Project management is an acquired skill. When things get hectic, keeping your design work organised can be sacrificed in the false hope of getting more done in the short term. The funny thing is that you’ll spend much longer in the long run trying to find your work if you don’t stay organised.
Keeping Your Design Work Organised
According to a 2001 white paper by IDC, workers who manage, create, or edit documents for a company were spending up to 2.5 hours per day searching for what they needed. – source
So, with this in mind, I’ve outlined 10 tips to help you stay on top of your organised file game so you can prevent the loss in productivity that comes with not being able to find the right file. And as much as I love graphic and print designers, for the purposes of this post I’m focusing on designers who work on apps and websites.
So let’s get started.
1. Keep a Folder For Each Separate Project
While you might find yourself working on multiple projects over the course of a sprint, it’s not helpful to keep your items in “Sprint n” folders. It will make project files impossible to find later. Alternatively, keep a note of the changes that were made in a particular sprint, and keep your design files in a folder that is only for that project. This means that later on, or if another designer needs something, you’ll have a better idea of where all the finished files are.
2. Research / Wireframes / Prototypes / folder-name-WIP
If you use common naming techniques like Research, Prototpyes or use the annotation “WIP” to indicate something is a work in progress, then if any other deisgner needed to find something they would be able to do so quickly. While your end goal is to have a “Final” design folder with all of the assets in it, until you get to that point you’ll find yourself with a running “Work in Progress” file. This is completely fine. Just make sure that you name things appropriately during the design phase, and keep a note of any of the changes that were made in the notes file (which I will cover in #9).
3. Sketch Files
A special mention to Sketch Files because I believe most designers at this point would use them, keep your Sketch Files as neat as you can. It’s not always easy when things get hectic, but try to incorporate basic levels of organisation as you use them. At the very least, name the different pages. I’m not going to lecture you on using symbols, I’ll assume you already do that. Give your Artboards intelligent names, mentioning the screen or the state that is being represented on the Artboard. If you want to keep some ideas for future experiments in the Sketch file, put them in a separate page named “Experiments” or “Future Iterations” so that the other designers don’t get confused about the present and the future designs.
4. Resource Files
Wireframe kits, icons files, stock images, fonts… Because multiple projects will use these assets, they should all go in a resource folder separate from your work. Keep these assets neat and tidy by assigning different folder names within the assets folder – photography, icons, mockups, UI kits… Depending on the project each designer will need a different variety of assets, so name the asset folders accordingly. It might be nice to share these finds with the team, so storing them on the shared drive might be a possibility. Just make sure the other designers know what it’s for.
5. Schedule Time for Cleanup
If you return to find something in 6 months, you will want to be able to locate it quickly. It would also be a disaster if you were to delete the wrong things and lose work. Take an hour or two every week, maybe those last few hours on Friday when people are starting to pack up, and try to do a quick house keep.
6. Extra Care Share Files on the Team Drives
Sketch used to have it’s autosave feature turned on as a default. For this reason, if one designer has a shared file open while another designer is working on it, the second designer might lose all her work because the first designer – unknowingly – was rewriting the files by just having it open. If you find yourself working on a
7. Use Dates and Names on Shared Drives
If you need to fork an existing master file from the shared drive, use your initials to show that you made a change, so it doesn’t get deleted by anyone. Similarly, you could use “filename-January-update” to show a particular update happened at a specific time.
8. Discuss Organisational Strategy With The Team
How you organise files on your shared drive should be something the rest of the team are at least aware of. Get the rest of the team on board with trying to solve a messy shared drive by incorporating a discussion into weekly team meetings.
9. Keep Notes
Don’t just take notes, keep notes. It’s important to take notes during a meeting to keep a log of any changes or action items that are made to a project.
One way to do this is to keep a single text document on the entire project, and with each meeting you keep bullet points on what was agreed, why a particular thing was changed, or if something is an action point for someone. If you use a tool like Google Docs, you also can notify someone they are mentioned in the document by adding a note. This acts as a great record of decisions for a particular project, and should be used with any meetings with developers. It’s also a great way for any new designers who join the team to get up to speed.
10. Keep Your Workspace Neat
A tidy desk means a tidy mind, so keep your work area tidy if you can. Keep random files from cluttering up your desktop by putting things away when ever you get a chance. Try to start building a routine of tidiness. Keep fewer tabs open and only leave the apps you are using open. Be mindful about the task you are working on, work wholeheartedly on it until it’s done, then move on to the next task. This will improve your productivity by keeping you focused on a single goal, cutting down on distractions.
So those are my 10 tips to being a more organised designer. Thanks so much for reading. If you have any other tips, as always you can catch me on twitter. I’m currently working on a redesign for this blog, and since I just moved things have been on hold, but I hope to launch the new site soon.