Posted Fri Apr 20, 2012 10:51AM
This year, our trusty old Illustration Challenge turns 6 years old. Amazingly it has remained almost exactly the same since its inception in 2006, right down to the very words used to explain the rules.
When we first began the Challenge it was a fun way to share our takes on the same theme. Themes were chosen based on how accessible they were to all contributors and had to be selected in advance.
But these days, we are trying to more actively provide inspiration and ideas to contributors. This allow us to communicate our needs more efficiently than ever before. In comparison our old Challenge system is clunky and inflexible. Although we've had a lot of fun over the years we feel that it's time has passed.
We're sorry to announce that this month will be the last month that we host the Challenge in its existing format.
We don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, though. We are looking for your suggestions on where we can go from here.
We have two Challenge alternatives to offer:
1) We would be glad to hand the Challenge over to the community to run on its own
2) We could repurpose the Challenge as a pimping-style thread based on currently needed content (allowing us to switch it whenever new needed files are identified)
Please let us know what you think, we're open to any and all suggestions.
Posted Fri Apr 20, 2012 11:33AM
Quarterly Challenge with bigger prizes and checkbox voting system? I dunno, I kind of gave up on it because the prizes weren't worth the effort. Single prize of something like an Inkling, VectorTuts or Lynda.com year subscriptions. Just a thought.
Posted Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:28PM
Unfortunately, given how much we're putting into all of the other methods of identifying needed content, we can't budget hundreds of dollars on prizes for forum contests going forward.
That's why I think a pimping thread would be a good solution. People can enter files already in their portfolio, and we can target the themes around needed content. What do you guys think?
Posted Fri Apr 20, 2012 5:03PM
Why bother with posting in a pimping thread? Even the photo one that is in a forum that gets some views doesn't lead to extra sales. Anything hidden away in the Illustration forum would be a waste of time.
So far all the effort into other methods of identifying needed content (as far as contributors are concerned) comes down to one moribund thread in a forum which is only visible to exclusive contributors with a link to a PDF full of pretty pictures that are largely irrelevant to illustrators. Doing something that demonstrates istock actually wants contributions from illustrators might get more response. And the best way of doing that is boosting sales.
(Edited on 2012-04-20 17:47:00 by Susan_Stewart)
Posted Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:16PM
What about this: iS keeps selecting themes & for the challenge don´t accept old images in, only new.
Then ask a panel of non-istock illustrator contributors to decide who wins (could be photographers, admins or someone else with an honest and objective point of view). Judges would be important, so they should be the best that we could get.
Then what about this PRIZE for the winner: promote that illustrator´s FULL portfolio for at least a week in the front page. Yeah, yeah, I know photographers won´t like this, but hey, they could do the same thing. And so on with video and audio. And establish a period in which the winner can´t win again, but don´t make it too long. Perhaps not being able to win in the same year in which you´ve already won or so.
(Edited on 2012-04-20 22:56:47 by CTRd)
Posted Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:43AM
I like this idea ^
Posted Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:26AM
Good idea. I can vouch that having an image featured on the front page increases sales dramatically.
Posted Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:04PM
We already only accept new uploads (not old files). This doesn't seem to be working very well… We've hardly gotten any entries this month, and the number of entries has been dropping every month.
Regarding judges, we have tried many, many things over the years. We've used iStock staff, admins, inspectors, and then top contributors. It always works well for the first month or two but then the number of people willing to help judge always drops off. This is something that we've been struggling with for many years now. We appreciate the idea, but, it is something we've tried and unfortunately it has failed. This is one of the many reasons we don't believe that the Challenge can't keep going in its current form anymore.
About promoting on the illustration landing page: This is something we've discussed in the past but unfortunately this just isn't an option. The featured files on the landing page are selected several months in advance in order to give us time to translate all of the text and design all of the graphics. And what if one person's file is clearly the winner every month? Placing limits will mean top contributors won't be entering on a regular basis. Sorry, but the landing page isn't an option at this point.
So it looks like you guys don't want a pimping thread... That leaves the option of giving the Challenge over to the community. Is anyone interested in taking it over?
(Edited on 2012-04-21 18:17:17 by bortonia)
Posted Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:05AM
Please explain this phrase:
"But these days, we are trying to more actively provide inspiration and ideas to contributors."
Posted Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:59AM
We recently published our first article on 'needed' files, there's the forum, we've provided access to the GI Creative Research portal, plus we have more in the works. This is the first time that we've started looking at our collection as a whole and identifying what we're missing.
