Over the years, I’ve compiled a large collection of material that for some reason or another, I found inspiring. Ad campaigns, textures, text, color swatches, Behind th1e scenes, commercials, paintings, songs, logos, the list goes on and on. It’s always great to have a go-to source of information to inspire me when I start on any new project. Most of the time, I’m browsing, screen capturing, and saving images on my phone.
The main problem I run into is finding a way to arrange the media for quick and easy collaboration across my devices. I try to keep up with some semblance of organization, but that in and of itself is a full-time job. I’ve learned not to obsess over not being able to label and file every piece of media I accumulate. What can make it even more difficult to keep up with is having multiple devices from different ecosystems that don’t play well together, or worse losing app support that is the core of your workflow.
I have a system that works for me and that I’ve relied on for years, but, my golden era of asset management is quickly coming to an end. My humble workhorse software that is the core of my workflow is being retired.
Either way, there’s a need for me to sync, recall, and sort through media from all of my devices. I decided to write about it to help organize my thoughts and frustrations around digital asset management to a centralized server or cloud. Hopefully, by writing this out, I can find a solution that helps solve my issues.
Syncing & Storing
What it was
When you bounce around from your phone to your laptop to your desktop, it’s nice to have a centralized ecosystem to connect everything. Before 2011, connecting a phone to share data to your computer was a nightmare. For example, in 2006, connecting a Pocket PC to a Mac required expensive and clunky software like Missing Sync or Sync Mate just to sync your calendar. It would duplicate contacts and events, corrupt photo downloads, and generally required an entire Sunday afternoon to get it synced properly. We’ve come a long way…
Syncing is pretty seamless now, but just a few years ago, even with all Apple devices, cloud access was still expensive and had difficultly reading and syncing all of your file types as a designer. Mobile.me, anyone? Some files, like notes, could be viewed and edited on your phone, but not on your computer or the web, and vice versa.
It was sometimes impossible to share bulk images or work on files quickly and efficiently from your phone straight to your computer. iWork was garbage and a joke until they introduced its syncing ability to iCloud around 2015. then in 2017, Apple introduced Files in ios 11, which was the first standard app that let you browse and sync across other file storage apps like Dropbox and Google Drive.
(I recently learned from Jared Spool’s Experience Vision seminar that Apple has been trying to achieve what they wanted to communicate from their design experiences since 1987.)
What it is
Now, the amount of cloud access is dizzying. We have Adobe Creative Cloud for our design apps, Google Drive and Dropbox for our everyday sharing and organization, and of course our long-term cloud backup like BackBlaze and Crash Plan (Code42). It's a den of iniquity for choice!
The point is, a lot of us have been coming up with workarounds for years while we waited for the technology to catch up to what our expectations were. As a user, I’m pretty hard on what my expectations of technology should be to make my life easier. I just want to keep moving at the speed of my brain without stopping for anything including stopping to eat, sleep, or out how to consolidate my data. If I had a dime for every time I had to stop and figure out a way to move media around devices…
What works well
Easily grabbing and dumping media large or small from computers to cloud to be accessed essentially anywhere, anytime.
As of now, any media that's saved, downloaded, or screengrabbed from any of my computers gets tossed directly into my Google Drive, in an inspiration folder separated by year, then I have a master catalog that contains all of the files.
What doesn’t work well?
Easily getting media off my iPhone and iPad and into a centralized location.
I use my phone’s and iPad’s photo roll in the same manner but they’re a bit trickier to moved media into the same folders as my computers — I generally have 8–9k files to add per year. iCloud is honestly too limiting for how expensive it is, so backing up there or iPhoto then moving everything over to Google Drive is too time-consuming for something that’s really a non-priority in my day-to-day.
That doesn't mean I still don’t have to do it…
Having G-Suite used to help streamline this because, before mid-2019, you could sync photos to Drive. I could sync my camera roll to Google photos and never really have to think about it. Then as they do, they took away the sync option making it more difficult to centralize your data. Third-party apps like Multi-Cloud exist to perpetuate syncing, but I’m not looking to add more patches to the mix.
So because of Apple and Google, my current workaround is at the end of every year I plug my phone into my computer, open iPhoto, download everything, find the Photos Library catalog, right-click Show Contents, Grab the master folder, and copy it to where I would like it to live.
