Tuesday, November 11, 2003


When you need graphics or pictures in designing training, do you buy or make your own?

We typically do both: We buy royalty free stock photos and take some photos ourselves or commission someone to take them where necessary, depending on the need. We also create our own graphics or outsource to a contract graphic artist. Typically we will sketch out what is required and have a designer create the finished work. We would always outsource video work.

I use Illustrator and Photoshop a lot, because there is not much that you can't do with them and they work together well. For animated stuff, a combination of Premiere, Camtasia, Flash, and RoboDemo seems to cover most in-house needs. Learning curves are not too steep on Adobe tools if you are not trying to reach maistro level. For that we outsource, often offshore.

I can also recommend one of the best services on the Web - elance. Elance is like a marketplace for freelancers, many of them in Asia. You post a project description and a budget, and people bid on it within minutes. You don't pay till you are happy with the deliverable, and for a limited graphics project your credit card rarely takes more than a $50 hit. We have often posted a project online (e.g. turn these sketches into Flash animations, yesterday!) and had it executed perfectly in only a few hours. BTW, you can get anything from a simple drawing to a complete Website, from programming help to a complete software solution. Larger organizations could learn a huge amount about customer service and responsiveness from the individuals we have dealt with through Elance. Elance.com is the kind of networking that the Web was made for.

For stock photos, we usually start with corbis or StockMarketPhoto. The "completely free" graphics sites usually don't have much that appeals, and (IMHO) much of the free stuff does your end-product no favors in credibility terms. It's often the online equivalent of those irritating ant-people (were they called ScreenBeans?) that PowerPoint abusers used to stick everywhere a few years ago.

For self-shot photos, I normally use a Nikon 950, though I have contractors who use both higher-end and lower-end cameras. I recommend shooting at the highest resolution available, and then cropping and scaling down resolution in Photoshop. You use 72dpi for Web photos, and in outputting jpegs and gifs you need to try to keep them down to file sizes of less than 20-30kb -- though if the need warrants you can go up to 200kb or more. We try to keep total graphic load on a page to under 80kb, which is still rather fast on a slow dial-up. If your target audience is all on broadband, you have a lot more leeway. Photoshop lets you play with image optimization, and tells you the file size and load time while you are tweaking.

No comments: