How can I effectively manage all my design assets?

I’m looking for a way to manage all of my design assets on my Mac. I’ve been accumulating stuff like templates, graphics, vectors, textures, stock images etc for a while, and the amount of stuff that I have on my computer is very difficult to sort through when I am looking for something.

Is there any program out there that will make this job easier? I want some way of categorizing files (tagging would be nice) and being able to browse through and view them.

I already have Creative Suite, but I’m looking for something other than Bridge. That is, unless you can explain to me how to use Bridge effectively for this purpose!

Thanks for any help you can offer.


Thank you for visiting the Q&A section on Magenaut. Please note that all the answers may not help you solve the issue immediately. So please treat them as advisements. If you found the post helpful (or not), leave a comment & I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Method 1

The starting point, as DA01 says, is to put a bit of physical order into the chaos. The first step is mapping out the categories that are important to you, letting that list guide the physical arrangement of assets on your system.

In my case, I have stock photography in its own folder, and within that I have folders for broad categories that are useful to me: People, divided into Male, Female, Mixed, Children; Symbolic; Scenic and similar categories. There’s a similar breakdown for vector art, sound effects, stock video, stock audio. Backgrounds have their own folder, again subdivided.

Assets that are more project- or client-specific live in folders under the client (e.g., various logos, standard publicity shots, etc.) or the project folder. Corporate identity assets that I’ve designed are always subdivided by type: web, vector CMYK, vector and raster RGB (for desktop printing, usually by client office staff).

For theater work, I have to keep individual folders for each act’s approved images, bios, ad mats, audio clips, tour data, etc.. Assets are used multiple times across print, large format, web and video projects through a season. Each new season has its own set of acts (but sometimes returning acts for which I already have assets). Managing all these would be challenging without Bridge.

What I use heavily are Collections in Bridge. In the case of theater projects, I create a collection for a season, so I have all the assets instantly available, even though they are in different folders and never physically move. Collections are active in Mini Bridge also, so you have drag-and-drop access from inside any of the CS applications.

A major advantage of collections is they are a “soft” grouping of assets. They let you collect everything together for a project while you’re working on it, then simply delete the collection (but not the assets!) when you’re done with it. Smart Collections are even more fun. They will automatically include assets according to criteria you specify.

Keywording assets lets you search all the folders Bridge knows about very quickly, and many stock images come equipped with a slew of keywords that Bridge already knows about.

Bridge has its Ctl/Cmd-B preview feature that lets you carousel through a bunch of assets to pick the one you want to use.

I’d recommend digging into Bridge in a big way, because it’s loaded with little-known productivity features. (And as a tip: having Bridge open all the time on its own monitor helps a lot.)

Method 2

I think the biggest downside in Bridge is all the compromises had been made in order to make the product cross-platform. It really doesn’t have native feeling neither in Windows or in OS X; for example some keyboard shortcuts work, some don’t — some perform in expected way and some don’t.

Keywording, searching, grouping… — management overall feels a bit rough on the edges. This may be partially because I use Adobe’s Lightroom to manage (& edit) my photographs: Lightroom shares some terminology and some methods with Bridge, but being less of a sandbox I think it is more productive to use. Sadly (or luckily) Lightroom won’t deal with all files, so it really couldn’t be used as a general digital asset manager.

What I’m currently looking into is OpenMeta tagging to deal with my assets (which, after all, are all files). For my workflow I would be delighted to use just tags to manage and search my files. Just imagine you would had a clients for which you would make brochure:

albert_logo.jpg     — tags: albert, logo, print
bob_logo.jpg        — tags: logo, bob, albert_event, albert_event_brochure, print
bob_logo_small.png  — tags: logo, bob, albert_event, web
copy.rtf            — tags: albert_event, print, copy
handshake.jpg       — tags: albert, web, stock, corporate
welcome.rtf         — tags: albert, web, copy, filler

Using Finder (OS X equivalent of Explorer) in order to locate welcome.rtf you’d need to browse to e.g. ~/Projects/Albert/Web/ or for albert_logo.jpg to ~/Projects/Albert/Logo/ or even ~/Projects/Albert/Logo/Print/.

And what about bob_logo.jpg? If Bob is both your client and a sponsor in Albert’s Event, should you put this file to ~/Projects/Albert/Albert Event/Sponsor_Logos/Print/ or to ~/Projects/Bob/Logo/Print/? Both? Create links to both? … And what if Bob & Albert’s contract state that Bob will get his logo only to the brochure and web, but not to the poster? Would then one need to create Brochure and Poster etc. subfolders to ~/Projects/Albert/Albert Event/Sponsor_Logos/Print/? The chaos is about to emerge.

With tags one could search for albert_event_brochure and logo and then get all the logos associated with Albert Event’s brochure.

To get all the text for Albert’s website? Forget the folder structure and just search for albert & web & copy!

All the functionality delivered by tags could be achieved with Bridge using keywords and collections, just like Alan described. The power of OpenMeta tagging is that it is standard, already supported by Spotlight (search for files with a tag by e.g. tag:web) and several third party apps can use them. I’ve compared (albeit quite tersely) few tag managers for OS X and Leap, especially with its recent price drop, looks promising.

In contrast, Bridge’s keywords are as far as I know only available for Bridge alone. The OpenMeta tags are applied to the files themselves (not to a dedicated database), so if the file system support it, the data probably will be carried along.

Also it should not be forgotten that Bridge integrates quite tightly, if you wish so, with the Adobe Creative Suite and when used properly, it is great “glue” between the programs; not to mention you could synchronise colour profiles of all CS applications (only) via Bridge.

In the meantime I have been using Alfred with its Powerpack to browse for and open files. Being a bit more keyboard than point & click oriented, it has allowed me to find the files I’m looking for a lot faster. With Powerpack’s file system navigation I don’t necessarily have to go into Finder at all. For my workflow, Alfred is the Swiss multitool — file operations merely being a part of it. By itself, it has not solved the problem but at least it has made my filesystem more tolerable.

All in all, I haven’t used Bridge too much in my workflow. I can recognise its potential, but it doesn’t feel intuitive enough compared to other options. You definitely should look into Bridge and see for yourself if its keywords, collections, metadata handling, rating and batch–processing et al. would suit your needs. If you feel there are more drawbacks or just too many options, I would suggest you to look at OpenMeta tags and tagging managers.

Method 3

Since you have a mac, I’d suggestion:

  • create a master folder called “assets” (or whatever)
  • within it, add folders as you see fit to organize things

Now you at least have an easy-to-search folder using spotlight.

On top of that you can further organize your files using:

  • OSX’s label feature (each file can have it’s own label)
  • the ‘spotlight note’ meta field

Regarding the notes field, here’s an article on what you can do with it:

Method 4

Try – it is originally designed to help graphic designers, agencies and clients share creative stuff related to the brand and collaborate effectively, but it can do the job for you also. You can also use it for sending creative works to your colleagues/clients.

All methods was sourced from or, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x