The glossary of digital asset management terms

Whether you’re a tech buff or a total n00b, you’ll notice digital asset management (DAM) comes with a whole host of terms that you’d probably never use in any other context.

That’s why we want to break down some of the most common (and less well-known) DAM terms to aid you on your digital asset journey. (One to bookmark if you’re currently hunting around for a new DAM tool. 🤓)

Glossary of DAM terms 

An admin (or administrator) is often the gatekeeper of your digital asset management tool. They’ll have full control of the system. They can set permissions, toggle all settings and add new users. If you’re currently researching DAM providers, chances are you’ll be an admin once you sign up.

Brand asset management (BAM)
This is a sub-category of digital asset management tools. It focuses specifically on workflows important to brand managers - like version history, watermarks and online style guides. Find out more in our BAM guide.

Collection or lightbox
A collection (called a “lightbox” in some DAM solutions) is a selection of images and videos that you can collect and save for later. For example, if you’re browsing for product shots to use in an upcoming campaign, you can select the images you think work best and save them to a lightbox (or collection). You can name your lightboxes and share them with your teams and external partners.

Controlled vocabulary 
Controlled vocabulary is a way of ensuring that anyone who is involved in uploading or tagging images uses consistent language and terminology to make it easy to find them later.

Digital assets
A digital asset is a digital file that has value to an organisation or individual. These include photos, videos, podcasts, brand guidelines and graphics. Some typical file formats include JPEGs, PNGs, AI, GIF, MP4 (and so on).

Digital asset management (DAM)
You probably already know this one. You wouldn't be here otherwise, right? Just in case, digital asset management (DAM) is the process of managing your organisation’s digital assets so you make the most of the investment you’ve made in them. A DAM solution is a software application that helps you manage, share and deploy your digital assets, aka, your brand's visual content. Find out more in this article all about digital asset management.

Field (aka) Attribute

An attribute is a field of data. (In Dash, we simply refer to them it as a 'field'). Think of it as a label. You could have a caption, description, expiry date, tags, file type, photographer - the list goes on. In DAM, fields are attached to files to provide information and, just as importantly, to improve searchability. This can be done automatically, manually, or both ways! The values of all these fields are collectively known as 'metadata'.

Hosting refers to whether your DAM is hosted on the cloud or on-premise. An on-premise solution will need to be hosted on your own servers, which comes with several limitations including lack of scalability and storage, and high costs associated with supporting the application. A cloud-hosted DAM means your brand’s visual content is secure and online - the modern solution for most businesses.

Metadata is information that describes the asset in addition to the file data itself. It essentially gives context to the file. So, the 'metadata' of an image could make up several fields including photographer, dimensions and the created date.

When talking about a DAM solution, the metadata for an asset is stored in the fields within the solution itself.

Metadata can also refer to the textual data embedded within the actual file (we call this “embedded metadata”), which is stored in fields from schemas such as EXIF, IPTC and XMP. For example, cameras often set the field “EXIF: Date Time Original” to record when a picture was taken, and tags can be added using software such as Adobe Photoshop.

Many DAM solutions enable mappings to be configured so embedded metadata can be extracted from the asset file and used to populate fields. For example, this is how Dash knows how to set the “Date Created” field to the date and time a picture was taken.

DAM allows you to set up automated emails that tell you about new things in your system. In Dash, you can get alerts whenever someone’s uploaded a new version of an asset you’ve previously downloaded. You can also set up a notification against a saved search. This means, whenever someone uploads a new image or video relating to your search, you’ll get a handy email notification.

Many DAM tools require a level of ‘onboarding’. This is what happens after you purchase, and helps you and your team get up to speed with your new software. This can include getting an overview of the system, deciding on folder structures, considering upload workflows and setting up your brand’s theme. Depending on the tool you purchase (and the size of your team), the amount of time it takes to onboard can vary.

DAM tools automatically generate web-optimised previews for most of the files you upload including images, video, audio, PDF, and PowerPoint.

This is a camera file format (e.g. files with extensions like DNG, RAW ), prior to compression (e.g. into a JPEG). These can be stored in a DAM system to ensure you have the original source file.

A taxonomy is a structure of controlled vocabulary used to configure metadata (including both folders and fields). It helps structure, organise and categorise your digital assets so users can find what they need quickly. It also helps with consistent tagging if selecting from a controlled list.

As the name suggests, this defines how searchable your DAM is. You can improve searchability by adding relevant keywords and other metadata to your assets. Or, you can use features such as custom fields and auto-tagging to ensure you’re getting the most relevant search results, with the least effort.

Tags, AKA Keywords
Just like in content marketing, tags are used to make searches more effective. These should be objective words used to identify the content of your images and videos. For example, if you’re selling pet food, you might want to include keywords such as ‘cat’, ‘dog’ or ‘hamster’. That means if you’re searching for product shots for a campaign about your new range of dog treats, you’ll quickly be able to jump to the photos associated with that animal.

Quite simply, a user is an individual who uses the DAM system. These aren’t necessarily admins, but team members who have their own logins with limited permissions.

Video asset management (VAM)
Just like BAM, a video asset management tool - VAM for short - is a sub-category of digital asset management software. VAMs focus on, you guessed it, video production and creation workflows. If the content you're creating is primarily video, you'll be most interested in this type of tool.

Download the DAM comparison worksheet

If you're currently on the hunt for a new DAM tool for your teams, check out our free DAM comparison worksheet. We know how tricky it can be to purchase a new piece of software for your brand, so organising everything into one, manageable document is a great way of comparing providers side-by-side.

In this worksheet, you'll find a list of common features and functions that brands need to help store, organise and deploy their visual content. We've organised each feature into different sections and even included the glossary of DAM terms into the worksheet - so you'll have it to hand as your doing your research.

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