Tuesday, September 21, 2021

How Graphic Designer's Can Get Organized


Many years ago I talked about how to organize computer files so graphic designers can work more efficiently. I think this is a good time to update my suggestions. I've been using this method of organization for over 20 years and still has served me well.

When it comes to graphic design project management the three most important objectives are to:

  • Be able to search past projects and find digital files
  • Stay on-task and meet deadlines
  • Make day-to-day work easier to manage

Ability to Search Past Projects

In order to make computer files easier to find later, it's good to start with a project management approach. For me that consists of keeping a spreadsheet or database of projects with corresponding project numbers. If I faithfully record my projects, later, I can do a simple search by job number, project title, or kind. And if I place that project number on all the filenames and folders of the finished project itself it's even easier to rediscover the original project files later.


No matter what method you use to track your projects this is where you need to start.

Stay On-Task and Meet Deadlines

I've found the best way for me to stay on-task is to keep a project diary. I do this in a spreadsheet where I record every action I take on each project and how much time I spent on each task. I keep time because it helps me predict and be more realistic about how long different projects typically take. It also helps me decide when I'm spending too much time on certain tasks that are unimportant. It also serves me when I'm having a discussion with a client or coworker. I can be very clear where bottlenecks are happening, and what was discussed — since I record every decision made and action taken. And I record the project number in the Title of everything I create so I can have quick access to a project's history when filtering that project in the spreadsheet.


Day-to-Day Working

To organize my computer files in a manner that makes working easier and faster, I create category folders. For instance, if I do interface design, email design, illustration, or print I keep separate folders for each kind of work. And within these folders I create subfolders I use as a template. I keep templates of different kinds of folders as ZIP files so that whenever I start a new project I just need to execute the appropriate ZIP file to create the folders I need automatically, and still keep my templates intact.

Here's the type of folder and naming structure I tend to use most often and you can adopt for yourself:

Project#_Project_Name (Parent folder)

  • 00_documentation (use this folder for any files and images from the client, research, creative briefs, and supporting documents)
  • 01_final_art (use this folder for all the final deliverables)
  • 02_working_files_ & _versions (use this folder as the main holder of work and associated files to create the work)
  • 03_versions (use this folder for different iterations of the deliverables)

The order of the files are controlled by the initial numbers and letters in the name. And this is the order that works well for me. However, you may prefer a different folder order. Just change the leading numbers in the naming to create the order that best fits the way you work.

Another thing to remember is to name your design iterations systematically. When you save versions of a file tack on "_v1" for the first version of a design. And "_v2" for the second version and so forth. The structure is something like this: name_of_file_v#.extension. Sometimes when I complete a project I add the word FINAL in all caps in the filename (ie. name_of_file_v#FINAL.extension) and place in the 01_final_art folder.

Here are some other example folder structures. (You can use these as a jumping off point to create structures that makes sense to you):

Web design

Project#_Project_Name (Parent folder)

  • 00_documentation (use this folder for any files and images from the client, research, creative briefs, and supporting documents)
  • 01_final_art (use this folder for all the final deliverables)
    • CSS (CSS folder)
    • IMG (folder for images)
    • index.html (this file can be a basic starter HTML template)
    • JS (javascript folder)
  • 02_working_files_ & _versions (use this folder as the main holder of work and associated files to create the work)
    • 00 Art (Folder holds Photoshop and Illustrator files, any other supporting files used to create the art and design)
    • CSS (CSS folder)
    • IMG (folder for images)
    • index.html (this file can be a basic starter HTML template)
    • JS (JavaScript folder)
  • 03_versions (use this folder for different iterations of the deliverables)

Video

Project#_Project_Name (Parent folder)

  • 00_documentation (use this folder for any files and images from the client, research, creative briefs, and supporting documents)
  • 01_final_art (use this folder for all the final deliverables)
  • 02_working_files_ & _versions (use this folder as the main holder of work and associated files to create the work)
    • 00_Premiere (folder for your Adobe Premiere files)
    • 01_After_Effects (folder for your After Effects files)
    • 02_footage (folder for raw footage and B-roll)
    • 03_flat_images (folder for any images files)
    • 04_music (folder for soundtracks and music)
    • 05_audio (folder for any other audio like voiceovers or special sound effects)
  • 03_versions (use this folder for different iterations of the deliverables)

Social media

Project#_Project_Name (Parent folder)

  • 00_documentation (use this folder for any files and images from the client, research, creative briefs, and supporting documents)
  • 01_final_art (use this folder for all the final deliverables)
  • 02_working_files_ & _versions (use this folder as the main holder of work and associated files to create the work)
    • 01_facebook.psd (this file is pre-sized and prepared for Facebook images, or you can create one Photoshop, Illustrator, or XD file with multiple social-sized artboards)
    • 02_twitter.psd
    • 03_etc …
  • 03_versions (use this folder for different iterations of the deliverables)

You can modify these suggestions as you see fit, because your organizing system needs to fit with your needs. However, I've haven't found a way to stay organized and on-task that was much better than these methods.

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Monday, May 17, 2021

Breaking Rules is Not Required to be Creative


There's a natural resistance to keeping rules. It's part of the human experience. Although we want people to obey our rules, we resist their rules on us. Designers are no different. We might even be worse. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The One Thing You Must Do To Break A Bad Habit


Replace it with a good habit. Easy, right? Well, it depends.

When I was a kid, I had to deal with overt racial tension in school. So, life wasn't easy. I had learned to cope by waking up every morning before school to ruminate on how the day would go. I believed that if I could imagine the worst, it will help make the day go better.

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