I know it's said that a messy desk is a sign of genius, but if your desk is starting to look like an excavation site and not someplace you can work, then it may be time to add a little structure to your creative impulses.
One thing artists and creative types tend to do is clutter their work spaces with inspirational artwork, photography and text clipped from magazines, websites, newspapers and all kinds of media.
It's always nice to be able to refer back to a great idea or image when you need it, but how will you find that one tiny little piece of paper when the time comes?
To create a clipping collection that is a resource and not a burden, you are going to need a bit of forethought and organization. Here are some ideas for those who want to start collecting clippings and need a system, or for those who want to transform their collections into a treasure trove of navigable ideas.
It may sound obvious, but it is necessary to set aside time to focus on the task at hand. Otherwise you'll end up with a bigger mess than you've started with.
Pick a spot
You need to plan the means for preserving and storing your files ahead of time. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I going to scan all of my paper images so that I can access them digitally? Am I going to use a hanging file folder, a scrapbook or a photo box? Do I have enough space? What kind of supplies will I need?
Choose an organizational theme
If you are a designer, perhaps you would benefit from organizing your clippings by color or by genre (photography, illustration, web design, text). If you have a more analytical mind, or are a writer, try organizing the content by publication, source or website. Organizing by date is another interesting option, because it will allow you to look back and see how your tastes have changed during a period of time.
Make a book
One way to create a sense of order out of a pile of great clippings is to purchase a simple sketchbook or photo album and create a resource book. Mount photos and art onto the pages randomly, by theme or make a collage. You can use a glue stick or even "laminate" the clips onto the pages with thick, clear tape. This way you'll have a book you can flip through or put on your coffee table for sharing.
If you are going to keep a digital archive of clippings, some options for storing the files are an external hard drive, or a series of clearly labeled blank CDs or flash drives. The benefit of scanning paper files into a digital archive, is that you can include ideas found in print and online in one place. If you do scan and then store files digitally, you'll need regular access to a scanner and time to continue scanning future clippings into the archive. Before you start, come up with a consistent pattern for naming your files and stick to it!
Use available software
Photo sharing sites and even some blogging platforms have great potential to help organize your clippings. Some notable websites are Flickr, Picasa, Evernote and Tumblr. Each site offers a way to archive and categorize your content for easy access. You'll also be able to share your entire archive or particular images with friends and even clients by simply directing them to a URL.
Happy archiving and enjoy!