Picturepark has a deep history in the roots of Swiss culture. Find out how “Swissness” has shaped virtual every aspect of the company, its products and its philosophies.
Before there was Picturepark DAM or Picturepark’s parent company Vision Information Transaction (VIT), or even Digital Asset Management (DAM), founder Bruno Jehle had a desire to offer affordable, quality services to artists.
Jehle started a cooperative for print and reproduction in 1978 and spent most of the 1980s and early 1990s offering print and reproduction services to international artists and prominent Swiss organizations.
To enable customers to send and receive files electronically, Jehle started offering Internet access services in 1995. While this solved his company’s immediate goal for more convenient and efficient file transfers, Jehle envisioned sharing content on a much larger scale—between millions of people at a time, all without boundaries or borders of any kind.
At the time, there were a handful of DAM software programs on the market, but they shared a common limitation: They were intended for use by a single user or a closed work group across a local area network, and they required proprietary software that rarely worked well on all computers. While these early DAM software vendors were trying to reliably move files between computers in the same office, Jehle was focused on ways to share content between human beings—no matter where in the world they were, no matter their language or culture, no matter what type of computer.
In collaboration with the leading Swiss Logistic company Swisslog, Jehle started in 1997 to design a central digital asset repository that could be accessible from anywhere using nothing more than a Web browser for an interface. A year later, Picturepark was released.
Hosted from data centers in Switzerland, Picturepark embodied the goal of a central repository that could be accessed from anywhere. Though use of the term “Cloud Computing” was many years away, Picturepark was, in fact, the world’s first Cloud DAM.
Jehle explains the goal for Picturepark.
“Parks are where we go to enjoy life’s beautiful things—things that are alive,” he explained. “By contrast, IT is based on mathematic formulas so it tends to create obstructive workflows. From the beginning, we intended to make Picturepark a place where the different life cycles of information could be considered. So we focused on tools to control, steer and manage the processes of digital assets with fewer obstructions.”
A few years later, in 2000, Vision Information Transaction (VIT) was founded by Jehle and partner Matina Hämmerli. The company would provide metadata and media standardizations services and it would become home to Picturepark.
The company was so named because Jehle saw the ultimate value of visual and informational content coming not from its production or mere existence, but from its exchange and consumption.
“Without cultural or social vision, pure technology is not interesting,” says Jehle. “Information is the real value, but that value comes only from the consumption of that information—the transaction. Only content that is shared offers the world any value.”
Headquartered in Aarau, Switzerland, near the banks of the beautiful (and long!) Aare river, VIT today focuses exclusively on Picturepark DAM software. VIT remains the Swiss legal entity that owns the Picturepark brand, but the company and product are increasingly known internationally simply as Picturepark.
In addition to Picturepark’s Swiss headquarters, which houses Picturepark R&D, IT, Administration, Services and Support, Picturepark Sales and Support offices are located in San Francisco, California (USA), Hyderabad in South India and near Vienna, Austria. Global marketing and localized support is a coordinated effort between Picturepark and the members of its partner network.
Not surprising of a Swiss company is the international diversity of the Picturepark workforce, which includes employees from Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Mexico, Poland, Australia, the United States, India and, of course, Switzerland.
Picturepark and the Swiss vocational education and training system
Picturepark has deep roots in the successful Swiss vocational training and education system through which student apprentices gain theoretical understanding and practical experience. (PDF Overview of program) This model has helped make Switzerland the recognized world-leader for precision.
Many long-time employees joined VIT under this program and chose to stay with the company after graduation.
Picturepark developer, Urs Brogle, now 33 years old, has worked for VIT for more than half his life. Dominik Brunner, just 16 years of age, works with Picturepark’s Services team while he studies to become a Mediamatik, which is a unique area of study that encompasses IT, business and marketing, with an emphasis on new media.
Jasmin Schmidli also joined VIT as an apprentice.
“The atmosphere here of support for employees makes this a wonderful place for students to gain experience and confidence,” she said. “I have always felt safe here, and this is a good thing when you are unsure of yourself and learning.”
Jasmin today manages the day-to-day operations of Picturepark product management.
Olivia Schütt joined VIT as a trainee in 2006. A Swiss immigrant born and raised in the former East Germany, Olivia was unsure of her future when she found VIT.
“I really had no real job experience when I came here,” she admitted. “But Bruno [Jehle] was a wonderful mentor to me. He taught me so much not just about Business, but about what Business could and should offer the world. This is why I have stayed here so long.”
Olivia today serves as a senior Picturepark solution consultant to customers and members of the Picturepark partner network. She is responsible for the configuration and deployment of the some of the most successful Picturepark installations in the world.
“I’m glad we offer students a means for gaining hands-on experience in an international company,” explained Picturepark CEO, Ramon Forster. “But they offer us something important too. They help us to maintain a fresh perspective on software, life and everything else. They keep us thinking about what happens next.”
The influence of Swiss culture
Picturepark DAM is “Swiss Made” and the company is not shy about making this known. For much of the world, “Swiss made” suggests quality, but for the Swiss, it means much more, as Forster explains.
“Swiss culture is not about conquering the world or overly aggressive tactics of any kind,” he said. “We want to build great products that contribute value to the lives of those who use them—nothing more.”
Jehle adds, “A Swiss artisan would rather be known for his or her quality than for the loudness of his or her voice. We are never the loudest, or the biggest, or the most visible. We would rather simply do something better than it has been done before, and the idea that we could make something better is what drives us. If you deliver good quality, you get the respect. This is our tradition.”