4 Tools to Boost Your Creative Workflow
Have you ever heard the term “Creative Ops”? If not, here’s a brief summary: it’s a term that refers to how a brand or team handles creative asset management, project management, and production workflows, from concept to delivery. Maybe you work for a large corporation - odds are strong that if they do not already have an individual or team overseeing creative operations, they’re working on it. Or maybe it’s just you, running your blog, or starting your website, or putting together your first photoshoot for a product you made. You are creative ops, but you may not be aware of it. Having a strong grip on your production workflows - even if it’s just three photos you’re snapping to upload to Pinterest later - saves time and energy in the long term. If you’re reading this, odds are that you don’t already work or have experience in a creative field, so the tools and software that a creative professional would use wouldn’t be very helpful to you. Well, below is a list of tools that I’ve had occasion to use - even as a creative professional - that I think will help you!
A moodboard is, quite simply, a creative tool used to convey a mood or message for collaboration. For example, moodboards for fashion campaigns will often include a color palette, images of existing makeup looks and photographic styles, and types of clothing so that a glam and production team is on the same page when they start shooting. In fact, you can think of Pinterest as a moodboard tool for the masses. The wrinkle: in order to collaborate on a board, your collaborator must have an existing account and already be following your board; not every client or team member of yours will have a Pinterest account.
Enter gomoodboard.com! Just drag any images, font styles, colors, and graphic elements you want to use on your board, hit “Save & Publish”, share the link with your team, and voila! Everyone is on the same creative page, no accounts needed, and the links work forever. I mean FOREVER - the image above is from a board I created in 2015; I found the link just the other day, and there it is.
Collaboration is an everyday reality for the way solopreneurs and startups work. In fact, remote team collaboration is fast becoming the norm as to how we work in the modern world. Fast and easy file sharing and syncing saves hours and improves efficiency, and my favorite cloud-based tool for the job is not Dropbox, but Box. I don’t want to do a full compare/contrast, but I will say that I currently have paid subscriptions to both services and after using them for years now, Box wins with me, hands down.
Box does everything that Dropbox does, plus this: you can share folders without forcing the recipient to sign up with a Box account if they do not already have one. You can share links, give them custom names, and set expiration dates and passwords for them. When you download the desktop app, you’re not forced to immediately download every single file and folder to your PC or Mac - you simply go into the web application and choose which folders will automatically sync to the desktop. So give Box a whirl!
3. Eye Dropper
Would you believe me if I told you that color communication is a million dollar industry? If you don’t, just visit Pantone’s online shop (drool!), or visit their parent company’s website or even have a gander at Color Solutions International’s website. Color precision is extremely important for a consistent brand presence. And if you don’t use Photoshop, Illustrator, or any other professional creative software, handling it yourself can be, well, messy. A tool that I use when I’m working for clients who have begun, at the very least, to establish a consistent web presence is Eye Dropper, a free extension for the Chrome browser that you can add.
Scenario: you want to build a marketing deck in PowerPoint that’s visually consistent with your existing web presence, yet when it’s time to start designing and picking colors, you have no clue how to match with accuracy. Color Dropper to the rescue! After you’ve added the extension to Chrome, it’s always there in the tray next to your URL box. Simply click on the eyedropper, click “Pick color from web page”, and click on the colors on your website, or Instagram page, or wherever you have brand presence on the web. Not only will it give you color values and names, you can also create and save palettes, and even use their color picker.
4. Adobe Spark
Ah, social media. You can’t do without it, but it can be so frustrating sometimes, I know. Before I started freelancing, it was purely optional for me, so I wasn’t too bothered by the quality of my posts (pixelation, unintended cropped images, etc.). When Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platforms became a necessity for me, I had to make sure that I was constantly updated on each service’s specs: recommended file sizes and resolutions. This can mean composing and then recomposing the same online flyer across up to 5 different Photoshop files, saved as 5 different jpegs, and separately uploaded to each platform. That’s a lot. A lot of time and energy.
So how excited was I to find out about Adobe Spark? EXTREMELY! You create social graphics and animated videos right within the online app, and then immediately save and share the results to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram - no resizing or cropping required. It’s the perfect tool for when I have clients whose branding isn’t very specified yet. There’s also a Spark Mobile app, available in the Apple Store. I’m patiently waiting for a release to the Google Play market.
There you have it! We all have heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder.” That’s what creative ops is for, and each of these tools are instrumental to smartening up your creative workflows. They are super easy to use, no special training required, no frills, and most importantly, low frustration. Happy creating, sharing, and collaborating!