When too much is not enough: how the abundance of inexpensive stock images affects the creative process.
by Fred Gaede, Chief Creative Officer
As a designer, I am the first one to raise my hand and say, “Guilty!” I have been guilty of letting the availability of stock images guide my creative instead of turning things around and letting my creative direct the choice of imagery.
The situation typically goes like this: one of your B2B clients has a rush project. They need to communicate a particular message to their audience in a creative and graphically pleasing manner. It could be anything. The scope of the project really doesn’t matter. You have been tasked with solving a problem and solving it quickly.
As you walk out of the launch meeting, your head is spinning with all manner of concepts and ideas. Words and images flash past and you start to get excited about the project.
When you return to your desk you either pull out your notebook and begin to jot down the thoughts, or you grab your keyboard and start typing them up. The important thing is to not lose any of the ideas.
So far, so good. It’s what happens next that is critical.
After you have written down your concepts, how you visualize them—how you take them to the next stage—can be the difference between a truly dynamic piece of creative or just another “so-so solution.”
Here is where I must raise my hand and say, once again, “Guilty!”
Knowing that there are literally tens of thousands of reasonably inexpensive stock images at my fingertips, instead of forcing myself to flesh out and refine my original concepts, I immediately go to any one of the stock imagery sites and begin to search.
“It’s okay,” I tell myself, “I’m just looking for an ‘idea starter.’” I move my cursor to the search tab and begin to type, “Businessman or woman walking to office.” Within seconds, page after page of images fill the screen and I begin to wade through them. Some are good, many are unusable, and there are always a few that make you shake your head and wonder how in the world they fit into your search parameters. (Seriously… a dog in a rickshaw?)
The issue is that you allow the images you can find to direct your concept. With so many to choose from, you assume the perfect one must be on the next page. Before long, you have spent over 20 minutes scrolling through screen after screen. When you are unable to find exactly what you had in mind (which seems to happen about 90% of the time), you begin to rely on images that “come close.” Here is where the purity of the creative concept becomes diluted.
I do understand. Time and budget, certainly among B2B clients, do not always allow for a custom photo shoot or digital illustration. Still, by relying on the search parameters of a stock imagery site, you are letting go of the creative reins. You are placing the execution of your concept into the hands of a search engine.
There is a much better way to spend 20 minutes than scrolling through page after page of stock images. In my next blog, I will offer some suggestions to help you solve your client’s problems without diluting your creative.