Good habits to have as a graphic designer.

by / Thursday, 04 July 2013 / Published in Graphic Design

Don’t let the messy desks you’ll find in a creative shop fool you. There are creative directors (they know who they are), with a post-apocalyptic layer of lasers, magazines and marker pads all over every surface of the office. There are art directors with gym bags open and spilling out, old shirts hung behind the door and a pile of Starbucks containers beside their Mac. Whether a designer, illustrator, writer and whatever, organizing your work is key.

There’s a common pattern you’ll find with more experienced designers and creatives. Really organized files. A folder structure that follows this type of trickle-down:

> Coca-Cola
– COKE001-AdCampaign
– COKE002-Website
> JoesLocalPub
> McDonalds
> WalMart

Jobs get organized by client > project > job number and sub-folders. This structure works for you in several ways, not the least of which is to reduce stress. It does …a lot. When you’re on a tight deadline, you have no idea until you experience it, what it’s like not to be able to find your latest version, or where the linked images are. It’s no picnic. Having everything buttoned-down has the amazing affect of releasing some of the tension. It doesn’t make the deadline easier, but you’re not feeling the panic of “Where’s that file!?” to keep you from designing to your best. The other huge benefit, is for those times you have to step in for someone who’s not able to work on a project that you have to pick up and run with. Generally, one of the hardest things to do is work on other people’s files. Even someone with amazing technical strength will do things just different – not wrong, just different than you would. That’s tough enough without the extra layer of “Where the heck did he save the image file?!” Structure will bring the temperature level down at least a few degrees alone. And, when things heat up, or you’re on your own, small layers of support add up fast. The, yet other thing it does is elevate your creative product to a higher level. Yes, it does. The HABIT of good organized files WILL PAY OFF, big-time as you gain more experience.

Express your wild-side in the office, for clients, with each other – all good. The messy desk is a sign, often, of inspiration. When you can’t grab a marker pad fast enough to get something down because you’re so excited. My best ideas come fast and furious, and my office often looks like a Jackson Pollock gone wrong. That’s a good thing. It’s part of the magic of being a creative pro – those explosions. But, when it’s time to execute …lock it all down. You’ll thank yourself (and possibly me) later.

Addendum: Another super-talented friend and fellow creative guy Dan Simon pointed out the additional of YY-MM-DD file-dating – ex: “Coke002_130702_SampleFile_v3.psd”. Note the “v” that marks the version number as well.

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