Metadata and Tags in Libraries

Learn best practices for using metadata and tags on Frontify.

Updated over a week ago

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You have many assets in your libraries. How will you help consumers find the assets they need? This is where metadata can help.

Metadata categorizes assets by attributes so users can find the right asset for the job. They can be characteristics, properties, words, or short descriptions added to assets, which visitors can use to make their search more precise.

Before starting, let’s take a moment to learn about the different metadata categories as well as how to set them up to get the most out of your metadata capabilities in Frontify.

Default metadata categories

When opening or selecting an asset, a sidebar will appear with multiple tabs. The first tab is labeled “Metadata” and is already split into several categories for you. To put it simply, this is where you will find and can curate all relevant information about the asset.

Now let’s dive into each category in more detail.

Standard Metadata

Basic information about the asset will be found at the top of the metadata sidebar. It is immediately visible and contains information such as the asset name, description, file type, file size, color space, and dimensions, as well as the date of upload and the user that uploaded the asset.

This information normally is included in the asset metadata upon upload and is considered native metadata. The editor can only change the file name and description in this category.

By clicking on the asset card settings icon, it is possible also manually to change the color space and name of the asset.

The name and description can also be changed in bulk from the library overview if multiple assets have been selected.

Legal information

This section can contain the copyright notice, and licenses, as well as mention the creator of the asset.

These fields can also be edited in bulk from the library overview.

Learn more about setting up licenses in this help article, or more about how copyright can be managed in this help article.

Custom metadata

Custom metadata can be set up and managed by library owners and editors from the Power Bar gear settings under “Custom metadata.” In the custom metadata management area, simply click on “New property” to start configuring a new custom metadata property for the library.

There are seven metadata property types: Text, Longtext, Number, Select, Multiselect, Date, and URL. These types define the available settings for the metadata property.

Each property can contain an optional help text below it to better guide editors in filling in the content. Metadata properties can also have an optional default value that will be added to all assets upon upload.

The preview pane of the metadata management area helps guide you during set-up and visualize what the property will look like to editors in the library.

Custom Metadata Property Types

Let’s look at each property type in more detail.

1. Text properties are meant to be used when you want to fill in a brief text of about one line in length.

2. Longtext properties can be used when multiple lines of text are desired. The larger input field clearly indicates to editors that more detail is needed.

3. Number properties should include, well, numbers. The editor will not be able to enter text in this property.

4. Select properties are quite helpful. Especially if you want to set up facets for consumers to filter by, the select property is a great choice. Editors can choose one option from the list that applies to that asset.

5. Multiselect is similar to the select property but differs in that editors can select multiple options for the asset.

6. Date properties allow editors to set a day, month, and year.

7. URL properties are cross-checked and can only contain web addresses (e.g. must include http:// or https://). When setting up a URL property, the default is set to having the link open in the same tab. This can be changed to default open in a new tab.

Editors can fill in the custom metadata for each asset in the editing sidebar either from the overview (optionally in bulk), as well as in detail asset view after opening an individual asset.

The custom metadata properties will appear under the “Custom” category.

Required Metadata

Toggling a property to 'Required', is a particularly powerful capability.

It is important to notice that the asset will be hidden from end users in the library front end and in their guidelines until its required metadata has been completed.

Assets missing required metadata entries have a badge on the asset card, to highlight that mandatory information is missing. To further guide the editor, there are badges on the individual custom metadata properties as well to indicate if important information is missing.

There is even a filter to display all assets missing required information so that the editor can quickly add metadata and thereby make the assets available to end-users in the library front end.

Metadata Permissions

When handling metadata there may be custom properties that require special permissions. These visibility, editability and management permissions can be set up in the second tab of the metadata management area.

There are three permission levels that can be chosen from for each role in the library as well as for any user or group you add in the custom permissions.

  • View permission means this user, group or role can view the property and see the values set on assets for this property, but cannot changes these values or manage the property in the metadata management area.

  • Edit permission means this user, group or role can change values set on assets in the library for this property. They will not be able to make changes to the property itself in the management area.

  • Manage permission means this user, group or role can manage the property in the metadata management area. This entails making changes to the property details, permissions, dependencies and advanced settings.

The default permissions for each new property created are displayed in the screenshot below. It is important to note that owners of a library will always have permission to manage all properties in the metadata management area.

Simply start typing in the search bar to add custom permissions to the property. Add users or groups to the list and set a permission level.

Metadata Dependencies

The third tab within the management area of a custom metadata property allows the user to set up visibility dependencies between custom properties. This can be used to avoid editors entering contradictory information into metadata properties, and reduce the cognitive load (increasing editing speed) if your property list happens to be particularly long.

When setting up a visibility dependency, you will have three options to choose from; "is filled", "is...", and "is one of...". The three options can be explained using a country, region, and campaign language example as visualized below.

