email them to myself, but that made accessing them between work and home impossible! Now I create a list of tutorials, articles, and other online resources I find in Google docs, and it works out wonderfully. I can access and edit the file at home or at work without it getting lost in my inbox.

    • 23

      Hi Katie. Great suggestion. I actually use Dropbox for my resources, so I can easily access them between multiple computers.

      However, recently, I’ve also been using Google Docs but for something else. I use it to jot down the ideas that I get about blog posts, and I use it to record different sites that I see that I want to refer back to again. It’s very useful.

  14. 24

    Hi Jad……….

    Its great reminder that u done here. A big salute…really wonderfull… thnk u

  15. 25

    Need to do two from the list :)) And then to tick off two projects in the evening :) That’s a real pleasure.

  16. 27

    Brilliant article! I couldn’t agree more… unfortunately I haven’t updated my stuff, nor gathered the resources I need (although they’re waiting for me in Delicious)
    I just want to meet 3 deadlines and do the rest at the end.
    Guess we should schedule a day during the week to do all these things on a regular basis eh?

    Thanks for sharing… and man I love your posts, so stylish Wow!

    • 28

      Thanks a lot! BTW, I think using Delicious is okay. As long as you have a system going, then it’s all good. Also, I do agree. I think we should take a few hours each week just getting organized and doing the mundane but necessary things.

  17. 29

    Some of those are perfect procrastination tools too!

  18. 30

    # Stop using stock photography

    • 31

      I actually like to use stock photography in some of my posts, as long as they can convey the message. Oh, and especially because I have a free stock photo account. ;)

  19. 32

    Very Nice Article, love the simplicity of your explanations :)

  20. 33

    My desk was so full of piles of papers, books, sketches etc. I cleaned it one week ago, what a relief!

    But I still working on my online portfolio. I don’t have much free time, so I spend like 15min-1hour per day working on it. I’ll launch it before including all features, but the design at least must be perfect.

    I already have a deviantART, but it’s a shame present one as a online portfolio. It’s better to a designer to have a custom, personal portifolio. If it’s webdesigner… there is no excuse for don’t having one!

    • 34

      I definitely agree with you Camila. It’s good to have a personal portfolio, but it’s better to have a Deviant Art one rather than not having one at all. But I do suggest Behance, as it’s higher quality in my opinion.

  21. 35

    Thanks for the reminders. I needed and appreciated it. I think that every designer needs a nudge every now and then. Keep up the great work.

  22. 36

    Awesome list, I always try to keep my file resources organized, but working on various computers tends to lead to resources missing or file version control a nightmare, so I tend to have a web resource USB key for all my resources that I just carry around with me. This works for my situation, how do you manage working on numerous machines. Also not all machines are networked together and bandwidth is an issue on one, hence the use of the USB.

    • 37

      Hi Thomas, a USB is a good solution. I’m horrible with those things though. I always lose them. I think I’ve lost about 3 USB’s. That’s why for me, Dropbox is a lifesaver. It’s one of my favorite apps.

  23. 38

    Good tips Jad, but how can I get that project done right now if I’m engrossed in reading this? :) I especially agree with keep your workspace clean and uncluttered. I’ve noticed a difference in my attention span alone if I’m sitting at a cluttered desk. It becomes hard to focus if my files and desk isn’t organized in my line of sight.

    • 39

      Yep, a cluttered desk usually makes me a bit unproductive. It seems like I work a lot better when my desk is free of junk.

  24. 40

    I am soo guilty of #4 right now– thanks for the reminder!

  25. 41

    Eeep! OK Dad. ;p I am guilty of 1, 2 and 4. *sigh*

    Great reminder though! Thanks. :)

    • 42

      Haha, I do think that I sounded a little bit like a parent in this article.

      It actually reminds me of my mom when she tells me to go clean my room or throw the trash. :)

      Now go do 1, 2 and 4. NOW!

