Software, Technology

How-to: the Need for Digital Asset Management

A topic I touched on when I first arrived at Dartington came around again, prompted by an attempt to round up banner images for this week’s bulletin… Digital Asset Management (DAM).

Now we are spawning websites and expanding content, we are reaching a point where we need to be smarter with image and video management. And graphics, logos, charts, diagrams, icons that we have created.

My team is getting more requests for posts and pages and our New World websites have more slots for visual interest, banners, sliders, mood shots and specific content… and I don’t know how to find half of it!

That’s before we get onto our creative crop and resize (derivative works, I’m doing a lot more of this) that we need to track equally with source images, policies for re-use, licences etc.

We’re perilously close to inappropriate reuse of poor-quality material without thought of brand identity or QA with the prospect of opening up more editorial control to the wider staff. Eeek!!!

Even after we tidy the network drive, a bunch of folders collected together won’t be good enough. We already have thousands of images, a lot unusable in their raw state (but creatively open for reuse); we should throw nothing away, but that brings us to the needle in a haystack I searched for recently.

We need to come up with a solution for image storage and meta-data, and you can see this is heading for some sort of asset management tool…

At the most basic level, we need to be recording a host of meta-data (that’s data about assets):

For individual assets

  • Image ref
  • Image title
  • Source Image Set
  • Photographer
  • Date taken
  • Licence
  • Organisation or brand
  • Restrictions (sets marked “not to be used for <purpose x>
  • Reserved use (“branded material only for DfE workshops”)
  • Tagging for search  (people, office, flipchart, whiteboard, projector, / adult, child / indoors, outdoors / mood, product, event, conference, workshop, icon, logo, chart, diagram…)

About usage of assets

  • Date
  • Medium
  • Publication name
  • Derived from (source image)
  • Reserved for (campaign, publication, site)
  • Use from date
  • Use until date

That’s off the top of my head. I’m sure you can think of more.

We’ve had brief discussions internally about the corporate image bank that we don’t currently use, and we need to revisit this in terms of the features and restrictions; whether there’s a sensible way to utilise it or whether we go our own way for control and flexibility.

I appreciate that a new asset management process and tool represents quite a bit of work to set up, and an overhead to maintain a process with some rigour. Last time I went through this, we needed 20 people to go through all their 164,000 images and that was just the material we decided to keep!

I know this isn’t quick or easy. But the choice going forward is either a pragmatic minimum set of controls or creative anarchy. I may be an anarchist at heart, but not that much.

And that’s before I get started on the topic of video resources; multiple requests this week for existing video material (CD’s DVD’s) that no one can find; uploading new intro material for the main website, clipping and editing old content for one government microsite and we’ve some talking heads commissioned for next month for the next government microsite. I think I’ve given myself a migraine…

So I’ve proposed the following next steps:

  • tell me to shut up I’m talking rubbish; there’s no problem; Catling, you’re fired!
  • OR
  • get together to discuss requirements
  • decide on ownership (believe me, I’m not volunteering)
  • define some processes, detailed requirements
  • review the corporate image bank
  • look at alternatives
  • write up some proposals and recommendations
  • agree a plan
  • include DAM in our business objectives and targets! (else it won’t happen)
  • implement (easy).

More to come when we get a little further along the track. RC

Related: How-to: Convert JPG to PDF using ImageMagick

Image credit: Hydroelectric Dam in Essex Junction, Vermont Credit: Don Shall


About Robin Catling

Writer; performer; project manager; sports coach; all-round eccentric.


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