Archive for the ‘ Production ’ Category

Folder and File Naming Conventions – A Traffic Manager’s Dream

Working at an ad agency, we all have our hopes and dreams. Some may want to ride jet skis off the coast of Panama, win the World Series of Poker, maybe even backpack through Bali. And while spontaneous ventures are normal for those living the agency life, it’s also true that their work needs to have some structure, because it is the structure within your work endeavors that allows you the ability to break free on your down time.

So here at evok, as much as we play hard, we also work hard and one of the key elements of our workflow process is having sound file naming conventions. It may seem easy enough, but file name conventions can actually be tricky. If you don’t have a good file naming system, your files may be lost to you and your team, which will make things challenging on days when rush projects are piling up and your account service team is working hard to keep promises to their clients.

There isn’t one right way to name files. The best way will depend on the user’s or the company’s workflow structure. A good practice is to develop a company- wide naming system so that everyone is on the same page. The naming convention can be derived from a client name, job number or abbreviation of the job’s detail. In time, you’ll find that endless file searches and wasted time will be a thing of the past!

Some operating systems have rules or limitations on file naming which will only allow you to include a certain number of characters or select symbols within your file name. Also, many will only accept certain file extensions, so you must be familiar with your operating system and servers before deciding on a file naming convention.

When creating certain documents or creative materials, there may also be different versions of the same file that should be saved additionally and not written over. This is a good practice if you have enough storage space depending on your file size. A folder that contains copy, for example, may contain a naming convention such as V2, V3 and so on.

Every new project has a project number assigned to it before anyone can
begin working on it. Account Executives may have meeting notes kept within a common area for themselves, but when an estimate is approved and the project is ready to go into production (copy, creative, layout, photography etc…) it is a good practice to keep ALL assets for the project in one place, it’s Project Folder.

To help get you started, here’s a look into evok’s file naming conventions:

FOLDER NAMING: All of our work is saved under a project folder with the appropriate project number on it. Our project numbers are created using the current year, client abbreviation and a job number that is generated by our workflow management system. For example, when a new project is opened
for evok in the year 2011, a folder named 11_EVOK_0100 may be populated.
In February, we might see a folder labeled 11_EVOK_0150. This would be the 150th project created for evok. This naming convention is also very helpful when archiving or referring to existing or previous project alike.

SUB FOLDERS: Within each project folder, we also like to create additional folders. For example, if 11_EVOK_0155 is a new project, you may see:

COPY includes word docs of copy decks with version suffix. ex. 11_EVOK_5555_v2.doc
COMPS also contains a STOCK photo folder for spec stock. Numerous folders with rounds of revisions may be found here as well.
IMAGES any additional image which is not part of an image library and is usually specific to that project. This can include photoshop and illustrator files.
STOCK for purchased stock photography, and only if it pertains to this one-time usage.
SUPPLIED can be any files that have been supplied FROM the client that effect the project BUT not native to it. Ex. Previous brochure that we are modifying but NOT their logo.
PROOF contains low-res proofs. If proofs are archived, then naming scheme should be file name followed by underscore and version number.
PDF contains Hi-res.. ex. 11_EVOK_5555_HR.pdf.
OTS or COLLECT depends on client and final production.

CATEGORIZED BY MONTH: Let’s say this PR campaign lasted for 3 months – March, April and May and we wrote a different press release each month, but wanted to keep it in one project for the quarter. Within a Press Release folder we would create additional folders categorized by month. Instead of creating folders named March, April and May, we would want to create folders name 03 – March, 04 – April and 05 – May. You might notice that the 03 comes before March because March is the 3rd month of the year. This way, when you are scrolling through your files, you are looking at your months chronologically rather than alphabetically which is a great folder naming convention.

KEEP YOUR VERSIONS STRAIGHT!: Many of the creatives in our agency have had the pleasure of presenting work to clients. Sometimes a client, even if they love the idea, may want to see another concept with some revisions. Once you go into the file and change the ad, it’s important that you save it as a separate version. If the original layout version was called Bartender.indd, the new version should be called Bartender_v2.indd. The purpose is this – you ask? What if upon making the suggested change, they want to revert to the original layout. In this case you still have it and it is not written over. There are also plug-ins that may be used in your application programs that save these “layers” as such.

FINAL FILE NAMING: This really does depend on the final outcome of you project. It may be an ad that a publication is requesting and a certain file naming convention is required. It may have a HR.pdf naming convention signifying a High Resolution file. It may have the word FINAL in the name. It really depends on how you structure your system and consistent you are with it.

I could continue to ramble and give you example after example, but I hope you get the basic concept. It’s not a good idea to name your file NEW BROCHURE. indd or INTRO COPY.doc. You’ll get confused, waste time, and look foolish to a client when you give them the wrong proof. You can be as creative or as basic with your naming conventions as you wish, as long as everyone on your team is working the same way. Using a similar system above will serve to create a better working environment and a better workflow process.

What Type of Designer Are You: Solo, In-house, or Ad Agency?

Where designers work varies as much as the designers themselves. Some work in the corner of their studio in their pj’s while sipping their Starbucks coffee. Others work in the marketing department of a Fortune 500 company. Then there are those who design an array of work for diverse clients in an ad agency.

