Every Dot a Person

Cue dropping of jaw. Clever geek takes US census data and renders it to a online map where each dot (341,817,095 in total) is a single person. Keep on zooming in and grey splotches and stipples gradually break down into tiny irreducible dots. The concentrations of said dots/people subtly reveal the presence of roads, mountains, rivers, rainfall patterns, soil types and more. Really amazing, and leaving one wishing for a whole world version.

Art in the public domain

One of the best aspects of working on cover designs for histories and historical fiction is the removal of copyright as a limiting factor. Although the photograph of the artwork is sometimes copyrighted and requires permission, the artworks themselves have long been in the public domain.  Being able to use a brilliantly executed portrait or landscape gives the designer access to nuances of tone and form very hard to find in contemporary photo libraries. The three covers below were designed for local publishers in 2010. Three-covers
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Flickr in Colour

ideeFlickr users add over 4,000 images per minute to the wildly popular image-sharing site. Over ten million images have been tagged with the Creative Commons tag -- allowing for creative, and sometimes commercial re-use. Ideé Inc has taken those ten million-odd images and created an interesting little search engine called Multicolr Search Lab. The only search 'term' allowed is colour. Click  on the little grid of colour swatches at top right, and the main part of the screen will be filled with images primarily containing that colour. Click on another colour, and the engine locates images with both the original colour and the new colour.  The results can be quite startling, and very useful if you are looking for a background image, or a texture. Not much use if you need to refine the search by subject or theme, but an interesting pointer as to the kind of capabilities that smart search image engines will soon be able to offer.
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Commons Explorer

An Australian programmer has devised a neat little Java-based app for browsing commons-tagged images. Once installed, the application displays a list of public domain image libraries. Click on one of the libraries, and a cloud of tags appears, along with tiny image thumbnails gridded up below. Hover over one of the tags, and links to other tags are displayed, and images labelled with those tags light up in the grid. Click on one of the images, and a larger version appears, with the option of viewing it in Flickr. This is a really interesting app that graphically shows the power of image tagging and offers and excellent way of searching a collection. Hopefully the programmer will add more libraries and more images in each library.
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Image Searching in Safety

When a search engine enables users to search for images, and offers search parameters such as pixel size, aspect ratio, dominant colour and image content, they must know that many images are going to be used contrary to the laws of copyright. With the 'everything's free' ethos of web 2.0, such image use seems a victimless crime. Most users don't have the budget for expensive images from online image libraries. However, those who do suffer twinges can now choose from a new set of options relating to the kind of license attached to the image. Options range from "not filtered by license" through to "labelled for reuse (but not commercial use) to "labelled for commercial use with modification". Choosing the latter option dramatically reduces the number of hits for a given search, but at you are probably on the side of the angels (provided the web developer who set up the site in question is the legitimate owner of the image). As more people become aware of the range of image licensing options, hopefully more sites will be set up with this kind of image labelling, and the online image feast will get a little less risky. http://www.creativepro.com/article/safely-find-and-use-images-google
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Images for peanuts

picframe1Typing ‘free images’ into Google is an interesting and sometimes dispiriting exercise. Some of the sites listed are ad-laden, spyware infested monstrosities. Others are merely royalty­-free, which is not free at all. There are however quite a few legitimate and useable sources of free images worth considering, of which the following are a small sample. 1. Wikimedia Commons: from the folks at Wikipedia, a fairly clunky search engine and a rather arbitrary system of classification. All of the images are in the public domain. 2. Flickr: A monster photo sharing website with literally billions of images. Some are just happy snaps, but others top flight professional images. The search engine is organised around tags and extremely easy to use. Many are copyrighted, while other images (100,000,000 at last count) carry the Creative Commons licensing system. This allows for use by others in certain circumstances dicated by the creator. 3. Mayang’s free textures: Wood, paint, metal and more. Useful as backgrounds, licensed for unrestricted use. 4. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs catalogue: over a million images held by the Library of Congress, many of which are in the public domain. The search engine is old-school librarian – heavy on text, light on thumbnails. 5. Picture Australia: contains a vast archive of historical images relating to Australia. The images belong to various Australian institutions. Some are still under copyright, but many are in the public domain. Picture Australia maintains a tagged category at Flickr, on an experimental basis. 6. Easy Stock Photos: a nuts and bolts free image site. The quality is moderate and the range limited, but it is easy to use and not infested with malware. For further searches, try:  http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Help:Public_domain_image_resources For Chameleon Print Design’s list of pay and free sites, go to http://www.chameleondesign.com.au/image-libraries/ Note: Please read the image use policies of the site from which you are downloading the image. Some allow for private use only, others restrict modification of the image in question and some don’t care what you do with it.
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Clipart you don't really own...

stick1Is it ever OK to use Microsoft clipart for commercial purposes? Leaving aside aesthetic issues, the answer is ... not really. Microsoft and other companies have immense legal muscle and will often act to protect their intellectual property. In general, Microsoft has deemed that non-commercial use of their clipart is permissible, provided the clipart comes from a legal copy of a Microsoft program or was downloaded from Microsoft’s online clipart site (office.microsoft.com/clipart) by a Microsoft user. Clipart may not be on-sold. According to Mr Gates' lawyers: The following guidelines apply to the use of clip art: 1. You may use clip art in your school assignments and projects. 2. You may use clip art in your church brochure. 3. You may use clip art for personal, noncommercial uses. 4. You may not use clip art to advertise your business. 5. You may not use clip art to create a company logo. 6. You may not use clip art to illustrate the chapters of a book. Given the sheer amount of hideous Microsoft stick figures in business brochures and the like, one might think that particular horse has well and truly bolted. Fortunately, better clipart is available in many places on the web, some free and others rather less so. There is even a website devoted to storing the vector logos of the world's major brands.
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