Dateiorganisations-Leitfaden für Musterdesign und Workflow-Techniken | Bonnie Christine | Skillshare

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A Surface Designer's Guide to File Organization & Workflow Techniques

teacher avatar Bonnie Christine, Surface Pattern Designer + Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      A Surface Designers Guide to File Organization & Workflow Techniques


    • 2.

      02: Why We Need A System


    • 3.

      03: Why Work In Collections?


    • 4.

      04: 5 Step Process To Preparing For A Collection


    • 5.

      05: File Organization For Collections


    • 6.

      06: Workflow


    • 7.

      07: Thank You!


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About This Class

Join me in this class where we learn that maintaining organization of our creative work will help us also maintain inspiration and proficiency.

Working on something as huge as an entire surface design collection can feel overwhelming. With so many elements, motifs, colors, designs, and tabs open it can be really difficult to get focused and find a workflow that’s proficient. In this class, we’ll be covering why having a system is important, how to organize your files, and the workflow I use to create a surface pattern design collection. 

 PLEASE NOTE: This class doesn’t cover the technical learning aspect of designing collections, rather the workflow and file organization you’ll use once you’ve learned the design skills. If you're new to Illustrator, be sure to take Intro to Surface Pattern Design and Surface Pattern Design 2.0 first. This course will assume that you're either competent in Illustrator or that you've taken these two courses first. :)


  • How having an organization system will help our professional career
  • Why working in collections will enhance your surface design skills
  • My 5 step process to preparing and planning for a surface design collection
  • How to organize your files and what exactly mine look like for a collection
  • Workflow techniques for creating a surface design collection


I am so excited to begin this adventure with you. Let's get started!

Meet Your Teacher

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Bonnie Christine

Surface Pattern Designer + Artist


Why, hello!

I'm Bonnie, an artist and surface pattern designer and I'm passionate about sharing what I know. As a self-taught designer, I know how hard it can be to focus on your BIG dreams and conquer the learning curve that comes along with them. I also know how it feels to have your biggest dreams come true. My hope is help you live the extraordinarily creative life of your dreams.

I'm so excited to get to know you! The best place to dive right in is by visiting my website, Bonnie Christine.

Love, Bonnie

PS - let's be insta-friends! I'll meet ya there.

P.S. Join the inner circle! Sign up for updates to be the first to know about everything new, exciting and educational. 