Being a designer who has worked in all three arenas, I thought I would provide some insight and go over some pros and cons for each. Every creative has his or her own unique preferences and needs. What may work for you, may not work for the next designer. However, rest assured that YOU do have a place in this crazy industry called design.

Solo (Freelance) Designer

Pros: A great majority of designers are their own boss. One reason for that is the freedom that comes from waking up when you want to and scheduling your work as it best suits you. Also you have the privilege to accept as many or as few projects as you want. Another great benefit is that you get to exhibit your true creative potential, which is something very important to keep the excitement of design alive. Usually this will increase as you begin building your reputation and can select the projects you want. Want to go on vacation – just ask yourself when and where and you’re off! Oh, and let’s not forget – set your own rate. Several designers have higher salaries as a freelancer than in-house because they can set the price they feel their services are worth.

Cons: Starting out, you may be overwhelmed. This can be especially difficult for designers who are just beginning their design career. It’s strongly recommended that you work for a company awhile before venturing out on your own. One common issue to deal with as a freelance designer is the absence of a steady paycheck. Your paycheck is really the sum of your projects, how you bill them, and how soon your client will pay you. If you’re not an organizer and saver by heart, this route will teach you by force. Another con is that no one will go and get the clients for you. This may be a positive challenge some look forward to, while for others it will make them cringe. Either way, you are solely responsible for attaining and retaining your clients, so be creative in your marketing.

In-House Designer

Pros: With the recent economy shift, many companies, both large and small have decided to keep their work in-house. The company itself benefits greatly in this arrangement; and so do the designers. One of the largest benefits is the stability. Since these companies want the assurance of having an “on-call” design department, you can be sure designers will be there for a number of years. Another positive is since you are an employee you have the same great benefits as the rest of your co-workers in other departments. They can include health insurance, paid time off including holidays and vacation, disability, 401k, and sometimes even tuition assistance. If you’re concerned about working long hours, then you’ve come to the right place. In-house departments typically have the same 8 hr shift as the rest of the company. So you will be home before it’s dark – lucky you.

Cons: Once you step foot in an in-house design department, remember there are rules to abide by that were put in place long before you came; unless you were one of the pioneers in starting the department. Branding guidelines are very strict and must be adhered to in every executed project. As a result, after time you may feel you’re designing the same old piece. You can attempt to do something fresh and innovative, but don’t take offense if it’s not received positively. Another con may be the manner in which you’re perceived within the company. Many non-designers think you press a magic button and their 20 page brochure will be done within the hour. One way to counteract this is through communication. Educate your manager and co-workers as to why it takes a certain amount of time, so they may be able to forward that key information to other departments and clients. After all, designers are not magicians – ok, maybe a little.

Ad Agency / Design Firm Designer

Pros: Can anyone say CREATE! One major pull ad agencies have over other creative environments is the plethora of great creative. Usually there is more time to focus on one or two campaigns at a time and so you get quite a bit of time to brainstorm and collaborate with your peers. If you’re lucky some of the campaigns you worked on that were executed can add sparkle to your portfolio. This is usually the case since the clients’ budgets are bigger and allow for custom photography, higher-end print finishes, illustration, etc. Another advantage is the people that surround you. In an ad agency, you get to hang out with your “creative peeps.” These may include, but are not limited to other designers, photographers, copywriters and creative directors. Since you feel comfortable collaborating and brainstorming in such a setting, it results in a more uplifting and inspiring attitude. Which leads me to another positive – the space. Ad agency higher-ups know that creatives need a fun place to work to get their juices flowing so many have eliminated the greige cubicles and replaced them with funky open areas so all can interact informally without restrictions because you never know when the greatest idea will arise.

Cons: When you work in-house your employer is your client, so they’re unlikely to go anywhere. However, clients in an ad agency can come and go. If a huge account is lost, you may lose your job along with it, which may explain why you see designers jumping from agency to agency through no fault of their own. If you have children and other commitments outside of work, you may want to think carefully if this is the place for you, as long hours extending into the late nights are the norm. Every account is considered important and every deadline is set, so multiply that by three and you could easily be working 50-70 hrs a week. Of course this leads to another disadvantage; burnout. Working those long hours churning out great work can leave you “juiceless” after a couple of years, remember to set your priorities accordingly and give yourself time to relax and re-energize.

Links and Resources

For Solo (Freelance) Designers:

For In-House Designers:

For Ad Agency / Design Firm Designers:

For All Designers:

So now that you’ve seen a small glimpse into the good and bad of these three creative environments, which one best fits you? Tell us your experiences – we’d love to hear from you.

Vendor Relationships – Local vs National

The odds of an ad agency seeking the help of a trusted vendor for project completion are pretty good. A vendor or subcontractor, as most describe it, can be used for any outside service that an agency doesn’t normally do in-house, from producing T-shirts for promotional events to interactive web coding and everything in between. The relationships that an agency has with these vendors can be crucial when it comes to crunch time, tight budgets and quality of the finished product. Vendors can be a member of your local chamber or quick-turn online company 3,000 miles away…and there are benefits with each.

