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How to Write Better Names for Design Files

Author
written by Johannes Ippen. founder of Human Deluxe, @johannesippen

Use better file names to improve your productivity

Productivity is all about building habits. Habits that allow you to save time, build standards and make yourself reliable. One of the most overlooked, yet simplest ways to achieve this in a creative business is by setting a standard to how you name files.

At Human Deluxe, we share and exchange hundreds of design files every day, internally, with clients, via various cloud services or simply via email. Having a good standard does not only help us stay sane and more productive, but also be futureproof: If today we name a file correctly, we will be able find it via search in a couple of years from now.

So, we decided on a file name format that works very well for us. Here it is:

client_project_asset_date.jpg

Looks amazingly clean, right? Each filename we use is made of four parts, separated by either underscores or dashes. Let’s look at them in detail:

Client

We start our filenames with the full client brand name. Here is an example for a company called “House of Research”:

DO:

houseofresearch_

We don’t use acronyms, we don’t use legal suffixes:

DONT:

houseofresearchinc._
hor_
HouseOfResearch_
house-of-research_

Project

This is either the sub-brand or project we are working on. We make sure we select a good, short title that we can find later, usually something like:

website_
ebook_
corporatedesign_
appstore_
trailer_
  1. Asset (optional): This is the kind of thing we are working on, if the file requires. Make sure you find terms that are simple and searchable, so you find it later:

    wireframe_ screendesign_ logo_

Just to name a few.

  1. Date (optional): If you are certain that you will have more than one iteration of the same file, use the date for versioning. I know, dates get usually saved in the file’s metadata. However, the metadata can be overwritten if e.g. you download the file from a cloud server (which technically generates a new file, so its creation date will be today). Refrain from using the US date format and go for YYYYMMDD instead – this will make it easier to sort files later:

DO:

20200727

DONT:

20202707
2020-07-27
2020/07/27
2020-Jul-27

In our experience, one file per date is more than sufficient. If there is a new for a minor change in the file, just overwrite it. If you really need to generate more versions by the hour, you can append time to the filename as well.

That’s already it! Here are some examples:

humandeluxe_website_wireframe_20200727.sketch
heimkapital_logo_drafts.psd
erblotse_trailer_20200801.mp4

Why can’t I use spaces in my filenames?

Simple: Some filesystems or server don’t support spaces (or turn them into this ugly %20-thingy). Avoid any conflicts by using dashes or underscores.

Why should filenames have no acronyms?

It’s tempting to abbreviate longer names or often used terms – but it turns into a secret code faster than you might think. I have a folder full of “bkp”-files. It took me a while to figure out that that meant “backup”. So, do your future self a favour and make your filenames very searchable. Think of your filename as a keyword.

Can I use FINAL in completed project files?

Thank you for sending the final file – we have just one more change … You know that better, right? Creative projects are never really final, so refrain from using the misleading term in your filenames.

Author
written by Johannes Ippen. founder of Human Deluxe, @johannesippen