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The Amazing Task of File Management!A little to enthusiastic? Oh well, can't blame a guy for trying. The fact is file management is probably one of the most boring tasks we do as graphic designers. Boring, but necessary if we want to run an efficient and streamlined business. After all, the less time we have to spend searching for some file we haven't touched in several years the better. A good file management system will make your life as a designer so much easier.
So although file management isn't the most glamorous topic to cover in a graphic design podcast, it is what I choose to cover In this week's Resourceful Designer.
Different areas of file management
In order to try and make this week's podcast episode a little more interesting I decided to break it into seven different sections of file management
- Client Files
- Training/Education Material
Resources cover everything you may use that helps you be the wonderful graphic designer that you are. I'm talking, image libraries, application plugins, Photoshop actions and styles, website themes, WordPress plugins etc. Anything that you can use in the design process.
If you're like me you've probably purchased a few design bundles at some point (or many, don't judge). Design bundles are a great way of acquiring resources for your work. The thing with design bundles is they often come with way more than what you're actually interested in at the time. However, some of those pieces are worth saving for that “someday” you may need them.
Having a Resources folder makes it easy to find all those often used or seldom used pieces to help you in your designing.
My Resources folder contains many different folders for all of the above. For example; we all know that sometimes a good background can complete a design project. In my Resources folder I have a Backgrounds folder that contains every image file I own that can be used as a background. The folder is divided into sub-categories to make it easier to find what I want. Metal, stone, leather, paper, wood are a few of those sub-categories. If I'm ever working on a project and I think a nice wood background is needed I know exactly where to look for one. That's good file management.
Also in my Resources folder is a Stock Images folder. In it I have the original copy of ever single stock photo and image I've ever purchased. I have this folder subdivided as well into Photos, Vectors, and Illustrations and each of these is also subdivided. For example, my Photos folder is divided into People, Landscapes, Vehicles, Interiors, etc. and each of those is subdivided further. People is divided into Women, Men, Couples, Seniors, Families etc. Every time I purchase a new stock image I make sure to put it in the right category. If it could go into multiple categories I make aliases of the file (Shortcuts in Windows) and put them in each category they fit into. This makes it extremely easy for me to search through specific categories and quickly find what I'm looking for.
There are other ideas for the Resources folder I talk about on the podcast.
File management of client files is a must. Otherwise, you could spend hours searching for things when an old client contacts you down the road. On my computer, I have my client files organized like this. I have one main folder that I call “Jobs In Progress”. The title is a bit misleading since not everything in the folder is “in progress” but that's the name I gave the folder over 10 years ago and I just never bothered changing it.
Inside my Jobs in Progress folder I have a separate folder for each client I have. There are two special folders in there as well called “Old Clients” and “Inactive Clients”. Old Clients is for any client I know will never come back. Businesses that have closed or have been bought out. That sort of thing. From time to time when I need to clear up HD space I will move these clients to an external device but for the most part I leave them there. Why? I've learnt over the past 25 years that just because a client doesn’t exist anymore doesn't mean you wont need their files anymore. It's happened more than once that someone came looking for something and I was glad I has saved them.
My Inactive Clients folder is for any client that I haven't heard from in over 2 years. They're still around but either they've found someone else to design for them or they haven't had need of me.
That leaves the rest of my Jobs In Progress folder that contains a folder for every client I've worked with over the past two years. Opening any one of the client folders shows folders for each project I've done for them. Stationary, Flyers, Billboards, Website etc. Now what's found in each of these changes depending on the client. Clients that I do a lot of work for I may divide their folders by year, month and date if need be, others just by year. Regardless of that hierarchy, once I get down to it, every single client project folder I have is built the same way.
Inside the project folder is the actual layout file (QuarkXpress or InDesign), or the website files. There are also four folders in every project folder.
- Working; for all the .psd and .ai files pertaining to the project.
- Images; for all the completed images that are actually used on the project.
- Supplied; for all file that the client has supplied me.
- Final; The final approved file to be sent to the client, printer, etc.
If there are common elements such as graphics or photos that are used across all marketing material I store these in a special “Images” folder at the root level of the client folder.
Now you may be wondering why logos don't fall under the images folder for the individual clients? I discovered many years ago that it's much easier to save each and every logo I have on my computer in one centralized location. In my case I have a Logos folder in my Resources folder. In it I have all my clients logos as well as every single logos I've accumulated over the years.
The reason i do this is for those time when you need to include “sponsor” logos on some poster or website for a client. Trying to remember if, or on what project you may have used some obscure logo a few years ago isn't fun. Since I started keeping all my logos in one place I've never had this issue.
