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Image Libraries Changed The World For Designers (Part 3)

11/22/2012 11:31:35 AM
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SOME KINDS OF graphics don’t lend themselves to ready-made stock. Services like Wilogo (, which was bought earlier this year by stock library Fotolia, offer to ‘crowdsource’ work such as corporate identity design from a pool of contributors.

As a buyer, you pay up front to post a brief. Sellers (designers) then submit ideas; the buyer picks one or up to three winners, depending on the option paid for, and collaborates with the seller to refine it. If the buyer isn’t happy with the end result, there’s a money-back guarantee. Pictures start at $292.5 plus VAT for a logo or business card design, $583.5 for a brochure or $1,342.5 plus VAT for a website, rising steeply when you choose options to give you more control and attract more entries.

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Wilogo says the designers who’ve registered to participate in its ‘contests’ include ‘some of the most talented illustrators and graphic designers in the world, as well as design enthusiasts’. No formula is given for commission, but the amount the winner will receive is shown for each live contest. For example, we saw fees from $187.5 to $2,373 on offer for logos. Contests typically showed numbers of submitted designs in the hundreds, but on closer inspection many of these were designers’ iterations.

A lot of competent work can be seen in Wilogo contests, but many designers are rather generic. Logos for one particular company, for example, mainly picked up on a single line in the brief – ‘A better planet means a better life’ and responded with various globes, none conveying anything about the company’s actual business area. Some ignored the brief altogether. Less than half were of a professional standard.

Perhaps more tellingly, the standard of briefs we saw was even lower. Buyers seemed to have little idea what kind of guidance a designer would require, and the input form, including a set of sliders for qualities such as ‘Feminine/Masculine’ and ‘Minimalist/Complex’, didn’t seem to be helping much. Great designers need great clients, and we can’t help feeling this kind of service is unlikely to turn up that winning combination. It’s encouraging, though, that in many cases the fees on offer are quite realistic.

A DIFFERENT VARIATION on stock sales for designers is offered by TemplateCloud, a relatively new service based in the UK. It provides a marketplace for native Adobe InDesign documents, which buyers will customize with their own text and images. The idea is to enable small business to take advantage of professional graphic design without having the budget, time or experience to commission design work directly. For sellers, the potential benefit is that a single design can be sold many times. TemplateCloud even translates copy into other languages to enable sales around Europe.

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Once again, Fotolia is involved, this time through a partnership that allows TemplateCloud sellers to include Fotolia images in their designs. There’s a fee of $2.99 per image, but this is deducted from the fee paid when buyers download the document, so until the design sells there’s no cost to the designer. It would arguably make more sense for the buyer to pay this fee, but we can see the point of keeping the pricing simple.

Buyers access TemplateCloud designs through services such as Flyerzone ( and, from later this year, TemplateCloud’s parent company. Prices vary, but sellers have some control over what they choose to charge, and unusually an ‘advance’ of $7.5 is paid for each accepted design regardless of sales.

One of TemplateCloud’s most prolific designers, the company told MacUser this month, has racked up $9,750 in total payments since the service went live in January 2012. Commission per sale of up to $49.5 compares favourably with typical stock image rates, bearing in mind that a competent designer with a Mac and InDesign can churn out as many templates as they like – TemplateCloud accepts up to 100 per month – without having to organize models or props, scout locations or hire studio space.

With something approaching 10,000 documents submitted so far, it’s probably too soon to judge the overall quality or profitability of TemplateCloud as a design marketplace, but it’s an interesting concept, particularly given the dearth of opportunities for spec sales of prints and publication design. Our concern for buyers would be that the journey from template to finished document is far from template to finished document is far from being a no-brainer, and perhaps leaving the whole process of copywriting and fitting, picture editing and design tweaking to the client is asking for trouble. But this will depend on the client; templates might provide a useful starting point for in-house creatives.

While design crowdsourcing sites like Wilogo effectively demand free pitching, which is frowned on in the industry, TemplateCloud brings a more straightforward stock model to graphic designers – you create what you choose in your own time, rather than responding to client requests with no guarantee of acceptance – plus the added incentive of the advance royalty. It’s design as commodity, certainly, but in a potentially constructive fashion.

WEB DESIGN IS another area where customizable templates make a lot of sense. A large market has grown up around content management systems such as WordPress, which provide a platform for ‘themes’ that site owners can quickly apply to their pages and then tweak as required. Potential buyers range from users who know almost nothing about web design, and just want to click a button to change the style of their site, to professional web designers looking for well-honed standards-compliant code and slick graphics bundled into a ready-made starting point for in-house or client work. Some themes are simply ready to go, while others are designed to provide a sub-platform for further development. In the latter case, particular care is required to pick a theme that’s cleanly coded, properly supported, and likely to stick around through compatibility updates for the foreseeable new iterations of the underlying CMS.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Anyone can learn how to design a WordPress theme using this software.

Anyone can learn how to design a WordPress theme using this software.

WordPress, to take the most popular CMS, is capable and extensible, but making it your own can be complex. Buying a premium theme can avoid delving into the murky world of PHP coding. ‘It gets you 90% of the way to a complete website, enabling you to concentrate on content because you’ve removed the hassles and costs associated with design and development,’ explains Orman Clark, founder of ThemeZilla (

Although innumerable free and dirt-cheap themes exist elsewhere, Clark argues that you get what you pay for, and fantastic free themes with great code bases are not common. ‘You also risk getting a “final product”. Regardless of whether it has issues. With paid themes, you get improved support and you’re likely to receive updates, because developers can support themselves financially and continue to iterate.’

Nick La, creator of Themify (, adds that premium themes are ‘typical extensively customized, with features that accomplish much more than your average free or cheap theme’, and more care is taken to ensure compatibility with plug-ins and core WordPress updates.

ThemeZilla’s Clark concludes he’s ‘prefer to pay’, and he’s not alone. Voiceover artist Richard Heathcote ( chose to create his site by picking a premium theme and having a developer customize it for him. ‘Ideally, I’d have gone hand-coded and totally bespoke, but there were budgetary constraints.’ His site won plenty of praise, and people guessed it cost thousands; in reality, $600 was spent on development and $55.5 on a ThemeForest template. ‘It’s exceptional value, and the back end is comprehensive. Furthermore, WordPress plug-ins enable further enhancement for little or no cost.’

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: CMSs like WordPress provide a platform for ‘themes’ that site owners can quickly apply and tweak

CMSs like WordPress provide a platform for ‘themes’ that site owners can quickly apply and tweak

Writer Johan Emil Johansson ( notes that prices for templates have been steadily rising to the levels paid by Heathcote, having once been even cheaper, but he reckons value for money hasn’t decreased because themes are getting smarter. ‘Premium themes have grown in functionality and today can be the backbone of an online store, forum or classifieds site.’ He adds that modern premium themes are also likely to scale well on mobile devices, a key concern for anyone creating a site today.

- Image Libraries Changed The World For Designers (Part 2)
- Image Libraries Changed The World For Designers (Part 1)
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