As graphic designers take on more and more projects, organizing the files related to the projects becomes increasingly important. Old designs and concepts can prove to be important elements in new work, and you never know when a client will ask for a revision of a project from several years ago.
File and Folder Structure
At the most basic level, it is important to choose a consistent method for naming files and stick to it. Choose clear names for files that describe them, so they are easily searchable. Also, name files with version numbers so it is clear what is the most recent revision. It is also a good idea to use the word “final” in the approved file name or folder, to easily access the final version of a project.
- Do: band_name_postcard_v3.psd
- Do: band_name_postcard_final.pdf
- Don’t: postcard_new.psd
Along with well-named files, keep a consistent folder structure. One method is to organize by date, starting with folders for each year, with month folders in each year, and individual project folders within each month. Other options include organizing by client or by type of project (such as web vs. print). Projects should be kept in clearly labeled folders, with sub-folders for the various components. For example, keep sub-folders for stock photos, layered Photoshop files, exported PDFs, and one for all of the final files.
- Do: 2008 > January > Band Name Postcard > Final > files
- Do: Print > Clients > Band Name > Band Name Postcard > Photos > files
Once your files are organized, it will be much easier to locate them. There are, however, better ways to browse your files than sifting through folders. Consider purchasing a software package that will help. Adobe Bridge, which comes with the Adobe Suite, is developed just for this purpose… to browse files by looking at a preview of them and then open them directly in the appropriate software. Many packages primarily intended to organize photos will also do the trick, such as iView Media Pro, Extensis Portfolio, and Apple’s iPhoto.
Backing Up Files
It of course is no help to keep files organized if you lose them or if they get corrupted. All files, especially those that are crucial to your business, should be backed up regularly. At the least, back up files to a CD or DVD after the project is complete. For a more consistent backup, use an external hard drive and automated software to protect your files as often as every day. After all, losing files mid-project is a major setback. The best method is a combination… back up your files each day and make a CD or DVD backup to keep offsite.
Putting the extra time in now to think about file and folder names will save time later. Once you are organized, research the best way to browse your work and keep it backed up, helping your business run smoothly and efficiently..