Why stay local?

Most local vendors are used for outside services because of their sales relationship with the agency. Word on the street recommendations are often popular, especially when it comes down to whose capabilities are being exceeded or “one-upped.” A good premium item vendor, for example, will typically have a dedicated sales rep for the agency and will keep them informed about discontinued items, new items and industry trends. They will call, email and stop by to bring samples…and maybe even offer to pay for lunch (hint hint – we like Jax across the street and are usually available Fridays). When there is a good connection between the representative and the agency, more than likely, they will be the vendor getting the request for the estimate and ultimately the job. They’re just top of mind and both sides win – vendors make the sale and agencies get the goods for their client. They actually become a part of the team.

So, then why go online?

There will also come a time when no matter how much we may love our affair with our local vendor, $5.25 is too much to pay for a blue ink non-retractable pen with a one color logo imprint. Thanks to the “box of knowledge,” there are now more vendors online offering quick-turns, low prices and guaranteed satisfaction. These vendors can range from the guy sitting in his tchotchke-ridden house to a PHP programmer sitting in his basement in Boise, Idaho. Is there a big gamble using one of these companies that can’t come meet you face-to-face? Sure there is, but if you do your due diligence, check their references and work out fair payment terms to protect your clients, it can save your clients money and can increase your margins, at the same time.

A Working Lunch – Something to Chew On

In years past, I would have given a long list of convincing reasons why a “working lunch” equates to a “waste of time” and causes practically zero productivity, along with a high probability of low blood sugar  (especially for the people who do the most talking).

However, I digress, and digest, if you keep the group and the bites small; the conversation focused, you might just be surprised at the results.

Imagine a meeting where there aren’t any phone calls, bosses or other business to distract you. Only a waitress, who, get this, brings you whatever you need. I must warn you, this type of productivity comes at a cost, of course. At around ten dollars per person, which includes the tip, the experience will prove invaluable.

Here are some of my suggestions on how to make a working lunch work:

Stay close – we literally drove across the street to a place we all know and love.

Plan ahead – circulate the menu, encouraging attendees to make their selections before arriving and pre-order if possible.

Prepare an agenda – write a short, concise agenda of what will be covered (and stick to it).

Break it up – discuss a few things, break to eat, continue where you left off (finger foods and appetizers really help too).

Encourage everyone to contribute – this goes hand in hand with the pre-planning and agenda aspect. If the burden and flow of the meeting is shared by all, each person feels like a valuable attendee, thus are encouraged to be prepared, which helps ensure everyone gets to eat.

Make it fun – for those of us in the creative field who get to spend our days brainstorming and dreaming up new ideas, this is easy. For others, it might take some more work.

Designate a secretary – sounds so old fashioned, I realize this, but it’s important for one person to jot down the notes during the meeting and be in charge of distributing them to all attendees once the meeting has adjourned (note: the follow up should be timely to ensure the best outcome).

Leave with a plan – this step goes along with “timely follow up” and “give assignments”. It is essential that all attendees feel as though their time is valuable and the next steps are clearly defined.

Timely follow up – the secretary should compose a document that serves as a summary of the meeting (this should accompany a “Next Steps” document).

Delegate assignments – it is essential to deliver or execute on points made during the meeting or else it really will be nothing more than a waste of time.

Have faith in your employees’ and coworkers’ ability to work outside of the cube or conference room walls. It’s refreshing, and most importantly, productive. Now, get out there and place your order. You’ll be surprised what’s delivered.

Why does my agency put a mark up on production? Part 3 of 3

We’ve had a look at several different compensation structure models. Some clients prefer to work under a retainer model, which allows for long-term strategic planning and an ongoing partnership that works in a proactive capacity. However, if not carefully prioritized by the client, this can also lead to liberally requested assignments that often eat up hours. We also looked at fixed-fee project estimates. With the downturn economy, clients who don’t feel comfortable with long term commitments are choosing this route.

Then, part 2 of the series explored media commission and the various ways agencies are compensating for planning, negotiating and purchasing media in an ever changing landscape. Part 3, the final installment, will cover production markup.

Once the strategic direction is set, the media is planned and the creative direction is chosen, agencies may utilize third-party vendors for the production of campaign assets as necessary. This may include TV and Radio production, collateral, printing, outdoor production, list purchases, shipping, “emerging media” production and any other tangible asset not supported internally.

All third-party services  procured on behalf of the client are often billed to the client at gross rates with an agency commission (between 5-20%). In efforts of obtaining the best possible price, it’s typical that three (3) bids are obtained.

The agency commission covers time and effort spent in selecting and supervising production of all outside services associated with the development of creative. Specific tasks covered by the commission include:

  • Estimating / comparative bidding
  • Vendor selection
  • Ensuring vendor file requirements are met
  • Sending materials out to service
  • Vendor communication for project success
  • Quality control
  • Press checks (may be multiple)
  • Coordination of product delivery

So, can you go to Kinko’s and make your own brochures? Of course you can. Client’s may elect to faciliate production on their own. However, will you be able to identify issues with the spot varnish, color saturation or adjust issues from pagination? If not, the commission is well worth the quality assurance.