How to build a Digital Asset Management Taxonomy

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If your company has implemented Digital Asset Management (DAM) system, you must be well aware of the benefits: primarily, making it simple for team members to store, categorize, find and use the digital assets they need. But simply investing in a DAM system is not enough if you want to truly optimize the software for your organization’s specific needs. One of the most important milestones in this process is to build a digital asset management taxonomy. This is essentially the hierarchical categorization of your digital assets to make them easier to locate and track. 

In this article we will understand the definition and importance of building a taxonomy within the context of digital asset management. Next, we will go through the process of how to build a digital asset management taxonomy so that your organization is able to optimize the effectiveness of this system.

What is a taxonomy and why is it relevant in DAM?

First, let us understand what a “taxonomy” means. In the context of DAM, it refers to a way of classifying and organizing all digital assets. In order to make assets easy to find and filter out, a taxonomy structure must be created. 

This taxonomy structure is nothing but “descriptors” or labels which are assigned to digital assets. This could either be a specific technical vocabulary or consistent language to tag each asset. These descriptors (such as date of creation, tags, usage information, etc) are known as metadata.

The reason why a taxonomy is highly important is because it enables easy location and retrieval of digital assets. You can easily browse through your DAM library if a proper taxonomy structure is in place. You can also navigate through related categories of your library to intuitively locate any relevant material you might need.

A DAM also becomes more powerful than a static library with the addition of a taxonomy and metada, since it effectively becomes a centralized content hub for your company.

Different types of taxonomy design

Now that we have understood the basic idea of taxonomy in digital asset management, let us understand the two main variants. 

Nested Taxonomy

A nested taxonomy is a hierarchy of categories that contain multiple sub-categories. For example, on your laptop if you have a file “z” which is inside folder “y” which is inside folder “x” you will first need to click on x, then y and finally z in order to open the desired file. In other words, the subfolders are only accessible by going down the hierarchy of categorization.

Flat taxonomy

A flat taxonomy is a structure whereby you can can conduct a search using multiple filters at the same time in order to locate a specific sub folder. For example, if you want to look for an asset of a specific dimension AND a specific colour, you can select those filters and retrieve the relevant file.

Whichever type of system you choose is based on team preferences, and even though both variants have their own unique benefits, the end result is identical. That being said, a flat taxonomy has been widely adopted by majority of companies since it enhances browsability (because all sections are visible) and does not require knowledge of the full pathway of a digital asset to locate it. On the other hand, DAM’s which use a nested taxonomy have the benefit of being structurally familiar.

How should I build my digital asset management taxonomy?

You must consider the following steps in order to build an optimal taxonomy for your digital assets:

Do research of your DAM user requirements

The very first step of building a taxonomy that is ideal for your company is to get feedback from your team members. This includes knowing which assets they want to store, their overall business goals and which assets are specific to their role.

This research of different use cases among different teams will help you define the scope for building a taxonomy. It’ll also help you identify common assets among teams.

Audit your current digital assets

Auditing the makeup of your assets is crucial to the entire process. Ensure that you consolidate all the digital assets from various teams into a single location. Alongside, remember to group together common formats (such as video, photos, etc.) overarching themes and common uses of the content (such as social media or print.)

Create a list of taxonomy categories

Depending on your industry, you can create different category options for your brand. This can include product type, department, location or a combination of filters. Even though taxonomies have some similarities for the same industry they are rarely identical. Keeping your teams unique needs in mind, you should develop a high-level plan of the way you want to categorize your assets. 

A good idea is to first map out each stakeholders requirements, building a rough outline of major categories. For example, if you are an FMCG brand, you can define categories such as hygiene products, under which you would classify “hair care products” as a sub category which would further have subcategories such as “conditioner” consisting of a further subcategory of variants for different hair types and so on.

Remember that your taxonomy doesnt need to follow the same structure throughout – you have the flexibility to assign parameters that are customized for your teams needs. For example, your marketing team might want assets categorized by campaign while your sales team might want assets categorized by persona type. 

Finalize your taxonomy

Once you have mapped out your taxonomy structure its time to document it. You should start by first documenting it in an excel document before implementing it in your digital asset management system. Next, you should import the data structure and tag your assets in the DAM.


Building a digital asset management taxonomy is fundamental to ensuring that you get the most value out of your platform and maximise its effectiveness. Such a configuration will not only be optimal from a financial standpoint but also save a lot of time and effort for your team members so that they can focus on more important goals, since the task of locating digital asset variants is now simplified.