File Management for Designers

A simple yet comprehensive organizational system

Neil Shankar
May 8, 2018 · 4 min read

Client projects have lots of moving pieces. I’m a designer on Creative Engineering at Google, which works with Google PMMs (Product Marketing Managers) to create websites and digital experiences. We ourselves are comprised of several creative and development agencies, and work with both internal product teams and other external agencies.

As such, our projects can become extremely complex, and require strong organizational infrastructure on every level. This is my organizational system.

Benefits

I use this organizational system to accomplish the following:

  • Manage iterations

Example: Android Things

androidthings.withgoogle.com

I’ll use the Android Things project (Q1-Q2 2018) as an example to walk you through my organizational system. This project was complex in the following ways:

  • Our team picked up the project where another creative agency left off.

Masterdoc

At the start of every project, I create a “masterdoc” in Google Docs where I curate all relevant outlinks for the project. This includes links to briefs, decks, references, inspiration, Gallery projects, etc.

I prefer masterdocs over browser bookmarks for the following reasons:

  • Sharing & collaboration—I want the whole team to have access to the same resources.

Directory structure

After I make the masterdoc, I create a new directory in Google Drive for the project. I use Backup and Sync, so this directory is auto-synced with my local machine. This lets me quickly share Drive links for particular files directly from Finder.

I initialize every new project directory with the following sub-directories:

  • _masterfiles — All vector files (.sketch, .ai, .psd, etc.)

Screenshots

For redesigns, it’s important to document the existing website to reference in a future case study or portfolio presentation. I recommend using a Chrome extension that allows you to take 1-click whole-page screenshots. If you forget to take screenshots beforehand, you might have some luck with the Wayback Machine.

After your site launches, take screenshots of the live site. If the UI is motion-heavy, create a video walkthrough. I use the Material Resizer to quickly capture responsive views.

Export naming

I categorize my exports by UI page type. The directory names correspond 1-to-1 with the page names in my master Sketch file.

Within each page type directory, I number every iteration sequentially. There’s no need for fancy naming schema! If you need to, you can star specific iterations or note them in your masterdoc.

I export every idea try — even the bad ones. This has the following benefits:

  • Documents the entire design process

Your structure

This is the organizational structure that works for me. Rather than prescribing it to you, I hope this gives you the insight to create a system that works for you.

Neil Shankar is a designer on Creative Engineering at Google, embedded through Left Field Labs. Visit tallneil.io.

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