• Sarthak Sharma

Creative Hacks That Takes The Stress Off Graphic Designers

We see graphic designs everywhere around us, from walking down the street looking at billboards to scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram! Let me ask you this, do you really remember the last billboard sign you passed? As a graphic designer for Technik Creative, Edmonton's only verified content-first agency, I can't help but continuously push myself to be a visual person. Even if it’s a poor design or an amazing one, I’m always in the pursuit of finding new techniques and styles. For many designers, the constantly overloaded workload can take a toll on creativity causing them to not produce their best work. I can understand what some of these designers must be going through. I've experienced stressful projects where I would have to burn the midnight oil for consecutive days at a time, and at the end I found myself creating something that wasn't how I envisioned it in my head.

Graphic Design is a blessing and a curse, you get to test yourself every day and develop your craft until it's perfect. As graphic designers, we want to create content that not only stands out but is visually memorable. Let's take a dive into the 5 hacks I learned from my time at Technik Creative that help to battle creators block, improve efficiency, and deviate all the stress that comes as a designer!

Take A Step Back Into History

You can't create innovative work unless you completely understand the work that has come before you. At Technik, we are always striving towards learning new techniques and pulling inspiration from the predecessors in our specific fields of work. With our film team, they find inspiration from Edgar Wright or Quentin Tarantino, and in graphic design, you can do the same thing! It's an efficient way to find inspiration for your upcoming project, and you become a lot more effective and insightful when learning from "The Greats" than from a simple Youtube video. 

 The history of graphic design may have gone back to drawings on cave walls and decorations on pottery but, the title "graphic designer" really came to reality during the early 20th century. A great place to embark on your journey through the history of design is to study the Bauhaus movement. The Bauhaus Institute is considered one of the most influential modernist art schools of the 20th century. Their insightfulness to teaching about the relationship between art and society had a significant impact on Europe and the United States post-Nazi Germany. I'm not going to bore you with a design history lecture, but I will provide you with my key takeaways about the Bauhaus movement and the birth of graphic design.

  • The Bauhaus abolished much of the traditional fine-arts education taught during that period because they had a more in-depth focus on establishing the intellectual and theoretical approach to their designs. As various aspects of artistic and design techniques were moulded together, the traditional education which was still in place from the Renaissance era was taken apart and made fluid with the designs they were creating in the 20th century. A takeaway you can learn from this is that the techniques you learned months ago can be adjusted and manipulated to fit in perfect harmony with the new things you learn today. It's all about playing around and finding out what techniques works best with specific styles and designs. I've experienced times where I've looked at a blank canvas and thought to myself, "Man, where do I start?" it always ends up with me looking back at work created by my design heroes or looking at my old designs to find cool techniques and effects to bring into play with my upcoming projects!

  • In the 1920s, many graphic designers began claiming various fonts, logos, stamps, and typography techniques as their own signature styles. Many of the methods developed in the 1920s caught on and laid the foundation for modern font typography today. Finding the right typography for your design can take hours and hours without finding a solution. It's easy to go back to a simpler time and pull typography styles from the golden days, you will notice the difference right away. Simple is always better!

  • During this time, the demand for advertising, books, movie art, magazine designs and newspapers increased. The graphic designer became more popular in print shops, corporations, and the entertainment world. Print shops needed graphic designers for everything, from marketing materials to newspapers and books. Filmmakers needed graphic designers to create the cinema poster they imagined perfectly. Corporations required graphic designers for brochures, newsletters, advertisements, logos and signage to best engage with audiences, and provide an ROI to their clients. Looking through vintage designs will teach you the basic fundamentals of design. To have a compelling final product, you will need to master balance, composition, material, negative space, and all the things that go into the science of how humans perceive and respond to things. It's better to be an expert in the fundamentals then not at all! I recommend looking through vintage print advertisements and posters. As a kid, and even as an adult now, I've always grown fond of 1950s print advertisements and old comic books. The way the colours tie together with the graphics and the typography looks absolutely amazing to me - it's really got me inspired to encapsulate elements from the past along with the modern-day design elements created today. It's great to pull inspiration from the past is because it adds the sense of nostalgia to your work, and it can lead to creating very memorable designs! 

Utilize Visual Triggers

In design, establishing your visual triggers is a great way to speed up the creation process. When you already know what aspects you want to stand out, it's easy for the creativity to start coming in! Visual triggers are great to help you stay organized during your design process as well, and I have provided my tips on how you can add visual triggers through colour, transparency, typography, and negative space effectively. 

