I’ve been really busy for the past 10 days or so trying to put the finishing touches on a series of client projects that needed to be wrapped up by March 31st. Combine that with my always busy schedule of creating and keywording new images, and well…I barely had enough time to breath. During this time, a neat little video surfaced on YouTube that set the graphic design and photography worlds on fire: Content Aware Fill from Adobe had been revealed.

I follow a lot of miscellaneous graphic and web design forums on the internet, and this was the one thing that everyone was talking about. To be honest, I didn’t really have the time to sit through a long video demo so I just blew it off and bookmarked it for later viewing. Finally, with all of my client projects complete, I had a few spare moments to have a gander.

Holy crap.

If you’ve ever struggled with stitching images together, or pulled your hair out trying to remove lens flare, you already know that this is the feature that will save us all from those kinds of technical tasks. The YouTube video made it look like magic (hence the reason for so many calling it a hoax), but I am very curious to see how it will work in the real world. There are many times that I just can’t get an image to look right in FormZ (my 3d modeling software of choice), so I’ll just render the basic image and then spice it up in Photoshop. Cloning, cutting, and pasting is something I do very often, and I’m totally geeked about the amount of time this will save me in post-processing my images.

Adobe Photoshop CS6

But is it too good? The only thing about Content Aware Fill that makes me cringe a little is the thought that it might make it easier for image thieves to remove watermarks from copyright protected photos. Of course, there are plenty of people doing that now (manually) so it isn’t like this will spark a new wave of image theft – but I think that there is a strong possibility that it will make it easier for those thieves to get away with it. But such is the life on the internet. As a content producer, I know that it is pretty much impossible to keep people from stealing images if they want them badly enough. If there is a will, there is a way.

Watermark-removal aside, I think Adobe hit a home run with this feature. If it will be included in CS5, sign me up for an upgrade.

As you would probably have guessed by taking a 2-minute stroll around my portfolio of illustrations and 3d renderings, a large majority of my work is highly conceptual. To be honest, I don’t have much of an interest in generating images of plain objects sitting on plain backgrounds, as I don’t feel like I’m contributing much to the royalty-free stock market by doing that. I mean really – if you need a picture of a simple book on a white isolated background, there are plenty of other places on the internet where you can easily get that in any color or perspective you need.  Of course, creating simple images of isolated objects is easy and it would be a fast way to boost the size of my portfolio but I have little interest in re-creating such common imagery.

Generating thousands of 3d renderings a year is tough, especially when each one needs to illustrate a specific business metaphor or technology theme. It helps that I have spent many years working for large corporations, because I feel like my head has been forcefully crammed full of those catchy buzz-words and phrases often used in big business such as, “let’s touch base”, “coming down the pike”, and “action items”.  I admit that some of this business-speak is a bit over the top (see, even I do it too) at times, but it is catchy and the most clever ones usually spread like wildfire – until they get played-out and are replaced by something fresh and equally bizarre. The good news for me is that most of them are fairly easy to represent with simple objects, and I can usually come up with several variations of the same buzz-word or cliche in a short amount of time. However, there is one new buzz-word that I’ve been hearing more and more lately, and I have yet to come up with a decent image for it: disintermediate. Basically, I think it means to cut out the middleman, but…I’m not really sure. All I know is that it’s one that I’m starting to hear more and more, and that means I should probably look it up in the dictionary before I get left behind.

Another big source of inspiration for me comes from business journals and financial magazines. Those publications usually include a ton of highly-clever illustrations and photography to support their articles, and I can usually generate several new ideas with a brief thumb-through of each new issue.

Creating these conceptual images is very challenging, but as much as I hate to admit it, my years spent at big mega-corporations have been very good for me. Without that experience, I’m not sure I could have come up with half of the ideas and concepts portrayed in the Norebbo portfolio. I’m always looking out for new trends and buzz-words though, and luckily, there are new ones infecting big-business all the time. I can’t promise that I’ll cover every one of them, but I do have fun trying.

As a designer who spends nearly all of my working hours making images and graphics for other people, I always find it interesting to see how my work is implemented into their projects. It’s easy if I’m working on a very specific assignment from a paying client, because I get to control every aspect of how that particular image or graphic will be integrated into their design. For a visual designer like myself, that’s a pretty good thing.

But sometimes I have no control over how my work is used, and it’s something I think about a lot when I’m creating Royalty-Free images. I try to imagine how the image will be used, but it’s difficult as everybody has different requirements and objectives for using images and graphics. I realize that it’s impossible to create images that will be perfect for everybody, but the best thing I can do is try and think of how I would integrate the image into my own design. For example, I always try to leave the edges of each image clean so that the buyer can extend it if necessary. I also think about colors and textures, realizing that most people are attracted to brighter colors than I prefer. Really, if I could get away with it, nearly every image I create would be gray, silver, and metallic – but I realize that not everybody likes such a cold and dark style so I keep reminding myself to use bright colors.

Always curious, I’m constantly on the lookout for my Royalty-Free images in use across the internet. Most of the time I’m pleasantly surprised at what I find – my images have been used on corporate websites for Fortune 500 and 100 companies, travel blogs, and multitudes of e-commerce sites. And I seem to be a particular favorite for web template designers, so one of the places I troll frequently is TemplateMonster. There are a lot of my images in use over there.

I’d very much like to see how you are integrating my images, so please feel free to contact me if you would like to show me your layout – and if it’s really good, I just may want to promote it here.

Having been in the web design business for over 15 years now, I’ve spent a lot of time around some incredibly intelligent usability experts. One of the most common tirades I’ve heard from them over the years is about the likelihood that, on the internet, nobody will read a large wall of text that is put in front of them. Most will skim the article to find the information they need, and if it’s not found quickly, they won’t stick around. There are several easy ways to retain the attention of your readers:

First (and the most obvious), you need a clear and concise message that gets straight to the point. Your readers aren’t going to stick around long enough anyway, so help them out by giving them the information they need right away.

Second, clean formatting will make your article easier to skim. Brush up on the writing composition skills you learned in elementary school and use paragraphs and bullet points appropriately. Nothing scares off a reader faster than a huge wall of text with long paragraphs and no bullet points. If you let your text have room to breath, it will be much easier for the user to skim your article and extract the information he or she needs.

Finally, adding images to an extremely long article will make it look not so intimidating to your reader, and if the images are chosen correctly, they just might actually help deliver your message and set the tone for the article. At the very least, adding interesting illustrations and photography is a great way to attract and keep your reader’s attention.

Did you know that I allow article and blog writers to use any of my images from this site for free? Yes, that’s true – so feel free to use however many you wish.