Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things
I found a nice post by Merlin Mann over at 43 Folders on the history of tabs and index cards. Although medieval monks get some credit for using leather strips to mark manuscripts, page numbering proved more efficient for books. (The dog ear is a kind of DIY tab in reverse.) File cards were introduced by libraries in the nineteenth century; tabbed dividers came a little later. FilingCabinets.com attributes the birth of the file cabinet to Mr. Edwin G. Seibels in 1898.
I do still own a vertical filing cabinet, and I depend on the tabs to organize notes and letters. More often than not, however, my folders lie flat in a stack or travel with me in a messenger bag. I may use the tabs, but I also inscribe the surface of my folders with notes and labels. I confess to a growing weakness for folders made out of decorative card stocks. (Target makes a nice one.)
A colored file is a poor man’s presentation folder, easily dressed up with labels printed in good type or other graphics, for the front or the interior:
And, on the proverbial rainy day, kids can make maps out of file folders (directions at DIY Kids). Yeah, it’s just paper, but the handy fold doubles the cartographer’s work surface, while the machine fold turns the map into an explorer’s portfolio — for just pennies.
Whether you’re storing information or looking for presentation and design ideas, file folders enclose worlds of possibility. The tab is just the tip of the iceberg.— Julia Lupton · 2008-10-01