GDUSA's Annual Reader Survey: Designers Turn To Stock Imagery To Feed Visual Hunger

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Graphic Design USA magazine's 28th Annual Stock Visual Survey finds that 96 percent of graphic designers use stock imagery in their work, and that they do so to keep up with increasing visual demand and sophistication in business and society.

Imagery is the universal language of the 21st century.

New York NY: An annual survey of Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) magazine readers shows that designers rely on stock visuals more than ever. The survey, which the five decade old magazine has been conducting for 28 years, shows that 96 percent of designers use stock visuals in their work -- up from 34 percent when the survey first began in 1986. In addition, nearly half of designers use stock more than 50 times a year, with fully one-third turn to this resource more than 100 times a year.

Getty Images is the exclusive sponsor of the 2014 Stock Visual Survey. The results are being released this week in the October edition of Graphic Design USA in print and digital formats, as well as on the GDUSA website.

The entire survey, including comments from designers and photo experts, can be found right now at ...

“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. “This year, a rare consensus emerges as to why this is happening: society and business and have become more visually hungry and sophisticated, and stock imagery provides a vital lifeline for creative professionals who must keep up with this burgeoning demand.”

”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 the hundreds of survey 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.”

Andrew Saunders, Senior Vice President, Creative Content at Getty Images has a similar take on the survey results. He observes: “The combination of the advances in technology and the growth of social media have placed imagery as the universal language of the 21st century. The evolution of digital cameras and now mobile devices has permanently changed the way we communicate with each other. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that people who want to communicate about their products or services are using more and more imagery to do so. On the availability of content, for the same reasons it’s also now far easier for talented photographers, whether amateur or professional, to make content available for commercial use.”

In a far-ranging interview published with the results, Saunders also notes: “n the past, the stock industry has been criticized by the broader visual community for a lack of authenticity and that is something we are keen to change. This is an area where we’ll see rapid improvement, and that certainly is already the case for Getty Images ... We have a team dedicated to researching visual and social trends, their mission is to understand which of these trends are relevant to our customers or understanding ‘what needs to turn into a picture.’ We feed that information into our Creative teams and the broader contributor base.”


Types of Stock Elements Designers Use:

    Stock Photos 96 percent
    Stock Illustration 84 percent
    Stock Footage 27 percent

Top 10 Categories Designers Use Most Frequently:


Designer Role in the Licensing/Purchasing Process:

    Sole/Primary Decisionmaker 83 percent
    Secondary Decisionmaker 14 percent
    No Role in Decision 3 percent

Top 3 Favorite Stock Providers (alpha order):

    Getty Images
    (50 others mentioned)

    Top 6 Reasons Designers Choose A Particular Provider:

    Search Capabilities
    File Breadth

Since 1963, 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. Contact:

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Gordon Kaye
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