The essential visual trigger you can use to stand out is to understand the basics of the colour theme and colour harmony. Colour is vastly important with graphic design, and I don't think I need to tell you that! What you need to know is that colour has considerable relevancy and meaning to the viewer. Sending the right message through your graphic design and colour is very crucial, and an awareness you have of the message your design is trying to get across will need the appropriate colours to resemble your message! For example, green can be seen as a happy and a tone that means growth, while red can symbolize danger and love. For the Adobe Illustrator user, two remarkable features will make sure your colours match every time! These two underdog features are the colour guide and colour theme panels available in Illustrator. Using these two panels is an easy way to see every colour scheme that will work in harmony with your primary colour.

A useful way to get visual triggers out of your designs is to play with the transparency and blend modes of certain design assets in your project. Adding transparency or blend modes to your graphic design will peak get positive interest from your viewers, add a unique touch, and unite your design as a whole! This technique is a great tool to have in the back of your pocket when you want to send a subtle message to your viewer, or a tone down a logo coming off too striking. I personally use this technique all the time, and you can see many other professional graphic designers using it for their portfolios. It's an excellent technique to apply; however, you want to be careful when using transparency for print material. Our recommended fix so you don't have to waste paper testing out the design is to simply sample the background and lighten or darken the colour of the asset. This will save you so much time in the printing process with little to no frustration!

The last piece to mastering visual triggers that many graphic designers say they know but don't actually execute on is allowing your typography and the overall composition to breathe! If your design looks suffocating, chances are it will resonate to your viewer, making them feel the same way. Allowing more negative space in your composition will help your viewer to feel more settled, making your essential message more straight to the point, and the secondary information will be seen as an accessible tool! Your typography needs space, and it needs to do its job of invoking positive repossess effectively. This also gives you the opportunity for other design elements and principals to take charge and have room to work. I don't like seeing a cluttered composition, and neither do you! Knowing your way around typography is essential before starting anything else, and it's a stepping stone to not spending hours looking through fonts and font size. Typography contains all the critical information in order to create a visual breadcrumb trail to guide the viewers' eyes. Once you know where to guide their eyes, the artistic part of the composition will come seamlessly!

Bring A Sketch Book With You…Everywhere

Whenever designers reach out to me about improving their efficiency, I feel like my grandpa saying "Listen, son, back in my day we only had a pen and paper" but honestly, it doesn't get much better than that! Simply put, sketchbooks develop your creative skills in ways no other method would be able to match. I've found using a sketchbook has to lead to an increase in effective drawings, ideas, writing, and overall creativity. 

Pro tip: Scanning your sketches onto your design software is by far the most efficient way to create your designs exactly how you envisioned it, and you won't have to be frustrated after spending 5 hours in Illustrator because your design isn't "how you imagined it to be in your head."

Take your sketchbook everywhere you go from the park to the train. There are always advertisements out in the open to pull inspirations from that would have never gotten down on paper unless you had your sketchbook. Inspirations can come by at any given time and using a sketchbook for when ideas start flowing will allow you to get concepts out quickly! By giving yourself the freedom to get ideas on paper, you will be taken to creative places you could never imagine. What's even better is that your entire creative process will be available to you whenever you need it. 

Using a sketchbook helps separate concepts from details, and it can come in convenient when dealing with clients. At Technik Creative, we know it's natural for people to focus on the wrong details when you first present an idea. We recommend noting down everything during a client meeting to establish a clear difference between your concepts and the clients' ideas they want to be executed. This will help you a lot in the process with clients and ensure there are no roadblocks in communication!

Fun Fact: Sketching is actually fun and reduces stress! When you have to play catch up with client work, and your personal designs, it's an excellent way for you to take some time for yourself. It allows you to create with no restriction and let unfinished concepts come back to life!

I hope you got value from this article and you use some of these hacks to make your designing less stressful! Make sure you look back into the past for inspiration and to harness the fundamentals of graphic design and art. Utilizing visual triggers is an effective way to keep your designs organized while ensuring your creativity and fundamentals are able to seamlessly go hand in hand. Bringing a sketchbook everywhere you go will help you develop better ideas, relieve a lot of stress, and is a lot of fun! If you have any questions or would like to talk about graphic design, send me an email at, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!