Graphic designers - a filing system for design files that works


Scenario. You’re a graphic designer working at a Y&RBBDO or FCB Global - basically any ad agency.

Your day-to-day includes working on campaign designs, lock up images, pitch presentations, social media posts and possibly web page mock-ups. All for different clients and their various brands. You more or less know where your graphic design files are saved and can easily access it from your desktop, server or free file storing cloud service/s. Nice, you have a filing system for your design files. Or so you think.

Work for you is pretty fluent – up until that point where that one design file, only that one design file you’re looking for, has gone missing. Work is called to a halt because without that file, you can’t do anything else. Sozs. And here you thought you were having a good day.
It happens, right? Files get lost. Or maybe you didn't save the last version because it was agency bar night. Or did you? Thing is, you lost work that you worked hard on. And you lost valuable time. Good luck explaining to your traffic manager why you’ll need an extra 3 hours on the job, or asking your partner to move date night out - again. Hey, it was nice knowing you.
Let’s hit the panic killswitch. There are ways to prevent this from happening – graphic designers – like having an organized filing system for your design files that works. The first system is simply a super organized folder algorithm (that is sometimes also agreed upon internally by your agency), and the second system is called a Digital Asset Management solution. Let me break it down


The folder algorithm filing system

“You said algorithm!” Relax, it has nothing to do with numbers. The folder algorithm filing system works two-ways. 1. Your folder structure, 2. Your naming conventions. I’m saying “algorithm” because it needs to look the same for each client. Consistency is key (amiright?). Let’s start with the folders first.


Your folders - What it looks like:


Filing system for design files: The folder algorithm.


Your folders - How it works:

  1. Create a “work” folder” on your desktop, or on your free cloud solution, separate from your private folders and files
  2. In the work folder, create client folders (I.e.: Pernod Ricard, P&G, Toyota)
  3. In client folders, create brand folders (I.e: A Pernod Ricard client folder could have The Glenlivet, Olmeca tequila, Ballantine's)
  4. In brand folders, create project folders (I.e: For The Glenlivet you might have two projects you’re working on, like The Glenlivet Guardians and a Website Rebuild)
  5. In your project folders (which is the most granular) - you’ll have everything needed for that project and could include:
    • Project brief
    • Project timeline
    • Client assets
    • Internal assets
    • Strategy
    • Design
    • Versions
    • Final.

Filing system for design files: The folder algorithm in practice with various layout views.


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Your naming conventions

Naming conventions differ from company to company, but ideally you want something consistent for each client. This way you ensure that, when searching for files from your desktop or cloud service, you can easily retrieve them every time. And if the company you work for doesn’t have naming conventions in place for the organization of design files (usually small agencies and startups), we suggest you take the lead and get a structure in place. Examples:

Example 1:

Job number|Client|Brand|Project name|Date
Or/and with versioning
Job number|Client|Brand|Project name|Project version|Date

Example 2:

Job number|Brand|Project name|Date
Or/and with versioning
Job number|Brand|Project name|Project version|Date

In most cases example 2 is used simply because it’s shorter.



  • Know where to look for files in the future: With every client folder setup in the same way, the file structure will be a guide for where to look for your design files going forward.
  • Searching for files is easier: Think about it, if you know the name of one element in the project (say Job no 10034), you’ll be able to get the project destination easily from there.
  • It saves time: Knowing where to find files from the start will save time spent on projects.
  • Less stress: It’s a proven fact that being organized reduces stress. Just saying.



  • Assets everywhere: Even if you’re using the folder algorithm to organize your design files, it makes no sense to have Caleigh from client service using Google Drive, and you DropBox. Your project assets will be all over the show.
  • Limited access: If you (or someone else) don’t have access to where the files are stored on a server or cloud solution - you’ll most likely get emails from the strategist, creative director or a colleague asking for it (more than once) during a one month span. Oh yes, and what if your colleague is off sick or on leave?
  • Lost files: That moment when a mouse cursor accidentally drags a folder into another folder. It happens.
  • Deleted files: Files get deleted without you knowing it. Need we say more?
  • Edited files: And files get edited without you knowing it (someone clearly has an ownership problem).
  • Collaboration has its limits: When working on a project with another graphic designer, sharing of files, back and forth emails and project versions getting lost could become a real problem (there is a solution to this - read on).
  • Uploading files: It takes time to upload files to your cloud service and drive, or sending zip files via a third party service.
  • Human error: “We said save it as product poster, not product coaster”.


The Digital Asset Management filing system

Ok, so that was the folder algorithm filing system with its pros and cons, and now we’ll be taking a look at a Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution. DAM software, in collaboration with the above mentioned folder algorithm filing system, is designed to make the filing of your design files more collaborative, quicker and overall easier to work with. In short - it optimizes archiving and workflow. And when workflow is optimized and files are easier to find, you have more time to brainstorm, enjoy bar time or go on date night.


What it looks like:

Filing system for design files: The WoodWing Assets, DAM software in practice with various views.


We already explained the folders and naming conventions above, so let’s look at the pros and cons - of WoodWing Assets.



  • Searching for files is even easier: You’ll know where to look for files, but if you don’t, locating your design files is instant with elasticsearch (which WoodWing Assets has). Elasticsearch is the search engine companies like Ebay, Facebook and Wikipedia use.
  • Your assets are all in one place: Save everything on one system - on WoodWing Assets. Sure, but you can also do that on your desktop, server or free file storing cloud service/s. Question is, can you store up to a billion assets? WoodWing Assets is infinitely scalable, which means it's storing capacity gets bigger when adding more files.
  • Easy access to design files: You and Caleigh from client service and the strategist and the creative director and your colleague can all access the same folders and assets. So no more back and forth emailing or transferring those big zip files via a third party service. So what, you can do that in your cloud service too, right? Read on.
  • Control over your assets: You get to set permissions like who can view, download or edit digital assets. And you get to see the version changes. This goes for clients too when wanting to share big files with them.
  • Collaboration from one platform: Remember we mentioned a solution to collaboration? WoodWing Assets has Adobe Creative Cloud integration - which means you can just open your design files from WoodWing Assets and edit (and save) it from there.
  • Drag and drop to upload files: Yes we know, you drag and drop anyway. But WoodWing Assets has a unique upload feature that allows you to upload files and folders quickly, and extract your metadata. Say, “goodbye mac colour wheel”.



  • Human error: Ok, human error still remains. But it’s less so when you have an AI powered DAM. Think automatic image tagging and keywording.
  • If you know of any other - please let us know and we’ll get straight on it.




WoodWing Assets' Control permissions


We hope this helps you organize and file your design files. Who has time to do this by themselves anyway when there are awards to be won?


For more information on WoodWing Assets or a product demo, please contact our sales team:

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Madré Roothman, Digital Strategist - Guest blogger

Madré is a Digital Strategist with 10 years’ collective industry experience. Her portfolio includes B2B and B2C brands in the FMCG, alcohol, automotive, financial, healthcare, pharmaceutical, security, sports, travel and tech industries. Occasionally she blogs for WoodWing about things DAM and advertising-related.