Organizing Your Project Files
I just read an older entry by Chris Griffin about how he organizes his project files. I have always been intrigued by how other designers organize their time and assets, and what they do with them once they’re done. I want to share my process and hope to hear how you guys organize your files.
I have a directory (folder) on my hard drive titled “clients.” Each one of my clients gets a folder inside with their name.
Because I work on both print and design projects, inside each client folder I have two folders labeled “print” and “web.”
In these folders I organize every project that I work on. Each project gets a folder inside “print” or “web” depending on what is appropriate. The project folders are labeled thusly:
The first three letters come from the first three letters of my client’s name, followed by a four digit project number. The project number comes from the invoice, so this part of the project folder title doesn’t get named until after the project is complete and I have invoiced my client for it. The short description is usually a one, two or three letter phrase to help me identify the project as a “newsletter, HTML email, poster, postcard, etc…” Because I use the invoice number to identify each project I also use the month and year of the invoice date as the last four digits. This way, if I am looking at an invoice, I can easily match it to the project folder by checking the invoice number and double checking it with the invoice date.
If this is a web project I have a standard set of folders that I create right away, they are:
Inside the images folder I also create sub-folders called “Raw”, “Layered” and “Temp”:
Raw – This folder holds all the original images that I use in the project (un-edited and un altered).
Layered – This folder holds the layered/edited version of images that I use.
Temp – This folder gets deleted at the end of each project. It contains the flattened versions of images that I use during the development stage. The assumption is that once the project is complete, these are the images that were not selected to be used. There is always a layered version of all of these image versions so if I ever need to re-create a flattened version again I can.
All of the flattened images that are used on the final project live in the main images folder along with the other three folders (Raw, Layered and Temp). I do this because the images folder is going to serve as my images folder on the web. I just make sure not to upload the Raw, Layered or Temp folders to the server when I am finished with the project.
CSS – This folder holds all my stylesheets.
Assets – There are really only two type of assets that I work with: word documents, or .pdf documents. If there are only a few documents, I keep them all in this folder regardless of type. If there is more than a dozen of either I will create sub folders labeled “PDF” or “DOC” respectively. I will also create sub folders if there is any other type of document that calls for it.
The scripts folder will usually have two sub folders: “JS” or “Other.”
Other – I rarely use this folder, but if I use any .xml, or .swf file, this is the folder where these files live.
Fonts – I haven’t started using css3 so fonts aren’t really an issue when it comes to the final version of a web project, but some design elements require certain design fonts. If I use non-web safe fonts, I create a folder for them.
Print projects get the same standard folders as web projects do except for “CSS” and “Scripts.”
The only thing that changes inside the “images” folder is the way I use the “Temp” folder. The “Temp” folder will also get deleted at the end of the project, but during the project it houses all the images that I use in the final design. Because I use InDesign for all of my print design work—even if I design the entire project in Illustrator or Photoshop, I will bring it into InDesign to output a final .pdf—I use the “Package” option to collect all the images and fonts into one “Final” folder inside the main project folder. Once I do this, all the images in the “Temp” folder are copied into the “Final” folder and I no longer have a need for the “Temp” folder, so it gets deleted. The same is true for the “Fonts” folder which keeps my fonts only while I am designing and gets deleted after I “Package” my project in the end.
The “Raw” and “Layered” folders work the same as in web projects—they keep the original, unaltered version of my images and the manipulated, layered version of the images that I use.
The original InDesign (.ind) as well as the “web-ready” and “print-ready” .pdf files live inside the main project folder.
Many in the industry will tell you that having 2 or 3 level deep directories is actually worse than not organizing your files at all. I say, it doesn’t matter! As long as you can find your files quickly when you need to, having a 3, 4 or even 5 directory deep structure is beside the point.