How a Project Management Tool helps me develop my Creative Ideas quicker

I remember how, in my early days of photo manipulation, I often worked long hours on my Photoshop artworks without making much progress. This was really frustrating as it was taking the joy out of what I love to do most. So I had to find a solution.

Joseph Xerri

Joseph Xerri

A digital artist with a passion for photo manipulation and co-founder of Pigeon Pixel

Joseph Xerri

Joseph Xerri

A digital artist with a passion for photo manipulation and co-founder of Pigeon Pixel

I’ve always wanted to share my digital art with the world, and nothing was going to stop me. My motto is ‘there is always a simple solution to any complicated problem’, and finding solutions is part of the creative process. That’s when I remembered about SMART Objectives.

I learned about SMART while studying for my degree in engineering. SMART Objectives help you plan and clarify your ideas/goals while increasing the chances of achieving them.

This tool provides me with the clarity, focus, and motivation I need when working on photo composites. It helps me understand better where I want to take the artwork while committing myself to a realistic deadline. Today, setting SMART objectives has become essential in my work, and without it, I wouldn’t be able to create and share top-quality photo manipulations.

Here’s how I use SMART objectives:

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Each one of these is an objective set to help you achieve your final goal.

Pigeon Pixel | Joseph Xerri | SMART

Let’s look at what each one means and how I use them in my creative process.


State what you want to do.

The idea for the digital artwork needs to be clear, and I should be able to roughly visualize the final result. To test if my concept is strong enough, I like to show a sketch or mockup to someone (most of the time, my fiancé), and if they don’t get the idea straight away, then the concept is not clear enough, and I need to work on it more.


Set a measure to monitor progress and to know when you’ve achieved your goal.

The way I measure my progress is by setting milestones. I split the project into phases, and I check each one off the list once it’s complete. This helps me move on and not get stuck at any particular stage, and also, checking something off the list gives me satisfaction and the motivational push I need to finish the project.

My milestones usually look something like this:

  1. Brainstorm / Research
  2. Rough Sketch
  3. Mockup
  4. Image Composite Stage 1 (main elements)
  5. Image Composite Stage 2 (supporting elements)
  6. Image Composite Stage 3 (refinement and finalizing)
  7. Publish

It’s important to know when you’ve achieved your goal, as otherwise you might get stuck tweaking and amending forever. The above milestones help me to be efficient and disciplined in my work.


Make sure that it’s achievable.

This is the most crucial part of the objective analysis. I need to make sure that creating the Photoshop artwork I have in mind is achievable. So if, for example, I don’t manage to find the stock imagery that I need, I have to find a way around it. There are several ways I can go about this; I could take photos myself or perhaps collaborate with a 3D artist to create the missing assets and so forth. I am currently learning 3D to expand my knowledge, which will enable me to create my own assets in the future.


Make sure it is worth your while and that it will help you grow.

The project needs to be in line with my learning and progression stage. Of course, it also needs to be something which I like and enjoy. If it checks all these boxes, then I give it the green light. If not, I put it aside and move to something else.

Today, I know what type of artist I want to be, so I only work on projects that help me move forward in my artistic career. For me, that’s creating surreal images that carry a message and provoke thought. That’s the thing that keeps me satisfied and happy with my work.

Note: If you’re a beginner, it’s ok to experiment to learn new techniques and explore different styles until you find your niche. However, once you develop your own style, don’t waste time working concepts you don’t like.


Set a completion date.

In the past, as soon as I had an idea, even if very vague, I would immediately jump on to Photoshop and try to execute it straight away. I’ve learned the hard way that without the proper preparation and planning, the execution takes longer, and the process is less enjoyable if not utterly frustrating.

Allowing time for planning and research is crucial as it will save you time at the execution stage. Having said that, you still need to allocate enough time for a high-quality execution.

As digital artists, we always want to do better – and that’s a good thing, as that’s how we improve. However, this does not mean that you need to take ages to finalize something, or that a project should be open-ended.

To save me from falling into this trap, I always commit myself to a deadline. Without a fixed completion date, I would end up tweaking endlessly. Self-doubt then starts creeping in, risking to never finish the project.

My advice is to always set yourself a deadline – it will not only give you a goal date but also force you to plan better and keep you on your toes.


And that’s how I use a tool that I’ve learned during my engineering course to complete my artworks.

To be efficient in our work, as digital artists, we need to work strategically, especially while generating ideas. We need to make sure that our creative thoughts can be developed into final artworks within a predefined timeframe. We must focus on the things that add value and help us deliver, learn, and grow.

Although all art projects should have clear goals and objectives, few artists use such a tool. So I hope that you found this blog post interesting and helpful. I wanted to share this with you so that you can use it in your creative process too.

Give it a go. I would love to know if you found it useful, so please feel free to share your comments below.

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