A Layered Approach

Posted by on June 5, 2011 at 9:00 am.

An often overlooked element of the work-flow process is layers. All the Adobe products use layers. They are great – you can have a layer for every little line in your project if you want. It’s actually a great thing for editing a file later. So when aren’t they beneficial? When you haven’t named a single one of them and someone else has to use your file to edit a project. Note: the next person could be you in six months. Will you remember what Layer 135 is?

I think it all started when, at my first job as an in-house designer, I inherited all the files from the previous designer. I had to click through so many layers to find what I needed, re-labeling, re-grouping and deleting empty layers. A half hour at least for every file I had to open. Multiply that by even just 10 files and looks how much time is wasted. Right then and there, every file I created was labeled, grouped and clearly named. This became a blessing when the company hired two more designers and I already had a workflow in place.

Layers Mess

The Offending File

Another more recent example – I downloaded a template file that a client purchased. I open the file, ready to get to work and what a letdown. None of the layers have names or they are weird names that make no sense to me. It took me an unnecessary 20 minutes just to nail down the layers and where things were.

Sure, it might seem tedious to name every layer. How about folders? You can group layers into folders named Header, Footer, Right Sidebar, etc. and, even if you don’t name the layers, at least you can drill down right to the specific area you need to edit and instead of going through 50 layers you only need to go through 10. I do both.

Neat Layers

Neat & Organized

I name every layer and then group things into named folders. I’m a freelancer and, at this point, I’m the only one who works on my files but my workflow is so much easier because I can just open a file, zero right in to where I need to be. But who knows – maybe I’ll have an assistant someday. I wouldn’t want nightmare files slowing down the person who is supposed to be helping me. Besides being a bit anal and knowing that I have to practice what I preach, I just think it’s courteous and although I’m usually only being courteous to myself  – if I’m not courteous to myself, who will be?

Side Note: I recently worked with another designer who sent me the psd files that I would be using to develop the website. Of course, I was thinking the files were going to be a mess when I got them but I was wrong! Much to my surprise, this fellow designer created her files like I do. Naming every layer and grouping the areas in folders. The project was a breeze to develop.

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