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I'm trying to figure out the best way to link a printed piece to the electronic file name. What are the best practices for file naming and version control? Do you use a log of sorts for graphic design?

closed as primarily opinion-based by DA01, Scott, Wrzlprmft, joojaa, Vincent Jun 26 '15 at 11:14

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • File naming was deemed too hard of a problem in several data heavy engineering fields so they were just given running number names that pointed to a metadata database that had all the info fields. – joojaa Jun 25 '15 at 23:28
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    This seems to fall quite squarely under the "Every answer is equally valid" section of What types of questions should I avoid asking? It's also pretty close to a boat programming question. – David Richerby Jun 26 '15 at 0:32
  • There's no best way. Use whatever makes sense for you needs and preferences. – DA01 Jun 26 '15 at 1:53
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    True, there's no best way. But maybe we can make this into good best-practice question? Because everyone knows Folder-Final2-v3-re-edit-for-new-text-that-arrived-this-morning-7B-Final.indd – KMSTR Jun 26 '15 at 7:24
  • I think this is a totally valid question, becouse it is an imprtant factor of the design profession and it is based on expertise!. Guys... really, EVERYTHING is opinion based. Even if a simple question on how to mask a photo on photoshop have diferent aproaches. Do you want to only respond how do I ... on Photoshop? questions... A search on adobes webpage is faster. – Rafael Aug 9 '15 at 22:41
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I use some conventions.

  1. Never use special characters in name, including non english characters like "Ñ" or spaces. (keep the file name web safe)

  2. IUseCamelCaseNamefiles.ext

  3. I_can_also_use_underscores.ext (Not very often)

  4. I use hypen for version number or separating diferent hierarchy.

    • Brochure-A4-01.ext
  5. Use folders

    • Company

    • Project

  6. If the file is going to an external provider I use the clients name first.

    The versions are for design changes, not output. Some aditional notes can be added on the file.

    • CompanyName-Brochure2015-05-cmyk.pdf

    • CompanyName-Brochure2015-05-grayscale.pdf

  7. Sometimes I need a variation, probably a revision where the design is the same but I need a minor change. I use them when the client need to compare. Once the file is autorized I return with a consecutive number.

    • Brochure-2015-03a.pdf

    • Brochure-2015-03b.pdf

    • The next version will be Brochure-04.pdf

  8. Sometimes I make an aditional file prior for output, for example flatten images and backgrounds. I rename the file BEFORE any change.

    Brochure-2015-04-output.ai

  9. Some people use a date on the publication itself, so they know if the printed info is updated.

  10. I never use the word "Final". There is not such thing.

  11. I normally don't use dates on filename. That info is included in the file itself. Of course this can be modified.

    However it is important to include date, both inside the document and on the namefile, if it has somekind of legal implication and it is for public use.

    UserAgreement-September2015.pdf

  12. If the project has a totally diferent redesign (not just changes or evolution), I can add V2 for example.

    BrochureV2-2015-05.pdf


Some notes about the why I don't use the word "Final" on any file.

  • Some clients are very likley to ask last minute changes. Yes a client sometimes call me on the phone "STOP I changed my wife's phone lastnight".

    As I have close relation to my providers and if I can stop the printing process, I simply send a consecutive Filename-05.pdf. No need to rename the file Client...FinalFinalFinal.pdf

    How many Final Final Final words should I count to know it is the final final version?

  • If I need a technical change I can rename the file but not the design version. Client...05-overprint-01.pdf

  • Imagine a reprint of a brochure with a minor change. You just prepare a new version.

  • An analogy: Have you seen any software called VersionFinal? It is called on consecutive numbers, version numbers, for a reason. There is not a final version.

  • Imagine a client that is looking in his email for a "Final" version. If a file is named like that but has some changes after that, he has a problem.

  • Of course there is a final version. But that final version is the one that was already printed. The one did not recived any change. Prior to that... there is no way to know if it is final version.

