One of the most vulnerable things you can do as a graphic designer is hand your design files off to someone else. It’s the most nerve wracking thing on the face of the planet. It’s one thing if you’re digging around in your Photoshop file and doing some crazy things. You know what you’re doing and you don’t always need notes.
On the flip side, it’s difficult for the person you might hand that design file off to, to figure out what was going through your mind. It’s a pain in the butt. You probably had the same feeling when you received a file from another designer. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling when you open a file up to see layers everywhere.
But good news: there’s a few things that you can do to make other designers’ lives easier.
The first and obvious thing is labeling and organizing your layers. I know this is a super easy step to skip over. Typically, we’re racing through a project and it’s the last thing on our minds. Time is of the essence when we’re trying to meet a deadline.
That said, it’s the best thing you can do. At the very least, I suggest grouping layers together if you can. You don’t want someone to have to dig through 100 layers to find an element.
Next, make sure that you’re including fonts and any linked attachments such as photos. It’s really frustrating if someone has to come back and ask for these things. More so when there was any kind of back and forth to get the file in the first place. If there was a struggle then, it’s annoying when you finally open Photoshop up to see a bunch of missing assets.
While you’re at it, make sure to name your files properly. It’s easier to find family-in-front-of-a-house.jpg instead of IMG_0487.jpg. With the actual design file, avoid going with final-FINAL-FOR-REAL_009.eps. No one knows what’s in that file. Instead, be descriptive: website-homepage.psd tells us right away what the file is. Someone can search for that on their computer.
If you can, take an another step and include more information. Great things include the date, a project number, a client or project name. Again, these are things that people can easily search for.
When you’re ready to send it over, make sure that you’re saving the file down a version or two. This is usually geared towards something like Adobe Illustrator. While most of us likely stay up to date with Creative Cloud, some designers and printers don’t. This extra step can streamline the process and avoids the run-around of needing to do it after sending the file once before.
Last, make sure you’re saving the shared file separately from the original design document. If you’ve followed the steps I outlined above, you’re making a good amount of changes to the file. You don’t want to be caught if you’ve flattened or organized the file and then need to go back and make a change, only to realize the layer has been flattened.
In the years that I’ve been designing, I found that following these small points usually make a big difference in the relationship that you have with someone else. Of course, there’s other things that you can do as well to make this even easier. But using what I outlined here as a base will definitely make the process a lot smoother for all that are involved.