How do you dig for inspiration and imagery on the web?
At home, I have stacks of materials I’ve torn out, collected, stolen, photocopied, and took snapshots of that I use for color, shape, form, composition inspiration. I use it all. This spring I went through the giant bin of materials and found a lot of stuff that was just more inspiring than it was actually useful in a collage. An old college professor told me to always be collaging, always be assembling and disassembling; it keeps the mind critical and observant and that’s pivotal for a good designer. But things have changed since 2001. The internet is a blooming bustling bevy of imagery, from Flickr to iStock to Google Images, you can find a picture of something, anything, whenever you need it. Because everything has been wikified, you can share and grab and steal and sell imagery with the utmost ease. I’ve done this, I do this right here on this blog. I collage images together that I find from on the internet. I collagernet.
I’m concerned about rights. I’m wondering what everyone out there does to assemble their ideas, their colors and inspiration boards. How do you feel about jumping on Flickr and taking images to then weave into your own collage and repost on the web? I’ve done this. I’m not sure if its right, but I also think that if you upload anything on the web you’re sharing it in the same way as putting out old magazines on the curb, anyone can come by, pick it up, tear out a picture, scan it and post it on the web because it belongs to … well, no one really. And there’s a theory, a sort of artist’s agreement that if you take an image and alter it in your own way, then it is actually more inherently yours than the original artist’s. I went to a talk by Armin Vit a few months ago and he was talking about his release of Graphic Design, Referenced and how accumulating samples of all the art that was practically necessary to include in the encyclopedia was a lot of work—not just in time and effort, but in accessing it, gaining privileges, communicating with owners what the project was and why it was necessary. He explained that in the end, to make the book a reality, they had to literally illustrate famous pieces because they couldn’t afford them; drawing the artwork with a colored pencil is more your piece of artwork than the original owner’s. Same goes for Logo Design Love by David Airey, one of my favorites, where he took photographs of famous logos and published those instead of calling up Braun or Gillette or Samsung and asking for rights to use their logo.
But branding rights should be different than uploading a photo of a flower. Brands can be slandered, they can be smeared and misused, they can be stolen. If I’m making a collage to help find my visual stimuli for a new project, or even if I wanted to put something up in my house or sell at a coffee shop, should I be able to use anything I find on the web? Can’t I just grab a photo, work it into my artwork and call it mine? Is it stealing or is it creative? Stock photography sites sell imagery, mostly because its professional and higher quality work, not because you can’t find something similar for free. They protect their images with watermarks and low resolution. Does this mean that other images that are not watermarked or low resolution should be snatched by any wandering artist? My conscience says no, but my gut says Warhol or Shwitters or Rauschenberg never asked for permission, they just took it, altered it, and called it theirs.
Is altering it the key then? And if so, how much does one need to alter it in order to own it? In the case of publishing it seems that taking a photograph of a piece of branding doesn’t make the brand yours, but does make that photograph yours and able to be published. How is that different than surfing the web, finding an image on someone’s tumblr page and plopping it on your own?
So I want to know how you get your imagery. Where are your top internet stops for good imagery that you feel guilt-free about using for your blog, your presentation, your artwork or your graphic design? Do you take unceremoniously because if its on the internet it is free reign? Or are you more careful about protecting the rights of the people who made the artwork or took the photograph?