Calling all graphic designers...
June 22, 2017 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I've been doing graphic design stuff on the side for about two years now, and as a result have amassed a large collection of digital assets--fonts, brushes, stock art, gradients, textures, patterns, actions, and more. So large, in fact, that I have no idea what I have. How do you keep track of vast amounts of assets and, perhaps more importantly, their licenses, like this?

Searching for "digital asset management" mostly gets me enterprise-level solutions that cost thousands and assume you're uploading the assets and sharing them with a team, which is unsuitable for me. Something that's less than $100 would be grand, but I could squeak out $200 if I had to. Worse comes to worse, I can roll my own database solution, but I'd really rather use something off the shelf. And if I'm paying money, I don't want to have to spend lots of time ripping out the guts and customizing it--for example there's some free and inexpensive library and museum catalog systems out there that might work if I spent a number of hours customizing them (I'm a systems librarian by day, graphic designer by night), but I'd rather not if there's an easier solution.

Searchable and sortable is key. I am on a Mac, so it needs to work on a Mac (Mac file system labels do not have the level of complexity/detail that I think I need). It needs to be easy to update! If I have to click through 3 or 4 different screens to input one item, it's going to be far too prohibitive to enter in the thousands of assets I have.

There's other requirements I think I may want or need, but I'm not listing them right now, because I don't want to accidentally rule out something that one of you might suggest if it turns out I haven't thought it through well enough.
posted by telophase to Technology (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Did you see this Ask from just a few days ago?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:13 AM on June 22, 2017

I hadn't, but it doesn't have a solution suitable for me.
posted by telophase at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2017

I find the most useful habit in organizing assets is clear descriptive file naming. You don't need a database if your file names explain what the file is.
posted by Cranialtorque at 11:25 AM on June 22, 2017

If you're a designer, you must have Adobe Bridge; can you use that to tag and organize your assets into collections? I do this and it works well.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 1:04 PM on June 22, 2017

Descriptive file names. Files inside descriptive folders.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:42 PM on June 22, 2017

1Password has a "software license" field; is easy to search & tag; and also stores your passwords!
posted by Jesse the K at 10:23 AM on June 23, 2017

I started managing my files a long time before tagging and all that. What I do is make sure files are named accurately and put them in folders/subfolders of similar things. e.g.:
  • Design Resources
  • Actions
  • Brushes
  • Clipart
  • Textures
Something like my project files I assign a project number and client code (2 letters) to each job so that make everything fall more or less fall chronologically. It's also easy to see who the client was by seeing the code in the file name. Photos I've always put in folders named year_month_description (e.g., 2017_06_Mefi Meetup).

Even if you find a database solution you like I would try to think through a naming convention for your files so that you can also easily get an idea of what they are without proprietary software.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:24 PM on June 23, 2017

I wonder if Scrivener might work here? It lets you store images and other types of files (scroll down to the "Your Research - Always Within Reach" section) - I'm pretty sure it basically stores a reference to the image, so it displays it, but doesn't duplicate it inside your Scrivener doc to avoid making that doc ridiculously large. If it doesn't display all your items (I'm not sure how it would deal with fonts or brushes), it would probably be pretty easy to take a screen shot and paste that into Scrivener as your visual reference.

You could also paste links to the licenses, and maybe come up with quick descriptive tags for the most common types of licenses you encounter.

Best of all, Scrivener has a great 30-day trial that runs by how many days you're actually using it - so if you launch the demo today, then don't launch it again until next week, you're only on day 2, with 28 days of actual use left to go.

Scrivener is often thought of as a tool for writers. I don't really do big writing projects, so I always figured it wasn't for me. I just started using it for slightly complex note-taking, though (I'm a web developer, and I'm using it to track tasks and code snippets - not too unlike your use), and I really like it a lot.

Give it a try, and see if 30 days of free use helps you decide whether it's a good solution for your assets.
posted by kristi at 12:39 PM on June 26, 2017

Unfortunately I already *have* descriptive folders and file names, and they don't help. One way they especially don't help when I have a purchase that includes multiple types of assets--textures and patterns, for example--that I'd like to keep together because they are meant to be used together, but then the package doesn't fit into either the Textures folder or the Patterns folder. If I put it into one, then I lose the other asset because I never see it when I'm looking in the appropriate folder. That also doesn't help me tag things in multiple ways--a font can fit into Science Fiction and into Fantasy and into Horror at the same time.
posted by telophase at 6:53 AM on July 1, 2017

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