Shooting Blanks

Image templates enable designers to show proposed work in the best possible light. But, as the realism increases and work spreads online, does it matter that it’s now becoming so much harder to work out just what is real and what isn’t?

Image templates enable designers to show proposed work in the best possible light. But, as the realism increases and work spreads online, does it matter that it’s now becoming so much harder to work out just what is real and what isn’t?

With ever-tightening budgets and deadlines, answering a brief often involves showing a new design across a range of applications as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

Carton by LiveSurface

In the new issue of CR (shown above) we examine how, over the last few years, a small crop of designer-focused image libraries, including LiveSurface in the US and PrestoVisual in the UK, have been filling a potentially lucrative gap.

These sites sell templates of billboards, poster sites, business cards, clothes, bags, bottles and boxes – anything that can incorporate a designer’s vision.

Billboard by LiveSurface

In the article, which also considers why crowd-funding site KickStarter recently banned image renderings from its site (and why eBay should never have made its own ‘shopping bags’ render in the first place), we hear from designers David Airey, Armin Vit, Michael Johnson and Simon Manchipp, and also LiveSurface founder, Joshua Distler.

Airport billboard by LiveSurface

It was a joke Manchipp made at his recent talk at TYPO London that made us think there might be a more serious side to all this. On a slide showing the recent Olympics pictograms, designed by his studio SomeOne, he’d added “Guaranteed 100% LiveSurface Free!”

Olympic pictograms by SomeOne in a photograph. A real one

His point was that, yes, the photographs of flags and banners from the Olympic Park were real – this was the studio’s actual work for London 2012, implemented by the LOCOG in-house team and fluttering in the wind and everything.

These images weren’t mock-ups, the kinds of renders that his studio and countless others use to show what executions of their work might look like. But – and his joke admitted as such – they could have been.

FastJet poster image by SomeOne, made using LiveSurface

“Context is often critical,” Manchipp says, “and a cold layout fresh from InDesign does little to convey the emotions felt when [the work] is in your hands, printed in a newspaper. So the LiveSurface system is brilliant at rapidly getting design work in context so it can be more realistically viewed by those paying the bills.”

But does it matter that it’s getting harder to tell the difference between the real work and the mock-ups?

Bag mock-up by SomeOne

“It’s when things leak out into the real world that it gets a little surreal,” says Michael Johnson, who believes issues arise due to the relatively short list of applications available for many smaller projects.

“There’s a website, a Facebook header and probably a business card,” he says. “After that? Very few clients can afford to do outdoor ad campaigns or change their signage so the frustrated designer, seeing their scheme get drastically reduced, lets a few of those ‘hypotheticals’ leak out into the real world and, before long, they almost become real themselves.

“Things come to a head when you judge award schemes,” Johnson continues. “The branding section is always crammed with gleaming identities beautifully ‘applied out’ but you know that only a third of them ever happened.”

Those eBay bags

While the eBay ‘shopping bags’ that appeared during the brand’s recent logo redesign were misplaced to say the least, rendering certainly has its uses to professional designers. For David Airey, visualising new work in this way is simply another part of the creative process.

“As soon as it’s out of the designer’s head and onto paper, or onto a computer screen, it’s there for others to see. It’s real,” he says. “The work might not yet be shown to its full capacity, or developed as precisely as it will be in future, but it’s there, forming the basis of the more tangible items that can follow.”

For the full story, with more from all the designers mentioned above, see our December issue, out now.


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CR In print

In our December issue we look at why carpets are the latest medium of choice for designers and illustrators. Plus, Does it matter if design projects are presented using fake images created using LiveSurface and the like? Mark Sinclair looks in to the issue of mocking-up. We have an extract from Craig Ward’s upcoming book Popular Lies About Graphic Design and ask why advertising has been so poor at preserving its past. Illustrators’ agents share their tips for getting seen and we interview maverick director Tony Kaye by means of his unique way with email. In Crit, Guardian economics leader writer Aditya Chakrabortty review’s Kalle Lasn’s Meme Wars and Gordon Comstock pities brands’ long-suffering social media managers. In a new column on art direction, Paul Belford deconstructs a Levi’s ad that was so wrong it was very right, plus, in his brand identity column, Michael Evamy looks at the work of Barcelona-based Mario Eskenazi. And Daniel Benneworth-Gray tackles every freelancer’s dilemma – getting work.

Our Monograph this month, for subscribers only, features the EnsaïmadART project in which Astrid Stavro and Pablo Martin invited designers from around the world to create stickers to go on the packaging of special edition packaging for Majorca’s distinctive pastry, the ensaïmada, with all profits going to a charity on the island (full story here)


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