15.02 Creative pattern

Well this is momentous. The website got a new category! And here’s the first article.

Status: :orange_circle: work in progress.
This document is subject to change. Feedback is welcome (using this forum post).
Last updated: 2024-07-03. Version: 0.0.1.

Problem description

When you — individually, or as an organisation — produce ‘creative output’, it is reasonable to expect that you will, over time, produce more than 100 things.

This breaks the standard Johnny.Decimal structure, which does not allow for more than 10 areas or categories, or more than 100 IDs.

Creative inputs

It is useful to have a library of ‘creative inputs’. These are artefacts that you might use in any project.

We define a standard area.

80-89 Library of creative inputs

This is area 80-89 so it is pushed to the ‘end’ of your system. By doing so, we can standardise this number range across the maximum number of systems.

You are free to use categories 10-79 for the rest of your business.

If you would prefer to use this area at a different number, e.g. 30-39, please do so.

A library

The term ‘library’ was chosen deliberately. Once established, libraries do not change much. Yes, new books are added, but not at the rate that they were at the start.

[insert graph here of change over time]


This area follows the standard Johnny.Decimal pattern, and contains the following categories.

81 Design elements

Purpose: where we store external artefacts, like typefaces, or ephemeral things, like colour palettes.

82 Words, text

Purpose: where we store re-usable words, text, or other prose.

83 Images, drawings, diagrams, screenshots

Purpose: where we store re-usable images that are not photographs.

84 Photos

Purpose: where we store re-usable photographs.

85 Audio, music

Purpose: where we store re-usable audio, music, or anything else that primarily goes in your ears.

86 Video, animation

Purpose: where we store re-usable video, animation, or any other moving pictures.

87 Platform-specific instructions

Purpose: where we store details that help us create for or load up to specific platforms; e.g. what video format does YouTube prefer?

Creative outputs

It is the creative outputs which might exceed 100 in number. These are the projects you produce: the product brochure, marketing video, and so on. Each is a ‘job’ in creative agency parlance.

We define a standard area.

90-99 Portfolio of creative outputs

This follows area 80-89 so the two sit together at the ‘end’ of your system.

If you would prefer to use this area at a different number, e.g. 40-49, please do so. I do recommend that it immediately follow your library of creative inputs.

Numbering scheme

This area uses non-standard numbering.

Each output has a unique ID. Assuming 10,000 jobs is sufficient, we start at 90001 and increment by 1 each time.[1]

We do not use categories in this area: instead, jump straight to the job ID.

90-99 Portfolio of creative outputs
      90001 First job description 2024-06
      90002 Second job description 2024-07

Naming jobs

I suggest it will be useful to put the date that the job started at the end of the title.

Year and month will be sufficient, in the format yyyy-mm. This is to help you anchor these jobs in your mind when you review them in the future.

If you have your own job number

If you’re working in or for an agency, you might already have a job number.

In this case, you should use this number in place of 90001.

Standardise subfolders

You should create a standard subfolder structure. I recommend the following.

90-99 Portfolio of creative outputs
   90001 First job description 2024-06
         10 Design elements
         20 Words, text
         30 Images, drawings, screenshots
         40 Photos
         50 Audio, music
         60 Video, animation
         90 Exports, finals

You will note that this mimics the category structure of 80-89.


Broadly speaking, each job is as follows.

  1. You take artefacts from your library of inputs (green), as well as job-specific additional inputs (yellow) and possibly material from your portfolio of outputs (blue).
  2. You do some creative work (red).
  3. You save the output in your portfolio (blue).
  4. You identify reusable artefacts and move them to your library.
  5. Optionally, if the job was a quick one-off, you publish it without saving it.


This is our system as of 2024-07-03. We’ve only been using this for a few weeks but so far it feels good.

