The Reality of Stock Art in Design

by Matt Ward
on October 21, 2010

in design Resources

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Today, designers are faced with the incredible benefit of having an absolutely massive library of digital stock art that can be downloaded (either freely or for a fee) and incorporated into a design in a matter of minutes. Stock photography sites like iStock or Shutterstock provide photographs, videos and illustrations, while some really amazing companies out there are providing stunning stock vectors, like GoMedia’s renowned Arsenal or the various packs available from Designious.

Add sites like GraphicRiver, MediaLoot and hundreds and hundreds of others, and we have a virtually limitless supply of vectors, icons, brushes and other graphical resources right at our fingertips. This is, ultimately, an amazing privilege and an undoubtedly valuable resource.

But it’s not a substitute for good design.

In order to help promote themselves, many sites that are selling stock art of some description will partner with blog owners to sponsor giveaways, in which one or more lucky entrants will actually win licenses to download and use specific graphic files. This is an awesome way to get added exposure. I’ve run a few such giveaway over on the Echo Enduring Blog, and there have been some here on DesignM.ag in the past too.

The other day, however, I was pursuing some of the comments on one such giveaway, and I couldn’t help but notice (as I had on other such contests) that many of the entrants were suggesting that they would love to win this particular vector pack because they thought it would help them become a better designer. They may not have said so in those exact words, but that’s pretty much the sentiment that lurked beneath the surface of many of the comments.

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Twitter For Creatives: A Helpful Resource Or A Distraction?

by Callum Chapman
on October 11, 2010

in design Resources

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Twitter is most definitely one of the best forms of online marketing, and we all know it. It offers a way to mingle with your fans in short and sweet messages, as well as promote your sites content, your companies promotional deals or something completely different! For this reason, it is generally a good idea to have an account. But is Twitter for designers really a helpful resource that we need, or is it just another way to get distracted and find excuses to not do work?

Twitter For Creatives: A Helpful Resource Or A Distraction?

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Traditional Techniques in Web Design?

by Matt Ward
on September 20, 2010

in design

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The other day I was reading through an article by my good buddy Radu Chelariau, entitled “Analyzing In-Browser Design” over on his SickDesigner blog. The article is a great analysis of the many benefits of actually designing websites in the browser itself. If you haven’t already read it be sure to check it out!

One of the things that I found interesting, however, was the way he continuously used the word “tradition”. For example, when discussing the interesting relationship between working with code and creating beautiful, visual designs, Radu writes:

What In-Browser Design does, in my experience, is break that dichotomy because it reverses the traditional order of things. By tradition, we first create a design mockup, the client gives the ok and then we start coding.

There’s a lot of truth to that statement, or at the very least a lot of interesting possibilities, but the one word that really struck me, and which I have been meditating on ever since I read the article, is this notion of tradition. Basically, what this passage is implying is that the use of Photoshop (or some other, similar, application) is the traditional way of designing websites. By implication, of course, that also means that the process of in-browser design is somehow counter-traditional.

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It’s About the Design Not the Tools

by Matt Ward
on August 10, 2010

in design

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I’m guessing that most of you have seen the recent article over on Smashing Magazine, entitled “In Defense of Photoshop,” in which Tom Giannattasio makes a case for the continued use of Photoshop as the primary application for web design. The article makes some interesting points about the creative process, and the even suggests that designing in the browser somehow creates a disconnect between the designer and his work.

I’m not so sure about this second point, though. I understand where Giannattasio is coming from, but I think the argument assumes a singular design methodology. It assumes that the designer needs to actually create the design as one, organic unit, much in the same way that an artist would create a painting. In fact, the article explicitly states that “Great design relies on an open dialogue between the artist and the medium.

Now that is an interesting statement, which really puts the article’s argument in perspective. The assumption that I see here is that effective design is an organic process, which brings the entire visual composition of the site to the forefront.

“So what?” you ask. Isn’t that what design is all about?

No. At least not entirely. Design is about making intentional and purposeful choices for framing content (as discussed here). Obviously, visual treatment plays a huge part in that, and as designers we pay a lot of attention to that part of the job – maybe even too much from time to time. But that’s not the entire purpose of design.

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