OTOH, Challenge themes have always based on what we felt everyone could draw, as opposed to subjects that iStock needs. For example illustrators who don't specialize in figurative drawing wouldn't be likely to enter a challenge that was themed around drawing people. We tried to keep themes as vague and open ended as we could to encourage more people to submit.
Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be working anymore as the number of submissions we get per month has been dropping off for years now. It also doesn't help us identify content we're lacking in. This is why we thought a pimping thread based around files on our current 'Needs' list would be a better fit moving forward.
Edited to add: Is there anyone who DOES feel that the Challenge has been doing a great job of identifying content that's currently needed, and encouraging lots of submissions? That's the impression I've been getting from some of these posts, and if so, that's OK. We just need volunteers in order to keep the Challenge running as it is, so if you're interested, please sitemail me or post here.
(Edited on 2012-04-23 11:36:19 by bortonia)
Posted Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:45AM
As someone who's been here since the very first challenge ever I can say that it's lost some of it's steam over the years. We have tried many of the things suggested above already. The community used to do the voting and eventually people lost interest in doing that so staff had to fill in.
The number of members contributing to challenges has decreased over time as well. If you guys really love the challenge and want to keep it going you can take it over yourself if one or more of you would like to take on the responsibility.
Having our own creative briefs and articles can help us remain competitive by filling areas where we need content.
There are several useful articles so far:
(Edited on 2012-04-23 11:54:25 by diane555)
Posted Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:58PM
I remember when the first vector challenge took place. There was so much hope and goodwill in the air. Contributors could reach higher & higher percentage plateaus based on accumulative downloads. Personally I found that foundation inspiring and worth investing time and energy. To me the vector challenges were a way for iStock to show how much it valued its vector artists as a great opportunity to give back to the vector community. But it was never funded like the cage challenge. Rather it was not treated seriously. Yes I won one of the challenges and received a book on Illustrator CS3 that was useless to me, whereas a cage winner could win $5000. (granted they all had to work very hard; much harder than a vector challenge).
I don't understand how a corporation that brings in hundreds of millions in revenue each year, acts as if it is an under-funded charity, needing volunteers to take the helm.
If iStock were to fund an annual vector challenge of the magnitude of the annual cage challenge then I believe there would be more enthusiasm. Also I wonder why so much energy is directed into the cage when its purpose is more for entertainment rather than generating content.
(Edited on 2012-04-23 18:01:30 by tygraphics)
Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:30AM
Thanks for the feedback, but it sounds a bit like you maybe misunderstood the purpose of the Challenge, and how it got started...
The Challenge was never an iStock initiative, and has never been funded. I started it on my own just for fun (in fact I 'borrowed' the idea from a thread that used to run in the photo forums). Any prizes we've handed out over the years were funded out of my own pocket, and all work put into running the contest was done by myself with a handful of other Admins like Diane. This was never intended to be an 'official' iStock thing, it was supposed to be something silly and fun for us in the forums.
Yes there were once prizes as part of the old Punctum Day in the Steel Cage. But outside of that, no prizes are awarded in the Cage. Comparing the Cage to the Challenge is like looking at apples and oranges, they're completely different things! But if you ever wanted to discuss the Cage, the Main Discussion forum might be a good place to start a thread since I don't know much about the Cage.
I'm sorry that my thread may have come off as an 'under-funded charity', but at this point it's about where to best spend my time (and that of my Admins). We should be focusing on something that is relevant to our contributors, not something that was started for fun years ago and that no one really seems interested in anymore.
The only ideas I had were to turn it over to the community (which no one seems interested in), or, to try and evolve it into something new.
I hope this helps explain things better. We are still looking for suggestions so please feel free to share any ideas you have.
(Edited on 2012-04-24 12:59:46 by bortonia)
Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:01PM
We also felt it was important to open the fate of the Challenge up for discussion as a group. The Challenge started as a fun community initiative so we'd like to get everyone's feedback rather than just shutting it down with no notice!
Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:19PM
Jenn, please forgive me if my post offended you in any way. I guess I'm just bummed out that one of my favorite parts of iStock is falling apart. My comments were selfish. I mindlessly vented my frustration over the change in iStock financials over the past several years. I offer my sincere apology.
