27th Annual Stock Visual Survey
by Gordon Kaye
27th Annual Survey Confirms Stock Visuals As Essential Resource
When I started moonlighting at GDUSA in the early 1980s, the magazine had never written one single solitary word about stock photography.
That was because management shared a widespread industry perception about stock imagery: it was not really art, it was a threat to artists, it should not be permitted to dilute the originality of design, it indicated a lazy disposition, and it was to be stigmatized rather than legitimized.
As an outsider, I knew this was crazy talk. Like everything in life, reality was more complex. Yes, stock could be stale and whitebread. But it could also be interesting, stimulating, evocative, idea-generating. Yes, it was disturbing to think of the impact of stock on assignment photography and high-end art direction. But the convenience, affordability, accessibility and workflow made eminent sense in a dramatically changing design world. To mine and understand these contradictions, we launched a stock visual reader survey, modelled on a successful paper and printing reader survey that had been conducted for decades.
That was 27 years ago. Now, smack in the middle of our 50th anniversary of publishing, we present the results of our latest stock-related survey. In the spirit of this year’s overarching editorial theme ‒ challenge and change in the graphic design business over the past half century ‒ let’s look at those results in the broad sweep of time. From this perspective, the results and commentary confirm a few fundamental points.
visuals be an