Building Your First DAM Taxonomy: The Complete Guide
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Digital asset management
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min read

Building Your First DAM Taxonomy: The Complete Guide

Building Your First DAM Taxonomy: The Complete Guide
June 8, 2023

Are you looking for the perfect structure for organizing and storing digital assets in your business? Do you want an efficient way to store, manage, search, and access controlled digital content? If so, then developing a Digital Asset Management (DAM) Taxonomy is essential.  

With the right DAM taxonomy framework, businesses can gain much better control over their vast libraries of documents, images, videos, and other digital files. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about building your first DAM taxonomy. From understanding what DAM taxonomies are to learning how they can help improve efficiency and user experience – this article has it all! The goal is to provide you with a framework and practical strategies for developing a DAM taxonomy tailored to your organization's specific asset types, terminology, and goals. Proper taxonomy implementation unlocks the full value of your digital assets.

So, whether you are just getting started with DAM or looking to optimize an existing system, the knowledge in this guide will help you build a taxonomy that empowers your users and maximizes the value of your digital content.

What Exactly is DAM Taxonomy?

A DAM (digital asset management) taxonomy is a categorization system used to organize and classify digital assets within a DAM system. A well-designed DAM taxonomy helps businesses manage, search, and retrieve their photos, videos, documents, and other multimedia assets more efficiently.

A taxonomy uses a hierarchical structure of folders, subfolders, and categories to organize assets based on their attributes, metadata, and relationships. It provides a logical and controlled vocabulary for naming, tagging, and grouping assets consistently.

The goal of a DAM taxonomy is to make it easy for users to find the right assets when they need them. By organizing assets into logical categories and subfolder structures, a taxonomy improves the ability to search, filter, and browse assets. It also enforces automated metadata policies, so assets are tagged consistently and completely.

Some key components of a good DAM taxonomy include:

  • Simple, straightforward naming conventions
  • A logical folder structure that matches how users think about the assets
  • The use of subfolders to add specificity and improve searchability
  • Comprehensive but concise categories and metadata fields
  • Flexibility to grow and change over time as needs evolve

DAM taxonomies are often customized for the specific business and asset types an organization manages. For example, taxonomies for photos, videos, illustrations, and print assets often have different structures.

A DAM taxonomy provides an organized, policy-driven framework for classifying digital assets within a DAM system. This makes it easier for users to locate the right asset when they need it, ensuring assets are managed and utilized as efficiently as possible.

Why Do You Need a DAM Taxonomy?

A well-designed DAM taxonomy provides many benefits for organizing and managing digital assets within a DAM system. Without a proper taxonomy, digital assets can quickly become disorganized, difficult to search, and hard to reuse. Here are the main reasons you need a DAM taxonomy:

1. Improved Searchability: A DAM taxonomy makes it easier to find digital assets. Without a clear DAM taxonomy in place, it can be challenging to locate specific digital assets. With a DAM taxonomy, each asset is tagged with a consistent set of keywords, making it easier to search and retrieve. As a result, teams can save valuable time and reduce the chances of creating duplicate assets.

2. Consistent Terminology: Without a DAM taxonomy, different teams might use different terms to describe the same digital asset. This can lead to confusion and inefficiencies. Having a DAM taxonomy in place ensures that all teams use the same terminology, making it easier to communicate and collaborate.

3. Improved Reusability: A DAM taxonomy makes it easier to identify digital assets that can be repurposed. When assets are appropriately categorized, they can easily be retrieved, reused, and repurposed across various marketing campaigns. This reduces content creation costs and improves overall marketing efficiency.    

4. Increased Asset Value: A DAM taxonomy can increase the value of your digital assets. Consistently labeling digital assets with accurate tags makes it easier to understand usage rights and restrictions. This makes it easier to leverage the assets effectively, maximizing their value to the organization.  

5. Enhanced Scalability: As a company's digital asset library grows, so does the complexity of managing those assets. With a DAM taxonomy, you can easily scale and manage larger volumes of digital assets. As new assets are added, they can be accurately labeled and categorized, ensuring that the library remains organized and easy to search.  

6. Consistency: A taxonomy enforces a consistent and standardized approach to naming, tagging, and categorizing assets. This ensures assets are organized in a uniform, policy-driven way.

7. Scalability & Productivity: A taxonomy can scale to accommodate large volumes of assets over time while maintaining organizational structure. It can also evolve to meet changing needs. Users can quickly locate assets they need to complete their work, improving efficiency. Less time is spent searching for disorganized assets.

8. 100% Compliance - A taxonomy can enforce metadata policies and naming standards to help ensure assets comply with business, industry, and regulatory requirements.

A DAM taxonomy brings structure, order, and policy to how digital assets are named, organized, and tagged within a DAM system. This consistent, logical approach transforms what would otherwise be a disorganized collection of files into an accessible, searchable, and reusable library of valuable digital assets.