  26. 43

    Really nice article that lays it all out in a to-do list! Saves all of us procrastinators the effort of laying it all out… because we probably wouldn’t do that until tomorrow.. or the day after that… ;)

    Seriously though, very nice list and great addition of the resource links to help. Thanks!

  27. 45

    Great list but I would like to add one more i.e Take good care of your eyes!

  28. 46

    sounds like what a designer mom would nag about ;) clean your room!

  29. 48

    I definitely need to do EVERY SINGLE ITEM that you mention!

  30. 49

    Great tips.

    Funny you mentioned number 4. My desk, instead of cups, is full of pens, pencils, markers, and paper…I really need to tidy up. I’ve actually just got into the habit of backing up my files. I would hate to lose all my school projects.

    • 50

      Yes, that would really stink. I’ve lost lots of my older projects when my computer crashed so I learned from that.

  31. 51

    The key is organization. Spend a few minutes on being more organized, and save hours by being more efficient. Preaching to the choir, but it’s very nice to be reminded of those simple points. Thanks for the article Jad!

    • 52

      “Spend a few minutes on being more organized, and save hours by being more efficient.”

      Well said!

  32. 53

    Great Post Jad.

    You covered lots of points in this and i hope this post will make a change. (for me also :) Also I think a designer should always look to learn something new.

    Best of Luck….

  33. 54

    Beth McLain | Web Designer

    March 17, 2010 8:27 am

    Thanks for the information…
    As one considering the very same, this is a very helpful article indeed.This article is a motivation for me in my future works..

  34. 55

    You are so right with this article!

  35. 56

    No problem. Glad you thought they were great.

  36. 57

    Hey Bill, thanks for the compliment. Yes, it is definitely very refreshing to work on a clean desk and also, to have a clean desktop. I actually just re-organized my desktop before making this comment.

  37. 58

    Hey Ben, great point! Time Machine on the MAC is awesome! When I had a MAC at my old job, that’s what I used. Now, I just have a PC so I have to use some alternative solutions.

  38. 59

    I definitely agree with that. Dropbox has been a lifesaver for me time and time again. :D

  39. 60

    You’re welcome Rod!

  40. 61

    Haha! Yeah, when I saw that photo, I just had to include it in the post. A big thanks to ThinkStock photos for giving me the photo.

  41. 62

    The reminder just to back up your files was worth the read.

    I made this one of my the three featured links on my Design Thought of the Day blog:

    All the best, Ted

  42. 64

    Thanks for posting this!

    I do believe we designers should consistently do this everyday (or if not, as often as possible). Although cluttered spaces inspire some, we still need a clean working environment to be able to focus on whatever we are doing.

    I myself keep a “table” of document types on my desktop when I’m working with different projects at the same time. Once finished, I usually clean up the scraps and keep the backup safe and intact on a “Desktop Files” folder.

    Oh, and I do the same with my +fav links on my bookmarks tab (for easy inspiration access).

    • 65

      Hey Bea, seems like you have a good system going for you. Keep it up! :)

  43. 66

    You just don´t know how much GOOD you´re doing to me with such a simple points…

  44. 67

    Novice here ! Glad to know ’bout this. Very helpful indeed.

  45. 68

    Yes, there are a lot more that I could have included in the article, but I just wanted it to be simple and easy to follow. :D

  46. 69

    Hi Nicole! I’m glad you enjoyed the article format. I’m really trying my best to make the content here on Design Informer as easy to digest as possible. By the way, I really like the illustration style on your website header. Great job!

  47. 70

    Hi Louis, I’m glad I can help. By the way, I’m a big fan of your writings as well. Great job on your posts on SM and WDD. I specifically enjoyed reading that satirical article on WDD. It was very funny but true at the same time.

  48. 71

    Hi Jad,
    Read your very Post. Thanks for all nice tips.
    Recently I buy a 320GB Seagate External Hard Disk.
    Every Month I load my files from PC to External HDD.

    Thanks again.

    • 72

      Good! I have a 500gb but it’s running out of space so I think I need to get another drive. :D

  49. 73

    Yep, that’s exactly what I was trying to communicate with this article. These are just some very simple things that we all forget, and it’s always good to get a friendly reminder. Now back up those files. :D

  50. 74

    That’s great to hear, Lee! Thanks for the compliments on the article.

