GDUSA SPECIAL STOCK SURVEY PREVIEW
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: TIGHT ECONOMY EXPANDS STOCK USE
Stock imagery has become immensely popular over the past two decades 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 now shape the graphic design business.
In 2009, throw an economic downturn into the mix, and dependence on stock visuals grows even moreso. Like it or not.
Here is a preview of selected findings from GDUSA's 23rd Annual Stock Visual Survey. A full report will be published in the September edition of Graphic Design USA magazine. A special thanks to Shutterstock, a leading stock photography subscription agency, for sponsoring this special online preview.
— Gordon Kaye
Here is the primary takeaway from our new survey: A tight economy is driving more graphic design firms and departments to seek more stock visuals from more affordable sources. Already a mainstream resource for creative professionals, stock imagery has become the rational decision in the face of ever-tighter budgets.
From this basic market reality flows much of the data: 94 percent of professional designers use stock visuals in their work, a peak for GDUSA surveys; 41 percent are using more stock year-over-year; frequency of use is bullish despite an economy facing headwinds; royalty free licensing continues to rise; and high-volume/low-cost options such as micropayment and subscription sites are on a fast track.
No surprises here for anyone who has struggled with a budget during the Great Recession, and is without the benefit of a bailout.
The 94% figure is the highest ever recorded in our annual reader survey. The survey also reveals a substantial use of other kinds of stock images, including illustration — another record — as well as footage, flash and animation.
Even in the face of a project-killing economy, nearly four times as many designers say they using more stock now as opposed to designers who say they are using less. In the same vein, more than half the respondents report having used stock at least 20 times in the past year. Nearly one-third of respondents say that have turned to it more than 50 times.
Comments from our insightful readers similarly support the impact that the once-in-a-half century recession is having on stock licensing. A few comments are reproduced here; dozens more will appear in the magazine.
RF INCREASES SHARE
As for methods of licensing? The age-old debate — well, decade-old, anyway — about the relative advantage of royalty free and rights managed imagery continues. As noted in last year's report, this is no longer a fair fight. Royalty free licensing in its many forms dominates the graphic design marketplace. This year for the first time this year, fully 95 percent of respondents report having licensed royalty free stock during the past year.
Royalty free's popularity is no mystery. It possesses many of the traditional advantages of rights managed stock but with greater speed, ease and affordability; a reduced potential for hassle over price or usage rights; and continued improvements in the choice and quality of content. At the same time, designers do acknowledge the dark side of royalty free use: the lack of exclusivity and the (sometimes) compromise in quality and edginess.
If a key value proposition for stock agencies is to deliver lots of content quick, easy and cheap, a couple of relatively recent innovations accomplish this — on steroids. Indeed, the 2009 survey confirms that these options are catching fire.
Primary on this list are micropayment sites; roughly three-quarters of designers have now used them, nearly double the results of two short years ago. Next up are subscription packages, which providing multiple downloads for one set price. More than four-in-ten designers have now given subscription sites a try. On many levels, these two models are perfectly suited for the 21st century, and even more exquisitely calibrated to this economic moment.
Given the downward pressure on price, one might assume that rights managed licensing is toast. One would be wrong. As is described in more detail in the full report, creatives continue to evince a stubborn and vehement respect for the character and quality of rights managed stock as well as its close cousin, the specialized or niche stock collection.
Even under the duress of the economic downturn and the many high-volume/low-cost options, a shade under half of respondents still license rights managed images sometimes. More than a quarter of creatives still spend more total dollars on rights managed images than on royalty free.
THANKS TO SHUTTERSTOCK
Shutterstock is a sponsor of GDUSA's 23rd Annual Stock Visual Survey. Shutterstock has over 7 million royalty free images by subscription, including choices for the greatest savings and for the greatest flexibility. Click Here.