Organizing Art Files for Growth

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How are you currently managing your art files?  Will your approach "scale" as you grow from a few hundred to a few thousand to thousands of files? Here's a test:  While you are entering a sales order, measure the time it takes to find and retrieve the correct file from where it is stored.  If it took more than 3 seconds then you have a problem.

Let's look at the method used by most shops, regardless of size.  It starts with the very first logo.  "How will I store this logo for my customer?"  The obvious solution is to create a Design folder under the C:\ Drive. Then create a subfolder named for the customer.  Then save the logo file, together with any supporting files in that customer folder.   The result looks like this: 
         C:\Designs\West Side Dance Studio\WestSide.dst   

Do the same for the next logo and the next. For the first few hundred logos, this works okay. But eventually, it starts looking like this:
    C:\Designs\West Side Auto\WestSideAuto.dst
    C:\Designs\West Side Dance Studio\WestSide.dst
    C:\Designs\West Side Food Services\WSFoodSvc.dst
    C:\Designs\West Side High School\WestSideHS.dst
    C:\Designs\West Side Middle School\WestSideMS.dst

You can see the problems:

First, every save and retrieve means opening Finder or Windows Explorer, clicking down through subfolders, eyeballing a file and moving with a drag or copy and paste. This is a time killer.  Put a stop watch on this and you will be amazed at how much you're paying per hour to move files.

Second, with more and more customers, file folder names become more difficult to distinguish, slowing down the process and leading to errors.

Third, the files are named in an attempt to visually distinguish between different versions and even different customers.  While file folders can now be quite long, long file names are cumbersome, particularly when transferred on floppies or thumbdrives.

The root problem is that this method is intended to make it easy for humans to save and retrieve files.  Human readable for 20 folders becomes human confusing for 200. The solution is simple.  The files are already stored on a computer, so use a method that leverages computer power.  Move to computer based design management program, such as the Design Library included in EmbTrak. This supports several Industry 'Best Practices':

First, files should be numbered with no attempt to embed information such as a customer name into the file name itself.

Second, store all information about the file (what techies call "metadata") in a database record which is linked to the file by the file number. File number, description, customer name, date of creation, and much more can be stored if needed.

Third, let the design management software instantaneously save the file and retrieve it.  This alone typically saves 30 seconds or more per file. No more scrolling and clicking through layers of folders. This software also displays the file without having to open digitizing software, Adobe, or Corel.

These are 'Best Practices' not just because they save money.  They also ensure you use the right file every time and that means quality.

Think about it.           

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