Best way to organize project folders?

Hey all… been struggling with an issue of project folder and file management, hoping a few of you could chime in with some suggestions on what your company is doing, and how well it was working.

When I started, we typically named any file with the date, starting in the year, so today would be 110201, this way Windows would arrange the files according to years. One issue is that if you are doing a large project, some files are “current” with an expired date, while newer ones might not be finished with a newer date.

In terms of the folder itself, we have it divided into CAD (with subfolders for Solidworks, Pro E, and other packages), and images (which had subdivisions of Photoshop and Illustrator). These methods had their own problems… first off, we got Keyshot, and I’m not sure if Keyshot files should be stored in with Cad files (since they are cad renderings) or in the images folder, which would then require another subfolder?!)

The photoshop/illustrator folders became an even bigger mess, as sometimes you would be using photoshop files in an illustrator document, and the sheer volume off files became mind boggling. Eventually, I started using folders that had some correlation to time itself, and put “Phase 1”, “Phase 2” and “Phase 3” of the design process, with both illustrator, photoshop, PDFS, and other files in each phase folder. This helped ME, but now we’re using two systems, and nobody really has an answer.

So what do you guys do? Please provide any insight you can, and let’s make a unified organiziation structure that helps everyone out.

I may not have the best system, and personally am looking to make some changes (generally make project folders more uniform), but a couple tips on what has worked well:

On the date issue, generally every time there is a reasonably significant edit we make a new copy. Yes this adds up to more space on the drive, but it solves the clarity problems you seem to have and gives you a backup or reference if you need it. And you can always clean it up later if needed. We do this even for CAD, and generally I’ll just copy the whole folder and give that a dated name (using the same year first method, though I use dash separators to make it more legible for humans). With CAD, usually a new folder is created every week, after every meeting, or with any significant direction change.

As far as where to put stuff, I like to organize it mostly by its purpose, then by software category if necessary. So your photoshop and illustrator files would all be in a “sketches” folder, which might be further subdivided by project stage. And I generally keep the output image in the main folder and the creator files (illustrator, photoshop, etc., and generally mixed) in a subfolder. As for CAD renderings, I generally keep all the creator files in with CAD then copy the output image to a “renderings” folder that is higher up so they aren’t buried. And those output images are dated, of course, so I know where to look for the source files. And if it’s a more involved render I generally make a copy of the CAD folder and put “Maxwell” (for Maxwell render, you could use “render” or “keyshot”) in the name. That way if I have to adjust the CAD to get my render my final deliverable CAD is protected.

Hope that helps, and I’m open to any tips you have.

I keep everything in one big folder. No sub folders. AI, PS, SW, KS, UG…everything. CAD files get an _# at the end that goes up with big revisions. The latest file has the biggest number. Same with 2D files. Organizing by date in Windows makes the latest stuff really easy to find. I tried being super folder and file name specific with dates and revs, but it just became too much.

Project Name > File Type (ie. Illustrator/PDF/PS) > Projectname_phase_version.extension

For some, where there is lots of files per rounds (ie. sketches), I’ll add another sub folder with the Phase (ie. 01)

ie. Core77 > Illustrator >01

Simple, easy to find everything. I make new versions for every major stage and also in between stages so I can get artwork before it’s outlined, cropped, etc. I don’t use CAD, but the same would apply I think.

Typically a project may have the following examples of top level folders

PS (postscript)

I also duplicate final files when ready into another FINAL folder with Illustrator, PDF and PS folders so I can easily access all the final artwork for any project in one place.


We’ve actually pretty much banned the use of “final” in any folder or file name. It is certainly very useful to create a folder of the final files for a project, but if you have to go back and edit something the “final” is no longer final. You could rewrite that folder I guess, but we generally use something like “delivered to client 2011-02-02” or “complete project 2011-02-02.” That way we can look back and know what was delivered and when.

Just name it “Final 2”, and then “New final”, and ultimately “Final final” :bulb:

I go by \Project\Phase\Sub-phase\Software\Revision\filename.*
Filenames: project_part_revision. Date can sometimes be added but I try not too.

hehe, exactly what we ran into. Folders named “Final 3” & “Final Final.” Then someone 4 months later goes to make a revision or do something for the client and grabs the “Final” folder, not noticing there was a “Final Final.”

Good suggestions on folder structure though, interesting to see the different methods.

One of the best ways I’ve found of organizing my projects is as such:

Assign each of your projects a “project number” and keep track of these numbers in a separate database.

It helps to use a coding system, for example your project number could be 3043, where 30 represents client X, and 43 represents the 43rd project you’ve done for that client. If you’re a student, perhaps assign a two digit number to a particular class, such as Form & Colour = 19, and then number the projects you do for that course: 1901, 1902, etc. You could also just go in numerical order for the projects that you do, whatever system you decide on it is crucial that each ‘project’ has a unique identifier. If you think you’ll do over a hundred projects for a given client, decide now to use a 5 or 6 digit numbering system.

Let’s go with an example where I’m designing a twin-tip pen for Pilot Inc. I’ve assigned number 22 to Pilot Inc. since they are the 22nd client I’ve taken on, and this is my third project for them, so we’ll call this project 2203.

Any work I do for clients is in a folder called “Clients”, then in that folder I have a folder for each client code, in this case titled 22-Pilot, and of course a subfolder for the project i’m working on.

So far my directory structure is:

Clients / 22-Pilot / 2203-TwinTip

I tend to work in phases (and hop back and forth a lot) but there is almost always a research phase, a concept phase, and a refinement / production phase, so I’ll create folders called 2203-Phase 1, 2203-Phase 2, and 2203-Phase 3

During the research phase I’ll collect images and data, and store them appropriately in Phase 1 under subfolders called 2203-1.01 images and 2203-1.02 data and maybe 2203-1.03 sketches

Any new folders that are created within 2203-Phase 1 after the fact all start with ‘2203-1.x’ The idea here is that I am maintaining an alphanumeric order to everything I create, which will make navigating the project far easier down the road, not to mention if I’m switching between projects, I can instantly pull up spotlight, type in ‘2203’ and get every single folder pertaining to the project I want to work on.

You can get obsessive about naming images or articles you pull from the web with your project code, but that is up to you. One thing I’ve gotten into the habit of doing is renaming any obscure numeric filenames such as 328376492827.jpg just to keep my project searches clean.

Once you start creating project files (this will usually be in the Phase 2 folder) you can name them appropriately such as 2203-2.1 Artwork and 2203-2.2 Concepts. Often you’ll have revisions to concepts and want to keep previous versions for reference. If I’m working on a Concept, say 2203-2.2.1 I might attach an alpha code to the end to keep different versions, try to keep the last letter as the most recent version, so say I create up to concept ‘2203-2.2.1 Twintip F’ , then I realize that I liked C better, I’ll re-save C as ‘2203-2.2.1 Twintip G’. This way you won’t get confused as to whether you’re working on an old version or not.

This system has worked for me for a few years, and can be used as drawing numbers as well meaning you only really need one system. If you can tweak this system to work for your projects, by all means please do.

For SolidWorks Files we use the PDM Works Vault system. It has it’s own place on a server and helps mediate who has rights to edit models and drawings and keeps a history of who did what, when. For our reference material, we have a project folder with sub categories like, systems, mechanical, electrical, deliverables, etc. Then you have folders with in mechanical for photos, reference data, survey info, and out of house presentations. So far it works fairly well. Every system will have its hiccups.