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This seems like a case where you could employ progressive disclosure to hide some of the elements until they're needed. For instance, you could hide the filter controls by default, revealing them when users make the decision to "filter." (Usually that decision is represented by a button or dropdown control.) download bmml source – Wireframes ...


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You could try an 'affordance', which is more like a bucket fill type indicator. Something that indicates approximately, by a visual mark, of how filled the archive cabinet could be. Check the Attachment 1 for a quick mockup. Now, somethings to note are: 1) Since as you rightly said, archive holds unimportant things. Hence its not super important to the user ...



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