Making decisions is difficult. Making decisions involving other people is even more difficult. Whether it’s what to eat, scheduling a dinner date, or choosing where to go on vacation, people often have a hard time making a choice. The same is true when designing a digital asset management (DAM) system. Because of the complexity and size of these systems, effective planning must involve everyone who has an interest in their success. While bringing all stakeholders together is vital to creating workflows that work for end-users, the more people in the room, the more difficult making decisions can be. 

Without directions or guidelines, DAM planning sessions can resemble an opinion Hunger Games.  Attendees can be focused on getting what they want instead of working together to create a holistic solution. In this article, we provide a few guiding principles and analogies to help you and your team start planning your DAM system.

The DAM Grocery Store

One of the best ways to manage an exchange of ideas is to introduce an analogy. Doing this enables everyone involved to begin on the same page and think through the problem similarly. When it comes to developing an easy-to-understand and straightforward organizational structure within your DAM system, our favorite analogy is a grocery store. In this analogy, your system is the grocery store and your digital assets are the individual food items that customers want to buy. 

Using this analogy, you and your team can easily consider several sets of standards applicable to your DAM system. Below, we provide some recommendations for using this thought process to develop a high-level folder structure for it. 

Building a Folder Structure

1. The Sections

Imagine you step into a grocery store you’ve never been to, grocery list in hand. You glance at your list, and the first item  is “carrots.” How would you go about looking for them? Most likely, you would start by finding the Produce section of the store and narrowing your search from there. In every grocery store, there are high-level sections that guide shoppers to where they want to go. These usually include Dairy, Produce, Seafood, Meat, Baked Goods, and Frozen Foods. Although a large number of different kinds of products live in each area, dividing the store into different sections allows customers to find everything they need efficiently. 

Think about what  “sections” there are in your organization. Is there an easy way to group assets together that makes sense for end-users stepping into the DAM system with the equivalent of their grocery list? If so, these categories should be the top layer of your folder structure. Be sure to remove any guesswork from the process of searching for an asset. If the user only has one core piece of information about the asset, would the sections be helpful? 

2. The Aisles

Let’s step back into the grocery store. If the next item on your list is “blueberry muffins,” you would head straight to the Baked Goods section.  Once you got there, how would you narrow your search to quickly find what you’re looking for?  Since each section in a grocery store is usually divided into subsections known as aisles, this will be true for the Baked Goods area.  There are likely to be different aisles with  labels like “Bread,” “Tortillas,” “Buns,” “Pastries,” and “Desserts.” These categories allow you to quickly head to the pastries subsection and cross muffins off your list. 

In the same way, you’ll need to divide the sections you and your team develop for your DAM system into subsections to help users easily find what they’re looking for. For example, if one of your sections is “Vehicles,” a subsection could be “SUVs.” Repeat this process a few times, breaking your subsections down further if necessary. For example, the Desserts subsection of the Baked Goods area could be divided further into sections for Cookies, Cakes, and Brownies. 

3. The Layout

Look back at your grocery list.  If the next item on it is “chicken,” you’ll walk to the Meat section, find the Poultry subsection, and then find chicken. From there, you notice yet another important distinction. On the right side of the chicken subsection is organic, free-range chicken. On the left is regular, name-brand chicken. This layout is repeated for every type of meat as well as many other items in the store: organic on the right, regular on the left.  This simple layout allows you to quickly know where to look for what you want, no matter what section or subsection you’re in. 

The same principle applies to the organizational structure for your DAM system.  You need a standard layout, regardless of section or subsection, at the end of your folder path. For many organizations, year (ex. 2018, 2019, 2020) or file type (ex. photo, video, audio) are the most logical ones to use. 


If you’re planning a DAM system and need more help using tools like these, our team is happy to help! Stacks works with brands like yours to make planning, implementing, maintaining, and expanding their DAM systems easy and simple, no matter what platform they use. Contact us today to get started!

September 16, 2021
Planning and Strategy

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