50th Anniversary GDUSA Survey Reveals Stock Visuals are 'Essential' to Graphic Designers; 95% Use Stock and Expect More in Future

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Graphic Design USA's 27th annual stock visual reader survey shows that creatives rely on stock visuals in their design and advertising work. Concerns linger about originality, exclusivity, diversity and a potential loss of creative edge.

Over the past quarter century, stock visual use has evolved from marginal to mainstream and now into an essential designer resource.

An annual survey of Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) magazine readers shows that designers rely on stock visuals more than ever. The survey, which the 50 year old magazine has been conducting for 27 years, shows that 95 percent of designers use stock visuals in their work -- up from 34 percent when the survey first began in 1986. In addition, nearly two-thirds of designers use stock more than 20 times a year and one-third turn to this resource more than 100 times a year.

Corporate sponsor for the 2013 Stock Visual Survey is iStock by Getty Images. The results will be published in their entirety in print and online in early October.

“Over the past quarter century, stock visual use has evolved from marginal to mainstream and now into an essential designer resource in an image-centric world,” says Gordon Kaye, editor and publisher of GDUSA. “‘Essential’ is a loaded word and some may chafe at it. But if you simply look at frequency of stock visual use, it is hard to argue otherwise. As a practical matter, frequency of use is at an all-time, recordbreaking, once-unimaginable level. Nearly every designer uses stock visuals in his or her work and most turn to it frequently, often for ideas and inspiration as well as for execution.

”What has changed from the early days when stock visuals were a grudging last resort for creatives?

Says Kaye: “Stock visual usage works because its central value proposition — choice, accessibility, convenience, affordability — dovetails perfectly with the tight budgets, the short turnarounds, the challenging assignments, the multiple media, the demanding clients, and the digital workflow that graphic designers face every day. And it is clear from their comments that creatives believe stock providers are successfully responding with more content, better technology, more options. There has been an attitude adjustment: designers get that stock helps them stay balanced on the tightrope that is the creative business today.”

Readers were also asked to forecast the future role of stock imagery, as part of GDUSA’s 50th anniversary year-long look at the future of creativity. “Designers see the future of stock imagery as more of the same,” says Kaye, “and that is a good thing.” In general, they expect the coming years to be characterized by abundant content, quality imagery, and an increasingly efficient digital infrastructure.

The survey also reveals concerns and the hint of change in the air. Primarily, designers express fear that oversaturation, duplication, and dependence on stock images threatens originality and exclusivity. And in response to the changing culture and demographics of America, there are heartfelt calls for more diversity in image offerings by race, gender, age, and lifestyle. As for possible changes in image sourcing, a vocal minority noted the potential disruption of the camera phone, the looming influence of the cloud, and the possible migration -- not yet substantial -- of stock searches from desktops and laptops to tablets and mobile devices.


Types of Stock Elements Designers Use In Their Work:

  • Stock Photos 95 percent
  • Stock Illustration 81 percent
  • Stock Footage 21 percent
  • Stock Audio 13 percent

Top 10 Categories Designers Use Most Frequently:

  • People
  • Business/Industry
  • Concepts/Ideas
  • Technology
  • Lifestyle
  • Medical/Healthcare
  • Families
  • Ethnic/Multicultural
  • Nature
  • Education

Designer Role in the Licensing/Purchasing Process:

  • Sole/Primary Decisionmaker 86 percent
  • Secondary Decisionmaker 13 percent
  • No Role in Decision 1 percent

Designers Mostly License Royalty Free Images:

  • Royalty Free 99 Percent
  • Rights Managed 37 Percent

Many Designers License From A Micropayment Site:

  • 67 Percent

Top 4 Favorite Overall Stock Providers (in order):

  • iStockphoto
  • Shutterstock
  • Getty Images
  • Corbis

The ‘Go-To’ Micropayment Stock Provider:

  • iStockphoto
  • Top 5 Reasons Designers Choose A Particular Provider:
  • Affordable Prices
  • Quality of Collections

• Ease of Search

  • Freshness of Images
  • Familiarity With Brand

Top Media For Which Stock Visuals Are Licensed:

  • Print 93 percent
  • Digital/Online/Mobile 77 percent

For 50 years, Graphic Design USA has been the business-to-business magazine for graphic design professionals. GDUSA covers news, people, project, trends, technology, products and services. The GDUSA brand now includes a 50,000 visitor-a-month website, two monthly e-newsletters, an iPad App, and several Design Annuals covering the best in Graphic Design, Web Design, Package Design and Corporate Design. The 50th anniversary editorial focus features special reports on the greatest graphic designers, art directors, organizations, and projects (and much more) of the past half-century. Contact: http://www.gdusa.com

iStock by Getty Images is the web's original resource for crowd sourced royalty-free stock images, media and design elements, offering millions of hand-picked photos, illustrations, videos and audio tracks. A site “by creatives, for creatives,” iStock started in 2000 as the pioneer micropayment photography site, freeing creatives everywhere to create beautiful communications on a budget. The site has become one of the most successful and profitable user generated content sites in the world. iStock is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Getty Images. iStock recently rebranded to marry the freshness, innovation and strength of the iStock brand with the quality, heritage and credibility of Getty Images. Contact: iStock.com

GDUSA has long had a special focus on stock visual imagery and providers, and carries more editorial and advertising pages on the topic than any other creative magazine. Since 1986, the editors have been conducting an annual benchmark industry survey of how creatives are using stock in their work. This year, the survey was sent to 5,000 GDUSA subscribers selected at random, of which 751 responded. The survey in its entirety will be released in print, online and app in early October.

Gordon Kaye, Editor/Publisher
Graphic Design USA - GDUSA
89 Fifth Avenue, 9th Floor
New York NY 10003

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Gordon Kaye
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