Graphic Design:USA Survey

Posted on 10/2/1996 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)


Graphic Design:USA Survey

October 2, 1996

In their annual survey of stock photo usage in the graphic design industry
Graphic Design:USA reported in their August 1996 issue that 82% of their readers
use stock visuals in their work. Most are satisfied with the quality, content
and choice that is available.

Creatives report that they increasingly turn to stock to cope with time and
budget pressures.

Over 95% of their readers are using a personal computer for design and

63% said they were "currently using a digital method for search, selection
and/or delivery of stock visuals."

The two categories that topped the list of types of end use of stock visuals
were: Sales promotion/collateral/brochures and advertising. The rest of the top
ten uses in order were: (3) direct mail and catalogs, (4) annual and corporate
reports, (5) point of purchase displays & exhibits, (6) presentations, (7) comps
(8) packaging/covers (9) internetCD-ROM/multimedia and (10) editorial and
publication design.

GD:USA says, "The focus of attention in our stock visual surveys in the late
80's right up to last year was on issues of quality, content, service and price.
This year the attention seemed to shift all at once to how stock accessibility,
immediacy and ease of use are key elements in these lean, mean and fast times."

Royalty-Free Images

GD:USA's survey also indicates that, "there seems to be a developing consensus
(among graphic designers) that (royalty-free stock collections) can be a
valuable addition (to the art director's resources) if used judiciously."

While there is a lot of poor quality clip photography available, GD:USA says art
directors are also discovering there are an increasing number of images on some
clip photo products that rival the quality of the top stock agencies. In those
cases the decision becomes one of content, service and price. Licensing based
on usage is unlikely to ever be able to win on price.

Personally, I am still a believer that photographers will never be able to earn
as much from licensing the rights of their production for clip photo use as they
will by retaining ownership of the copyright and licensing rights based on

But there seems to be little question that the ratio of clip photography to
traditional stock photography will steadily increase as more and more
photographers supply images for clip photo products. It is also clear that the
quality of clip photography will get better and better. The campaign to
discourage photographers from participating in the clip photography market
simply isn't working.

The good news on this front is that so far there is no evidence of the major
fall-off in overall stock sales due to increased use of clip photography I
predicted a couple years ago. Everyone has had one or more clients use clip
photos for a project that previously would have resulted in a stock or
assignment sale. But from everything I can determine from stock agencies,
overall sales of stock are still increasing.

Nevertheless, as we plan for the future we need to very closely monitor the
trends of,

  • increased use of clip photography by designer

  • availability of better quality clip photography

  • fall-off, if any, of stock photo sales in order to recognize changes
    in buying habits.

One of the best arguments for use of traditional stock instead of clip
photography is rights control. Thus the ability to control rights may become a
much more important element in the long term success of this business.

Copyright © 1996 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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