DAM Champ: Jill Fisher

Introducing Jill Fisher, the Project and Digital Asset Coordinator in the Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications at Ithaca College. Her background in offset printing made it natural for her to move into digital asset management (DAM), where she’s learned a lot about working with users and the value of integrations.

DAM champ: Someone who supports finding, setting up, or maintaining a digital asset management system (DAM). There is a wide variety in DAM champions, who come from positions in production, creative, management, IT, and marketing.

Digital asset management (DAM) champ jill FisherTell me about your background.

I was originally an offset printer and was hired here because my boss wanted somebody with print experience (since I manage these jobs as well). I’ve been managing the DAM since 2006. We have 175,000 images, six or seven years of InDesign files and a few years of video. In 2000, we were moving from slides to digital. We had scans and slides and it was a mess. Our vice president was very proactive and supported introducing a DAM.

Who is the DAM administrator at Ithaca College?

I’m the only one that knows it right now and it’s been that way for a few years. There’s a learning curve to using this system.

We use a metadata schema based on how we originally archived our (slide) images. We identify things by school, department, building and event. I’ve been here twenty years, it takes time to identify what kind of metadata to use. I try to keep it consistent.

What problems have you had?

We have a specific way of numbering all the images with the photographer’s initials and date – that’s the easy part. Knowing all of the categories can get hard because you can see many things in an image, so that can take a lot of time.

How many users do you have?

There are 400 users with logins. Anybody who needs images for college use can get a login by request. Our outside designers and ad agencies also have access.

Do you have a DAM wish list for the future?

We are looking at all of our systems right now and it would be nice to integrate Cumulus into our website. The upgrade we’re about to do will bring us integration into InDesign.  

What kind of feedback have you gotten about your DAM?

The one thing my previous boss did not like about our system was when you have a packaged InDesign file, you package the pictures, the fonts, and the InDesign file and it’s all one package. When you upload into Cumulus, it becomes pieces. So to download one folder of a poster you have to select all of the fonts, the pictures and InDesign file as opposed to one packaged file.

In the last upgrade, if you scrolled over an image it would blow it up right there and you can see the detail on it.

What would you like to see for your system?

I would look at how things can be integrated. We are not using several different systems. There are people using Dropbox and Google Docs and it would be good if we were able to add documents from all these places into the DAM. When we started it was only images, whereas now it really goes further than that.  

What are some of the trends you see among your users?

I think now people are pretty tech savvy, more so than they were 15 years ago.

The metadata input need is huge and it’s always changeable. You could have five people in a room and everyone has their thoughts on what it should be called.

It’s hard to get agreement on terminology because often people don’t really know what they want until they see it.

For instance, if I have an image of a building typically it’s categorized under BUILDINGS, if the building has a student walking next to it, it qualifies as a STUDENT OUTDOOR. There are different rules for different types of images and it’s best if you can single that out so that others can also do metadata input.

What kind of advice would you give someone starting out?

First, because of how things change, I would look at what a DAM can be integrated with. As I mentioned, we have all these different systems we use now that we didn’t have when we first implemented our DAM. We have people using Dropbox, SharePoint and Google Docs, so the question is – is that something that could be added to the DAM?  

It’s best to know in the beginning how many things you want to use it for. Also being aware of what software is used in various areas is helpful, so you don’t have duplicate licenses to use the same thing. You don’t want to be paying for things twice. If you can bring as many departments in to identify needs and determine who will be using it or could use it, that will help a lot.

Connect with DAM champ Jill Fisher on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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