A friend who is just getting started in instructional design asked me recently, “How do you find the time to create all the artwork you need for a given project when there are so many deadlines and variables?”
Well, the truth is that I try to use open source artwork and icons whenever possible. At this moment I am employed at a community college in California, and tax payer dollars fund my position. I was hired to design and implement solutions to educational needs and challenges, but I was not hired to be an artist (although I am very artistically inclined, and have the skills and knowledge needed to create my own art).
Because I am the only person in my department, and I don’t have an art department at my disposition, nor any illustrators or production artists I can request artwork from, I often have to use resources freely available on the web. In an effort to save the tax payers (and my employer!) money, and to avoid reinventing the wheel I use open source icons and artwork whenever possible.
As you might imagine, there are times when I can’t find the icon/image I need, or when the project calls for original artwork. In those cases I do design my own icons and/or images. However, illustrating icons and images can be a very time consuming activity, so I avoid having to make them from scratch if at all possible. I do a lot of illustrations in my own time to release the creative urges within me (and to keep myself sane!), but at work I need to move fast, and to save my employer money while taking care of business effectively and efficiently I use open source icons/images (I edit them if necessary).
Although aesthetics are a subset of design; design does not mean art. Design means problem solving and creating solutions with a plan (hopefully you do it aesthetically). So I stick to problem solving and designing solutions to educational needs as much as possible to maximize ROI for my employer.
Here are a couple of free icon/image resources I find useful in my practice (but there are tons available on the web):
100+ Free High Quality Icon Sets for Web Designers and Developers. FREE
The Noun Project
The Noun Project collects, organizes and adds to the highly recognizable symbols that form the world’s visual language. FREE
Flickr Creative Commons
Flickr is one of the largest user-driven collections of images on the web. Many users share their images under a creative commons license which allows different levels of use. FREE
This is different from Flickr Creative Commons. This is great for historical photographs. The images here are provided by museums, libraries, universities, and other cultural heritage centers from around the world. FREE
They offer a mix of free and low-cost photos and stock illustrations. They also offer tutorials.
If you use any of these resources make sure to attribute credit to the original authors. I hope you find these useful!
M. Ricardo Flores