In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a hierarchy of human needs, starting with basic survival and moving all the way up to self-actualization. This is a pretty useful metaphor for the way you can approach collection management. In building your DAM ecosystem, I propose an alternate hierarchy of needs – one that starts with the security of the assets, is followed by discoverability, and eventually peaks in curation and distribution of the media.
Preserve the media
We are moving from an imperfect present to a more perfect future. The most basic need is to get to the future with your media collection intact. That primary goal influences everything else. At times, you’ll need to make some choices between expediency and security. I recommend opting for protection and preservation.
Ensure forward compatibility
We want to bring our images with us into the future. Ensuring that we can do this requires centralization of the archive, occasional migration to new formats or storage, and the use of software and techniques that don’t send you down a dead-end road.
Find media when you need it
While preserving images is the main goal, it’s not the only important one; you need to be able to find images when you want them. If you can’t find an image, you can’t use it, no matter how securely it has been stored and backed up. Images need to be cataloged and tagged.
Make the images look right
Sometimes images look great right out of the camera, but many times they need some additional optimization. The approach you take to image optimization will have important ramifications on your entire collection management. Using (mostly) non-destructive, parametric, read-only image editors, we can construct a workflow that provides for maximum flexibility. (I’ll have more on this a little later.)
Curate: Make cool stuff with your media
Curation takes place in the upper reaches of the hierarchy. Selecting just the right image to illustrate some point, or putting media together to tell a story is the process of curation. If we’ve done our work properly on the lower levels, we remove the busywork from curation, and we spend our time making and refining selections, crafting our photographic speech.
Distribute, share, integrate, embed
In order to tell a story, or do any other communication with imagery, you’ll need to make them available for others to see. This might be a simple export, or it could be some type of persistent connectivity. You’ll want as much information to be retained in the catalog as possible, since the usage history of your media is some of the most valuable data over time.