  • there is such a thing as final, as in, this is the final version submitted to the printer.. this is the final to be loaded to a site.. this is the final one for this project that was produced. That also is there to help if others are looking for what was sent or what has been approved months down the road. Based on your suggestion you would just keep multiple variations in one location which would cause error when in a collaboration or if someone needs to get to them later down the road – DᴀʀᴛʜVᴀᴅᴇʀ Jun 25 '15 at 19:25
  • In my humble experience there are always last minute changes. I have seing files named FinalFinalFinal. On a downloadable brochure you can simply rename the file and repace it if some info is updated. – Rafael Jun 25 '15 at 19:32
  • The "location" is my own hard drive. Ill edit the post with some notes. – Rafael Jun 25 '15 at 19:33
  • I don't see what is the single aproach thing. Yes the location is my hard drive. This also can work on a cloud based drive. Yes I can upload them fo an ftp site. Any current software uses versions. The first numbers for big changes, the minor changes are marked with consecutive decimal numbers. – Rafael Jun 25 '15 at 20:00
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    Brochure_SuperFinalIReallyMeanItThisTime.indd – Lauren Ipsum Jun 25 '15 at 20:42
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As Rafael, suggested:

No special character and spaces in the file names, and everything well sorted in folders.


In general

To name my main folders, I like to use my "project numbers" and this is matching the invoice numbers as well.

I like it because I can use the search command or simply open my "work-in progress" folder and type the first numbers of a project to get to it. It's also easier to find the matching invoice and project's time sheet this way if I need to verify details about it.

Plus it's satisfying to look at all the numbered folders well sorted! I'm now at my folder #1700, it's really the best system I found to not get lost if you have a lot of projects and 5-10-15 years of archives. It gives a quick preview of how many projects are in-progress and I don't need to open 2-3 folders to get my details; it's all on the main folder's name (eg. client, version, kind of project, invoice number, etc.)

The versions of proofs and files get a different number at the end of the file name. I prefer it this way because many revisions can be done on urgent projects in the same day. For this reason I don't use dates.

Example for different sets of first drafts:

12345A_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName01-1

12345A_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName01-2

12345A_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName01-3

Example for different sets of revisions:

12345A_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName01-1

12345A_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName02-1

12345A_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName03-1

When I need to insert that file in a "proof file" with the versions, I add the contact details, project #, date, colors, and intellectual property note on it. I name that file something like "12345A_AbrevOfClient_ProjectNamePF01" and each page on the proof has a big 01A - 01B - 01C - 01D. The client can then simply get back to me with his revisions by mentioning "I like title of 01B and body text of 02A" for example.

When I get a revision on the same project later (eg. after the project is archived and approved), that project has a new folder created but I'll change it to the letter "B", etc. This way in the archives it's easy to find and I always know what is the latest version.

Example for different versions of the same project once archived:

12345A_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName01-1

12345B_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName01-1

12345C_AbrevOfClient_ProjectName01-1

I only use a client's folder with the name of the client for my archives. On my main working drive, I prefer when the projects' folder starts with the invoice/project number, it's easier to find and I don't need to open 2 folders to get to my project.

The examples below are my graphic design projects structure; you'll probably need to adjust this to your own preferences. My folder structure is a bit different for websites; I'll have a backup folder, an image folder (optimized), a graphic folder (layers, vectors) and the final folder will contain everything that is on the host (including notes on custom settings, xml, etc.) This way I always have some kind of backup ready. I move the files I modify in the backup folder. I usually need to rename the end of the files or sort them in a folder with a number to show the version (1-1, 1-2, etc.)


The main structure of each project's folder:

  • My main file is always the one on the first level. No confusion.
  • I don't overwrite the revised files, I keep the "refused" files in a separate folder, I change the number at the end of the new file name instead eg. 01-1, 02-1, etc. Client change their mind sometimes, it's good for this.
  • I have a folder for proofs and the proofs are numbered too. I keep the refused proofs for reference
  • Final files folder contains the latest final files. This way when a client ask to resend the finals, it's well identified and easy to find the latest version
  • I always keep all communication and original stock images (and their original low resolution if I suggested other images but didn't purchase them.)

Client's folder structure


File naming:

  • I prefer to use the same numbering system for my imported files (graphics and high resolution from Photoshop) this way I always know what's the last version and to which specific project it belongs.
  • If there is no change to a file, I keep the file name from the original project it came from. It avoid a lot of wrong linking to have precise names like this too.
  • I keep the layer files in a separate folder (I like to flatten my .psd and import .eps in the publishing software)
  • I always use extensions
  • If I need to revise a final file, I will simply rename the end of the final file "v2, v3, etc."

