GDUSA Reader Survey Reveals Stock Imagery is a Designer’s Best Friend


Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) has released an annual survey (sponsored by iStockphoto) of more than 1,000 readers which indicates that use of stock imagery has grown nearly three times in just 25 years, starting at 39 percent in 1986 and reaching 98 percent in 2012.

NEW YORK, New York, NY and CALGARY, Alberta – September 24, 2012 – A dog might be a man’s best friend, but an annual survey of more than 1,000 Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) readers shows that stock imagery is a designer’s best friend! The survey indicates that use of stock imagery has grown nearly three times in just 25 years, starting at 39 percent in 1986 and reaching 98 percent in 2012. The survey also shows that 31 percent of designers are in a full-blown love affair, using stock images over 100 times a year, which is up 11 percent from last year.

The survey, conducted via email to 18,000 GDUSA print and e-subscribers selected at random, demonstrates that dollar signs are top of mind when choosing which stock website to use, with 89 percent of designers saying that price is what influences them the most. Other important factors include the quality of collections (78 percent) and ease of search (70 percent).

More than half of designers state they purchase less than five stock images per project and 96 percent use their images for print media.  However, there is no usage shortage of stock imagery on websites and blogs as internet usage came in second with 76 percent and sign/exhibit/environment usage came in third with 48 percent.

gdusa survey 2012

“The GDUSA reader survey is very important because it allows us to get into the minds of industry creatives,” said Rebecca Rockafellar, Senior Vice President of E-Commerce at Getty Images and General Manager of iStockphoto. “We are able to see what is trending in the industry, but more importantly, we get the chance to listen to what creatives have to say about our product, so that we can continue to make ongoing improvements.”                                                              

Overall, designers are very happy with stock providers, but do acknowledge that there are some kinks that can be ironed out, specifically when it comes to the process of purchasing images. Criticisms and advice include the weeding out of dated and underused images, as well as greater price consistency and transparency.

There is an overwhelming consensus that stock imagery and stock providers today are better than ever in terms of breadth of options and search functionality,” said Gordon Kaye, editor and publisher of GDUSA. “There are always going to be ways to improve a product, and as our industry continues to evolve there is no doubt that stock providers will find ways to make the process even more seamless and straightforward.

Additional Findings:

Designers use rights managed images but predominantly use royalty free

  • Rights managed – 29%
  • Royalty free – 98%

Designers use multiple stock sites

  • Use only one – 14%
  • Use 2-3 – 49%
  • Use 4-5 – 31%
  • Use 6 or more – 6%

Top 5 categories of images used most often

  • People
  • Business/industry
  • Concepts/Backgrounds
  • Lifestyle
  • Medical/Healthcare (this category is new to the Top 5)

This year’s survey was sponsored by iStockphoto. For complete survey results, see the September issue of GDUSA.


Since 1963, Graphic Design USA, also known as GDUSA, has been the business-to-business publication for graphic design professionals. GDUSA covers news, people, projects, trends, technology, products and services of interest to creative professionals. This includes extensive coverage of stock imagery and elements, including an annual reader survey on what creatives are thinking, saying, planning, buying and licensing. That survey is now in its 25th year. The GDUSA brand now includes a 50,000 visitor-a-month website, two e-newsletters for graphic designers, and four national design competitions covering graphic, packaging, website and corporate design.

About iStockphoto

iStockphoto offers easy, affordable inspiration with millions of vetted, royalty-free photos, illustrations, videos and audio tracks. Using the most advanced search in the business, customers download a file every second from a collection of more than ten million files for business, marketing and personal projects. iStockphoto started in 2000, pioneering the micropayment photography business model, and has become one of the most successful and profitable user-generated content sites in the world. iStockphoto pays out more than $1.7 million weekly in artist royalties. iStockphoto is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Getty Images.


About Author

I write about the stock photo and microstock industry since 2006 on my several online-magazines. My goal for MyStockPhoto is to teach photographers and stock photographers how to sell more photos and earn money with their photography hobby.


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