This post is part of our series with digital asset management expert Peter Krogh. To learn more about building a strong visual media library, check out the rest of Up and Running with DAM:
- 5 Expert Tips for Getting Started with Your Visual Media Library
- Everything You Need to Know About Metadata for Your Visual Media Library
- How to Build a Metadata Policy for Your Organization’s Image Library
- The Best Photo Storage Solution for Brands: Cloud DAM + Local Archive
The Steps for Building Your Brand’s Visual Media Library
Organizing a brand’s collection of photos and videos can be a daunting task. Before you dive in to building a library structure, it’s important to take a few steps that will set your team up for success. If you’re thoughtful about this process, your team will be more likely to find what they need quickly and easily, and your library will stay organized, cutting down on work for you in the future.
Here 5 steps to follow when building a structure for your brand’s media library:
- Identify computers, hard drives, disks sitting on the shelf, etc. where assets might be hiding, and bring it all together.
- Put everything on one raid drive (or any hardware that can store the whole collection) and back it up properly. This will help you evaluate the size of the task ahead of you and ensure you don’t lose anything (you don’t want to lose everything from 2002 to 2009 just because an old hard drive stopped working).
- Identify the most important, most useful photos and videos that you want to make available to the team. Set them aside from the duplicates, off-brand assets, and assets that are not rights cleared.
- Create a folder structure that makes sense to your team members and your stakeholders.
- Fill that structure with the visual assets you want to make available for use in communications.
The goal of following these steps is to float the best material in your collection to the top so it can be used in visual communication. These steps also make the process of setting up your folder structure easier for you. Focus on the best material, and don’t worry about the assets no one on your team needs to use. You can add those materials as time goes on, but for now, take an efficient approach so the project is manageable and your library can add value for you and your team as soon as possible.
Browsing vs. Searching
Before you set up your library structure, it’s important to understand the difference between browsing and searching.
If I want to find the best photos from my team’s championship game, I would want to scroll through a folder of all of the game photos and choose my favorites. This is browsing – I don’t have anything specific in mind, I’m just looking for the highlights.
But let’s say I’m looking for the photo of player #13 celebrating the winning touchdown. With this specific query in mind, I would want to run a search for keywords like “13,” “touchdown” and “celebration.” This is searching – I don’t want to waste time scrolling through all of the photos from the game, because I know exactly what I want.
You should build a library structure that allows your users to browse intelligently, but don’t rely on that structure as a means of finding specific assets. Use metadata to power search for your team. (Want to learn more? Check out Everything You Need to Know About Metadata for Your Visual Media Library.)
Browsing Best Practices
To ensure the most intuitive browsing experience for your users, folders should be organized along one particular axis of organization.
For example, Arizona Cardinals chief photographer Gene Lower organizes the brand’s media library by season, then by game, then by tailgate, action, cheer and miscellaneous.There is no one best way to organize your collection. Think about how your users might browse, and set up a system that works for them.
Folders vs. Collections and Galleries
Some systems for hosting your brand’s visual media library allow more flexibility than a folder structure on a computer or network. Cloud-based platforms like Libris allow you to use collections and galleries, rather than folders, to house your visual assets. Collections and galleries allow you to make virtual copies, so your images and videos can live in more than one place, without taking up extra storage space.
Collections and galleries give you more freedom as the collection manager, and make the system easier to use for your teammates and stakeholders.
The ROI of a Sustainable Library Structure
Once you have set up your library structure on an axis that makes sense to your users, add your most used, most valuable material to the collection and test it out. Use the new library structure for new shoots moving forward. Here’s the best news: this is the easiest part! Once you have an intuitive structure, it’s easy to add new material to your library, because everything has a place to go. And, because you’ve added your most valuable material at the beginning of the process, you will be able to demonstrate return on investment for your efforts right away.
Once you and your team are happy with the workflow for new material, you can go back and start adding and organizing the old material you set aside. Once you are used to the new process for organizing your high value assets, you can clearly understand how much work it will take to upload and organize your archived materials.
Peter shares an important strategy that works for brands of all industries: you don’t necessarily have to work through the old material from start to finish. Instead, keep your radar up for projects that would require old material (someone’s retirement, an anniversary). As you dig through the archive for those projects, add and organize the visual assets you’re sifting through as you go.
Following these steps for building and testing your library structure will allow your team to have a sustainable visual media library to power your visual communications.