Technology has awarded us the opportunity to work together and collaborate efficiently and effectively across departments, businesses, and borders. However, this doesn’t always go according to plan.

Pipeline

If you’re anything like me, you would have probably found yourself pulling your hair out in frustration trying to understand the logic behind the file names your colleagues come up with. You might even get lost in the maze of bizarre folder structures.

While this might all seem quite chaotic, we have to admit that there’s usually a method to this madness. For example, if you take a look at my personal computer, you’ll quickly see that it’s full of files both important and unimportant all mixed up together in the Downloads folder.

But it doesn’t end there. If you dig deeper than the surface, you’ll find another combination of critical files and unnecessary files all together in my Dropbox and Google Drive.

This entropy is how I’ve always worked, and I have a general idea of what everything is and where everything is located on my hard drive or the cloud. But the problems start when I start to collaborate with my colleagues.

They don’t have a clue about why I chose unusual names for the files and folders that I am working with or why they were saved in drastically different locations. To make things worse, I also change my style when it comes to selecting file names and how I organize them based on the project.

Whenever I have to go back to an old project, I almost never recognize it. This issue is primarily because the systems I use change over time and appear completely different from what I used before. As a result, I have to spend a considerable amount of time identifying and reorganizing old files before I can work with them again.

Reorganizing old work takes a lot of time, so I don’t do it.

So, this begs the question. When I’m struggling to navigate through my system, how can I expect someone else to make sense of it?

When you approach this from a business perspective, it’s going to cost a lot of money. In fact, according to research, an average employee spends approximately two and a half hours each day or six weeks per year looking for things.

That adds up to over one and a half months of wages over a calendar year that doesn’t yield any return on your investment!

From the employee’s perspective, this can lead to decreased productivity, stunting of professional growth, poor time management, and a reduction in lifetime earnings.

As most of us, regardless of our profession, have to work in a collaborative team environment, we can no longer work in isolation doing whatever we want as long as it gets the job done. So, something has to change.

I found that I was highly organized while working on software development tasks above everything else. This improvement can be directly attributed to the fact that software developers have to follow strict rules when it comes to naming convention and folder structures.

If they failed to follow the rules, the software wouldn’t work. However, it’s easier to stick to the rules and remain organized as software developers can automate almost all of these mundane tasks. In fact, by doing so, they free up a considerable chunk of time to concentrate on the fun part of the job - creative problem-solving.

However, when it comes to managing a creative project effectively, it’s difficult to get a whole team of artists to apply some strict rules like those followed by software developers. In fact, you can even argue that this approach stifles creativity.

I spent the last five years working in the animation industry trying to implement traditional naming conventions, folder structures, and automating mundane tasks. I did this to help artists focus solely on their art, and I found that it was never going to be an easy undertaking as everyone else was also like me.

I mean, they had their way of working and their system for keeping their work organized. So I started wondering, what if software development methodologies and creative project management are worlds (or even universes) apart? Maybe the methods used for software development shouldn’t be applied to creative project management.

This point got me thinking, and I ended up with the following questions:

  • What if we take a visual approach to help artists seamlessly collaborate regardless of how they organize their work?
  • Can we live without naming conventions?
  • Is it essential to identify a universal standard for naming files?
  • On a personal level, how do you organize data and your creative work?
  • What do you hate the most while collaborating with others?
  • Can we work together, but separately?
Written by Pauli Suuraho Illustrated by Eva Eskelinen Edited by Andrew Zola