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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
Your reward for scrolling all the way to the end is this precious cat. Yes! (Fist bump.)