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Level: Beginner

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1. A Surface Designers Guide to File Organization & Workflow Techniques: Working on something as huge as an entire surface design collection can feel overwhelming. With so many elements, motifs, colors, designs, and tabs open, it can be really difficult to just get focused and find a workflow that's proficient. In this class, we'll be covering why having a system is so important. How to organize art files and a workflow to use that will allow you create surface pattern design collection. Since I began creating collections in 2011, I've created a flow. A five-step process for gathering inspiration and planning for a surface design collection that I'll be sharing with you in this class as well. Creativity can be messy. Designs and ideas tend to get untidy and spread out all over the place. But by the end of this class, you'll know how to finish the process with a clean document of the collection that you want to keep and a tidy and organized filing system. One of the most frequently asked questions and discussed topics that I see in my students is on file saving. What do you keep? How do you organize it? What's most important to save? If you've ever had these questions or wondered what an efficient workflow could look like for a surface design collection, this class is for you. Welcome to the surface designer's guide to file organization and workflow techniques. I'm Bonnie Christine. I'm a surface pattern designer, online educator, and creative entrepreneur. Join me in this class, where we'll learn that maintaining organization of our creative work will also help us maintain inspiration and proficiency. 2. 02: Why We Need A System: Let's talk about why we need a system. When we're in the creative flow, the last thing we want to do is stop and organize our files. However, if we can get a habit of doing it from the very beginning, it can actually help us become better designers. Just think about it. Every time you spend more than just a few seconds trying to locate a file, your workflow gets disrupted and your time gets wasted. Maintaining organization is also a part of being a professional, and it's always a sign of a mature designer. Having things in order will help you feel more confident and allow you to deliver work more proficiently. Being organized can also be an expression of creativity too, don't let this feel mundane and boring. It actually takes creativity to make something chaotic look organized. Am I right? Getting your files and workflow in order will give you confidence as a creative entrepreneur. Simply put, maintaining organization of your creative work will help you also maintain your inspiration and your proficiency. 3. 03: Why Work In Collections?: Let's start by first talking about the art of designing in collections. Working in collections and completing one body of work is one of the most rewarding ways to work as a surface designer. Offering your work in sets of complete collections also gives the end-user a well-rounded view of yourself as an artist and an immense amount of opportunities to put your work to use. When working in collections, the possibilities are literally endless. Finalizing a body of work and having an array of finished pattern collections that you are really, really proud of, will also help to show your breadth of work as a designer. Here are a few notes to consider while working on your collections. What does a well-balanced collection usually consist of? A collection will generally include between 8-12 patterns that are all based on a general theme or a story. Anything less than that, we will call a mini collection. A collection will likely have a name, a short story, a description, and a logo, names for each pattern, and names for each color if you've offered them in more than one color option. A good rule of thumb would be to use between 8-18 colors per collection. Though, some industries will allow for more than that as well. Be sure to include any of our color palette, several neutral colors, plenty of light and dark hues, and plenty of colors that really pop and stand out as well. This will help give your collection contrasts and definition. A well-balanced collection will have small, medium, and large scale patterns. Oftentimes, focal point prints, also called hero prints will be the largest in scale, and Linder prints will be the smallest in scale. But remember, there are no hard rules, so your collection doesn't have to follow that guideline. Taking all of the necessary time to gather inspiration for a collection will help give the entire project focus and direction. Clearly outlining your vision for a collection will give you a guide to follow, something to reference, and definitive starting point, which is so often the hardest part. We'll talk about how to plan for a collection before you begin in the very next lesson. I'll meet you there. 4. 04: 5 Step Process To Preparing For A Collection: In this lesson, I'm going to share with you a five-step process that I have formulated and use every time I go to design a new surface pattern design collection. I have learned that taking all of the necessary time to gather inspiration for a collection before you begin designing. Helps give the entire project focus and direction, and also helps to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Fairly outlining your vision for collection will give you a guide to follow. It will give you something to reference and a definitive starting point, which is so often the hardest part. Let's dive into the steps that I always take before I begin even sketching for a pattern collection. Number one is brainstorming. Before anything else takes some time to brainstorm your idea. You'll also brainstorm possible supporting ideas and the overall theme that you want to portray in the collection. I suggest getting quiet with a big notebook somewhere to start imagining all things that could be. Jot down potential themes, names, design ideas. You'll need fixed space for this one so have a big piece of paper and some uninterrupted time to use your imagination. We can also call this a power thinking session. This will help you decide on an overall direction for the collection. Examples would be something like gardening or woodland creatures or sea life. Again, forming a rough outline of what you might like to include in this collection. Number two is something I call a quick jot. Take five minutes to just quickly jot down