I was recently asked for my opinion on two new startups focusing on delivering graphical assets to marketing departments  – GraphicStock.com and CreativeMarket.com. It made me think more generally about the creative process within marketing and that led me to the somewhat provocative headline of this post.

Speaking as someone who works in marketing and as a potential customer, I prefer GraphicStock.com. It’s easy to justify $99 and it’s just a single decision I have to make. The problem I see with CreativeMarket.com is that I have to make multiple buying decisions. The problem with that is not just the overhead, but I frequently try many designs through to completion before abandoning most of them and settling on one direction. I don’t really want to be “wasting” several $19 purchases each week. In other words, I don’t really know what I want until I’ve used it.

I am just a single data point. Other marketers may think different, so I can’t really say with any conviction which approach will be more successful, but my hunch is that many will think like me, and given that, then I would always bet on the company with the biggest target market, even if the “per-drink” pricing of CreativeMarket suggests bigger potential revenues.

However, I have a bigger concern about both these companies in terms of the basic value proposition. I believe designs are worthless, but designers are priceless.

Let me explain. For many requirements, graphic assets are satisificers. You don’t need the best font, you need a “good enough” font. Google’s font api gives you that for free. You don’t need the best photo of a computer, you need a “good enough” one. There has been an explosion of free stock photography (e.g. StockSeek – free stock photos for all – SalesSeek Blog), such that there is no real need anymore to spend a fortune with Getty images.

By definition, all of the assets on both sites are generic. Because of that, they will be supplanted by free assets funded by marketing companies using this as a way to grow their own businesses.


My all time favourite piece of graphic design is Paul Rand’s rebus design for IBM. I wear my rebus T-shirt with pride (as a recovering IBMer), and people still come up to me even now and say “cool T-shirt!”. It’s un-rip-off-able, making it worthless to resell. It’s so specific to IBM no one could copy it, expect maybe the general idea of a rebus, but then Paul Rand did not invent that concept. It works so well because of the detail, because of the execution. The eye is vision, the bee industry, and the M is what resolves the puzzle. Steve Jobs paid Paul Rand a small fortune to design the logo for Next Computer and didn’t want to work with anyone else.

This is what I would use CreativeMarket.com for – discovering designers who make me go “wow” and commission them to work on specific projects. That is what I mean when I say designs are worthless, but designers are priceless. If this form of creative portfoilo/eLance model is not already in plan for CreativeMarket.com, then I think it should be.

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