80-89 Library of creative inputs
   81 Design elements
      81.11 Berkeley Mono
      81.12 Our colours
      81.13 Nice colours for inspiration
   82 Words, text
      82.11 Inspirational words
      82.12 Patreon, Ko-fi, and so on
      82.13 Hashtags
      82.14 SEO-related, summaries of pages
      82.15 Where our brand copy is used
      82.16 Johnny.Decimal style guide
      82.17 TikTok comment replies
   83 Images, drawings, diagrams, screenshots
      83.11 Our logo (just the logo)
      83.12 Our logo on background or banner
      83.13 favicons
      83.14 Other companies' logos
      83.15 Stock images
      83.16 Lucy's drawings of JD concepts
      83.17 Screen grabs we make or take
      83.18 Combined LwL & JD logos or banners
      83.19 Backgrounds or banners - organised by external site
      83.20 Reference, example screens from social media
      83.21 Miscellaneous other shapes
   84 Photos
      84.11 Photos that include one of us, or are about us or our place
      84.12 Photos that don't include one of us
   85 Audio, music
   86 Video, animation
      86.11 Videos that include one of us, or are about us or our place
      86.12 Videos that don't include one of us
   87 Platform-specific instructions
      87.21 Facebook
      87.22 Instagram
      87.23 Linkedin
      87.24 TikTok
      87.25 Twitter
      87.26 YouTube
      87.27 Reddit
      87.28 Gumroad
      87.29 Snapchat
      87.30 Mastodon
      87.31 Threads
      87.32 Bluesky
90-99 Portfolio of creative outputs
      90 Management of library of outputs
         90.01 Inbox
         90.03 To-do & lists
         90.05 Templates
      90001 From chaos to calm 2023-05-31
      90002 New website launch announcement 2023-05
      90003 Launch workbook on Gumroad 2023-07
      90004 If your house looked like your file system 2023-07
      90005 When a librarian needs to find something 2023-07
      90006 Patreon posts 2023
      90007 The Manifesto 2023-06
      90008 Visualising the Teams hierarchy 2023-06
      90009 What is JD? with emoji 2023-07
      90010 Blog post videos
      90011 Business cards for street workshop experiment 2024-03
      90012 Business cards for Moo print job 2024-06
      90013 Website copy proofing
      90014 The freelancer problem 2023-09
      90015 Workshop pre-launch video 1 2024-02
      90016 Workshop pre-launch video 2 2024-04
      90017 Workshop launch announcement 2024-04
      90018 Workshop highlights reel 2024-06
      90019 First edition stickers 2023-09
      90020 Second edition stickers 2023-11
      90021 Diagrams including the two ways of looking at a work project 2023-11
      90022 Canberra Expo 2024-05
      90023 JDSS 15.53 Aus trip 2024-07
            10 Design elements
            20 Words, text
            30 Images, drawings, screenshots
            40 Photos
            50 Audio, music
            60 Video, animation
            90 Exports, finals

  1. 10,000 is enough. That’s one job a day every working day for 40 years. ↩︎


Really appreciate this! Wanted to share my approach to it:

90-99 Portfolio of Creative Outputs

90-92 Client Work
   90001 [Client Project No. 1]
   92999 [Client Project No. 2,998]
93-94 Personal Design Work (& Social Media Posts)
   93001 [Personal Project No. 1]
   94999 [Personal Project No. 1,998]
95-96 Photography & Videography
   95001 Brazil Photos 2024 [Photo Project No. 1]
      10 São Paulo
      20 Rio de Janeiro
   96999 [Photo Project No. 1,988]
 97 Writing
   97001 [Writing Project No. 1]
   97999 [Writing Project No. 998]
98 [Available]
99 Archive

Client projects typically span the course of a several weeks, even months. I don’t see me ever needing ~3000 ID’s.
Before this I had an Area called Creation Station for my photography, personal design work, writing, research, etc. And then I had a separate Area called Client Work. That client work area just had a category for the actual projects. Didn’t feel that great about it tbh.

A big step, judging by the many comments anticipating this over the past months!

I have two comments.

first, frivolous: IDs 90004 and 90005 really speak to my imagination … do those exist somewhere (I couldn’t find it anywhere on the blog) or is this a teaser for the Workshop content or a future article?

Second: This topic is also helpful for freelancers whose workflow is not so much the ‘assets → creative work → outputs’ kind: programmers working on codebases, for example. Websites are a bit of both: there are (visual) inputs and outputs, as well as the executable code which changes over time in place. For a while I had that code with version control in my JD ID folder, but that can occasionally bite so I am now keeping that in a separate directory.

What does stay in JD for me is the design notes and the visuals. Things like inkscape/illustrator files during the mockup and logo design process.

For the code, the relationship between working notes and code over time is extremely important. The codebase gradually changes and may be in various states of buginess over time, but it doesn’t ‘grow’ like a collection of illustrations or writings; you can’t extract a part of it at any moment. In othe words, progress is measured by the functionality not how many of the outputs are ocmpleted. The working notes are a log of the thought process in developing it. I have always struggled with keeping these notes in such a way that I can retrace my steps, but having a ‘library’ of references that is separate from my notes is – I think – a big step to improving that. That’s another topic which I will write about elsewhere – how I learned that categories are sometimes good things (Zettelkasten, cough cough).

So in my case I have three locations – four if I implement the pattern outlined here –

  1. the project, with at least a 999-length ID;
  2. the code, outside the JD directory but with the same ID in the name;
  3. my ‘knowledge’ library (area 90-99), with categoriess for things like ‘Web Dev’ and then IDs for things like ‘Netlify’ or ‘CSS Layout’ containing several markdown files each;
  4. the reusable things; I think in my system that will get compressed down more to an index-like listing.

All of these are joined together with wiki links.

I should add, regarding that list of four things:

knowledge should ideally migrate from my working notes on projects to my reference library, just like you describe reusable assets being identified and filed at the end of a project. In other words, I will take notes close to the metal in the heat of the work, but later they should be filed correctly. I hope that will help me find them again better later, because my brain just doesn’t remember what project I was working on when I found solution X. I had a boss who could find things that way. But I think I’m usually so focused when I finally find the solution, that I don’t register this bit of information a something in itself. I hope that if I later revisit it in a relaxed state, I can see it as such.

My main challenge is developing the routine and discipline to do this step.