Productivity Hacks from 5 Design Professionals

These five dynamic design professionals have something in common: they are all amazing at organizing, planning and efficiency. So exactly how do they power through a week of time-crunched creativity, client presentations, job site visits, and never-ending emails?


Vibia - Stories - Productivity - Tips 1 - Designing - Time

Designing Time

“To make a table it takes wood, to make wood it takes a tree,” and for creativity to happen it takes time. Such is the philosophy of Italian multidisciplinary creative workshop Velvet LAB, founded by Gianluca Bocchetta.

“I believe that time is at the heart of our work: at the beginning of each project we have plenty of time but making sure you don’t waste it is the secret to increasing productivity. In this social moment the world is submerged by ‘phenomena’ fashions and technology and an idea that today seems innovative tomorrow may be obsolete. Therefore, I work a lot on designing the use of time at our disposal to improve the quality of what we produce.

In Velvet LAB it is customary to organize daily briefings, where you can compare and organize the way to deal with a job. Designing also means the method to address the needs and the first in the case of commercial design is to ‘respect the timelines’. We devise a weekly timetable, then a daily one where we immediately set up checkpoints to be reached –which often correspond with the weekend. We do so to be able to start the week without having to ‘resume’ something. And finally, we make sure what we draw will last over time! Designing time. “


Vibia - Stories - Productivity - Tips - To-do lists

To-Do List Tips

Ivonne Ronderos, Creative Director of DKOR Interiors in Miami, is also a firm believer in organizing her schedule based on goals and planning by creating detailed to-do lists that support long term scheduling. Another key ingredient for her success is built in flexibility.

“We have multiple projects happening at the same time and so having a plan is fundamental. Instead of preparing for one day at a time, my tip is to plan a couple of weeks ahead and even take a glance at what the entire calendar month will look like. I love my Passion Planner! It is basically my best friend.

Writing down what needs to get done helps a lot… however that doesn’t always guarantee that everything will happen exactly like that. I use sticky notes as place-holders of appointments or goals that might be more flexible to allow adjustments as the weeks go by and prioritize based on how I can be more useful to my team.”


Tech Dos and Don’ts:

Design Director for Resource Furniture’s nine showrooms that span from Mexico City to Vancouver, Challie Stillman is literally all over the map. Based in New York City, where she also does design consulting, she shares with us her secrets for keeping her schedule organized.

“While the nature of work keeps changing with the increasing use of technology, I’ve found myself incorporating new tricks, but also clinging to old methods.  While I obsessively calendar (with alerts!), nothing keeps my goals on track like a good old-fashioned, hand-written to-do list every morning.

While Challie may be dedicated to a pencil-and-paper list, she also recommends that professionals do explore new technologies that help coordinate team-sourced tasks and maximize efficiency for longer term projects.

“One tool our office has found to be incredibly helpful though is Wrike, a work management software.  It has helped us keep track of our own individual tasks, teams, and inter-departmental projects. It’s highly customizable and user-friendly, also coming with a dedicated trainer for added support.”

When she’s working solo she also uses technology to keep her focused and avoid diversions.

“When I’m working independently, I find that open floor plans can be very distracting. I often use headphones to block out peripheral conversations.  It’s all about the right music: I love the Focus playlists on Tidal!”


Vibia - Stories - Productivity - Tips - Collaborate and Conquer

Collaborate and Conquer

Teamwork and collaboration are how I stay on top of my game, shares Anne Frederiksen of Prudential Lighting Projects, recipient of AIA Los Angeles 2018 Presidential Honor. Anne works closely with architects and designers and is known by all for connecting teams of people in the design community across multiple fields, resulting in award-winning projects.

Trying to keep these collaborations running smoothly in a town famed for its outrageous traffic can be hectic to say the least, but she uses this unique problem to her advantage.

“Time is a limiting factor in a city like Los Angeles and so we arrange a lot of events for our clients in concert with other organizations so that they can maximize the precious few hours they have to spare. Whether it’s with IES, AIA, or a partnering exhibition or institution, a collaboration is infinitely more interesting and efficient.”


Vibia - Stories - Productivity - Tips - Clear your Mind

Clear Your Mind

A recommendation across the board from our professionals was to dedicate time to focusing on yourself and clearing your mind, maybe even getting a different perspective.

Katharina Franke of FrankeLeuchten takes the philosophy of time for reflection to the next step, planning short vacations at least once every few months and a longer holiday once annually.

“I do not read business emails or answer business calls on my mobile during vacation… My brain is fresh, and I am very motivated after vacations, even if they are just a couple of days. Many times, the best ideas I have are during a trip because I stepped out of my business mindset and got a totally different view.”

Katharina also believes in taking time out when she is in the office to keep herself focused. One recommendation is to give yourself at least 30 minutes during the day where your brain is doing nothing.

“When was the last time you just looked out of the window without doing or thinking anything? My brain needs breaks. Sometimes I get this break sitting in a train or subway, without looking on my mobile or reading anything. A lot of times I just sit out somewhere in nature, watching people, bees, or clouds.”

Her final recommendation?

“Clean up your work table every day. I learned to do this when I was working on a showroom floor. Now my desk is in a closed space, but I clean it for myself. Sometimes at the end of the day, if there are a lot of things that have been left unfinished, I write a checklist for the next day, so I can put the tasks from my mind. I sort papers in the same way as the list so that I can review them first thing in the morning. I write emails to team members if I forgot to mention something to them in person and clean up my email, so just the undone messages are in my inbox.”