Serve your art, not your tools, Part 3: Start with a solid foundation

When you’re designing in the digital domain, you’re working with files. Lots and lots and lots of files. You probably don’t give much thought to your Finder, but for most designers, it’s the interface that you spend a great deal of your time using. Streamlining your workflow around finding and managing files will save you a ton of time and frustration. 

Apps to supercharge your Finder

Building on last week’s celebration of targeted, lightweight apps that make a designer’s life easier, here are some apps that help me get the most out of my Finder and streamline my file management workflow.


Totalfinder is a very powerful tool that adds multiple tabs to your finder window. This seems like a minor addition but the ability to stack Finder windows into tabs is big time saver. 

Img totalfinder

Dropbox as a version control system

I use Dropbox to quickly add a version control system to my workflow. By working out of my Dropbox folder I take advantage of Dropbox's snapshot feature. Every time I save a file within my dropbox folder, a snapshot of that file is automatically created and uploaded to the Dropbox cloud. This in effect is a simple and robust version control system that will store snapshots of my files for 30 days. This allows me to rollback to any file I’ve stored within Dropbox to a previous version.

Img dropbox versioncontrol

Techniques for getting the most out of Finder

Over the years, I’ve developed (or borrowed) a number of habits that help me get the most out of my Finder and streamline my file management workflow.

Adding applications to your Finder toolbar
A simple and quick way to extend your Finder and increase productivity in your workflow is to drag and drop your most used desktop applications to your Finder toolbar. This then gives you quick access to your most common applications in the interface that you spend most of your time using.

Img zoomtoolbar

Tips on how to improve your folder structure

The simplest way to increase productivity is to create an easily understandable and manageable folder structure. The goal is to avoid having all your files scattered about all at the same level. The trick is to create a folder structure that is easily replicated from project to project.

After experimenting with several different file structures, I started organizing my files based on an all encompassing folder structure. I like to use folder names like archive, comps, design, docs, gallery and www for my various folder names. This gives me and team members a clear understanding of what type of documents to expect in each folder. Recently I started adding a numbering system to my folder structure for quicker sorting and scanning purposes.

Folderstructure clean

Designing effective naming conventions 

Most designers have their own way of naming files that at times can be indecipherable. In my experience, the best naming conventions are simple, easy to understand, and can be replicated across many different projects. I designed my naming convention so that it’s easily read and understood by someone who sees my file structure for the first time. 


I prefer this naming convention because it’s clear at a glance and easy to search against. 

Folderstructure naming search

Why I don’t use dates in filenames 

I generally don’t include the date in my filenames, as I’m not sure how much value dates in the file name really adds. I prefer to use a versioning system in my filenames. Version numbers require less characters and are not nearly as overwhelming as long numerical dates. If your filename is only made up of dates and project numbers, it becomes hard for humans to understand or search against.


When it comes to finding “the right tool for the right job,” what are some of your favorites? Share your thought in the comments.


Part 1: Creativity Boosters
Part 2: Don’t Photoshop ‘til you drop

Jason Csizmadi

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