  51. 75

    Hey mate, get it up ASAP.

  52. 76

    No problem Nikola. Get ’em done. :D

  53. 77

    Sure thing Khaz. As long as you give the proper credit to Design Informer, then by all means, translate it.

  54. 78

    Sorry to hear that. Anyway, glad you are using Dropbox now.

  55. 79

    Actually, cluttered desk is a sign of being lazy and disorganized. J/K ;)

  56. 80

    Delicious is awesome. It might even be better than downloading as you can access it from any computer. Great point Dave.

  57. 81

    Hello Collin, I’m glad the article was able to help you out. Definitely get your portfolio online, it helps in getting you work.

  58. 82

    Hi Nick, thanks for the link.

    Also, billing is definitely something that we shouldn’t procrastinate. The reason why I didn’t put that on the list is because this list was actually meant to be just things that designers don’t really do since they are so busy with client work.

    I might do another post later on about what designers should do now regarding client work and freelancing.

  59. 83

    I didn’t know Dropbox had a bandwidth limit. I need to look into that.

  60. 84

    Hey Duane, finances is definitely something that we must be on top of. That reminds me, I need to go file my taxes. :D

  61. 85

    Hey Chris, I definitely see a danger in just being a resource hog, but I do think resources are very important. I collect lots of resources, but am very picky about which ones that I download and save.

  62. 86

    Hey Shawn, the more different back-ups that you have, the better off you are. And yes, the WP-DB-Backup plugin is so awesome. I love getting those weekly emails.

  63. 87

    Hey Kristaps, well it’s totally up to you. I think it’s good to keep them online on something like Delicious but at the same time, download the ones that you will be using often. That way, you don’t have to go online and download it every time you need it. And it’s also good to have the links online just in case you are in another computer and you need to access the resources.

  64. 88

    Nice post, however it feels like I’ve read this post at least 4 or 5 time before today. I would not say these tips are not worth posting, but they are soooo obvious ;)

  65. 90

    Dude I have to agree with you on these. I know exactly the feeling when were not able to back up your files.

    I still can remember I am in the middle of finishing my biggest project in my entire designing career and the light just went off. Arrgghhh

    • 91

      Jad Limcaco

      April 2, 2010 2:19 am

      Really? That must have been a total bummer. Well, but at least you have learned your lesson. :)

  66. 92

    Mars Sanford

    March 23, 2010 9:19 am

    Awesome list. A lot of big picture stuff we don’t usually talk about from the trenches of creative work.

    Also, rinse and repeat often!!! If you go too long you could be in for a massive spring clean up like I’m knee deep in right now!

    Never again, though!

    • 93

      Jad, you sounded like my mom and that’s pretty cool, hehehe. Well, setting goals and priorities as well as a preference for being organized was also related to better memory and good opportunity. Thanks for these great reminders.

      Edward Young quotes

      “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday, it is the thief of time.”

  67. 94

    Nice Post!

  68. 95

    Good collector is Good designer, Good Listener is a good speaker :)

  69. 96

    Great article. A lot of this is stuff I know, but don’t always practice. I recently launched my online portfolio after not having one for so long due to the ‘nothing’s ever good enough’ fear. Not having one was really holding me back. It will always be a work in progress, but I think for it to be ever changing, keeps it constantly fresh. And keeps me learning/practicing new techniques.

  70. 97

    Thanks, you saved my day :D

  71. 98
  72. 99

    minetti albertini

    March 25, 2010 10:55 pm

    oh i like this article.. you got me at cleaning my desk

  73. 100

    j.s. kitololo

    March 26, 2010 1:29 pm

    I’m not a graphic designer, but EVERY GRAPHIC DESIGNER and WEB DEVELOPER should read this… and ACT ON IT. No question.
    Brilliant, and good work Jad. Found this at @creativenerds on twitter.

