Keeping organized files is critical to successfully managing a design project or studio. Being able to find the latest version of a file (or a version before or after a particular round of edits) is essential to making sure changes are tracked and billed for. If there is a dispute over a typo or improperly formatted image, being able to browse through a history of file updates will often help resolve it. If you need to hand the job off to another designer or production artist, send files to a printer or developer, or revisit a project months or years later, you’ll want to have confidence that you’re working with the correct version. Fortunately, all of this (and more) can be accomplished with simple file naming conventions and organization techniques.
There are countless ways to name and organize files and no one way is necessarily better than another. The best system is (always) the system you actually use. With that in mind, here’s how we do it in our office:
1. All jobs get a job code. The first three letters are the client’s initials. The three digits are just sequential, regardless of client.
2. In each job folder we create sub-folders for Paperwork, Design, Research, Sketches, etc.
3. In the Design folder we create a folder for each of the deliverables as outlined in the proposal (Logo, Website, etc.).
4. In the Design folder we usually* create a folder for each round. A round is defined as any time we present something to the client.
5. The “working files” folder includes miscellaneous files like scripts, Illustrator and Photoshop files that we use to create certain effects, etc. For example, when we worked on the Bun Mee restaurant all the display type had a stroked shading effect on it. I set up a system to create these in Illustrator so each one would be consistent and saved this file in my “working files” folder.
6. Each file is named according to this system: JobNumber_DeliverableName_RoundNumberVersionNumber_Date.filetype
*Sometimes we make folders for each round, as with the Logo in the screenshots below. Usually this is because there are several files for that component. If you notice in the style guide example, there are just files, no folders for each round. Since it’s just a single file the folders seem like overkill.
In a day-to-day setting this system is incredibly easy to follow and just as easy to decipher. For example:
Just by looking at this file name I know that the client was InsideTrack (Job # IT844), it’s the file for the style guide (_guide), it’s the 3rd round we showed the client (_r3) and internally its the 3rd version we reviewed (v3), and it was sent on May 10th, 2012.
It’s a really straightforward way of naming (for our workflow). Because we’re tracking rounds, it makes it really clear when we’ve exceeded the scope. It also makes it easy to retrace the job history, even months later. Someone who’s never seen the job can easily find the latest file.
Final files are highlighted in red.
Sometimes we add _forApproval to the end of PDFs we send to clients.
If I modify a file that was largely made by someone else but its not really another version or round, I’ll add my initials (_cchs) to the end before I send it back to them so it’s clear that it is different from the one I received.
If we outline fonts on a file before sending it to print we create two versions: one that ends with _outlined and one that ends with _editable. This way we know that the editable one is exactly the same as the outlined version in case we have to go back and make a change.