Lara Hiller


Lara Hiller - DAM Professional

If you build it right, it can last forever. The first DAM system Lara and her team built in 1999 is still in operation and now supports over a billion assets worldwide.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

My first role as a digital archivist was at Amscan, Inc., where I organized their catalog images over a decade ago. My background is a BA in Art History. I’m currently working on a Master’s degree in Education. I was an Executive Assistant at Chanel, Inc., where I managed fine art and jewelry inventories, organized marketing content, documentation and photos. I worked across creative teams, designed a sales training module, documented workflows, and provided content management and organizational charts—useful experience in my role as a Digital Archivist, and later as Digital Asset Manager.

I’m currently an independent Digital Asset Management Consultant, and also in a graduate education program at SLC. My area of interest is Digital Literacy. It’s thrilling to work with the next generation of digital tinkerers!

Follow me on twitter @LaraKohi.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

The digital archives in the catalog department at Amscan, in 1999, contained approximately 300,000 images in a wide variety of formats. There was no precedent, really, the term ‘Digital Archivist’ had just been coined, and so much of the organizational strategy was open territory.

For Amscan’s purposes, I attended seminars and worked closely with IT, Product and Catalog Directors to develop their digital library. For those new to DAM, I would advise to keep it simple, and read as much literature on the subject as you can before diving in. In my case, this was in terms of art inventories and libraries.

With my team, we created file naming taxonomies based on current workflow objectives. We designed surveys and hired interns, and polled the departments on their use of catalog images. Based on the surveys, we established metadata, data fields and provided trainings. We looked to automate as many processes as we could, and reviewed many vendors in this effort. DAM was just in its infancy. It didn’t have a name yet! Many of the vendors we’d looked at are no longer around today, but what’s interesting is that the central ideas of Digital Asset Management remain the same.

Amscan is an international party product manufacturer and distributor. More than 40,000 products are featured in a wide variety of contexts by more than 40,000 international retailers. They generate sales largely via catalogs.

Because the most important features were ease and speed of asset retrieval, and scalability was key, my team and I ended up implementing the simplest system possible, based on naming conventions, data fields and folder systems. The assets are accessed from multiple points across the company for multiple uses.

For ease of implementation, I would recommend considering workgroups’ learning styles. Artists learn visually, for example. Product people know their product by name or sku. The DAM should absorb these differences. We ended up building a custom solution, utilizing several out of the box or custom interface solutions.

What is your biggest mistake with regards to DAM?

I regret not becoming more involved in professional associations at that time. As it was, I had just become a mom, and was craving a change from technology. Now though, it’s possible to be at home with children and also stay involved in professional discussions, which I think is a terrific advancement for women and parenting.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

I am really proud of the fact that the archiving system—the digital library that my team and I created over a decade ago—still supports corporate business. The company has grown to manage billions of images now, and perhaps I was able to contribute to that.


This interview originally appeared on DAM Guru on Mon, 30 Mar 2015. For more DAM News interviews, see the interviews index page.

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