Free clipart can ruin good copywriting
Often times I get asked about the proper way to use various clipart. There are so many options to getting the type of graphic you need to liven up your copy. Is it better to use stock photography to illustrate a point or maybe just a simple drawing? How about hiring a professional photographer to get the perfect shot? What about free clipart and its quality? I'll address these questions from an art director's point of view.
Graphics can quickly create a mood or an impression in someone's mind even before words can. That is why it is so important to use the right kind of graphic to go along with the copy. (Of course that is assuming the writing even needs a graphic.)
Let's start with the question about FREE Clipart and when it should be used. I VERY SELDOM use free clipart mainly because of the quality. More importantly, I find it to be – quite frankly – cheesy. As my mother says, "Just because it's free doesn't mean it's good." Skip the dancing dog artwork – it really isn't needed! In other words, don't use free clipart if you are looking to write about or design something elegant, professional or serious.
Most of the free clipart that I have come across has been of very poor quality or poorly created. That's probably why it's free. Also, you really have to be cautious about whether the artwork really is free and not copyrighted. You have to be careful about using free artwork and for this reason, I would recommend steering clear from this option.
Using a paid clipart service is ideal for gathering quality illustrations or photography. The number of images available with a paid service is impressive, and this is an avenue I use frequently. The artwork is high enough quality to be used in printed materials and interesting enough to use on the web. Just be sure that when you are using this service you download the proper image to accentuate the topic of the written copy. Also, since you are paying for the service, you want to make sure that you aren't wasting your money by downloading artwork you decided won't work after all.
The best, most wonderful, most impressive option would be – if budget allows – to hire a professional photographer! What a great way to get the exact image you are looking for to accompany or to dramatize the copy. If you need a photo of a runner jumping over a puddle of mud in a rainstorm in Oklahoma, odds are you will get that perfect image by asking your photographer to capture that exact moment.
Artwork of any kind can create an impression even before the reader sees the words that a copywriter labored over. Don't allow the wrong impression to be thought up just because you made a bad move on the artwork. You wouldn't want an important message to be obscured for your audience just because it was poorly illustrated. Think about the message you are trying to convey and choose your clipart wisely. Your words will thank you!
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