What Does a Strong DAM Taxonomy Look Like?

A strong DAM taxonomy is like a well-organized filing system for your digital assets. It helps you find and manage your files easily and efficiently. Here's what a strong DAM taxonomy looks like:

Clear Organizational Structure

One of the most crucial aspects of a strong DAM taxonomy is its clear organizational structure. A well-structured system ensures that assets are easy to find, access, and use. It is essential to categorize digital assets into meaningful groups that align with your organization's needs. This means identifying the most relevant categories and subcategories based on factors such as industry, job function, department, location, and asset type.  

Consistent Naming Conventions

Consistent naming conventions are vital in any DAM taxonomy system. They eliminate the confusion caused by different teams using different naming conventions, making it easier to locate and recognize assets. It is crucial to develop a naming convention that is intuitive and easy to understand, with clear guidelines for naming your assets. It is important to remember to keep your naming conventions flexible enough to allow for changes based on the needs of the organization.  

Thorough Metadata Information

A strong DAM taxonomy is incomplete without a thorough metadata information system. Metadata is the information that describes an asset, including labels, descriptions, and keywords, and is instrumental in making assets more searchable and relevant. Adding or updating metadata can be labor-intensive and requires discipline, but it is essential for effective searchability and retrieval.

A Cohesive User Experience

A strong DAM taxonomy should provide a cohesive user experience for everyone involved in using the system. This means everything from creating clear and concise labels to designing an intuitive and simple user interface. Avoid using technical jargon and acronyms that may confuse users, and instead use plain language that is easily understood. When creating labels, strive for simplicity, preferably using a single word that concisely describes the content.

Ongoing Maintenance

Your DAM taxonomy should be continually evaluated and updated based on changes in your organization. This includes changes in staff, focus, and industry. Maintaining your DAM taxonomy should be seen as an ongoing process that involves all stakeholders. Regular audit and update processes will help keep the system accurate, relevant, and up-to-date, ensuring that assets remain searchable and comprehensible and that the DAM system provides maximum value.

A strong DAM taxonomy exhibits simplicity and intuitiveness on the surface while being built on a foundation of logical structure, consistency, comprehensiveness, specificity, and compliance with relevant policies and regulations. All aspects serve the overarching aim of making relevant assets easy to find and use.

Best Practices for Developing Your DAM Taxonomy

Best practices for developing your DAM taxonomy can greatly enhance the effectiveness and usability of your digital asset management system. By following these guidelines, you can create a taxonomy that meets your organization's needs and facilitates efficient asset organization and retrieval. Here are some best practices to consider:

1. Make It Simple and Intuitive

Aim for a taxonomy that is as simple as possible. Use common sense categories and naming conventions that reflect how users think about digital assets. Avoid complexity unless it directly improves searchability and reusability. Simplicity should be a primary goal when developing your DAM taxonomy. The more straightforward and understandable your categories and naming, the easier it will be for users.

Aim for common sense over technical precision. Use names and categories that reflect how non-technical users naturally think about assets. Test the taxonomy terms with representative users before finalizing.

Consistency and clarity in naming, tagging, and organizing assets also contribute to intuitiveness. Users can more easily learn and remember a straightforward taxonomy they can understand at a glance. Complexity should only be added if it improves search or reuse.

2. Keep Folder Names Concise

Use short, descriptive but concise folder names. Long folder names become cumbersome and hard to parse. Keeping folder names in your DAM taxonomy concise and to the point helps users quickly understand what assets they contain.

Long, wordy folder names become cumbersome and difficult to parse at a glance. Users have to expend more mental effort trying to decode what a folder refers to. Aim for folder names that are 2 to 4 words long and use simple, descriptive terms. Concise names also leave space for additional details in metadata fields when needed.

For example, instead of "Digital images featuring people photographed in various settings", use the simpler folder name "People Photos". Users can infer the rest from metadata and browse the assets themselves. Concise folder names that get straight to the point improve the usability and intuitiveness of your DAM taxonomy. They allow users to quickly understand what a folder contains and decide if it is relevant to their needs.

3. Be Consistent in Naming and Tagging

Enforce consistent naming formats and metadata policies across all assets. Consistency is key to ensuring assets can be easily searched, filtered, and reused. Define your policies and standards upfront. Consistency is key to ensuring assets can be easily found and reused within your DAM taxonomy. Users need to be able to predictably locate assets based on established naming and tagging policies.

Enforce a uniform and standardized approach to naming folders, categorizing assets, and applying automated metadata tags. Document your policies clearly and teach them to all users. Inconsistencies, variations, and exceptions to your taxonomy standards will undermine the system's effectiveness. Assets may be missed during searches or reused in the wrong context.

