So you’ve just been hired back for the agency you used to work for at double your rate. Or, maybe you are that agency. Maybe you’re the client who wants to work with the same designer and you asked the agency to hire them back, even if it cost more. These days, design workflows continue to move away from the old hierarchical model to a flatter model of production.
Some of the flattening of the design process is due to the lower cost of high-powered computers. Even budget models these days carry more horsepower than workstations from 10 years ago. Sure those budget boxes might not be that solid, but they’ll run Adobe Creative Suite package just the same. The other trend is towards cheaper storage and bigger bandwidth on high-speed connections, which together make working across time zones a lot easier.
There are some downsides to this flattening of the design workflow for designers, agencies, and businesses. Keeping a brand presence uniform across an increasing number of contexts becomes more difficult with a flatter workflow distributed across agencies and designers. Whether you are a one-man team or a global enterprise, you are faced with the same issue of sharing designs, sometimes in progress, with designers, agencies, and stakeholders around the world.
Different agencies and businesses approach this in different ways from simply emailing files back and forth, to sharing files over Google Drive or Dropbox. Larger enterprises might even run their own server and pay an IT support team, or have an IT staff manage a VPN connection. Depending on how each business or agency works and uses their files, they might call it file sharing, or a brand reference library, or an image library.
In the design industry, there is a technical name or industry term for this — Digital Asset Management or DAM. The main problem that mom-and-pop shops, big agencies, and enterprise businesses face with the existing digital asset management solutions is that there are too DAM expensive!
With the flattening of the workflow, the budget for design work is also flattened or distributed. In other words, big or small, everyone takes a cut. It’s a good thing because the workflow is more fluid and should let the best ideas bubble to the top, however, everyone pays a price for this.
We usually don’t like to use expletives – especially one’s with biblical references* – but it’s really shocking what the existing DAM solutions charge when you look at their back-end server and management costs. They really are too darn expensive. It seems that they are taking advantage of this distributed nature of design workflow these days, instead of fulfilling a need that takes care of designers, businesses, and agencies.
We’re calling it like it we see it with this one. Just like running a startup is a lot like cooking meth, sometimes a stark metaphor paints a realistic picture of the situation.
Before we go patting ourselves on the back, there’s plenty of work to be done. While the current digital asset management systems overshoot the mark and are overpriced even for global enterprises when you consider how design workflow is these days, the flip side of the coin is that the alternatives are not designed for the specific needs of design.
That’s what really gets us riled up, and really where want to care for the designers, agencies, and businesses that are doing great design work in today’s world. Even if 80’s synthesizer music is making a comeback, none of us want to go back to the old hierarchical workflow, so we’ve got to create solutions that make sense for how design happens today.
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