If you are a creative content media producer and strive to be a serious professional, there is no way not to take file structure seriously! Who knows, maybe you are one of those mad geniuses that can work with a desktop full of random project files, but good luck if you have to work in a team with others because bad file structure habits could cost you opportunities or tarnish your reputation.
What is file structure? Simply put, it is a workflow method used to organize digital content files so that they are accessible when you need them. If you can't find a file when you need it, you might as well consider it lost.
Not only can bad file structure habits result in lost files but it can also result in missing project assets, poor communication, lost income, and time wasted.
As we learned in the article Graphic Design Freelancing Tips, time is money and lost time is lost income. Looking for missing files that you are responsible for is not billable time.
Here are some file structure tips to help you master this part of the job of being a graphic designer or any digital content creator:
1. Stop Saving to Your Desktop
Saving to the desktop can seem fast, easy, and convenient. However, making this bad practice a habit in your workflow can cause a lot of problems and headaches including but not limited to:
Lost project files or project media assets. Many of you know by now that there are some project files that are dependent on media file assets that are embedded or linked to the native project file. If one or the other is not saved together in the same folder it can make for lost time and money searching for those files assets.
It can look incredibly sloppy or unprofessional to anyone who gets a peek at your desktop. This may dissuade a client or potential employer who is looking for a candidate who can show they have the business acumen to understand the importance of a clean desktop and solid file structure in a team environment.
It can affect your computer’s performance. Your computer scans every file on your desktop before starting up, so the more you have on there, the longer it will take. To have quick access to files from your desktop try using an alias folder for Mac or short cut folder for PC which will point to the actual folder stored on your hard drive.
2. Practice good naming conventions for project folders and files. Check out the following tips:
Take a birds-eye view of the digital content you create and divide it into main categories that can serve as main folders for your content. Such as internal files and client files.
When naming folders and files, think about what information you and your team need to attain from the folder or file before it is even opened.
Name a folder or file so that it describes what that folder or file is and possibly who it was created by, what/who it was created for, and when it was created.
This process could take some time to perfect and at first, you may go through several iterations before you figure out a good format for your folder and file naming conventions.
Personally, I like how including a numerical date of at least a month and year mmyy or 0120 automatically starts to organize my files into a sequenced order. You may add the artist's initials or the client or project name to help identify the file further.
3. Back up and clean off your hard drive regularly
Set up a backup system using external hard drives, partitioned internal drives, or cloud drives so you only keep active projects on your creative content producing machine.
Back up whatever you are not currently working on and delete those files off your working computer. This will free up much need processing speed that your graphic and media intense creative software apps need to run fast and properly.
Not only does this protect your client files, but it also helps keep your machine running fast and smooth.
Author: Milena Jackson