about 15 ideas for individual prints that you can pick and choose from later on. These should be rough ideas, but they will help you remember your initial thoughts and inspiration later on. Some of these pattern ideas will work out and some won't. Others will just be created by happy accidents along the way. Sometimes these are my absolute favorites. Remember this is just a rough outline. Don't stress about it too much.Don't forget to include some very simple ideas to use as coordinates as well. Number three is 20 words. Write down about 20 words that relate to your overall theme or story. This is going to help you round out the edges of your idea. This list of words will help generate new pattern ideas and give you something to reference as you work through the design process. If you plan to name each print and their colors at the end this list will also be really helpful to reference later on. Number four is a story. Next, it's time to write your story. I recommend trying to make your collections really personal by tying them to something that has meaning to you. It could be a memory, a place, a person, or simply a feeling by putting words to then why you are designing this collection. Reference your notes in 20 words to build a small story around your collection. Just even a small paragraph will be just fine. This step really helps make a collection feel more personal and it really works to bring it to life. This small story should be something that would share potentially along with your collection when it's finished. It can include information about your inspirations, dreams, or memories, and all of these things will help round out your selection as a whole. Number five is photography. Photography is often a huge part of the inspiration stage of a pattern collection. Exploring and visiting sites and scenes that support your theme can give your entire collection direction and a huge amount of inspiration to pull from. Keeping several photos and a file or maybe in print that you can reference will be invaluable as you begin sketching and designing. These are the steps I usually take before I begin to design a collection. Being able to fully develop a theme and a vision for a collection before starting always helps to get the design process guidance and a reference point. Let's take action. Spend some time brainstorming your theme, then quickly jot down 10 to 15 ideas that you have for the patterns themselves. Next, write down 20 descriptive words that support your theme, and write a short story to help focus more designs. Gather photos that you can reference during the design phase, and then you'll be ready to get started. 5. 05: File Organization For Collections: As I already mentioned, one of the most frequently asked questions and topics that I see discussed among students is on file saving and organization. What do you keep? How do you organize it? What's most important to save? Do you save the motifs, the color variations, the actual repeats or just the patterns? For this lesson, we'll talk specifically about file management and the organization of those files. I know that as you begin creating artwork, it seems like you're having files saved all over the place, motifs everywhere and color swatches in every corner of your documents. It can be hard to really get a grasp on how to keep them organized. I think the best way to cover this topic is simply to open up my very own folders and show you exactly how I do it. This doesn't mean that you have to do it the same way, but I think that it might help you see how I nest all of my files together. In the next lesson, I'll show you what the actual workflow looks like to get these files. But for now, let's just jump into my finder so that I can show you exactly what my file organization looks like for each collection. First and foremost, I want to point out that I like to keep all of my folders and all of my files saved in Dropbox. The way the Dropbox works is that it backs up all of your files to the cloud so that you don't ever have to worry about losing them. But it also serves as an off-line folder as well. It just stays on your computer just like any other file. It's also just backed up online. I also recommend exporting and saving everything to an external hard drive at least a few times a year as well. What I have here is a folder that I keep in Dropbox, which is called Collections. My surface pattern design work is always accomplished in Collections. If you don't work in collections, this could be themes, or motif ideas, or something along those lines, but I think that most of us also work in collections. You'll see that I have all my collections named here by the name. For me, it's not particularly important for me to have the date, IDs or anything like that. I'm just working on collection names alone. I'm going to choose one of these to open up. I'm going to use the collection called The Open Road. Now, this collection is already finalized. Throughout the collection creation process is how I gathered each of these documents. If we were just starting of course this would be empty. But I'm going to show you after the collection is finalized, what all different types of things end up in the Collection folder. I have several illustrator documents which I'm going to show you, and then also several folders that contain things that I used during the collection creation process. The very first one is Inspiration Photos. This is from our photography session. These are all photos that I took during a road trip in which served as inspiration for The Open Road. I keep these in a folder so that I can reference them during the entire collection creation process. I have been able to fill colors from these, use them as references as I draw and sketch, and also just use them as an overall reminder of the feeling that I wanted the entire collection to evoke. Next are the colors. I already have those open over here in Adobe Illustrator. You can see that this is messy, but I wanted to let you see exactly what it looks like. I usually have one document where I pull in. This document would have been created by me pulling in a photograph, picking colors from it, and just playing with a variety of different color palettes that I can then add to my Swatches panel and play with on different patterns. It's through the entire collection creation process that these get narrowed down into the final palette. But at the very beginning these are the colors that I was considering. They are the colors that I chose from the photographs and