Listen to the podcast for a fun story about my logo storing method.
Two Tricks For Acquiring Logos
Sometimes it's a real pain to get good, usable logos from a client. Especially if they don't understand what it is you need. I have two tried and true methods of acquiring good quality logos quickly and easily. But you'll have to listen to the podcast to hear them (hint, it's at the 27 minute mark)
Fonts are another thing we graphic designer tend to amass over time and it can be a real pain to sort through them to find just the right one. That's why I think everyone should have some kind of font management software to help organize the chaos. I can't speak for all the various options but I can tell you about Suitcase Fusion by Extensis. I've been using Suitcase Fusion since before they added the Fusion to it. This font management software integrates with all the design software we use to turn fonts on and off as we need them. This way you don't bog down your system with unnecessary fonts.
Suitcase Fusion is a great way to organize your fonts and make it easier to find that perfect one for the project you're working on. In the application, you can create sets to organize your fonts. I have mine set up alphabetically as A, B, C, D etc with each font in its appropriate folder. I also have special folders for Celtic Fonts, Script Fonts, Hand Drawn Fonts etc.
The best thing about Suitcase Fusion is the ability to assign styles and/or keywords to fonts. This makes it so easy to narrow down your choices. Looking for a slab serif font? Eliminate all fonts that don't fit that category and your search just became that much easier.
Perhaps not file management in the technical sense, but I've found that keeping all your training material in one place is a big help. Any eBook, video, guide, manual, web clip etc. should be in easy access for when you do need it. I have my Training folder divided into Web, Photoshop, Illustrator, (plus other applications) etc. Any time I download a guide or manual I store it in the appropriate place. Any time I stumble upon a good tutorial page or video I I grab the URL, label it as what it is, and put it in my Training folder for later access.
Having this resource has saved me many hours searching online for something that I remember seeing some time in the past.
This is a simple one that I use. The numbers on every invoice I send out begin with the current year. This January I opened my invoicing program, I use Billings Pro by Marketcircle, and I changed the numbering to start with 16-xxxxx. This makes it easer down the road to know exactly when a certain job was done.
Now backing up really has nothing to do with file management. But, what's the point of implementing a great file management strategy if you end up loosing all your files due to some unforeseen circumstance? There are things in this world beyond our control. Fire, flood, tornadoes, theft are just a few.
On-site backup via Apple Time Machine or some other external device is a must for all graphic designers. But off-site backup is something we should all be using as well. For this I use a company called Backblaze. Backblaze is a set it and forget it solution. It works in the background backing up your files so you never have to worry should a natural disaster ever happen. There are other solutions available but Backblaze is the one I'm familiar with.
Another form of backup you should look into is website backup. Most hosting providers offer site backup but they don't say how often. Some are every 30 days, 60 days, even 90 days. That's fine for a static website. But for any site that is updated on a regular basis it wont do. My preference for website backup is BackupBuddy by iThemes. BackupBuddy offers real-time backups of your site. As soon as something is changed on the site it gets backed up. I have all my and my clients' sites backed up this way.
So there you have it. File Management in a nutshell. I hope that wasn’t too hard to get through. I would love to hear your comments. Share your strategies by leaving me a comment.
In next week's episode of Resourceful Designer, I'm going to talk about the dangers of working from home.
Questions of the Week
I have another Question Of The Week to answer. If you would like me to answer your question in a future episode please visit my feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Teri,
I have just started listening to your podcast in the past month and am really enjoying it! Thanks for all the fantastic advice! I have been working in the industry for about 7 years now here in Atlanta, Georgia. After the birth of my daughter a year and half ago I have started working from home part-time (which I love) and it has been keeping my quite busy! I was wondering if you had any advice on passing off work to other designers? Is there a good network you use or how do you build that network? I also feel that part of my value as a designer is that I know the clients and what they are looking for, thus it is difficult to explain that to another designer, especially with a super fast turn around.
To find out what I told Teri you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
Resource of the week is BackBlaze
One of the scariest things you can think of as a designer is what would happen if disaster strikes and you loose all your computer files. What would it mean for your business? Backblaze offers a simple unlimited online backup solution for your design business for less than $5/month. And it’s so easy. You just set it up and forget about it. Backblaze works in the background automatically backing up your files. And if you ever loose your data for whatever reason, you wont have to worry because you’ll know everything can be restored from Backblaze.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Backblaze’s online backup solution and trying a 15 day free trial, visit resourcefuldesigner.com/backup
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org