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Can a design studio go paperless?

When you think about a graphic design studio, do you think of endless print-outs of brochure page layouts, advertising mockups strewn across desks and client amendments printed off and scattered throughout the office? Well think again! We’ve spent the last 10 years in a virtually paperless office and not only has this saved us endless time through not having to file away job bags, but it’s been pretty good for saving space in our small office. Oh, and the environmental benefits of reducing our waste gives us a warm fuzzy feeling too.

We’re well aware of the irony that the end product we make often gets printed in numerous copies. We’re talking brochures, annual reports, flyers, invitations, direct marketing and self promotion mailers to name a few. There’s also no hiding from the fact that all of us here at The Creative Tree have an unashamed love affair with GF Smith and Winter & Co. But we always try and encourage our clients to make environmentally sound choices when it comes to choosing paper stock and printers. For example, the branding project we recently did for Gaze Burvill included selecting paper for their brochures so we selected a 100% recycled paper with fantastic environmental credentials.

Here’s what we’ve done to go paperless so far and we’re always looking for different ways to embrace technology and to do more.

1. Accounting

We use the smart cloud-based accounting system Xero which not only gives us a great money management system, but with the ability to send electronic invoices with online payment options, this really keeps the paper work down. We also ask our clients and suppliers to send us PO numbers and invoices electronically wherever possible.

2. PDF mark-ups

When we send our designs to our clients, it is normally a PDF file we send for them to check and proof-read. We always ask our clients to email the changes they want to their work by marking their changes directly onto the PDF. That means we don’t have to print off the mark ups as we’re able to tick them off digitally as we work through them.

3. Screen sharing

When we’re working on a complex project or design and the client is based overseas or on a tight schedule, screen sharing is a life-saver. It not only cuts down travel time for meetings and endless phone calls trying to describe something abstract, but helps us create a digital record rather than physical. Just remember to tidy up your desktop and switch off any email alerts before you start.

4. Online publications of brochures

Part of the design process of any project is deciding which form a communication should take. Sometimes online is a more efficient and cheaper way of getting the message out there and we advise our clients accordingly and adapt any design to work well digitally.

5. Note taking

Designers cannot work without a sketchbook and pen (although Procreate may prove me wrong on that point!). However, Google Keep is a great way to manage note taking and cut down on the post-it notes!

I’m not convinced our business can become 100% paperless, and certainly working in a creative environment there’s always the need to grab a sketch book or notepad, but there’s always room for improvement.