What’s Your Opinion on Stock Artwork?

stock artwork from Go Media's Arsenal

A recent comment by “Smutek” inspired me to ask this question. His comment was on Dave’s tutorial about designing on a budget. The tutorial covered the use of stock artwork (specifically Arsenal stuff) to create a pro-looking design in less than an hour for that client that wanted it yesterday and doesn’t have the budget to pay for a total custom job. Smutek’s comment was:

I used to smirk at stock art myself.

Then I got a job.

I am the only artist at my company. Stop by desk on any given day and you’ll find 15, sometimes more jobs in various stages of progress or waiting to be started. If I were to try and hand draw every job I would quickly find myself the victim of a client lynch mob.

This is a deadline driven industry. It isn’t about sitting in the basement in a haze of pot smoke, making something “rad”. It’s about more than drawing a “wicked” picture.

It is about juggling multiple projects, time management, asset organization, communication, talent and creativity all working under pressure in some kind of beautiful chaotic harmony to interpret the clients vision and provide them with the best possible product in the required time frame.

It’s about staying fresh and being creative, not just wen you *want* to, but when you *have* to.

There is a huge difference.

Whether you are creating completely from scratch, using clip art to compliment an original piece, or doing an entirely stock art driven piece, stock art is a tool, just like stock photography and just like fonts.

Embrace it. Or don’t.

So that brings up a great point. There are times when I feel like I should be in a basement drawing something rad every day (minus the pot smoke). But then on most occasions, there are just so many things going on, too many clients asking for stuff to be delivered asap and with a discount. Most of us are not drawing every single day. We spend hours every day in our email, twitter, or WordPress trying to build relationships with potential clients and define our roles within the design community.

I look at customers who are buying stuff from our Arsenal and I see big names like Nike, MTV, Adidas, VH1, etc. You would think companies like that would have the budget to pay their designers to do 100% custom jobs every time? Then why are they buying our stock?

So what do you think?

Are vector packs just a cheap cop-out or are they a saving grace?

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design and development firm. We also specialize in print design and branding. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. In my spare time, I write songs and play drums in Campfire Conspiracy. I'm a happy husband and an aspiring b-boy and lucid dreamer.

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