Tidy Up Your Digital Files: Commit To A System!

Branch | Tidy Up Your Digital Files: Commit To A System!

When you’re running a small business and multiple people are involved, one of the immediate things you can do to establish yourself as a pro is to have an organized filing system for client projects on your server. After all, when it comes to keeping things tidy, the digital is just as important as the physical.

Establishing a file system to follow right out of the gate will keep you on track as you grow your business and help you avoid dreaded last minute scrambles when a client calls, requesting assets from an ancient project.

Before founding Branch, I spent six years working at close to a dozen studios and agencies and on the first day of each job, if their server was a complete mess, I knew it was a red flag. That’s a bold statement but if a company can’t keep their most basic processes and filing systems together, chances are that they have bigger issues.

At Branch, we started using this folder system right out of the gate and hope you’ll find it helpful for staying organized at your own creative business.

On the top level of our server, there’s a folder called !!_USE_THIS_STRUCTURE. Our project manager, Cathy copies this folder every single time we book a new project and then changes it to the job name. We always start with the job number, then the client’s name and a brief project description. Here’s an example:

BRNCH_125_OLIVINE_ATELIER_TWITTER


We use this system for our projects:

1. Client Questionnaire

Before we begin the design process, we have new clients fill out a questionnaire. This reminds us of what the client is hoping to achieve with their business and how our design solutions can best help them. We like to refer back to it as a reminder as we move along with their project.

2. Feedback

Whenever a client sends us feedback, we save it down into a text document and file it in this folder. That way, whoever picks up the project is aware of what the client specifically asked for.

3. Assets

In this folder, we keep fonts that are specific for the project as well as sub-folders of our assets (research, stock images, etc.) and the client’s assets (usually production templates and images they’ve sent us).

4. Concepts

This is where we save rounds of work. Each round gets a subfolder inside of here (example: R1, R2 and R3) so we can quickly backtrack and make design updates if they’re referencing multiple rounds on our calls (for example, they loved the branding option of direction 1 in R1 and would like to combine it with direction 1 in R2).

5. Presentations

All presentations are saved into this folder. There’s always a working InDesign file for each round as well as a web-ready PDF to send off since almost all of our clients are remote.

6. Sent Files

Once a client has signed off on final concepts, we save all of the final assets we’ve sent them into this folder so if they ever need any changes, we aren’t digging through old rounds of work.

And, that’s it! Hopefully this basic structure has given you an idea of how you can keep your client files tidy. Feel free to add folders and modify naming conventions to come up with a solution that works for you. The overall goal is to use the same exact system every time. And, better yet, explain how your system works for new employees on their first day of work so that they’re not digging through a maze of sub-folders or starting a completely different system of their own! —Shauna

9 thoughts on “Tidy Up Your Digital Files: Commit To A System!

  1. Can’t agree more with the note on if a company can’t keep their files organized, it’s a surefire sign of bigger organizational challenges within the company. If you can’t even organizes something as easy as files and projects!

    On another note, being well organized helps everyone to concentrate on what is important – their work! and not have to spend their valuable time looking for files and assets when one is in the flow.

  2. Great organization system. I follow something similar to this, but I really like the idea of the Concepts folder w. subfolders for each set of revisions. Think I’m going to implement this system as it works better than saving different versions of basically the same file.

    1. Laura: Totally. Each round of concepts aligns to the same round of the presentation so it’s easy to quickly dig in and find the related files when a client references it.

  3. Great system, Shauna!

    As I mentioned over at the Instagramland I also have main 2 folders : 1. Archived Clients (which I call NOT ACTIVE) and 2. Clients. I try to store a lot in the cloud, so my questionnaires are stored in WordPresss actually. My main folders inside of the CLIENT name are : 1. DOCS (any contracts etc) 2. PROJECT NAME (Website or Illustration or a logo etc) and then 1. PSD 2. ASSETS (which are usually web files or concept files). 3. SENT FILES (here subfolders)

    I think we have it set very similarly.
    I backup NOT ACTIVE to the external drive (which is backed up to the cloud) so I only have ACTIVE work on my computer (also constantly being backed up locally and to the cloud).

    Love your work!

    :: Fan foreva — Marta

    1. Marta Spendowska: Thanks for chiming in and sharing your system! It’s always interesting hearing how everyone else manages to stay organized.

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