Now, I have double and triple files all over the place because I have to move giant, slow and unorganized folders, wait, come back to see if they’ve copied correctly, then take it from there. It’s a pain in the ass, and if someone has a better workaround, please let me know….
Once you centralize all of your assets on your server, or dropbox, or my personal favorite Google Drive, you’ll still need a way to search, browse, and index, and generally manage your media. For me, this is the most important, because if somewhere down the line the software goes belly up — what happens to all of the years of work that you’ve been cataloging?
After 16 years of using iView Media Pro, which I’ll talk more about below, I face the tough decision of needing to find a replacement. Just like having to toss your favorite pair of jeans, no replacement will ever be worth it. R.I.P. iView
Digital asset management tools
Filemaker Pro, remember this? Of course not. This was a GUI database management system software that in 2004, introduced centralizing all of your data from individual files, to one working file. It was and still is a beast of a software that allowed users to make customizable databases to users’ unique requirements without coding. We used it back in the day to catalog museum’s or artist’s collections after they’ve been photographed.
Now, they have a robust ecosystem to build apps, project management tools, asset management, and basically whatever you can think of, all by drag and drop. It’s actually pretty crazy to see how far this software has come over the past 16 years.
iView Media Pro was and is still my personal favorite. I’ve been using the original release since 2006 and I’m hanging on to it for dear life. After being sold to 3 companies since its inception, its finally been discontinued as of 2018. It was mainly used to sort images, but it can receive sort, and tag almost any file you drop into it (Except Apples HEIC files). I’ve used it for year-end catalogs, sorting poorly organized folders, renaming files, and just about anything you can imagine for organizing large quantities of assets.
The best part about it — Individual catalogs!
Media Pro makes it possible to catalog and sort images and other media files. The user is able to organize and categorize without being limited to assets’ actual folder locations, add metadata including IPTC annotations, and locate assets that may spread over multiple folders and drive locations, including offline discs. As well as cataloging, Media Pro can print (into formats like contact sheets and lists), build web galleries, convert to other formats, and build slideshows.
Bridge is pretty powerful in terms of ratings, metadata, list, slideshow, and thumbnail views, but I personally find it slow since all my files live on a server or the cloud, and cache files get confused if every time you close and open Bridge. This means waiting, a lot of waiting…
Adobe Lightroom — now Lightroom is a weird one to include if you’re not looking to edit images, But IMO its image editing functions are just as important as its cataloging. Its primary uses include importing/saving, viewing, organizing, tagging, editing, and sharing large numbers of digital images and it reads Apple's HEIC files! Albeit slowly…
It also has dedicated catalogs, which I love, but It’s painfully slow to import directly from your phone. Also, you have to have the catalog on your drive and not over a server, which is forcing you to copy it to your drive, add a version number, and populate it back in the server when you're done working on it.
There is so much room for error when you’re working like this.
Eagle is a desktop-based software that focuses on the “Collect, Organize, Search” of your design assets. With Eagle, you can create your own “design assets library, inspiration library…etc.”. No matter it’s tens of thousands of images or categories, Eagle is competent to achieve the following:
- Collect your favorite images and inspirations
Help you collect any idea that flashes before your eyes and note it down.
- Manage, organize, classify your images
Manage, tag your images, make you find them quickly.
- Find any images that meet your needs
The powerful search engine that is able to find images within 0.5 seconds.
That's from their sight and, though I just am learning about it, I’ve never tried it but I think it's what I’m looking for. It's only $30 for a license, which is what I think iView cost me in 2006.
I think I found my first new software to test…
My data organization has become a nightmare in 2020. Partly due to negligence and priorities — maybe it's my subconscious telling me that there’s got to be a better way. Or maybe it’s that I’m chasing a ghost when it comes to perfectly and simply cataloging everything single thing I find remotely interesting and might play a role in some future project.
All I know is, if I update my computer’s OS, I will lose 16 years of iView catalogs because the software won’t be supported. I have been avoiding addressing this as it’s a monumental undertaking. (Honestly, It’s basically impossible) I’m realizing that I need to come up with a new system, as my laptop is gonna need to be replaced, basically putting me in my OCD nightmare of disorder with all of my files and data.
Wait…am I a digital hoarder????