Let’s Go Retro! Finding Great Images
I’ve always loved using retro images as logos, posters, web sites, etc. It’s not just the old advertising art of figures with big heads, fun banners and old propaganda posters, although I do love those but the new, cool retro is updated and fresh. Sometimes distressed, usually camp, they are friendly, fun and give off emotions of comfort and nostalgia. Because of that, they reach a wide audience, which is good design for your clients!
I’ve got books of clip art and have found odd pieces on the web. I’ve scanned pieces out of books and run through thousands of dingbats, looking for retro images that I can use. The problem is legality. Creating a derivative work from existing retro clip art is nearly impossible and why chance copyright violation with a client’s logo or such? Even with clip art books, there are managed rights that make it expensive to use the work commercially.
I’ve found that certain clip art sources offer inexpensive managed rights and since the costs are often passed along to the client, it makes being creative simple and easy just using one all-encompassing source. Click, download and pay. What could be simpler?
Just a sampling of the tens of hundreds of thousands of clip art images that can be found for retro and vintage designs.
I’ve also found that most retro pieces are tiff based and that creates problems for sizing when a client wants a logo that can fit on a business card and the side of a building. Having a numerous selection of vector art is the way to go!
Is Clip Art Cheating?
If you’re a designer, you know that your fees must be cost effective for your client. Anything that saves time without compromising quality is smart designing. Whether it’s a rush job (and it seems they all are these days) or the idea of spending all day creating a design element when it could take half an hour, there are certain, sound, shortcuts that are effective without compromising the quality we all prefer is associated with our names and reputations.
There was a time when the use of clip art, straight out of books was the norm and no one complained about quality or creative cheating. It was simply one of the available tools. When lettering artists were replaced by Letrapress sheets of press-down type, it was just technology making a designer’s job easier.
When a ruling pen was replaced by varied width technical pens and then ruled tape, no one complained as work got easier. So, does the use of pre-created backgrounds, shapes, shields, banners and figures cheapen our creativity? There was also a time before free Photoshop brushes that create surfaces and strokes one would have to spend days creating with airbrushes. Take advantage of a creative tool that is also legal when it comes to copyrights.
The ever popular “big head” clip art. Always fun and heavily used. Fans of “Fallout: New Vegas” will appreciate these vectors.
Some distressed retro pieces that will size well and can be colored with a few clicks.
Is there a designer who hasn’t used the Las Vegas sign with type replacement? Without a vector image, however, there’s a LOT of Photoshop work involved.
Sometimes you just can’t count on creating a derivative work from the Vegas sign and will need to create a new one. Buying a vector sign cuts the time and effort but still gives you quality results!
Some sign vectors are even more involved and take less effort and design time on your part.
For nice, quick label creation, just buy a set and replace the type!
Hooray for Vectors!
Have you ever bought a greeting card with a licensed character or a toy with characters all over the packaging? Sure you have! That art comes from vectors compiled into style guides by the company that owns the character rights. Most style guides are multiple CDs of different poses, backgrounds, elements, patterns, banners, lettering and color guides. As a licensing designer, I appreciate all of the elements being available for use but not limiting my creativity. It’s not just puzzle-fitting pieces together (at least not in the best licensing design, which is known as “logo-slapping”).
While in licensing, most of the times you must keep to character colors (imagine a pink Homer Simpson!), there has been freedom to use different color variations, especially in the vector elements. When designing for a client that doesn’t use licensed images, the world of your creative imagination is wide open. Just because the vectors are clip art, you have the ability to change colors, mix, overlap, enlarge and to do whatever you feel helps your design.
There are endless possibilities for pattern colorations or just being used as separate elements.
Pixelations are always cool but time-consuming to make. Buy one and you can manipulate it for whatever your needs. Just be sure to buy the correct rights and don’t just keep using the same purchase over and over again!
No one says you need to keep the figure inside of this cool pattern. Use the pattern and choose a different color palette.
This one image group shows different colorations. The smaller images in the gallery show possible uses with other elements.
A couple of clicks here and there, replace type and maybe add other elements and you’ve cut days of work into an hour or two!
Within patterns, you can choose one element to use for a larger image. Vector pieces allow for resizing without a loss of image quality.
That Saul Bass look can be achieved with a little imagination and color replacement. Look at the small image on the upper left of the gallery view. The black silo uses that image with color-replacement for huge impact.
When creating from clip art, it’s best to work front to back. Pick the most important element, which is the main message/design and then search out your background or pattern. The layers can then be placed or manipulated to create one cohesive design.
Sure, you can use them as is, as many backgrounds and patterns come in different colorations from the clip art service and that will save you time and effort but don’t feel you are limited. Changing the vectors is within your purchased rights. Clip art vectors are… a style guide to design. They are part of our industry and culture. They are the new/old technology that have become a standard and will increase as years go on.