episode 24: Archiving Projects


A client from 1, 2, or 8 years ago asks for a few revisions to that incredible presentation you developed for them years ago. But they no longer have the files – do you? Troy, Nolan and Sandy talk about their studio processes for archiving project files, what they let clients know will be done with project files, and some of their project archiving best practices.


Do you keep old project files?

  • Nolan: Yes.
  • Sandy: Yes.
  • Troy: Yes.


Do you give a client all of the working files and assets to projects, or just the final deliverable?

  • Sandy: I provide the final deliverable — unless I’ve done video editing work then I’ll provide the video as a separate file.
  • Troy: We provide the final deliverable. All concepts and comps are delivered in PDF and the working files are not part of a project deliverables – because they are mockups and not real files that would do much for real design needs.
  • Nolan: Depends. Usually not, as example I will send clients packaged InDesign files, put presentation work is just the PowerPoint file(s). There’s some dispute in the design world over whether a client has the right to source files, but in my case with INDD layout work, I am always happy to provide them, as I believe they should be the property of the client.


How, and where, do you keep project archive files?

  • Troy: TLC has a pretty robust archive and security workflow. I do not expect independent designers or small shops to have all of this in place. It includes a central server on premise for all active project files. Designers work on their projects and sync in-process files to server daily. Completed projects folders are cleaned up and organized and moved to an Archive server. In addition, we have do  external backup of all files; active projects, archive projects, and full computer restores.
  • Nolan: All current projects are kept in Dropbox folders. When a project is billed, it goes into a “billed” folder. When I receive payment, it gets archived onto an external hard drive along with all the archived emails from the project, which, in turn, is then backed up to multiple external hard drives via Time Machine.
  • Sandy: I keep all of my projects in my OneDrive that syncs with my desktop. Each year, I move the past year to an external storage device attached to my computer. I can access those archived files at any time.


Do you have a system for tracking project notes, requests, and other info that is available later?

  • Nolan: I don’t always need notes beyond email correspondence, but if I do, then I use Evernote for project notes.
  • Sandy: I use OneNote for notes. My notebook is broken down by year, months and days in advance, so all I need to do is click on a date and start typing. I’ll copy and paste from OneNote to the meeting invitation, if needed. And since all of my project time is carved out on my Outlook calendar, my project manager copies all notes — either from email or OneNote and attached relevant assets directly into my calendar entry.
  • Troy: From our ancient print shop days, Lori and I carried over the idea of “job jackets” which, back then, was literally a folder that had all of the notes about a job that was handed off from one department to another. We moved from Word docs, to Excel files to now an online project management system where every project is tracked with notes added throughout the project. All of those notes are available for reference any time in the future as part of our archives.


How do you feel about keeping files from past projects on your computer – especially a laptop you travel with?

  • Nolan: When I travel, I only have access to current projects via DB, and every once in a while, that has bit me, but not enough to really get into setting up remote access to my desktop or anything like that. My laptop is password protected.
  • Sandy: Because I use OneDrive, I have access to all projects in the current and past year at my finger tips when I travel.
  • Troy: If client info is on a computer, that computer needs a password. I also do not keep client files in the Docs folder, that is too accessible and visible in many situations. All designers have their current projects on their computers as part of their sync to our server.


Do you have project files from 3 years ago?

  • Nolan: I have all files for every project I’ve ever done, going back 15+ years. Some of it is a little ridiculous to keep. Lion King slides, for example.
  • Sandy: 2001.
  • Troy: ’99. We started with CDROM media, then DVD media – we still have those around, so soon we can start testing the media shelf life guarantees. But we moved everything to server based archives.


How are you storing the files, what media?

  • Nolan: 4 TB G-Drives + Apple Time Capsule.
  • Sandy: Carbonite and external hard drive.
  • Troy: All are on a local server with external hard drive backups. And there are 2 sets of external backup drives with 1 set connected to server and 2nd set kept in an offsite location.


When working on a project, and then archiving it, how do you name the project folder?

  • Nolan: Current projects get the client name and a descriptor; they get archived into the client’s master folder.
  • Sandy: I don’t change the folder or file name (since I date each version I always know what the “Final” file is), but will clean up the folder to get rid of versions and assets that are no longer relevant. I should start adding job numbers to the folders.
  • Troy: Client + job number + end client and 1-3 word description. Archives are by year and client folders within each year.


What about organizing project files inside that folder?

  • Nolan: I have a simple empty folder structure: From Client, From Designer, Billing and an Excel template for time tracking. New folders get added as necessary for the project such as assets, old, etc.
  • Sandy: Project Name – 00.00.00(X)
  • Troy: Multiple layers of folder organization. For presentation projects, the top level folders are Art, PPT, From Client, Misc., Reference, everyone on design team knows where to look in any project whether active or archive, something they worked on or first time looking at files, all use the same folder structure so things can be found.


 How would you tell a client that came back to you what the source for one royalty free images was?

  • Nolan: I generally set up client-named lightboxes for images, but sometimes I am lazy and forget. I can always unzip a PPT file and locate the image which should still have the Shutterstock name on it, unless I did Photoshop work to it. But I can also use TinEye to locate the image on Shutterstock or elsewhere, if need be. I don’t always save all images for a project in the folder to save space. I used to save every single file and image I imported into a presentation and then realized that was ridiculous and redundant. Now, I have an “IMPORT” folder on my computer. Whenever I have to save an image out of Photoshop or Illustrator to import or anything like that, I dump it in the IMPORT folder. 1) It’s in my finder sidebar at the top, so I can always navigate to it instantly rather than having to search for a folder within a project folder, and I can always re-import it or find it there during or shortly after the project. Every so often, I’ll go in and delete anything that is over a few months old.
  • Sandy: I keep the original source name and stock number on each photo file, but I also add key words relevant to the image that will help me in a search. I also include that reference number in the notes of the presentation.
  • Troy: Art > Source folder.


 Listener Question:

  • “Thanks for the great podcast, you three are awesome to listen to as I work on presentations every day. I am trying to figure out what a good file size for my presentations are. Is there a formula, or guidelines, for if a 20 slide presentation should be 3mb or 50mb? Thomas”


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