Why Images Don't Belong in Your DAMMost organizations use digital asset management to manage images. It has always been this way and it will likely continue to be this way for some time. After all, images are the thing DAM does best.

But it’s time to stop using DAM to manage images because you could be doing so much more.

Lose the Legacy

Unfortunately for DAM users, DAM developers were weened on operating systems. This means that despite our best efforts to make digital asset management software something that’s leaps and bounds better than what we get with Mac OS, Windows or Linux, DAMs remain too influenced by the ways in which things are done on the OS.

For example, consider data storage. In the early days of computing, word processing documents got their own folders; spreadsheets got theirs; images got theirs and so on. You might even have Videos, Pictures, Music or Documents folders on your hard drive today. After all, if Microsoft and Apple put them there, they must be useful for something.

Though I can’t think of a single professional DAM that provides out-of-the-box video or picture categories or tags, these are among the first things new DAM users create. In fact, you needn’t look far to see DAM vendor screenshots that include file-based examples because they tell a simple story.

But that simple story is confusing the truer story of Digital Asset Management. Worse, most DAM software today does nothing to improve the situation.

Mental Metadata Tags

The reason I say that “images” don’t belong in your DAM is this: the fact that a given file contains an image is of virtually no value to those using the DAM. Sure, when we need an image to place into an InDesign layout, we don’t want a spreadsheet. But if 90 percent of the assets in your DAM are images, what’s the point of categorizing them as such?

When we search, we don’t search first by file format, we search by content. For example, when searching for screenshots for a new product release, we think screenshots not images. Or when we need a copy of last year’s annual report, we think in terms of report attributes -- the year, the business unit or maybe even the title “annual report.” If we've exhausted all search options to the point where we have to start browsing some “PDF” folder to find the report, something has gone horribly wrong in the DAM.

Depending on our professions, we use different mental tags to describe what we want. Marketers think about collateral and advertising; salespeople think about pipelines and reports; and technical writers think about documentation and release notes.

At the core of all of these terms are file formats, but those formats are not what matter most to us. They are, in fact, simply attributes of “boxes” in which the content has been stored.

Sure, one format might be more suitable for a given purpose; but if we need a PNG photo of a daisy and we can’t find one, we’re not going use a PNG photo of a 747 instead, just because it was in the right format.

The only people who seem to think in terms of file formats today are those who build DAM software. “Look at how many file formats we support! Download the PDF here and marvel at all the formats we support that you’ve never even heard about, let alone use …”

When searching for something we need, we think first about the content before we think about the file format. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself the last time you added a file format designator to a Google search.

Content Focused DAM

If your DAM enables you to think in terms of content instead of files, you can provide users with a much more natural search/browse experience. Some examples of content focused DAM are: