Merging multiple image libraries at CannonDesign

Centralised access to imagery from all locations

Ongoing technical support across multiple migrations

Keyword structures analysed and incorporated into an existing image library

CannonDesign is a global design firm whose image library is central to their operations across 20 offices. As the firm has grown and merged with other firms, the OpenAsset team have worked closely with CannonDesign to successfully incorporate large volumes of images and data into their system. Over a number of years, we have collaborated to identify the challenges and opportunities available to firms as they take on new image libraries.


Genevieve Szablya image
Genevieve Szablya



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CannonDesign has undergone mergers with several firms of different sizes in a short period of time. In terms of digital asset management, one of the biggest challenges during this process was to ensure that each firm’s portfolio – which varied in size and scope – was successfully incorporated into the firm’s digital asset management system, OpenAsset. As a design firm, imagery reflects the sum total of each team’s hard work, and demonstrates their expertise and qualifications for future projects. Having a clear point of access for imagery across all new offices is integral to the ongoing success of the firm.

In integrating multiple firms’ imagery into the OpenAsset instance, careful attention had to be given to make sure the work people put into creating useful metadata for their files was not lost when migrated across to a new system. OpenAsset was essential throughout this process. Due to the variation in portfolio size and storage across firms, there were multiple routes taken to integrate the imagery, all of which were consistently supported by OpenAsset’s team. Their involvement helped ease the burden of integration, and the process in general was made easier in cases where the other companies also used OpenAsset, as their systems were compatible with those of our firm and could be easily combined.

In combining systems, there was an opportunity for team collaboration and exchanging of best practices, often guided by OpenAsset’s support team. Alongside the technical aspects of the merge, OpenAsset helped with the cultural change that a merger brings. By merging portfolios and having everyone’s assets easily accessible, people have greater exposure to each other’s work, which can help with the process of getting to know new colleagues and understanding the projects they have been working on.


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Throughout these processes, the support provided by the Customer Success team at OpenAsset was phenomenal, and their ongoing support offerings continue to go above and beyond expectation. The Customer Success team is always happy to jump on a call to solve problems or to recommend improvements to the way the firm uses OpenAsset. Throughout the integration process, the Customer Success team was readily available to provide support, best practices and recommendations. Ultimately, a database is only as good as the data you put into it and the Customer Success team has been instrumental in helping to guide CannonDesign’s processes as they create and structure metadata for their assets.

The Customer Success team has also been more than willing to provide additional training and support as new users become acquainted with some of OpenAsset’s key integrations. Marketing moves quickly, and the team always offered to set up calls in a timely fashion that allow the firm’s users to successfully leverage integrations like OpenAsset’s InDesign drag and drop plug-in, optimizing their workflow. In another example of going above and beyond, they offered follow-up Q&A sessions with the newly on-boarded staff after a month of use to ensure they were comfortable with the tools and to address any questions that arose with use.


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CannonDesign is a large international firm with offices in the United States, Canada and India. OpenAsset is used throughout the firm by people in many different roles and locations, and is therefore central to how they store and access imagery. Having all of the firm’s assets accessible through a browser helps to keep projects moving forward, especially when teams are working together across different locations and time zones.

Being able to leverage OpenAsset when new staff members join allows them to quickly become familiar with the firm’s portfolio in a single location. Because everyone is using the same version of OpenAsset, and aren’t dependent upon connectivity to a local server, there are no problems with accessibility or file compatibility. This accessibility drives connectivity.


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CannonDesign has been through multiple mergers, each requiring a different approach. How did you tackle the challenge of incorporating files and metadata from another OpenAsset system into your firm's OpenAsset library?

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When we knew that CannonDesign was going to merge with FKP, a firm that also used OpenAsset, we reached out to the support team who took us through the process from start to finish. Throughout this discussion they shared their own best practices for reconciling keywords and explained the safeguards they would put in place to prevent the loss of metadata integrity with the new images.

We discussed keyword integration extensively before this process began. One of the advantages of this merge was that most of the portfolio being incorporated into CannonDesign’s image library was of a specialized nature that wasn’t predominant in our firm’s existing portfolio. In instances where keywords were unique to the new typologies, there was no need to reconcile them with equivalent keywords used by our firm.

Reviewing the keywords used by both firms was, for the most part, a manual process. We wanted to align the keyword structures as closely as possible prior to the merge, although we knew that any keyword categories we didn’t reconcile would still be available to review afterwards. We exported our respective keyword structures, which were reviewed by a committee to determine the best keyword to leverage for each attribute. Fortunately, the structure of our keywords did not differ too greatly as they were both created on the advice of the OpenAsset team.

One of the obstacles we encountered during this process was the different way in which CannonDesign and FKP used image ranking. In evaluating how each firm was using the ranking feature, and on the advice of the OpenAsset team, CannonDesign adopted FKP’s ranking system, enhancing the searching and filtering options.

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What was the key to successfully migrating files from a network folder structure?

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A couple of years ago CannonDesign implemented a project and image keyword form that teams are required to fill out prior to their images being uploaded. This form helped streamline and systematise the process of adding images in bulk to our library and it proved essential when we were required to migrate assets from a firm that did not have a Digital Asset Management system in place. While the merged firm was small, the biggest challenge was getting the images organized and the forms filled out.

Selecting the best images, filling out the forms to ensure they’re tagged appropriately, and moving them to a shared location for upload was a time-consuming process. However, having a formalised process in place ensured that images were tagged with relevant keywords once uploaded to the firm’s image library.

AboutCannon Design

CannonDesign is an integrated global design firm that unites a dynamic team of architects, engineers, industry experts and builders driven by a singular goal — to help solve clients’ and society’s greatest challenges.

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