Client's folder structure and files


Emails

All my email communication is clearly starting with a structure like this so it's easy to follow-up:

  • 01 PROOF - Name of project here
  • 02 PROOF - Name of project here
  • FINAL FILES - Name of project here
  • FINAL FILES v2 - Name of project here
  • etc.

Archives

Each project's folder is sent to a client's folder with their name

And I archive on 2 external backups on different hard disk (a backup, and a backup of a backup.) I change these HD every 3-4 years for new ones.


Log

I don't really need to use a log; I can simply use my accounting or invoice software for logs, and search there if I need something (Eg. FreshBooks, Quickbooks, etc.) All the details are there and match my projects' names.

1

I try to stick to

Client_Project_Asset_Description_Version.Filename

for Everything. Habits make the mess go away.

e.g. Google_Maps_Icons_ThatPressedStateNoOneEverSees_v33.png

0

I file everything by Client > Project

 - (DIR) Client 1 Name

   - (DIR) Project 1 name
     Client_Project_date.indd
     Client_Project_date.pdf
     Client_Project_datePDFX.pdf
     - (DIR) Client files (anything the client has sent regarding project)
     - (DIR) Working (custom created supporting files)
        - (DIR) Reference (if needed)
     - (DIR) Older (past iterations of same project)

   - (DIR) Project 2 name
     - Version A
        Client_ProjectA_date.indd
        Client_ProjectA_date.pdf
        Client_ProjectA_datePDFX.pdf
        - (DIR) Older (past iterations of same project & version)
     - Version B
        Client_ProjectB_date.indd
        Client_ProjectB_date.pdf
        Client_ProjectB_datePDFX.pdf
        - (DIR) Older (past iterations of same project & version)
     - Version C
        Client_ProjectC_date.indd
        Client_ProjectC_date.pdf
        Client_ProjectC_datePDFX.pdf
        - (DIR) Older (past iterations of same project & version)
     - (DIR) Client files (anything the client has sent regarding project)
     - (DIR) Working (custom created supporting files)

   - (DIR) Project 3 name
     Client_Project_date.ai
     Client_ProjectFLAT_date.eps
     Client_Project_date.pdf
     Client_Project_datePDFX.pdf
     - (DIR) Client files (anything the client has sent regarding project)
     - (DIR) Working (custom created supporting files)
     - (DIR) Older (past iterations of same project)



 - (DIR) Client 2 Name

   - (DIR) Project 1 name
     - (DIR) Client files (anything the client has sent regarding project)
     - (DIR) Working (custom created supporting files)
         - (DIR) Resources (Original versions of 3rd party tools/scripts if any)
     - (DIR) Older (past iterations of same project)
     - (DIR) Mockups_Wireframes
     - (DIR) Static Build (if needed)
     - (DIR) Web Build
           - (DIR ALIAS) BUILD (alias to localhost server if needed)
           (All the files/directories for the web site)

And so on. . .

Filename dates are formatted as _062515.indd. This allows me to avoid the "Final_Final_Final_USETHISONE_NEW.indd" trap. If I create more than one iteration in a given day I use letters, a la _062515B.indd. I can then tell just by looking at file names what is the latest version.

I also keep master directories for common elements. I have a Logos directory, a Stock art directory, a Custom art directory - where I store files that are used across multiple files/projects/clients.

I keep all client logos in the Logos directory (alphabetized into sub directories), that way those files are not repeatedly duplicated across the file system wasting hard drive space needlessly.

Over the years this has proven to be most helpful in tracking things down and staying organized for me. I can search the directly by client name, by project name, by date and quickly find what I need. Most often I don't even need to search, just stepping through the directory structure turns up what I need.

  • out of curiosity, why 062515 and not 150625? – Lauren Ipsum Jun 26 '15 at 9:59
  • @LaurenIpsum Because it doesn't really matter since the files don't sort in the finder based upon the date. If I need to sort by date I can change the finder view. 062515 is just more human readable, that's all. I could use 150625 just as easily. – Scott Jun 26 '15 at 12:54

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