This is a “Green” blog post – as in, it’s recycled. 🙂 I first posted it in June but have found myself directing people to it quite often so I decided it was information worth repeating.  It will either be new to you or a good refresher.  I highly recommend you find a way to code your art so it is easy to talk about and refer to so you know that you and manufacturers are both talking about the same thing.

I also recommend you use numbers and letters and not symbols – again, easier and quicker to say and stay on the same page.  Say this out loud:  DRAA102   Now say this:  DR∞fY20ª   See my point? 🙂  So without further ado – here’s the original post… re-enjoy!


I’ve been asked about how I keep track of my art a few times and promised to  blog about it. Early on I realized that it might become hard to keep track of my art collections – who has licensed what, what they were interested in exactly, how to track and organize it. So after thumbing through some catalogs one day I decided I could create codes like they have for products. Why not?

So I sat down and got stuck. For some reason I thought there was some magic formula to code creation -that there was a “right” or “wrong” way to do it, and I certainly didn’t want to do it wrong!

Then I came to my senses and realized that if the code was for me, I could make it any way I pleased! This is not the DaVinci Code after all… it is to organize art and make my life easier. My code, my rules. Cool!

Then I went back to scratching my head… my code system couldn’t be too complicated – I wanted to be able to create and decipher the codes with a fancy decoder ring.

Ideally the codes needed to grow with my business. Easy enough to remember, but detailed enough to support a lot of art. I didn’t want to have to create a new system and need to update everything in a year, 3 years, 5 years or even 20 years.

Here is what I came up with: my codes consist of 4 letters and 3 numbers.

The first two letters represent one of 12 categories of art. For example, “DR” means it is a drink collection (like martinis or margaritas – yum!), “CH” means it is a Christmas collection.

The next two letters represent the collection name. So the “Ho, Ho, Holiday” christmas collection is “CH” for Christmas and “HH” for “Ho, Ho”.

The letters tell me the category and collection. Now come the numbers.

Since I design collections with icons, borders and repeat patterns – with words and images thrown in – I have 100’s thru 500’s. All numbers are 3 digits.

Icons: 100’s — so CHHH101 is a Santa, CHHH102 might be a tree, CHHH103 a stocking, etc.

Patterns: 200’s — CHHH201 might be a holly toss – if I have the same pattern in different colorways – say one with a red background and one with tan, I add a letter at the end. So CHHH201A and CHHH201B…

Images: 300’s — mockup images or scenes are 300’s.

Words: 400’s — sometimes I have sayings done in my handwriting or a decorative way – they get 400’s.

Borders: 500’s.

When I finish a collection I create a pdf with pages containing all the icons, borders, words, scenes and patterns – with the code under each. Then if I am at a trade show or email the pdf to someone, we can jot down the code instead of writing out a long description of the image. Saves time and decreases confusion. I include codes and images whenever possible in contracts as well.

SO… there is no time like the present. If you start coding right away, you won’t have to go back and code 5 years worth of work. Create a system that makes sense to you and for your work.

Happy creating!

– Tara Reed