How to Create a Manageable and Logical Folder Structure

May 21, 2020
1 min read

Why You Should Create a Folder Structure

When you think about getting organized, you probably think about your garage before you think about your project management folder structure. While we all have our own approaches to staying organized at work, this isn’t always the case for digital asset management. Many people treat their project folder structure more like a junk drawer than a well-organized filing cabinet. But this approach can have a serious impact on your productivity.

Fortunately, there is a better way.

Designing a logical folder structure for yourself, your team, and your organization can make all the difference in your workflow. This systematic approach is the foundation of optimal digital asset management. And there is a real cost to disorganized folder structures. If you and your teammates can’t find what you need, it will cost even more to repurchase those digital assets or recreate them from scratch.

In this article we’ll show you how to create a folder structure that’s flexible, intuitive, and scalable. This kind of project folder structure will make it easier for everyone to quickly find what they need. Then you can spend more time on what matters: creating great work for your projects.

Project Management Folder Structure Best Practices

We’ll share our approach to designing a project folder structure that works for you in just a bit. But first, you must understand that proposing a new folder structure requires a change in behavior. You’re more likely to achieve the desired results if you understand the logic behind these changes. It’s not enough to apply a static template if you don’t monitor how these changes could alter your workflow. Keep these goals in mind when you set out to create a new folder structure:

  • Scope
    One of the most common mistakes we see is an overemphasis on detail in the beginning. Sometimes people attempt to organize all their files into new, unrelated folders. They feel that their new folder structure must include every single file right away. They sift through old files and try to reorganize all their assets from past projects into these new folders in one massive push.
The best way to launch a new project management folder structure is to start slow. Focus on the files and folders you’re working with now, and build from there.
  • Clarity
    A single, top-level folder with the name “Currents Projects” will be more effective than a wide array of niche folders with diverse naming conventions. Clarity is your ally. Adopt clear naming conventions and you will help yourself and your entire team.
  • Collaboration
    Another problem we often see with folder structure is that everyone has a unique (and sometimes chaotic) approach. As you create new folders and subfolders, remember that this new system should be simple and intuitive for everyone, not just you.
    We find that once this practice is adopted for your project management folder structure, file naming conventions also become clearer and more consistent. This helps you and everyone on your team collaborate more efficiently on every new project.
  • Consistency
    Remember, a system is only as good as its ongoing maintenance. It’s easy to create a logical folder structure, but if you and your team fail to take care of it you will be back at square one. Just like a tidy home, some routine housework is required and everyone needs to pitch in.

The Pyramid Folder Structure: The Best Folder Structure for Project Management

We’ve worked with many organizations that feel totally overwhelmed by their digital assets, as well as many others who just need a little boost. Before we help them develop and optimize their digital asset workflow with Portfolio, we determine whether or not they currently have a logical folder structure. If they don’t, we advise them to start using a pyramid structure to organize their folders and files. We’ve found that the pyramid folder structure is the most effective organization method for just about every client we’ve worked with, no matter their size or industry.

With the pyramid folder structure, you will:

  • Create a general overview folder of a project.
  • Create folders for the different types of assets that will arise within that project.
  • Build a nested structure so that everyone can quickly find what they need.

You’ll want to create a basic, logical folder structure for each project. This will make it easy for you to store every type of digital media in a clear, organized fashion. When you first create new folders, it doesn’t matter if some of them are empty. When a project is brand new, it is generally in the “planning phase,” which means you are “planning” for the development of the project. And chances are that the project will grow and take on a life of its own during the creative process. A pyramid project folder structure will give you flexibility and allow you to build out projects easily. As new projects are created, simply copy and paste the folder structure to the appropriate location on your file server and change the “Project Name” folder to the name of your project.

That’s the basic recipe for creating an adaptable project folder structure. Now let’s see what this specific project management file structure actually looks like in real life.

A Practical Example of the Pyramid Folder Structure

In this example, we will create folder structure for a Marketing Communications (MarCom) Department. This team relies on several types of assets including press releases, publicity photos, videos, audio clips, and layout files for print including placed artwork. The team is planning to promote a large event in Chicago in 2022. Let’s take a look at the digital asset folder structure that MarCom will create for this event.  

First, the main project folder is named “Chicago 2022.” As the project grows, the folder structure expands to accommodate all of the various elements of the project, but the main project folder name does not change. Once MarCom creates the main project folder, they can add subfolders for each type of media.

First, MarCom creates a subfolder for “Images,” which is tiered to accommodate the various types of imagery needed for the project. Then they add the folders “Audio,” “Press Releases,” and “Video” on the same level as “Images.” Because these folders don’t have very many assets within them, there is no need to tier them. The MarCom team simply adds individual digital files to these folders as needed. However, if the volume of assets increases later in the project, the team can easily tier these folders when necessary. With this project folder structure in place, the entire MarCom team is able to easily find, share, and edit digital assets for their 2022 event in Chicago.

The pyramid model is the best project management folder structure because it’s easy to scale. For example, let’s say MarCom decides to collaborate with another company for their event. There will be special presentation at the event, which means MarCom will need to create additional, co-branded materials for this project. A clear file structure will keep these co-branded assets separate but easily accessible. Once they create a folder for all co-branded digital assets, MarCom can easily add subfolders for “Images,” “Audio,” “Press Releases,” and “Video.” This approach mimics the project folder structure for all their other digital assets, which makes it easy for everyone to find what they need.

Build Your Logical Folder Structure for the Long-Term

Don’t try to do everything at once. Create a folder structure for one project and follow pyramid best practices as you add new digital assets. Then, take what you’ve learned from that project and apply it to the next one, and the one after that. Before you know it, your project folder structure will permeate your entire organization.

We all know that getting organized is the easy part. It’s staying organized that takes real dedication. But the benefits are clear: less time spent looking for assets and much higher productivity. If you and your team can’t find what you’re looking for, you’ll need to build it from scratch, adapt an existing asset to meet your needs, or purchase it again. All of these cost a significant amount of time and money, but a clear project folder structure can keep you on track.

Whether you’re dealing with new projects or new teammates, emphasize the importance of using the pyramid approach. If some of your teammates start to stray from it, remind them that this approach can benefit them and everyone in the organization. Remember, this type of project folder structure makes it easier for everyone to quickly find what they need. Following best practices for group projects can also inspire your teammates to keep their individual workflows and folders organized as well.

What was it our parents used to say? “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” It may have sounded like nagging when we were kids, but now it sounds like peace of mind for your digital asset management strategy. And the good news is, it’s completely attainable with the right project folder structure.

 

Want more? Check out our 5 Tips for Setting Up An Organized File Structure Like a Pro!
 
LEARN MORE

 

You May Also Like

These Stories on Digital-Asset-Management