Every month, the Design team produces hundreds of graphics and videos for several clients, which sums up to 10 thousands files per year.
With the aim to increase productivity and transparency, I developed the following solutions.
Shareable Project Files
When I joined Cosmonauts & Kings, back in 2019, the team was still small and everyone was saving their files on their own laptops. As we hired more designers, we needed a server to access each other’s project files, also from remote.
I was first offered an intranet solution, for which I pushed for a NAS connection to access files from remote. The problem was its transfer speed, way too low for transferring large media projects.
We though then about moving our data to Google Drive, but the Backup and Synch app required to download the whole project folder to use it, about 20 terabytes of data at that time.
Finally, we learned about Google Stream (at that time, the app was still little known). It let us connect to our Google Drive just as a local folder, exactly what I was looking for! We could select which files had to be available offline. The rest would be downloaded only if clicked and copied in a cache folder.
Soon, we found out that Google Stream was using up all free disk space with its cache files (temporary files that Google Stream downloads and stores on the laptop to navigate faster through the folders).
A sudo command with admin privileges let us limit the size of the cache. For instance, the command below sets it to 200 GB.
sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.google.drivefs.settings ContentCacheMaxKbytes -int 200000000
Every designer has their own way of organising their files. Sometimes they create random folders and start linking medias to their Illustrator or After Effects project. By then, it’s too time consuming to reorganise the files.
Though, it’s even more time consuming to try and figure out how to go through those files when, for instance, another designer has to make further changes to an existing project!
The team learned to store all the original editable files and assets in (1) a Project folder and render they output files in (2) the Output folder, which is accessible to the other teams.
By using a naming protocol, all the relevant information of a file can be summarised within its name. Also, the files sort in the folder themselves (by client, date and so forth) without having to use subfolders.
The hardest part of this solution was to have the team following the protocol. It took a lot of onboarding, double-checking and reminders to have everyone on board.
At last, I could developed a script that targeted the Output folder and pasted the filenames into a Google spreadsheet database, which I then used to build a dashboard and provide transparency over our production.
Every time the script reads the underscore symbol _ in a filename, it writes what follows in the next column of the database.
The script also fetches the URL of each file and the duration of each video from their metadata.
Now I could finally built a dashboard that could glimpse over the team’s production. The dashboard features a drop-down menu that filter the results per client.
(The data visualised in the charts below are not real)
The database is fully automated, it just need the team naming their files right. Still, very often teams need to be reminded repetitively about protocols before they start minding about them.
It took quite some time to onboard everyone properly, listen to their concerns and optimise the tool in a way that inspired them to give their support.
The idea behind this system is relatively simple, what makes it meaningful are its applications: the learnings provided by the database support all departments in taking informed decisions.
Match the production data with what has been actually agreed with each client on paper and invoice accordingly.
Insights over the clients’ activity. For instance, the dashboard will show if a client decreased their requests compared to the previous months. It might be time to revamp our collaboration.
With the production database, the performance of our content on-line can be linked to the actual visuals. With this infrastructure in place, we can learn what performs better both on a quantitative and qualitative standpoint.
Identify trends per product: learning, for instance, that there is an increasing demand for animated content might lead to hire more motion designers.