Uncover the enjoyment of being organised as a artistic

Clearly not all creative people are disorganised, just as not all accountants plan out their lives in spreadsheets. But for many there can be a disconnect between free-flowing ideas, curiosity and imagination, and the persistent need to lock everything down into a rules-based system that makes sense for clients, colleagues, and collaborators.

Science has debunked the theory that we can all be split into definitively ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’ thinkers, but the balance between the logical, methodical left hemisphere and the chaotic, expressive right hemisphere does varies significantly between individuals. It can be all-too tempting to shrug off loose ends in the admin department because, well, you’re too busy being creative.

“Being organised does not come naturally to me,” admits Oklahoma-based designer Israel Ramirez. “Part of being creative is exploring. You don’t want to leave any stone unturned in the first stages of the process, which means feeling comfortable with chaos.”

All images: Playbook x Jacopo


“All projects have two stages: early exploration and validation,” continues Ramirez. “When you’re exploring, it’s more productive to keep things messy, but when validating, keeping everything in order helps you focus and be productive.”

“Beginning with chaos seems to be a shared cadence of creative work across disciplines,” agrees Stephanie Zhao, a food photographer and designer based out of Oakland, California. “Exploration can be very messy. Many photographers tell me that their goal in the field is to take as many shots as they can. That might mean thousands of photos, from which there may only be a handful worth developing and editing.”

In the case of design, Zhao points out, the exploration stage may also include multiple iterations of concepts simply to see if they’re viable. “I try not to hold myself back and break my flow by stopping and cleaning up along the way,” she says.

“I want to create as quickly as I come up with ideas, and at the end of that phase, I actually feel like I did my job if my brainstorm file is a big mess,” adds Zhao. “Clean-up, organisation, and evaluation comes later. Unfortunately, the bigger the mess, the more there is to sift through, organise, and synthesise. It can be a bit daunting.”


In the thick of a job, it can be hard to find the time – and the willpower – to keep up with project housekeeping. But it’s a false economy as you waste more time in the long run. Tagging your final work with creative keywords such as theme or colour, for instance, will help you find it more intuitively in the future compared with just a date or version number.

“When my files aren’t structured well, or things aren’t where they’re supposed to be, all the work that goes into gathering what I need while I’m working is a terrible distraction,” explains Zhao, who uses creative-focused file management tool Playbook to find her ideal balance between efficiency and aesthetic appeal.

“I find browsing through a visual body of work is a joy when it’s not just represented by a grey folder icon,” she explains. “It’s magical to see all my work in one place, organised exactly how I want it.”

This includes the ability to group files with the same name in a stack, which as fellow Playbook user Ramirez points out is useful for design projects where it’s common to need the same files in multiple different formats. “I used to just zip everything and send it across, but clients would still always email asking where to find certain versions,” he recalls. Now, he prefers to send a link to all the assets on Playbook for them to browse visually.


Although it may start as a necessary evil for many creative people, the desire to keep project files neat and tidy comes more naturally for others. “My stress levels go through the roof whenever I don’t take the time to organise my workspace,” explains illustrator Ash Lamb, who discovered the joy of organisation early: he recalls carefully sorting all his Lego pieces by shape and colour as a child.

“I’m noticeably more focused and productive when I know everything is in order,” he adds. “It really helps me to be more efficient. If all my assets are where they need to be I’ll get my job done noticeably faster – and the more I simplify my overall process, the easier it gets.”

Lamb believes in paring things right back when it comes to the admin side of the job, removing as many variables as possible. “Simplify your tasks, remove the unessential,” is his advice. “If you do so your process won’t be so chaotic, and everything will become much easier to manage. It’s the best way to focus on what really matters.”

Like Zhao and Ramirez, he uses Playbook – favouring both its clean, minimalist aesthetic and the ability to find and store work visually and intuitively, as well as the option to tag creative files with the right keywords automatically to save time later. “I believe my external organisation is a reflection of the state of my mind, and vice versa,” he concludes. “If you want to change the world, start by cleaning your own room.”

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