this shows my attempt at putting together palettes that I think might work. This kind of document I would likely keep open in its own tab during the entire collection creation process so that I can always go back and reference what colors I was thinking about and find missing one, if there's one that I want to try out. The next folder is my Scans. I work typically for a pattern collection in three different approaches to creating artwork. I worked with found objects. These would be literal leaves and flowers that I find out in the wild and I scan them in. Sketches. This is pen to paper. This also includes some iPads sketches done on the iPad. This is all hand-drawn motifs and then painted motifs. I usually always paint quite a lot for each collection as well. Because I create so many different motifs to pull from during the pattern building stages, I like to separate them out. Each of them have a different look and style to them because of the way they were created. Painted elements have a different weight and look to them as sketches do and also as my found items do. I want to keep them separate on three different documents so that I can just maintain some organization between moving from one type of illustration to the next. If I open up my Scans document, you can see that I've also separated them out here. So Found, iPad, and Sketches will end up going in the same document and Paintings. These are all nested under my Scans. Then as I open each one of these, you can see. This particular folder are for the items that I found out in nature and scanned them in. Sometimes these work great, sometimes they don't work as I planned. But they are really fun. This is an interesting example. This is the same scan that I did three different times. But I changed the contrast on each one and I'll show you what this looks like once I get them vectorized so that you can see. I'll be able to use them in three different ways. Those are found scans, the next are some imports from the iPad Pro. I use a couple of different apps on the iPad just to use primarily for line drawings. I will import those in and then get them vectorized to use in collections as well. I see my little animals here and some of these have multiple layers. So that's what the iPad imports look like. Then I can go over to sketches. These are literal pen and pencil to paper sketches that I scan in one-by-one to bring over, and then my paintings. The way that I paint for surface design collections is usually in one color at time. It doesn't really matter what the color is because I know that I can change it later. Oftentimes I'll scan it in black and white because I know I'm either just going for the solid illustration or I'm going to be able to step that out. I have a Skillshare class on how I actually do this coloring up watercolor illustrations in Illustrator. You can check that out if you would like to as well. These are all what I would get into Illustrator to vectorize which is what these next three documents are. Let me show you those. The first one is my found items, so these are all in vector format now and right here is the one I was telling you about. So this one, this one, and this one, I scanned in a three different densities so that I can have the option of using them in different ways. I keep all of my found vectorized images on one document, I keep all of my sketches in another. Again, these are all vectorized and they're absolutely not colored in the way that they will end up being colored, but a lot of times I'll just toss some color on them just to give me a starting point. Obviously, the black and white ones will need to be colored as I decide to use them. Then finally, my painted elements. These are all the painted elements that I did, some of them have gone hidden layer together, some are just in rows. This provides me three documents of different styles of motifs that I can just dream of patterns with. I very much do this in batches. I will batch all of my artwork creation, then I will move into vectorizing them all and putting them in this type of document, and I'll get all of that done before I even start on the very first patterns. So then I'm invented the phases where I'm working on creating repeating patterns. Let's go to the next document. This one is fun. I do not do this for every collection, but for this particular collection, there was a print that I needed to use a font for, so I created my own font. I used a Illustrator plugin called fonts self, and this was just really fun. I created these letters on the iPad pro, made a font from them, and so of course I keep that in the collection folder. The next way that I work is with a document called 10 squares and then a finalize document of the patterns that I have chosen. Let me show you what those look like. At the very beginning, 10 squares looks like an absolute blank document. There are 10 squares, that's these right here that I am planning to fill with the patterns that I create. I have this on here twice because I generally make a collection in two color waves, and then this big box just serves as a place for me to see a pattern bigger if I want to. In the middle of the collection creation process, it's messy. It looks something like this. This is towards the end where I've done a ton of pattern building, but I have a bunch of ideas. I have four different color waves of this pattern that I'm considering, I have a bunch of blenders that I'm not sure about, I have this layout of this pattern and then another layout of the same pattern. So I'm just playing with big ideas, with colors and everything under the sun. As I refine my choices and I narrow them down, and I make the color palette work, I will end up with something that's very refined and finished like this. That would be the final document. Then, once I have this final document of the patterns that I have chosen and the colors that I have settled on, I put them each on their own individual Illustrator file. That looks something like this and I have to colors waves here, and you can see there each on their own Illustrator document. I can open one of these open to show you what it looks like. It's very simple. It's an 8.5 by 11 inch art board filled with the pattern, I have the colors called out to the side, and I have the repeating block also called out to the side. The other thing I do in this file is just make sure that my swatches panel is cleaned up. I only have the two colors that I used in this pattern as well as the repeating patterns swatch saved to the right. We'll