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.