In today’s market, it’s essential that companies showcase a strong digital strategy that targets their intended demographic, and digital assets are the building blocks companies use to increase their digital presence. Almost every single digital interaction traces back to the visuals and copy of your brand, making digital assets the core of building brand loyalty.

An asset is something that has elemental value, like a house or a car. A digital asset is something represented in digital form that also has an elemental value but to your company and brand. The most common asset types include images and video — and whether it’s for your company’s social media, presentations or an outside agency, keeping your library of assets organized and easily accessible is crucial. It’s also essential that you use these assets correctly!

In this blog post, we’ll go over some of the most common types of digital files, their different formats and uses, and how to best store them in a smart and secure way.

Pro Tip: Bookmark this blog post for later, so you and your team will always know which type of digital asset to use. Also, if you use Brandfolder — you are able to convert and resize any of these formats on the fly!

Images

An image is one of the most common types of digital assets, and there’s no one-size-fits-all format. Below are a few of the most popular image file formats.

JPEG (or JPG): A JPG file is an image saved in a compressed image format standardized by the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG). The group saw a need to make large photographic files smaller so that they could be more easily shared. Structure-wise, JPEGs compress image data by reducing sections of images to blocks of pixels or “tiles.” However, compressing a JPG can result in permanent damage, so a JPG should be used in any situation when it’s important to have a small file for quick loading.

  • Smaller file type
  • No transparent background capabilities
  • Use for images on a web page, or an email campaign

PNG: A PNG file (which stands for Portable Network Graphics) tends to be the largest image files, and does not lose quality or get damaged during compression. Because of this, users often resort to a PNG if size isn’t an issue because PNGs retain more information than a JPG. In addition, PNGs support transparency, so a white (or colored) background won’t appear behind the image.

  • Transparent capabilities
  • Slightly larger file type
  • Use for social media posts, unique graphics

GIF: You may know GIFs as short videos you can attach to your iMessages, but GIFs are simply basic web graphics with limited colors. They’re always reduced to 256 colors, so they load very quickly — however, GIFs aren’t recommended for photography or other detailed imagery.

When to use: Charts, banners or buttons

TIFF: Unlike our previous formats, TIFFs don’t compress to make smaller files, because they’re specifically meant to preserve the quality of the image. They allow tags, layers, and transparency, and are compatible with photo software like Photoshop. TIFFs can be compressed using JPEG compression to reduce the file size or become multi-page. If you plan to edit digital images in a working storage format, resort to a TIFF.

  • Only can be opened with Adobe Creative Suite
  • Use for images (2 to 4GB) that you intend to edit digitally, like on Photoshop

PSD: A PSD (which stands for Photoshop Document) is a layered image file used in Adobe Photoshop, and is the default format that Photoshop uses. This format allows the user to work with the image’s individual layers even after the file has been saved. However, the main difference between a PSD and a TIFF are the size limits: a PSD size limit is 2GB, and a TIFF can handle more than 2GB.

Note: The advantage of PSD is that other Adobe applications (like InDesign) will be able to directly access the layers without opening the file. Oftentimes, InDesign won’t recognize the layers in a TIFF file.

  • Use for images (2GB or below) that you intend to edit digitally on Photoshop or other Adobe applications

Watch a 4 min video on Templating

Application

PDF: A PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format that has captured all the elements of a printed document as a digital image that you can view, navigate and print. You can access PDFs through Adobe Acrobat, Preview, or a similar program.

Once a Word Document is converted to a PDF, the content can’t be edited — so this is an ideal format to ensure the security of the document’s content. Convert your text-heavy documents with multiple pages to a PDF for easy viewing and sharing across your team, without sacrificing quality. In addition to text documents, images can be converted to PDF — so this format is also good for presentations, brochures, and printing.

  • Use for text-heavy documents (like brochures or printing), Presentations

Video

There are an overwhelming array of video formats — .mp4, avi, .mov, are just a few for compressing files, and then many of these formats have their own substandard (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, etc.). Let’s dissect the most common formats to understand what to use them for.

MP4: First introduced in 1998, an MP4 (an abbreviation of MPEG-4), is commonly used for sharing video files on the Web. This video format uses separate compression for audio and video tracks — the video is compressed with MPEG-4 or H.264 video encoding, and the audio is compressed using AAC compression. Because MP4 files are relatively small (but retain high quality after compression), it’s a great sharing format for the web, and is compatible with both online and mobile browsers. It is also widely accepted by various media players and editing software, making it one of the most versatile video formats.

AVI: Developed in 1992, the AVI is one of the oldest video formats, but also very popular with web users. Because of its simple architecture, it’s able to run on different systems like Windows, Mac, or Linux, and is supported by many web browsers — creating a more accessible video file. AVIs also retain their quality after compression.

MOV: This format was developed by Apple, specifically used with QuickTime. A popular type of video format amongst Mac users, and is most commonly used on the Web and for saving movie and video files. MOV boasts a higher quality and is usually large in size, so it’s considered one of the best looking file formats.

Curious to know what video format you should use for different social platforms? Check out this chart to guide you, below:

Storing

You may ask, can’t I just store these files in a Google Drive or Dropbox? You could, but one-dimensional folders like these jumble valuable assets, and searching for a specific asset can be near impossible. With a Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform, you can organize, search and format the assets you need, instantly. DAM platforms also allow you to share as little or as many files as you’d like to, with different users. Have an external partner you’re working with? You can create a “collection” or a group of assets, and even set an expiration date so their access ends on a date specified by you or your team.  

In addition to these useful features, most DAM solutions integrate with the tools you already use daily like Slack, Salesforce or Adobe Illustrator. With this seamless workflow, you won’t have to waste time searching through email or Google Drive to find the perfect asset.

At the end of the day, digital assets have become one of the strongest representations of a company — however, these assets are only valuable when you can access them efficiently. The solution? A digital asset management platform like Brandfolder to help manage them.

By investing in a platform to keep your digital assets secure, organized and easily accessible, you’ll not only strengthen your brand consistency, but ensure that you and your teammates are spending less time digging for assets, and more time creating beautiful images and videos for your brand.

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