  1. Is filled

    Once the parent property has been filled in by the editor, then the dependee property would appear. In our example, once "Continent" has been filled, then the property "Country" would appear.

  2. Is...

    This option allows users to select a single value from the parent property that will trigger the visibility of the dependee property. In our example, if "United States of America" is selected by a user, it would trigger the visibility of the "State (United States)" property.

  3. Is one of...

    This option allows users to select several values from the parent property that will trigger the visibility of the dependee property. In our example, any "Country" with German as one of their national languages would trigger the visibility of the "German Campaign" property.

In the GIF below, the behavior of the dependencies is demonstrated for a user editing the metadata values for an asset.

Dependent properties assume the permissions of the parent property.

Advanced Custom Metadata Settings

Besides setting up the basic settings of the custom metadata property, there are some more advanced options in the second tab of the metadata management area. Here you find three toggles.

  • Searchable: by default, all metadata and tags are indexed for use in search. This helps end-users quickly find the right asset. If this is toggled off, the metadata property and any values set on assets in the library for the property will be removed from the search index.

  • Hidden: the main use case that this setting is used for, is if a metadata property is to be accessed by API-only. The toggle is set to default off. If activated, the metadata property will not appear in the library.


Tags are helpful in describing assets' minor attributes. They're short descriptions and words that editors can add to the asset. Some examples of tags are ‘blue sky’, ‘attitude’, ‘beautiful’, etc. There are two types of tags available under the metadata of an asset; editor-created tags or automatic tags.

Manual Tags

The editor can set manual tags for one or multiple assets at once using the editing sidebar from the library overview or in-detail asset view. The tags section can be found under the metadata tab. Once opened, the editor can choose from the available tags, or add new ones to describe or classify the asset properly.

To remove a tag, simply click on it. Once gray instead of purple, it will not appear to the consumer for this asset.

Automatic Tags

The auto-tagging feature can be activated upon creation of your Library, or activated at a later point in time from the Media Library settings.

Once activated, an algorithm will analyze the images of your library and provide tag suggestions to the editor under the asset metadata section “Tags” > “Suggested Tags”

For more information on the auto-tagging functionality, read our detailed help article on the topic.

How to find your assets through tags

  1. Tags within editing sidebar in the backend

2. Find backend assets through tags

3. Tags within viewing sidebar in the frontend

4. Find frontend assets through tags

Using metadata

Of course, users will be able to view metadata on a single asset level and thereby gain valuable information. For them to get this far, they first need to be able to find the right asset and open it within the library.

The metadata added to assets is indexed in our search. The more detail is given to an asset, the more possibilities for it to be found by your end-users. You can differentiate between two ways of sifting through assets based on metadata; using the search bar to enter search terms or utilizing filters for faceted search.

Using Search Terms

Once a user enters a search query, Frontify will return results for them based on relevance to the terms they used. More information on how our search works and sorts based on relevance can be found here.

Creating Filters for Faceted Search

Editors of the guideline can set up faceted search for the Library Pages. This can be done in edit mode and by directly adding facets below the search bar.

Within the modal to create a facet, there are several options. These are explained further in a separate help article.

The appearance of the filters - as well as other adjustments - can be changed from within the search settings.

Transferring custom metadata between Libraries

Custom metadata is a crucial part of an asset. It can be individualized to hold a unique description and used as keyword when searching for it. When moving assets from one Media Library to another, using the ‘Move’ action, this custom metadata can be transferred as well.

It’s important to note that unless you have created all your Media Libraries with the same custom metadata properties (fields) and options (values), the different metadata content might be conflicting. A notification pop-up will let you know if these values are conflicted, and you can decide whether you’d like to proceed or cancel the asset move action.

Importing metadata with custom uploads

The following information can be automatically imported if it's embedded into the file's EXIF / IPTC / XMP metadata:

  • Tags

  • Description

  • Copyright

  • Author information

How to choose: Tags vs. metadata

For users of your Brand Guidelines, tags and metadata work similarly to search for assets. However, the difference is more in the data and the structure.

Tags are entirely open-ended with no restrictions whatsoever. That means that if you only use tags and multiple people upload assets, people might be tagging in inconsistent ways. That might make finding the right asset more difficult.

Metadata guides people to categorize appropriately. Metadata has a clear format, like “date,” and is often used to structure the library, similar to how “genre” structures your music library. Here is an example of a metadata structure vs. tags:

The two work best together if you follow a clear metadata structure. Then users can add tags to help people narrow in on an asset within a metadata “category.” For example, some customers may want to use metadata for “department” or “product line” and tags more for the description of the asset, such as “red” or “people.”

You can help viewers of your Brand Guideline use metadata and tags by using faceted search. For more on that, refer to the Faceted Search article.

If your collection of assets is small or you do not see a clear need for metadata for whatever reason, feel free to use only tags. Still, metadata can be a powerful tool for maintaining structure in an extensive library.

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