There are many great designers and agencies with the creative skills to wow their clients, but that is only half the story. Our customers know they can rely on us for superior customer service as well, and this requires us to be very organised. File structures and naming conventions may not seem like the most exciting subject, but over the years we’ve learned a number of tips that could save you hours of wasted time. And they don’t just apply to design agencies, they can be adapted to any business.
You’ll soon be a stranger
The best way to approach filing is to consider whether a complete stranger would understand it. Ok so maybe you work alone, but in a few years time when you come to find the file again, you effectively are that stranger, because all the information that’s currently in your head will have been forgotten and this will seem very unfamiliar indeed.
A place for everything, and…
First things first, how is everything stored on your computer? If everything is on the desktop or dumped in one big folder per client, then you are going to become a cropper very quickly. We’d suggest creating a standard folder structure and using it for every client so that it is consistent.
What’s in a name?
When creating any file, a sensible naming convention is a must. Don’t create files that ‘sort-of’ make sense now, but will be difficult to fathom later. Don’t name them in any way that you wouldn’t want the client to see either, as you may end up screen-sharing on a call with them or they may come to your office for a meeting. Many designers will have heard stories of junior colleagues using the ‘nicknames’ of the agency’s least favourite client for their client folder, and being caught out when the client came to call!
- If a file is new, don’t add ‘NEW’ to it – it won’t be new for long so this won’t make sense. This method leads to filenames that end in “…NEW1”, “NEW2”, “…NEW_Wednesday”, “…NEW_May5th” etc, and which become more and more desperate
- Don’t name them FINAL either – this leads to a very similar problem. A file that is ‘final’ today, won’t be when you come back to it in a few month’s time to make an update
- Try to avoid abbreviations just to shorten the filename, unless they are industry standard or really obvious. When you come to search for the file in a couple of year’s time you’ll regret doing so as you may not remember what abbreviations you were using that week/month/year
Keeping track of versions
At Pixooma we use a simple convention: Every file has a name that has keywords in it that relate to the client, the job and the specification, and then a version number, like this:
CSL Age UK advert A5 Portrait V1
Where CSL is the client, the job is an Age UK advert, the format is A5 portrait and the version is 1
Any time that we create a new version of the file before sending to a client (to test ideas, reduce options to a shortlist etc) we append the file with a letter: “…V1a”, “…V1b” etc. Every time the client feeds back amends we increment the version number, so in this case, it would be “…V2”, and then follow the same process of appending letters when creating versions for our own use.
We NEVER create a file that is appended with “FINAL” or anything similar, instead, we create a Press-Ready (i.e for the printer) PDF with the word “PRESS” appended on the latest filename. That way, at a glance we know which version is current.
Not just about the visuals
Running a creative agency is about more than providing fabulous creative solutions to your clients, you also need to be organised, have clearly defined processes and provide excellent customer service. If you’d like to talk to one that does things a little differently, then give us a call!