Mastering the Baton Pass: File Organization
by Taylor Slattery | November 29, 2022
When you are constantly pressed for time, juggling multiple deadlines and projects, and rushing to meet deadlines, one of the first things to go is organization. Informative filenames, neatly labeled and arranged layers, and folders structured for easy hand-off may seem like more of a luxury than a necessity, but without them, you are just creating a larger headache both for a future version of yourself and any teammates that may need to access your files at a later date.
When you neglect to properly organize your files, you’re really just kicking the can down the road and ensuring that whoever has to dig through your work to find something they’re looking for is going to have a tough time doing so.
So what can you do to ensure you won’t be hated not only by the future you, but more importantly, your teammates? Start by asking yourself, “If I were coming into this blindly, would I be able to make sense of the way my layers and folders are structured, and would I be able to find what I’m looking for without needing to consult someone for help?”
If the answer is no, think about why that might be and how you might go about restructuring your current organizational system to prevent that from being the case. The most surefire approach is to build templates to serve as a starting point for your most common types of tasks and projects. That might be a folder with a substructure housing all of a project’s various elements like images, audio, and past iterations, or a working file pre-configured to certain specifications ready to go with commonly used assets like logos and a color palette.
By standardizing these elements before you even get started, you can simply duplicate and rename them for each new project, ensuring you have a place to store various assets as they accumulate over the project’s duration. In addition to making your own desktop easier to navigate, utilizing these sorts of systems makes for easier handoff whether you are collaborating with other team members or archiving your work once it’s complete.
If you dive into a project without this sort of system in place, things can sometimes get pretty chaotic once a project is in full swing, and by then it’s already too late. With dozens of revisions, handoffs, and assets to keep track of, your organization can easily spiral out of control. Then when it comes time to wrangle all of your assets together for handoff, doing so becomes much more complicated than it needs to be.
Another important consideration to make, especially when working with teams or on projects with many revisions, which, let’s be honest – is most, is how you go about naming your files. Your files store metadata which acts as a digital paper trail of sorts and can be useful when tracking down additional info when necessary, but they require a few extra clicks to access and the less tech-savvy members of your team may not know how to find them.
You can save yourself and others some time by placing the most important information in the file name itself. Providing any necessary context, such as the client, project name, date of revision, revision number, and your name will make it much easier for anybody who needs access to the file to find what they’re looking for at a glance. It’s also useful for archiving purposes as you can see where the file fits into the broader timeline of the project as a whole.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.