go back here and look. The next one is logo ideas. For every collection comes a logo idea. This was several logos that I designed to consider for the collection. Sometimes we need different variances, but this is one place where I was able to use the font that I made, and so this is just my brainstorming logo. The next four folders represent things that I often have under my collection folder, but you may or may not. If I ever create markups for a collection, I create a folder for them. I only have two here, but I created a couple of markups. Then if I create any art prints, so I also have created art prints for the little animal print. So I keep those in a folder of course. Then these two last folders are unique to the fact that this collection is also a fabric collection. Because it's a fabric collection, we have a look book and then I also create a quilt patterns. I'll show you what those look like. These are just actual photos of projects that we made out of the finalized fabrics. The collection has gone to print, we've gotten fabric in return, we've made items from it and now we have photograph them to put in look book. Of course I keep the look book photos in a folder under the collection name as well. Now, the quilt that I designed for this particular collection is a little out unusual. It was a literal map with light cut SVD files in it, so it's a little bit out of the ordinary. But I'll show you a different quilt that I have made for another collection just to show you what that might look like. This is a different collection, but I have just marked up a quilt, so this is a literal quilt you would throw on your bed in Adobe Illustrator. These are all just shapes filled with the patterns, and then we work to create sawing instructions and release a free quilt pattern for each collection directory. That is a look at all of the things that I save for each collection. I will give you an outline that you can follow as well, depending on what industry you work on, you may have many different things that fall under the umbrella of your collection. But I suggest keeping them as organized and as plainly named as possible, so that it's easy to find and easy to reference. 6. 06: Workflow: [MUSIC] In this lesson, I want to give you a little insight into my personal workflow and the techniques that I use when I'm creating a collection. Again, I think that this can be different for everyone depending on personal preferences, but if you are feeling overwhelmed by this stage, I'll give you a method that you can start using today. As I am heading into the design process, I like to keep several Illustrator documents open. I keep a document for the motifs that are vectorized, a document that is clear and plain for me to actually do the work in, and then a final document with ten squares in it so that I can shade them the patterns that I'm happy with. Let me show you what those three look like. I'll come over to Illustrator, and as you've already seen, I have three different documents for my found scanned vectorized items, my sketch, now vectorized motifs, and then also my painted motifs. What this typically looks like for me is that I will have an idea for a pattern, most often because I've referenced the squares that I've built beforehand, and then I will grab some motifs that I want to play with. I'm going to grab these down here. I'll copy them and I'll paste them over to a new document. I have a new document here called a Work in Progress. Now, I've cheated a little bit because I already brought the final pattern over here. I'll paste this here and reduce them in scale. Let's pretend this one isn't here. I would take all of these motifs, get them colored up, and play with potential ways to create a repeating pattern from them. From these motifs here, I did create this repeating pattern. The other key thing to your work in progress document is that I keep both color palettes that I'm currently working with over in the swatches panel. I will create the repeating pattern here. It will end up looking something like this. I will go ahead and create the repeating pattern, so I'll drag and drop this over to my swatches panel. Then I'll make a square or a rectangle, it doesn't matter, fill it with the pattern, and then I will copy this over to my ten squares document. I'll paste it here and fill my very first square. I can just delete this one. I'll fill my very first square with the first pattern that I think that I'm happy with. You can see this document will take a little while to fill in. If I'm working on two different color waves, I may go ahead and make this square to match that pattern knowing that I'm going to change this to a different color eventually. In the middle collection creation, I've already shown you that it gets a little messy. You can see this one that I'm working on right here. I had a couple of other ways that I was considering. Also this pink variation of here. It gets messy but I fill it just like this and then by the end of the process, we end up with a very clean document with as many patterns as you've chosen for the collection. Once I've done this, I'll make sure to save this document. But when I go back over to my work in progress, I will simply delete everything on this page so that I have a big blank free-thinking working space again. I'll come over to my illustrative motifs to decide maybe which one I want to work on next. Maybe I'll choose this, come over to my work in progress, paste them here, and start building a pattern from this. I very much go back and forth. It's like graduation. They're graduating from illustrative motif to a working repeating pattern, to the potential squares to finalized document. That workflow for me feels very cohesive. It feels like it builds upon each other and doesn't feel overwhelming. [MUSIC] 7. 07: Thank You!: File organization and design workflows look different for every working professional. But the processes that I've shared here have helped me maintain control and organization of my own design business. Remember, while it may not come natural at first, making it a routine will slowly help you develop a habit of organization and your creativity will thank you for it. Even though we focused on this process for collections, the same file nesting system and workflow can be used for many different projects as well. Be sure to download the worksheets for this course, where you will find an example of a file organization structure and the five-step process to collection creation that I've shared with you here.