Resources & Inspiration for the Artistically Curious
One of the biggest obstacles young designers must overcome early in their careers is developing a system for organizing their client work. Establishing a strong system for your files early will reduce the stress of client traffic down the road, and also provide you with more time to focus on the creative side of being a designer.
Unfortunately for me, my collegiate education didn’t provide me with a structured system for organizing files. For the most part my teachers would say, “Figure out a system that works for you” rather than saying, “Here’s what I do, and I do it this way because ______.” To this day I still don’t know what they were trying to protect by not being more direct in this regard. Perhaps they were guarding the secrets needed to unlock teaching at a state college. I’ll never know for sure.
I didn’t fully develop a strong system for organizing my client work until I was employed full-time at a design agency. The company used a universal system for tracking each client, as well as all the individual projects and project revisions associated with that client into a neat little package.
Let’s go over the steps of organizing a new client and a new job from said client.
So let’s say Bob Industries, Inc. has hired you to do a logo for their new line of Bobbing Betty’s or something of equal importance.
First I would begin by shortening Bob Industries, Inc to just BI, or BobIn, or BIn, or something short that you’ll be able to identify at a glance from a list of many other clients.
The next step will be to add a JOB FOLDER within that file that will tell us four things:
1. The name of the client (appropriately abbreviated)
2. The year the job was created in
3. The order you received it (this is also referred to as the “Job Number”)
4. The name of the job
For high traffic clients with a lot of jobs coming in and out each month, it would probably be smart to create a new job folder for each month. This way when you have to refer back to it later (and oh yes you will) you’ll have a better of idea of where to find it.
The next step is to organize your JOB FOLDER with the three ingredients that every job needs:
1. The artwork folder – this is where you will put all your reference material and custom artwork for the job ahead (things like pictures, vector graphics, and custom fonts)
2. The layouts folder – this is where you will house your initial designs as well as all the revisions you have to make
3. The notes folder – this is where you put EVERYTHING the client sends you about the project, including the inevitable revisions
It’s important to delegate relevant files accordingly to each folder as they become available, and not let them build up in one central spot, like your DESKTOP, or in the DOWNLOADS section of your hard drive.
The final step is to organize your Layouts and your Notes folders for easy chronological reference.
A lot of the time when we put work away for the day we put it out of our minds entirely. When we come back to it later on using a simple numbering system makes jumping back into the project all the easier.
When pertaining to the LAYOUTS folder, I know exactly which folder to draw my files from because I know it was saved in the highest numbered revision folder.
Each time you receive new revisions from a client, you should go into your LAYOUTS folder and create a “REVISION X” folder and copy the most recent file you were working on into that one. Then rename it with the appropriate abbreviation at the end:
You do this because:
Duplicating the last file and working from a new one may seem like a waste of hard drive space, but in this industry it’s paramount that you be able to refer back to every revision you’ve done for a client. You should always be prepared to deal with any situation, and having all your files saved this way creates a kind of “checkpoint” system much like those in video games.
In a different way, however, I manage my NOTES folder by using a simple “date code” that refers me to the exact date of which I received the client notes. This is an important difference because the client will be often refer to their notes in this way.
I usually leave documents I have to refer to frequently loose in the main NOTES folder. I hate having to dig for them.
That’s pretty much it. What do you think? Do you use something similar?
Drop me a line and me know if you’re confused by anything I’ve shown here. I’d love to help ya out.