Contributed by Brenda Sutherland, Illustrator Team Geologist
Tuesday is garbage day at my house. . . . In preparation, I run around the house emptying all the trash bins, gather up the recycling and haul out the green waste container and park it all on the curb. Hopefully timing these tasks before that big noisy truck comes along and takes it all away.
The experience is both tedious and cathartic. While I can think of an infinite number of things I’d rather be doing than my weekly trash chore, there is something refreshing about knowing that all of those things I no longer need or want have been taken away, and I’ll never have to smell, trip over, or store them away again.
Of course, some people are much better housekeepers than I am, and would be horrified to see my last minute scramble down the driveway. But at least I get it done! And I think designers are a bit like this with their files as well. Some are meticulous about handing off files that have been scrubbed clean, without a single erroneous anchor point or unused swatch. Every layer, sublayer and group has a unique and meaningful name, and there are no hidden objects, unpainted paths, or dead links to be found. I have seen these files, and they are a thing of beauty.
Think about when you pick your car up from the mechanic. How would you feel if you found the old spark plugs or empty oilcans lying in your car? Not to mention greasy handprints on the hood. When you pick up your car, you expect it to be ready to go, without any sign that someone’s been working on it. And you especially don’t want to be cleaning up after them!
Now think about how your clients feel when they get your files. When they open them up and the swatch panel contains not only all of the swatches from the Startup Profile, but also every spot color you tried out while working out your color scheme, every variation of a particular pattern or gradient you were working on, and all the different brushes you experimented with on that one object you ended up deleting anyway. And then of course are the objects no longer in use but still present in your document. They may not be visible, but their presence can have repercussions that can cost you time and money later. So it’s well worth the taking a few minutes to scrub your files before handing them off. Not only do tidy files look more professional, removing these items reduces the file size, and prevents problems and confusion further down the production line as people other than you open and work with them.
Many designers budget time into their schedules for file cleanup. Not that it takes a lot of time, as Illustrator provides time saving tools to help you sweep your files cleans of unnecessary clutter. Hopefully, you are already doing this. If not, read on and I’ll share some tips with you that will help you add this step to your workflow as efficiently and painlessly as possible.