Flashback to 2009. I’m in my first design job at a printing company. I’ve been given an A4 folded leaflet to design. I’ve just started, so I’m given some leeway. I get it done in a few days and it looks pretty good. The boss was happy with it, although they expected it to be done in a few hours. WTF. Although quite an extreme lesson (this place was more about quantity than quality) it showed me I was off the pace.
In terms of how fast you’re able to work, let’s boil it down to 2 key attributes. Basic skills and experience.
The more you know the better. Keyboard shortcuts, how to set up page numbers on a massive brochure, setting up scripts in Photoshop to speed up bulk edits, how to extract vector graphics from a PDF, how to cut out hair onto a transparent background, setting up your own pre-sets in Lightroom, how to manually kern in InDesign. Shortcuts can help speed up your workflow.
Learn as much as you can. And share that knowledge with your fellow designers. I’ve been taught some great tricks by designers far younger than me.
You can’t rush this, it comes with time. Over the course of your career you’ll do things well, and you’ll make the odd fuck-up. The more experience you gain, the faster you’ll become at decision making, and you won’t need to waste time trying things - you’ll know already if it’ll work or not.
That said, you can have all the skills, all the experience, but be short on time…
Tight deadlines are one of the biggest gripes of designers. We know creatives working at well-known, large agencies, who are expected to work like Duracell bunnies and turnaround THREE branding routes in ONE DAY.
Selling design is selling time. When we work on a project, we want as much time as possible. Not to charge the client as much as possible, but to do the best job we possibly can. Will that happen bashing out 3 different routes in a day? Will it fuck.
We’ve both worked in environments that prioritised speed over the quality of design. And we got pretty good at it. You learn how to make something look OK but not great. Just enough to convince the client, and to get it out the door quickly. These places are often ran by sales people rather then creatives - their definition of design is simply the aesthetic. Get a brief and make it look good. Regardless of if it actually WORKS.
Working in such a high speed way removes any opportunity for reflection, to consider possibilities, and to create something you’re proud of. We all strive to create something conceptually sound, with originality. That takes time.
We’ve listened to many creatives facing the above problem, of not having long enough to spend on a project, and for those working in studios it’s a top down issue. The best person to give an accurate idea on how much time is required, is the designer who will be working on it.
For the first few years of Side by Side, we took every piece of work on that we could. Often with the deadlines imposed to us by the client. Even if we knew it was tight, we’d convince ourselves it could be done. We were never quite as bad as expecting 3 routes in a day, but we know the mentality of taking on projects with unrealistic timescales, and how it can stifle creativity, which is the very thing your client wants!
The answer to the quesiton initially set, is in honesty, not as long as you'd probably like. Unless you land in a studio that values doing great work, not just churning. Over time you'll have more input on timescales. Bide your time, get on-side with those above you, and start to push back if things feel rushed.
OK work leads to more OK work. Great work leads to more great work. If the studio you work for wants to be doing great stuff, they'll need the timescales to match.