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Stock Graphics Vs Bespoke Illustration: Which Is Best For Education Marketing?

4 mins read

There are pros and cons for using both stock graphics and bespoke illustrations but working out which is best for education marketing needs to consider all the following factors.


stock graphics vs illustration


We will look at both options and pit them against each other in five key categories: cost, time, individuality, risks and suitability to your project. It's a fight to the death, over five brutal rounds.

Well, maybe not to the death, seen as they are both inanimate pieces of graphic design, but we promise to help you decide which is right for you. Okay, ding-ding, seconds out.

Lettttttttt's Gettttt Readyyyyyyy Toooooooooooo... decide whether stock graphics or bespoke illustrations are best for education marketing.

Round 1 - The Cost

Let's be honest, cost is going to be a major deciding factor. And you'd be forgiven for thinking that working out whether a stock option is cheaper or more expensive than bespoke illustrations is easy.


Whilst some stock graphics and images are certainly very, very affordable, there's usually a reason why they're so cheap; you won't find them suitable for your marketing. They'll just be too, well, stocky. And if you use stock files that are obviously stock files, it suggests that you don't offer anything unique and comes across as far from genuine.

But what about better quality stock imagery? It's certainly an option. But to get a full campaign's worth of imagery and illustrations - complete with file sizes, ranging from small enough to use on social media to large enough to put on a billboard (and everything in between), that can also be edited and played around with to suit your designs - can quickly become very expensive. Especially if you want to use the stock files that actually achieve the look you are after - but more on this in the final round.

illustrated characters

Choosing to go bespoke immediately sounds more expensive, but that isn't always the case. You can go bespoke in a budget-friendly way, but, once again, just like with stock file choices, you will compromise on quality.

At the other end of the scale, employing a nationally acclaimed cartoonist to come and make your school a whole new set of graphics for next year's prospectus is going to leave you serving beans on dust in the canteen. Basically, you need to find the right balance - but a bespoke option needn't cost the earth in order to provide all the illustrative imagery your campaign needs.

Result: Draw. Too much to consider in order to pick a clear winner and both have their merits.

Stock: 1 - 1 :Bespoke 

Round 2 - The Time It Takes

Oh wow, stock has come out flying here.

Stock files are there, ready and waiting and can be downloaded as soon as you've given up your company credit card details. When it comes to time and ease of convenience, stock wins every time. Even if you have all the money in the world to pay an illustrator for bespoke design, they can only produce it as quickly as their hands and editing processes will allow.

clock stock image

A stock choice is already there for you (and everybody else, it must be added) to browse, pay for and use on demand.

Result: Stock takes the round quickly and easily.

Stock: 2 - 1 :Bespoke

Round 3 - Individuality

As we not-so-subtly hinted at during the second round, what you gain in time you compromise with originality when using stock designs. They are available for anybody to purchase.

Imagine paying a not so modest amount for a whole host of stock graphics to use in your campaign; it goes in your prospectus, on the advertising campaign around town, all over the signage in and around your school; and then a charity for young offenders uses the same stock package. The association is there and you'll struggle to shake it off in some people's minds.

With a bespoke illustration service, solely for yourself, there is no risk of this happening.

 talegate prints

We created these illustrations for Talegate Theatre. The bespoke illustration takes centre stage, and it is what makes the website so unique! This was then translated to printed media to create a fully bespoke and consistent brand!

After a strong second round, stock simply cannot get near bespoke when it comes to individuality and originality. This has been bespoke's time to shine.

Result: Bespoke counters beautifully and takes the third round in style.

Stock: 2 - 2 :Bespoke

Round 4 - Risks

This is a close one. This could go either way. If you use a stock-set, you know what you're getting. You can usually see how many people have trusted the stock graphics you are thinking of purchasing enough to buy them for themselves.

But with great numbers of customer feedback, on stock illustrations, comes greater risk you will see your design on unwanted materials. What if a competitor school uses the same ones?!

Then again, there is always the fear that a bespoke option can spiral away from your control and you will have to go back to the drawing board and start again - paying for the privilege to do so. By that, we mean paying twice.

But this risk is easily removed by choosing the right design agency and properly vetting and briefing them before letting them loose to begin creating your bespoke illustrations.

student looking at illustrations

Proper communication of your goals and a willingness to let the creative experts do their job will mean that this risk with bespoke work is removed.

The risk that someone else might use your stock images can never be managed out of the equation.

Result: Stock looks close to getting a sucker-punch in on bespoke. But once you choose the right agency, there's only one winner. Bespoke takes it.

Stock: 2 - 3 :Bespoke

Round 5 - Suiting Your Project

There is such a range of choice out there now, when it comes to stock graphics, images and illustrations. The number of options is seemingly endless. But there are always those risks we've already mentioned.

There's another problem too: these stock files will never be yours. Not just in that you are essentially sharing them with anyone who is willing to stump up the cost of using them, but that they were never actually created with you and your project in mind. There will always be something that gives away it's a stock graphic. There will always be that little touch that is missing when compared to a bespoke illustration for your educational campaign.

illustrated posters

The fine tuned attention to detail that you can include with a bespoke option simply cannot be replicated by stock photography. By its very nature, stock needs to be adaptable - and there's a skill to building that into a stock design. But bespoke has a different skill up its sleeve: it's personalised to you.

Final Result

Stock: 2 - 4 :Bespoke

It's a knockout!

The special ability to do exactly what is needed, at just the right time, is shown here. Bespoke wins 4-2 over stock illustrations. The control and originality on offer with a bespoke package can't be bettered by a stock option.

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