  74. 101

    Jeremy Crane

    March 26, 2010 8:33 am

    I’d appreciate it if you stop telling me what to do, sir.

  75. 102

    Good idea using DropBox for back-up – ideal for day to day, with Time machine for weekly back-ups. I’m off now to back-up WordPress, thanks for the reminder!

  76. 103

    I use a drop box for back-up after I went through 3 external HDD

  77. 104

    Just i say…………nice :)

  78. 105

    working on my portfolio at behance as I read this…
    Nice article.


  79. 106

    Good advice.

    I always make sure I backup my files, never really thought of backing up my website files. I have an external HD which i store my psd’s, ai’s and xhtml and css documents. This should be on every professionals daily routine.

    And gathering resources to improve your design’s or work is another MUST DO daily or weekly. Again good advice. I’m definitely bookmarking this for future reference for my co-workers.

  80. 107

    I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way over the years. So, I’m finally at the point where I am pretty diligent with all of the things you’ve mentioned. However, thanks for summarizing them into a list we can all live by. Learning the hard way isn’t pleasant when it comes to self-employment. It does work, though :) Thanks Jad!

    ps. Time Machine is definitely a life-saver.

  81. 108

    My tip would be to get all your reading collected in one place.

    How many sites do you visit to gather all your news?

    Why not incorporate all the rss feeds into one page so you can skim and read them without having to open 100 sites. Check out netvibes.

  82. 109

    OMG, you are sooo right about this things, awesome post!
    after the pics with a many coffecups i just looked over the desk, i was in shock :)) And i love the “procratinators unite… tomorrow!” And not to mention the data backup…. but i least i got my 2TB eternal hdd 3 weeks ago :P

    good luck!

  83. 110

    Ash Connell

    May 26, 2010 6:07 pm

    Heck yes Dropbox is good. I’m working with it now and it makes things a ton easier!

    • 111

      If you ever need something a bit more robust than Dropbox, check out JungleDisk – it’s a desktop client that connects you directly to Rackspace/Amazon cloud storage as if they were network drives. We’re transitioning our entire system to this now, and it’s awesome for our purposes (4 people in 3 locations accessing the same files). And, having accidentally deleted a boatload of client files earlier this week, I can tell you that restoring is a snap.

  84. 112

    Pontus Ekman

    June 4, 2010 3:52 pm

    Great article, reminded me why I bought a Time Capsule in the first place. It certainly feels good to check off your list(s)!

    I’m off to back-up my data…

  85. 113

    Hey Jad, you’re a legend!

    Thanks for reminding me to do the things I should be doing but never do :)
    Great post :)

  86. 114

    Nice tip. Organizing the work and don’t mesh up the work, finish right now and take up are the most important thing that I do.


  87. 115

    yup, i mostly do few things but thanx for this valuable reminder again..

  88. 116

    Great article! Good points mentioned! I learned so much about back-up. I usually back-up my files every now and then if there are new files added. Backing up in Adobe Photoshop helps to. I save repeatedly before my PS crashes any moment :)

  89. 117

    Very nice reading . And thanks for the tips.

  90. 118

    Great tips and nice read.

    Another would be to stop procrastinating reading great blog posts like this and actually get some things done!

  91. 119

    Wendy Cockcroft

    May 1, 2011 9:57 pm

    Thanks for the post, Jad. I’ve bookmarked this page for the resources. A couple of things readers might find useful:

    Use your bookmarks/favourites, and put the links into folders for easy access.

    Get a desktop RSS feed reader. Free emails like Gmail offer them via Google (Google Reader) but Netvibes and Bloglines are just as good. Use the feed reader to keep you up to date with the latest posts from your favourite blogs. It saves time on surfing.

    There are free web hosts that come with gallery applications software. They’re fairly easy to set up and customising doesn’t take much effort. Failing that, get a blog (Google’s Blogger is free, and it’s not the only free one) and post your work there as and when.

    I hope that’s helpful, and thanks again for the resources and the tips.

  92. 120

    thanks for the post !
    it was very important and useful for me


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