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Unorganized Crimes

Unorganized Crimes

Ryan Hook

We’re all guilty of it. A small project comes in from your client and they send you a bunch of files as email attachments. You’re crunched for time, so you start working on the project right away and say you’ll worry about filing all those attachments and organizing your files later.

Except… later never comes.

You completed the job, the client was happy, you invoiced the project and moved on to the next project.

A year or so passes. Your client contacts you about updating that small project and it’s needed right away.

Except… you can’t find it.

Minutes, hours, maybe even days are wasted searching your files and combing through emails to find that file your client’s asking you to update.

If only you had planned ahead! If only you had an existing folder structure and file naming convention.

One thing I have learned in my years as a designer (working in studios of all sizes) is that keeping your files organized and clearly named is a benefit to everyone (including yourself) — and it’s quick and easy to do.

Start with a plan

Begin with building a hierarchical folder structure. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to make sense. Here at Creative Guild, I collaborated with my fellow designers and developers to create a folder structure that worked for the type of projects we work on.

Here’s how our current project folder template looks:

folder structure

The way this structure works is as follows:

  1. The top-level folder is named with the docket number in the square brackets preceding a descriptive name for the project. By default, the operating system sorts numerically and alphabetically, so this format puts the folders in numerical (and more or less in chronological) order.
  2. Projects generally are broken out into “Web” or “Print” projects at our agency, so this helps keep task organized within the folder.
  3. The next level down, the folder named “Task Name” is renamed to a relevant title (eg. “Dinner Menu”, “Postcard”, or “Eblast”). The only files that reside in the Task folder are the core working file (for example, on a print project, the InDesign file) and its associated draft for proofing (in this case, a low-resolution PDF).
  4. Also at the same level as the Task folder is the “Support Files” folder. Here, we place any assets relevant to the project.
  5. Finally, once a project is signed-off, we file the final files (for example, the final print-ready PDF and InDesign package) in the “FINAL FILES” sub-folder.

By keeping our files organized in this method, it removes any doubt as to what is the final version of a project.

Search is a powerful tool

Features and Functions

Another vital component of organizing your files is to make use of relevant descriptors and docket numbers. Not only does it make it easy to find things quickly and efficiently from a visual point-of-view, it also does wonders for using your operating system’s search functions.

File Naming

Using the example above, the filename contains the following important information:

  1. “CREATIVE GUILD” – This is the internal name we use to refer to this particular client. All working files for this client include this as the first part of the filename. We distinguish the client name from the rest of the text by setting it all in uppercase.
  2. “Client Ad Campaign 2019 Case Study” provides:
    1. The name or subject of the associated project (Client Ad Campaign).
    2. The year (in this specific example, the client runs this program annually, so the year helps distinguish this file from previous years).
  3. The next level down, the folder named “Task Name” is renamed to a relevant title (eg. “Dinner Menu”, “Postcard”, or “Eblast”). The only files that reside in the Task folder are the core working file (for example, on a print project, the InDesign file) and its associated draft for proofing (in this case, a low-resolution PDF).
  4. Also at the same level as the Task folder is the “Support Files” folder. Here, we place any assets relevant to the project.
  5. Finally, once a project is signed-off, we file the final files (for example, the final print-ready PDF and InDesign package) in the “FINAL FILES” sub-folder.
  • The docket number (always contained in square brackets) — which relates back to the project folder and to our project management and invoicing software.
  • The version of the file (v1). When a file reaches its final version, we replace the version number with “FINAL” at the end of the filename. Adding the FINAL tag to the name makes it even easier to find when using your operating system’s file search, too.

To tag or not to tag…

Finally, one last thing to consider for keeping things organized is using tags. Apple’s macOS has built-in support for tags. Check out this brief and well-written article on MacRumors which explains how to use them: https://www.macrumors.com/how-to/files-folders-tags-macos/

One useful function for tags is, for example, to tag your pending or current jobs with an “In Progress” or similarly named tag. Within macOS’s Finder sidebar, you can then view all files or folders that have been tagged with the “In Progress” tag.

It’s a handy built-in function to quickly find your files and folders. Just keep in mind that tags can be quite useful, but should not be a replacement for keeping your files in a hierarchical folder structure.

Search tags

Wrapping things up

Setting up a folder structure and naming convention takes very little time and will prove to be very beneficial. Maintaining a consistent, logical folder structure makes it easy to keep things organized. Making sure your filenames are descriptive and relevant also helps in finding files (both with visual searches and computer-assisted searches) and makes them easy to understand. Tagging your files brings additional efficiency and more powerful search results.

If you haven’t been using your own folder and file naming conventions up to now, I encourage you to take a few moments to set them up. Once you’ve completed a few projects using this organization method, it will become second nature and, hopefully, will be of great benefit to you, your team and your clients.