The truth is I participated in most of the vector challenges, even the first one. Most of my entries never went beyond the pencil stage so I never entered them. You may have no idea how obsessed I have been with iStock vector illustration. All I ever wanted was for iStock illustration to do well and share that success back to the vector artists. Maybe it is also because I know how much time it takes to create great vectors.
How I wish I personally had the financial resources to be able to volunteer my time but alas I do not.
Posted Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:02PM
Hey wdunn, thanks so much for the detailed suggestions! Awesome post
But like I said before, we can't use the Landing Page for the Challenge for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:
- Given how far in advance landing page content must be chosen, any winners featured would end up being at least 6 months old: Not ideal
- Any content still needs a caption and description, which needs translation: it's built into the page functionality and cannot be changed
- We can't feature a single image as a winner, it has to be a Collection, forum link or a lightbox
- The landing page content is Marketing driven for clients and focuses on regional and seasonal content that's trending: This can't be done with the Challenge
- The slots aren't always the same and different regions use them to promote content that is suitable to their countries: Again, this can't be achieved by featuring the Challenge
- We're losing out on a huge opportunity to promote the content that clients are looking for
- I'd argue that featuring a collection of seasonal content is far more useful to clients than featuring a 6 month old Challenge winner, at least from a customer perspective. The Challenge is for contributors, not clients.
While you guys seem really focused on the landing page, I'm sorry but like we said earlier, using it for Challenges is not an option at this time. Sorry.
So, let's try to focus on the contest itself. We need to figure out how to reduce the amount of Administration time it takes to run, how to attract more entries, and target needed content. There's little point in talking about promotion when the actual Challenge itself is being shut down!
Again, if you guys think it's running fine on its own, then we'd be happy to turn it over to a group of volunteers to run. Just sitemail me to let me know
(Edited on 2012-04-25 13:09:49 by bortonia)
Posted Thu Apr 26, 2012 3:58AM
First of all, I must say that I really liked the idea of the Challenge. Sadly, I managed only once to take part in the Challenge, and it has nothing to do with laziness, I'm just too busy and I got a big family to take care of, so I rarely have any time for fun. I would like to see that Challenge lives on, in one form or another, and I've seen a number of great works during the past few years presented in the Challenge threads, so I really hope that some solution will occur. Unfortunatelly, I cannot offer any help in this case, I just want to say that it would be a pitty if the Challenge disappeares completely.
Posted Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:00AM
@ kristijanh, absolutely, some of my all time favorite files were uploaded as part of the Challenge. Did you ever see this lightbox? It's a collection of some of the awesome work that's been submitted over the years. So much great stuff!
Wdunn: ...otherwise without that old link and no other encouragement it will eventually die.
The thing is, the Challenge already died despite a link on the landing page. I've already explained why we can't use landing page content to feature content in a timely matter. So let's please look at how we can evolve and improve the Challenge itself, rather than worrying about what's on the landing page
Posted Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:38PM
I just had a thought...
I was looking for summer sports illustrations today. I wasn't looking for cartoony or kids themes, but more natural and serious illustrations. Like the kind that could be used to advertise a pro sports event. I needed illustrations of sports such as tennis, track and field, baseball, etc.
In the end I was only able to find a few files from a small handful of contributors. The rest turned out to be a lot of really cute cartoons and kid themes, that while very well done, didn't really fit the more serious look I needed. I also found a lot of hybrid business/sport stuff (ie 'business man in suit jumps over hurdle'). Great concepts, but not what I was looking for.
This happens to me all the time. I'll need something specific, in a certain style but won't find much. There are a lot of opportunities for us to fill some of these gaps.
So I got to thinking, how about we start some kind of 'stuff we noticed was missing' thread? It could work like the Request forum, where we post gaps we've noticed. Illustrators could go through the thread and tackle anything that catches their interest.
This won't be an official listing of files iStock needs, or part of our Creative Research. Instead it would focus on the random things we notice might be missing whenever we try a search for something, both silly and serious.
Posted Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:39PM
The basic idea behind the thread itself is what I like the most Jenn. A clear sense of friendly and relaxed community with a strong professional business attitude inside iS is something I miss. This makes me think that I still wonder why the BuyRequest program isn´t around any more. It didn´t give me huge financial results by itself, but it did get me into creating a few succesful illustrations that perhaps I wouldn´t have had decided to make by myself.
I also like the fact that people will be able to come into the illustration forum asking for content. Yes, I know there is a specific forum to do that right now, but to be honest, I tend to forget that it exists and hardly look at it.