File maker software helps Ben & Jerry's design archivist keep 13,000 images at her fingertips

Maintaining a delectable image can be surprisingly hard work at times. At Ben & Jerry's, we are widely known for our vast array of fun, imaginative flavors and colorful multi-faceted marketing campaigns, as well as for our support of positive social action.

But keeping track of all the imaginative and colorful design elements that promote our finest-quality all-natural ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet is no small task.

For the last 10 years, the marketing and design department at Ben & Jerry's has relied on database technology to help keep track of the elements for each design job.

As archivist for Ben & Jerry's (or what I preferred to call "the keeper of stuff"), I help people find the things they need quickly. In the past, it was difficult to quickly fulfill a request from the marketing department, for instance, to locate the elements used in a specific ad. Or, to respond to a designer who remembered using an element that was particularly interesting, but couldn't think of exactly where it was used. It's not easy to quickly find the answer to: "What job did we use that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or New York Super Fudge Chunk® cone for?"

Initially, we tracked this information with a combination of word processing programs and Excel spreadsheets. But neither was very searchable. We really needed to have a system where we could look up pieces of information without searching 27 pages in a binder.

A database system was the obvious solution. At the outset, it was a way to give our department a sense of order and organization. But we didn't know which one to choose. Naturally, it had to be powerful and flexible. Plus, given the rapid pace of the retail business, it needed to be easy to use and accessible by many people.

Our information services group selected a database that was powerful, but after six weeks of weekly training sessions, only one person passed the final exam. Together, we decided we needed something more user-friendly, and selected FileMaker Pro.

Today, FileMaker Pro is an indispensable part of our office. Other departments within the company expect instant information. Now, with a database on our desktop, we can find the answer to their questions while they are on the phone or standing at our desks.

We currently use five databases. The smallest, a database of vendors used by the Marketing and Design department, contains more than 540 records. The largest is a database of each design job the department has done and contains more than13,000 records. All that information is accessible in an instant.

As a company, Ben & Jerry's has been able to successfully combine an economic mission to grow profitably with a commitment to the finest-quality products and support for socially responsible activities. By working with a database technology that is both powerful and easy to use, we are able to help the business continue to grow as efficiently as possible.