From Chaos to Calm: How Agencies, Marketers, and Graphic Designers Can Improve Their Workflow

Agencies, marketers, and graphic designers face two opposing forces every single day. The first is the drive to create. It’s the source of all brilliant campaigns and every successful client.

And behind all these new ideas is the need to manage those creations.

Instead of digital asset management sowing confusion and slowing you down, DAM systems and processes can spur innovation. They can save time and money while inspiring your next great idea. I recently interviewed Extensis CEO Toby Martin and asked him to share his perspective on this dichotomy, and how agencies, marketers, and graphic designers can succeed with better digital asset management.

Value of Collaboration

Andrew: Over the last few months we’ve seen a dramatic shift to remote work for all types of companies all around the world. This has put collaboration in the spotlight. How can better collaboration make it easier for designers to create their best work?

Blog_TobyToby: Artists like designers usually draw their inspiration from one of three areas: working closely with other like-minded colleagues, looking back at old work, and viewing other artists’ creative work.

Each of these three areas has been interrupted with the almost-overnight shift to remote work. But the process itself isn’t the work product. So, where this challenge is acute is in the management of the output – the artwork itself that is created by skilled teams of designers. If these people who are physically distanced are unable to share their inspirational works with each other as well as their clients, the entire process breaks down. Any tools that make it easier for designers to share their ideas and finished work will allow them to produce better work more quickly. That’s the essence of effective collaboration.

A: It seems like those three factors are the keys to creating bold new ideas. But designers still need a way to manage all their files while they bring their ideas to life. As designers and marketers look for better ways to collaborate, how will this affect their DAM practices?

T: Especially during these challenging times, our customers’ success all comes back to the strength of their teams and the tools they employ to improve collaboration. And the tools which help these teams produce their best work are helping them manage a rapidly growing amount of content. This is no different than during ‘normal’ working conditions, but effective DAM is a challenge even on the best days.

Another interesting point is how many organizations have quickly pivoted around the new social distancing guidelines and other recommendations to refresh their brands. All of this recent work has resulted in a massive increase in the number of new digital assets, and these have to go somewhere. So, while DAM is always an important part of the creative process, that’s even more true now.

A: Tell us a bit more about that. We know one of the first steps in effective digital asset management is getting everything in one place so you have a single source of truth. But auditing and centralizing a company’s digital assets can be a massive undertaking. What would you say to managers preparing for this?

T: There are several long-term benefits that should make any manager or agency owner sit up and take notice. Start with reducing loss of valuable content, whatever that may be from procured or created assets. Throw in massive time savings when people search for the digital assets they need in order to do their jobs. Then sprinkle in some reduction of risk for managed IP or other assets that can be directly tied to contractual requirements. Combine all these, and you have plenty of data to put together a basic ROI for better DAM.

A: That’s an interesting point you made just now, related to digital assets that may be purchased or leased, vs those created in house. If you can’t find it, it’s costing you money no matter where it came from. And while creatives might wonder if it’s better to purchase, lease, or create digital assets for their project, is there more to this question?

T: Maybe a better approach is not asking which is better, but which is costlier for the business or the end client? Purchasing, leasing or otherwise procuring digital assets from somewhere else is always faster. If you need an example of this, just ask Getty Images and similar companies. But is this really cheaper when you look at all details and consider your liability? For example, if you buy your digital assets from somewhere else, you need to manage your publication rights for each image and video. How much does it cost to keep track of all this? That’s just the tip of the iceberg when you think about buying vs creating digital assets. DAM systems can help, and it all comes back to what’s best for the client.

Digital Asset Management Workflow Automation

A: When we think about buying vs creating digital assets, that’s just one decision within a designer’s workflow. Can you tell us more about the importance of automation to free up time? What are some of the benefits of automating different parts of a designer’s workflow?

T: Artists should be paid to create art, not track down emails or manage projects which are two giant wastes of valuable time. If systems can help reduce even a fraction of the downtime for the artists, how much more art could be created? How many more great campaigns might we see? DAM systems can play a vital role in improving collaboration. But it’s in their automation of common tasks that you can see the biggest savings in time and money.


“Artists should be paid to create art, not track down emails or manage projects which are two giant wastes of valuable time. If systems can help reduce even a fraction of the downtime for the artists, how much more art could be created?” – Toby Martin

A: Can you give us some examples of automated workflows that could be valuable for agencies and marketers?

T: Most every designer will point out their frustrations with the approval process for their designs. It’s a low value-add, but it can often derail timelines due to simple miscommunication and prolonged back-and forth. For any marketing teams curious about automating a part of their workflows, you can do a lot by focusing on approvals and updates. If you can make this process seamless, you’ll remove a huge obstacle for your team.

Launching a New DAM System

A: When designers and managers look for a new DAM, what factors should they keep in mind?

T: Flexibility. Does the DAM work around you, or vice versa? Not only is this crucial as you begin the process of mapping it to your plans and systems, but in a world where change is constant, can it support easy innovation and customization? Can it evolve with you as your grow your business? And can it do all this without needing a consultant? If not, run for the hills.


“Does the DAM work around you, or vice versa?” – Toby Martin


A: Earlier you mentioned how nailing the approvals process is a small thing that could lead to huge time savings. But the approvals process is only one part of the digital asset lifecycle. What are some other aspects of DAM systems that could have a major impact on a team’s workflow?

T: Some years back AI entered into the workflow for the purposes of cleaning up lack of metadata, and while it’s not perfect, it’s far better than nothing! Simple image recognition helps to make sense of that bucket of photos we all have that we keep delaying organizing, and digital asset management is no different. As the number of digital images increases exponentially, AI becomes more and more valuable. Combine this with machine learning – so the process of assigning metadata gets better as you add more images to your collection – and you can remove a lot of manual data entry from the equation.

A: What are some ways managers can improve their team’s adoption of a DAM system?

T: Sell, sell, sell the benefits to them. Naturally people are going to be resistant to change and they may find a few extra steps to be extra heavy-handed. But if they can endure a little pain now for a lot less pain down the road, they should get on board.

And sell it to them from their perspective, not from the point of view of their managers. For example, don’t lead off with things like risk. Instead begin by saying, “… this is all about making your jobs easier and more productive by saving time, here’s how…” Then you can explain the different ways automation can help, or how AI and machine learning can make them more productive. It all adds up, but you need to start off by answering, “What’s in it for me?”

A: Finally, what are some ways the right DAM solution can address some of the major challenges designers and managers face on a daily basis?

T: Lost files are a fact of life in many places, but they shouldn’t be. A well-organized DAM with accurate metadata can reduce those losses by a BIG percentage. Don’t even get me started on the time lost searching through email, which, unfortunately, is probably the world’s most common DAM. Nothing is worse than going down the rabbit hole only to emerge with the wrong version of a file or off-brand marketing materials. A well-organized DAM can eliminate this and many other common errors. For agencies, marketers, and graphic designers, it’s an investment in your work.



Agencies, marketers, and graphic designers can tame the chaos with better DAM practices. Imagine spending most of your time doing what you love, instead of fielding requests for images day in and day out. And what would it look like if you didn’t have to worry about duplicate or outdated digital assets?

American Cruise Lines regained dozens of hours a week with a DAM system they can trust.


Read the Case Study