Digital Asset Management:  A Primer


What Is Digital Asset Management?

It’s a necessary component of creative operations. It’s a process for organizing, storing and retrieving rich media such as photos, music, videos, animations, podcasts. It’s how you manage digital rights and permissions.

Why is it important?

When you have a strong DAM process, you save hours per month looking up files because you know exactly where all of your content is. You have optimum control over how and where your original content is displayed. You can work with teams and clients with much more efficiency and ease. You minimize redundancies - the same file found in several different folders for no reason - and thus you save disk space.

What goes into it?

Making it a high priority. Giving it focus. Understanding metadata. Time and attention. Organization. Committing to the process once you have defined it.

How do I begin?

First, you’ve got to make a decision about where all your files will live, and how you’ll back them up. For instance, I have three external hard drives that house 3 different categories of content that I use Dropbox and Box for sharing. You may want to stick to one external drive for backup while designating a Box or Dropbox account for primary use. Organize your folders, according to client, to project, to whatever, just make sure it’s a system that you will understand and will be able to use quickly.

Second, think about who will be responsible for managing this. Will it be you? Someone on your team? Will this be a skill you require of the creative freelancers - event photographers, video producers, graphic designers - you engage on a project basis? Whoever you designate to handle DAM must be detail oriented, thorough, and committed to the process that you have defined.

Next comes file naming protocols. Some tips:

  • There should be no spaces between words or characters when naming any file; use underscores instead

  • When numbering a series of files, always include a zero in front of single digits so that they will be easily searchable

  • A filename should mirror the name of the folder it’s in. Example:

CLIENTassets_web → CLIENTassets_web_video → CLIENTassets_web_video_name.mp4

  • The resolution of a photo should be included in its filename (Ex. CLIENTassets_project_100dpi_04)

Lastly, take some time out to determine and define the broad categories and keywords that you can apply to the metadata your graphics, photos, videos, and other media. Project names, project types, and clients names, for instance, are high-level categories that can apply to several files of the same type. Then, depending on what’s actually in an individual file, you can add more descriptive terms such as color, objects shown, people’s names, etc.

What tools do I use?

There are many SaaS solutions out there that you may find useful, depending on what industry you’re in. Little old me? I just use Adobe Bridge married with my own common sense. Many fashion and style publications and media outlets use globaledit. Several different kinds of businesses use Bynder, Brandfolder and Webdam. What it all comes down to is scale: how much content are you producing? Is it largely public-facing, internal, or evenly mixed between both? If you can afford to adapt a powerful solution like the one of the ones I mentioned, should you? As always, it depends. This is a great opportunity to get much more clarity on what your business really stands for.

* * * *

Digital asset management is very detail-oriented and there’s much more to it than the primer I’ve given you here. Read this article to learn more, and to get a sense of what using DAM to manage your brand can look like on a larger scale. Understanding its importance will put you on a path to making sure your content - and your brand at large - never spirals out of your control.

Alexia Lewis

Creative Director

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