With a consistent and standardized approach, users can reliably locate assets based on their names, tags, and categories. Inconsistencies make navigation unpredictable and reduce the value of your entire digital asset library. So, enforce uniform policies and practices within your DAM taxonomy.

4. Map to User Mental Models

Design the taxonomy to map how your users think about and categorize assets. Ask users a question to understand their work processes and mental models. Structure the taxonomy accordingly. Ask users questions to understand their work processes, pain points, and natural ways of segmenting assets. Discover the mental models they use to organize information in their minds.

Structure your taxonomy to align with these mental models as closely as possible. Use similar terminology, categories, and hierarchical relationships that reflect how users naturally group assets. Testing your taxonomy design on real users can reveal misalignments with their mental models. Make adjustments to achieve a closer mapping.

5. Use a Logical Hierarchical Structure

Organize content into a logical hierarchy with subcategories where needed. Opt for a shallow structure with fewer sub-folders rather than a complex deep hierarchy. Keep closely related content at the same level. Start broadly with higher-level categories that encompass related subgroups. Then add subcategories and subfolders as needed to further refine and segment assets. Aim for a shallow structure with few nested levels. Keep similar content grouped at the same hierarchy level wherever possible.

For example:


  • Rustic
  • Coastal
  • Mountains


  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Monuments

6. Define Comprehensive but Concise Metadata Fields

Capture detailed metadata to improve searchability, when defining metadata fields for your DAM taxonomy, aim for a comprehensive set that captures all useful details about assets. But keep individual fields as concise as possible to minimize overhead for those populating metadata. Only include fields that provide clear value.    

7. Revisit and Evolve the Taxonomy Over Time

Plan for your DAM taxonomy to change and evolve as the needs of your organization change over time. Revisit the taxonomy periodically to ensure it still matches business goals and user needs. Capture feedback from users to identify ways to improve the system and make appropriate adjustments.

8. Customize for Specific Asset Types

Design different DAM taxonomies customized for different asset types within your organization like photos, videos, illustrations, documents, audio files, and so on. The optimal structure will often differ substantially for each asset type based on how users work with that content.

9. Avoid Overly Granular Categories

Resist the urge to create excessively specific subfolders and categories within your DAM taxonomy unless they substantially improve the ability to find and reuse assets. Striking the right balance between generality and specificity can be difficult. Only introduce more granularity if it provides clear value. Otherwise, keep the taxonomy as simple and broad as reasonable.

10. Align with Wider Information Policies

Integrate your DAM taxonomy with the wider set of information management policies within your organization governing aspects like naming standards, metadata practices, and content organization. Seek to ensure consistency and compliance between your taxonomy and other relevant policies in place. This will strengthen the system overall.

11. Pilot the Taxonomy with a Subset of Assets

Test run the taxonomy on a subset of assets before full implementation. Collect user feedback and make refinements before applying it at scale. Before fully implementing your new DAM taxonomy across all assets, consider piloting it on a smaller representative subset first. This allows you to test run the taxonomy in a real-world setting before applying it at scale. You can identify any issues, inconsistencies, or areas of confusion.

Gather feedback from the pilot users and make any needed refinements or adjustments to categories, naming, metadata, and overall structure. Then roll out the revised taxonomy system-wide with more confidence it will meet organizational needs. Piloting helps minimize problems that could otherwise arise during a full launch.

The best DAM taxonomies strike a balance between simplicity and comprehensiveness. They map to how users naturally think while enforcing consistency. Most importantly, they are designed with the end goal of improving how customers find, reuse, and maximize the value of their digital assets.

Why Choose ioMoVo’s DAM Platform to Build Perfect Taxonomy?

ioMoVo is a DAM (digital asset management) solution that helps companies organize and manage their photos, videos, illustrations, and other digital content. A key part of ioMoVo's DAM is its intuitive taxonomy tools. Users can build customized classification schemas to organize assets in ways that make sense for their business. The system enforces consistency in naming, tagging, and metadata policies to improve searchability.

Other features include tools for ingesting large amounts of assets while auto-generating consistent metadata. Advanced search capabilities then surface the most relevant assets. Customizable workflows manage the review, approval, and distribution of content.  

ioMoVo aims to be a comprehensive DAM solution. The system's taxonomy management, metadata policies, and asset optimization tools aim to transform disorganized content into an organized, searchable, and valuable digital resource for businesses. To explore more, sign up for free.


Developing an effective DAM taxonomy requires balancing simplicity, logic, and comprehensiveness. The best taxonomies are intuitive, consistent, and structured in a way that directly supports user goals. By following the best practices discussed in this guide, organizations can build DAM taxonomies that transform disorganized digital assets into useful resources that enable individuals to do their jobs more efficiently. Through a well-designed taxonomy, businesses maximize the value and impact of their digital content.

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