A strategist’s guide to Frameworks

All careers have busy work, but in digital design the busy work can feel ridiculous. There is the file handling, project management, and maintaining of portfolios. So how do you reduce the busy work? How do you reduce the time to ship, the time to get an idea out of the starting gates and into the client’s hands or onto your portfolio?

To answer the first question, there is a simple motivation, who wants to waste time doing boring things? But there is another that isn’t so intuitive. It is that shipping ideas can be a struggle for us creatives. Putting something out into the world, something supposed to represent us. You understand that it must be done. That what you start with will never be the best, as good as it could be, but to improve you need a starting point. In a portfolio you can always update what you have uploaded and add new projects to show how you’ve progressed.

What’s the first principle?

What is the abstract solution to these problems? What will save you time and help you grow?

Design Frameworks

What is a design framework? It’s a system in which tools, templates, assets and projects are ordered, stored and used. Implementation is simple, the hard part comes in figuring out how to apply them to yourself, then getting the motivation to put them into place. Know that you’ve saved time by avoiding frameworks, and for things to improve, you need to spend that time you’ve saved.

What frameworks should you implement?

The first step is figuring out which frameworks are going to have the biggest impact. Where the problems lie?

1. Searching for and saving files

2. Planning and managing team projects

3. Having to restart project deliverables with clients

4. Efficiently getting to the best results

5. Posting to/updating portfolios

Although together, these issues can sound daunting, individually they are not so bad. You will need a folder framework, application framework, process frameworks, and shipping frameworks.

Application framework

Have the right apps for the right purposes, search Google for the best pipelines and software in your sector, read the reviews and try the best out. Be willing to splash some cash because it doesn’t matter if you save money on a subscription or purchase if you don’t get things finished, the quality drops or you fail to make a living.

Process Framework

Now that you know the tools you should be using, what is the process you should be using them in? Most design processes consist of the same stages; planning, inspiration, conceptualising, prototyping and creating. Make sure you go through each stage in the correct order and explore them fully. If you don’t, be prepared to get a bad result and have to start fresh. A very brief description of each is;

Planning: Know your client, purpose, approach, style and values.

Inspiration: Find your direction, elements, aesthetic, and know the things to avoid.

Conceptualising: Start drawing, thinking, writing, then leave it for a while, go for a walk or something, and repeat.

Prototyping: Refine your chosen concept by gridding, tracing, wireframing, demoing, testing it

Creating: Get a finished version, vectorise, develop, paint, capture and model.

With the stages down, the next step is to look at how to improve each part of your design process. Identify what you repeatedly use, and create templates, pre-sets, and an archive of assets to make it easier.

Shipping Frameworks

You’ve got the tools, you’ve got a process, so you’re ready to finish some projects, but a project isn’t really finished until its shipped, put out into the world. Everyone has last minute concerns about projects, to reduce the chance that these will stop you shipping create posting templates, use scheduling software for social media and integrate a CMS into your website for projects and blogs. This won’t make the concerns go away so once its ready and checked over, just ship it. Yes, people will see it and yes people will judge it, but its important to be out there improving. If you aren’t moving forwards, you’re slipping backwards.

The Dreaded Folder Framework

If it’s not already in place, this probably seems very daunting. So, let’s first remember why. Saving, searching and moving files is crap, but what makes it even worse is when you spend 40 mins looking for a file that you’ve lost, deleted or just named incorrectly. There are two ways to resolve this, the easy way, start fresh. The proper way, sort all your files into a new framework. I say it’s the proper way because if you do it, you won’t get lazy again. You will know the pain of correcting it and the pleasure of using it. Just know the longer you put it off, the worse the problem will get.

A good starting place for organising your files is looking at your industry standard method of laying out a project folder system. When it comes to files unrelated to work, you have to figure out your own system. A good video explaining the process is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-LeibeXAog&t=77s

Summary

The biggest improvements will come from knowing which apps to use for what, having a process for your projects, making it as easy as possible to ship and organising your files. Implementing and occasionally improving these frameworks will save you a lot of time and potentially change the trajectory of your career.

If you found this useful and want to help someone else out or hold yourself accountable, feel free to share the article.

I am a student who loves design, business and all the strategy that comes with it.