Virtually all designers in todays market place use stock images or illustrations. They are handy, convenient and a cheaper alternative to hiring a professional photographer, when all you need is a generic shot for a website or whatever else. I think it probably started out with pure intentions. Getty images and Corbis are not cheap and though I have little experience with submitting photography myself, I would imagine depending on the usage they would pay a photographer ok-ish. But there is always a cheaper mass produced version too and the news that I-stock are now to sell logos has sent shockwaves through the design industry.
This idea of mass produced design work is not something new. Nowadays you can gain access to anything online almost instantaneously. Sites like logo pond, and countless others provide instant ‘inspiration’ as well as the constant generation of general design ‘inspiration’ sites. Istock and shutterstock offer quick illustrations at a fraction of the cost or time. I have always not worried about taking influence from other designs generally. How can you not be influenced by the visual world we live in? Even the most acclaimed designers derive influence from the masters of old. I have also used stock sites myself, believing that the talent is to spot what is appropriate, and add your own twist to anything downloaded. However I have also pointed out that this environment does not go hand in hand with originality.
Selling stock logos can only be bad for the design industry. Even if it only takes work away from start up designers or students it will still hit some designers morale hard. Some designers rely on companies who may now be attracted to a cheaper alternative. To the majority not that much will change. Large companies who actually know a little bit about branding will not look twice and rather go for a relationship where they can have an input into their logo. They want a custom logo design that epitomises their company, something istock will never be able to deliver. The danger in my eyes, is that a client might use such services to reduce designers fee’s. They may say, well I can get it for next to nothing at stock, why should I pay your price?
Indeed this is where design as a profession has often suffered. Because it is an over populated arena, designers feel they have to do work for free sometimes. Here, now is where designers must stand strong, refuse to devalue our services because of what could be described as ‘glorified clip art’. I read an article recently that suggested the only reason designers are expected to pitch or do original designs for free is because they allow others to expect this. If no designer ever did this, it could not exhist. This is exactly the point, if designers want respect from others they must show their own services the same courtesy.
So where does the future lie? We already have downloadable illustrations, website templates and now logos. Design as a profession will always be here and there is no way sites like stock can ever hope to compete against a custom, considered logo. However I also have little doubt that this will make design a harder profession. Ultimately it results in less logos needing designing. Even if this is not THAT many, it still requires a few less designers. It points the way to a design world of more mass production and less emphasis on quality. A scary world indeed.