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Image banks blur advertising industry

18 Aug, 2015 - 21:08 0 Views

The Herald

Knowledge Mushohwe Art Zone
It has now become standard practice for graphic designers working on advertising materials to seek ‘inspiration’ from the internet. During concept development, designers, under art directors’ supervision, work with copyrighters to come up with a draft idea that may be developed further. Whoever within the team gets the task to find an image that fittingly reflects the proposed advert concept has little option, but to start searching for it on Google or other search engines.

Image banks, such as Getty Images and Corbis stock many millions of images, which can raise revenue running into several hundreds of thousands of dollars each a year as they are licensed to designers and media organisations around the planet.

Many of them, under the ‘editorial’ theme, are archival images of key historical moments.

But the biggest earners are ‘creative’ stock images such as that of an adorable child playing with a set of toys — images that do not record anything, but evoke an idea or a feeling and can be used to add interest to textual pieces of information.

Some themes covered by Getty Images photographs include positive contexts such as togetherness, friendship, love, and protection.

A desire for knowledge and progress themes like exploration, curiosity, innovation and growth are also central to the image bank’s repertoire.

Other themes include positive characteristics of people, places, things and activities that are often task-oriented such as endurance, strength, agility, determination and concentration.

Getty Images’ values fit in well with the new global corporate ideology, while negative characteristics in some photographs point at the possible risks to this ideology — greed, vanity, pride, indulgence, escapism and aggression.

Image banking is a multi-billion dollar industry that has entirely transformed the world of media images, giving several options for people working in the creative industry.

When creative groups finally find the ‘appropriate’ image, a draft advert is developed and presented to the client.

Should the client like the image, particularly its posture and overall meaning, the creative team identifies a model to replicate the internet-based image’s pose.

Consequently, most adverts we see on billboards and in newspapers around the country are dominated by images that are replicas of Google photographs.

This exercise blunts local creativity as designers essentially search for digital templates to fit in predetermined spaces while photographers and models are forced to recreate a scene copied from elsewhere.

Suppose one company within the communications sector wants to advertise its mobile banking business using a picture of a trendy young lady excitedly screaming while looking at her cellphone, there is no way of stopping a rival company advertising a similar service from using the same image as both companies’ creative strategists seek ‘inspiration’ from the same online image banks.

While going online to find images for use on local adverts saves time and money, there is need for graphic designers to strike a balance by presenting some locally-developed visuals to their clients.

Asking workmates or family members to pose for photographs is not an expensive venture and should the client like the models used for developing the draft advert, these colleagues or relatives may end up getting paid to have their pictures taken.

Graphic designers may use hand-drawn illustrations in place of internet-based images as a way of giving the client refreshing alternatives.

Fortunately, for both the advertising and graphic design industries, Zimbabwe’s tertiary institutions churning out graphic designers, such as Harare Polytechnic, Chinhoyi University of Technology and ZIVA, are insisting that drawing is a prerequisite for all creative graduates, including graphic designers.

There will always be a need for drawing even if the artist is only a graphic designer.

When advertising agencies are given a task to develop a television advert by their client, they do not bring out the video cameras and microphones soon after they develop the concept.

An artist, who could be the graphic designer within the creative group, may come up with a storyboard — a group of illustrations and texts systematically arranged into a narrative that tells the story that the team are proposing to bring to life in video.

Developing a storyboard as opposed to shooting a short narrative film complete with actors, props, a shooting and a post production crew and lighting, would cost a lot of money, especially because it is likely that a reshoot may be needed after the client reviews it.

Paying the illustrator about a thousand dollars or maybe slightly more for a few images that accurately capture the essence of the concept would give the client a full picture of the proposed content and room for alterations.

That very same concept of using illustrations as a prelude in conceptual development of television adverts may also be useful in the development of print advert proposals as use of internet-based pictures is becoming monotonous and predictable.

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