File Naming Conventions - Project Names vs Numbers

Since I started in this industry over 18 years ago, I’ve always used very straight forward file/folder naming for all of my projects. There were a couple freelance gigs I had that insisted I stuck to Job numbers they created for each project, but beyond that, I’ve avoided numbering like a plague.

My reasoning was: my clients always speak to me with the ‘straight-forward’ name of the projects, not numbers; If I need to find something I can just search for the physical name and it comes up just as quick; Adding job numbers means there needs to be a database that houses all of the Numbers and the actual project description etc, and that’s a hassle and might get confusing.

As I’ve grown and now dealing with more active projects per week than ever, ‘straight-forward’ job names are becoming cumbersome - dealing with a lot of similar projects all with similar names - sometimes taking a 4 word search just to get to START narrowing it down! I’m beginning to realize I should have switched to job numbers a long time ago, or at a minimum, acknowledged the benefit so I could gain some deeper job numbering experience earlier on in my career.

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So my question is to anyone that as gone through ‘Straight-Forward Naming’ to Job Numbers or is currently working at a place that uses job numbers:

Where are job numbers created in your company and who creates them? Billing/Invoicing software? Project Management Software? Manually generated via Spread Sheet? Teams just adding a folder with the next sequential number? Does your company have a dedicated person ensuring job numbers are correct, or is everyone expected to do the upkeep? Is there a master database you can reference to see the names/numbers? Do you also use numbers in addition to names?

Any help or advice here is greatly appreciated. :slight_smile:

For the past 22 years, I’ve used numbers and names. I have so many clients who have the same types of jobs over and over again, so without numbers, it would be so difficult to figure out which ones were the most recent.

So my system is to have a project folder on the computer or in Dropbox with the job files that is named by job number and name (i.e., 01234 XYZ brochure). In Slack, I create a channel by the same name. In my project management system, the job has the same name, and we track all time there. When I “pick up” a job from the past (which might be from several years ago), it makes it much easier and I note that job number in the system, just in case, like if it’s a pickup of such-and-such file with edits.

Until about a year and a half ago, I used a FileMaker Pro database I had built back in the 90s. It was great but i wanted something that could do a little bit more and I had exhausted my knowledge of FMP and didn’t have time to learn.

I spent several months looking into project management software and settled on Pancake. I have team members log in. I set up the jobs by project number. It doesn’t auto-number like my FMP database was set up to do, but it’s been fine.

It also handles invoicing and a zillion other things. A few months ago, I made some documentation and some videos for it at the request of some colleagues in case you find it helpful since their site doesn’t offer that much in that sense.

It’s only $149 one time, which is great. Feel free to reach out with questions. I’ve been very happy with it.

That made me chuckle.
A project management software named, “Pancake.”
Apropos, sometimes.
(oldsters here on the forum will know why. :laughing:)

That’s a pancakin’ awesome name. Agreed. Ha.

I have yet to see anyone agree on a universal naming convention, but there are a lot of variations of job number/date client name deliverable in the name.

It’s not for everyone, but I always include in the name the first thing I think of since it will likely be the first thing I think of when it comes time to search my computer and hard drives for it. I might also include dates, keywords and numbers depending on the project — all to aid me in that search.

When I worked at a publishing company, they used numbers but they also used short terms for certain types of work (so “broch” for brochure, for example). They had a short legend (codes) for types of work that they wanted the designers to use to add to consistency in searching for certain types of work.

I name everything using the same structure.

Project folders get named like this this:

  • Client Name (a code)_Project-Detail_MonthYear
  • BB_Brochure-CartoonDog_0319 (means Client Betty Boop, Brochure about a cartoon dog, started in March 2019.
  • I use this same name to enter the project into my time tracking and billing and project management systems.

The main file (InDesign or Illustrator, usually) gets named the same but I change the date and sometimes add a revision number to track revisions:

  • BB_Brochure-CartoonDog_030119_R1

I use client name, project name and month year. I don’t use project numbers.


Anything that is not current gets filed in a folder called ARCHIVE within the client’s folder. I don’t keep many revisions of the same document. If I suspect a client might change their mind about something, I might move the older bits and pieces outside the slug of the document as a backup. So it’s still in the document if I ever need it but won’t be printed by mistake.

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