On a subreddit I visit, a mod posted an open question to the community asking about what system people use to organize their local design files. I decided to jump in and answer the question, but it also inspired me to make sure I’m sharing it with the world here too.

I know it can be a dry topic, but digital tidiness is important, especially in a team environment. File management is a small part of my job that I’ve really come to enjoy over my career, and while I was at Apple, I picked up some great habits that informed how I organize things, and I’ve been using a similar systems for years since that serves me fairly well, it’s kind of my own personal Mari Kondo-esq approach to managing a file system, especially in conjunction with a cloud syncing service like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, or Box.

Image for post
Image for post
A look at my “-Product” folder — yes, I know you may think I’m a monster for not preferring the 3-column view, but I prefer this.

At the highest level, organize by team or business unit or function whatever (Currently we have folders like -Product, -Marketing, -Templates, all in a “Creative” folder).

Then in my -Product folder I maintain this structure:

  • _System — Assets for my companies design system, fonts, shared resources, sketch library etc…
  • _Archive — projects that are more than 6 months old and not in active development in, and will make sure it’s contents aren’t downloaded locally on my machine.

YYYY-MM Project Name

  • _archive — Working files that aren’t in use, or deprecated
  • _assets — files used in comps, related screenshots etc…
  • _exports—images/documents exported from working files (you can share a whole export folder with a printer / client)
  • YYYY-MM-DD Working File Name.sketch
  • YYYY-MM-DD Working File Name.ai
  • YYYY-MM-DD Working File Name.psd

YYYY-MM Project Name

YYYY-MM Project Name

YYYY-MM Project Name etc…

Essentially you get a few benefits with this system:

  1. You’re stamping out dates yourself, so you’re not relying on the file system’s date management
  2. Sorting by name sorts by date for free, and top level folders with underscores are always sorted first
  3. dedicated _archive folders can be de-synced if you’re using a cloud solution like google drive, dropbox or other stuff.

You end up with a folder that’s both very searchable, and sortable, as well as the ability to differentiate between projects with simple date management, rather than having v2, v3, final_v2 etc… Plus if you go to reference design files that are from a long time ago, you get a sense at a glance without opening the file the contents and when individual tasks/projects took place.

If you’re dealing with multiple contributors, I usually encourage people to add their initials to file (YYYY-MM-DD WorkginFile-RQ.sketch) names, especially when versioning off other people files.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Ryan Quintal

Written by

Designer. Strong opinions, loosely held. Cross posts from RyanQuintal.com.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Ryan Quintal

Written by

Designer. Strong opinions, loosely held. Cross posts from RyanQuintal.com.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store