Recently we gave the Advocate Art website a much-needed boost, and introduced 2 brand new features to help our lovely clients’ online search. ImageSearch and the heart icon are sophisticated yet intuitive elements through which you can look for pictures in a more instinctive way, allowing you to compare images using visual references not just keywords.
Art Buyer Magazine are helping us to spread the word about our exciting new digital developments, and we were delighted to have an article about our online revamp feature in their Spring/Summer 2013 issue! Accompanying the text are images from our fantastic greetings card and art licensing artists Alex Burnett, Nicola Evans, Jessica Taunton, Rex Butcher, Victoria Nelson, Zoe Connery, and Chellie Carol. To see more of their work, click on their names above or visit their online portfolios on our website.
Laura Lee from Advocate Art writes on their new search interface.
When I use the Internet to look for images, the biggest hurdle is not where to look; I know the right image is in there somewhere. But how do I describe what I’m looking for so that a search engine can find it? It’s that classic needle in haystack situation: you know your picture is in there, and if you just make the right move it will magically appear.
Getty were the first to use keywords to organise their vast catalogue, and it’s a system that image libraries still depend on. This means that art buyers have to break their search down into very definite terms, or do their best to summarise it in one word. As the saying goes a picture’s worth a thousand words, so what are my chances of finding what I’m looking for with just one or two keywords?
I believe the way we search for images on the Internet mimics the way we think, and feel that the phrase ‘train of thought’ describes the journey-like quality of our mental processes pretty well; we like to meander slowly, make occasional stops, and admire the scenery until we reach our final destination. Image searching is fun, inspiring and completely illogical, so shouldn’t the technology we use follow suit?
The problem with working in an increasingly digitalised space regulated by apps and shortcuts is that we start to buy into the myth that everything is a click away. I fall prey to this sort of thinking all the time; as I look for lost house keys I try find them by mentally hitting CTRL + F. Countless times I’ve been disappointed I can’t CTRL + Z an irreversible problem. Picture libraries like to claim that they can give you this kind of instant access to The Right Answer, but this is only true if you know exactly what you’re looking for and where to find it. You know what? I say it’s time we stop worrying about our target, and start enjoying the journey again.
Edward Burns, our MD, comments, “If I’ve learnt anything about designing websites it’s that everybody thinks differently. Let’s say you have a button; you put it in a place that fits with one person’s logic. But another person will look for the same button in a completely different place. So hey: why not have two buttons? The other thing I’ve picked up is that it’s important to follow as closely as possible the experience of having one of our agents guide you through our website. That’s why we came up with the Advo Guy as our company mascot; he’s a bit like the paperclip they had in Word, he’s there to help you if you don’t have the benefit of having an agent take you through the website”.
With this in mind, we recently upgraded our website to the jolly tune of £20,000 and twelve months of programming. The latest features allow art buyers and picture researchers to look for images in a human way, as if they were having that valuable face-to-face meeting with an agent.
To make this possible, we travelled all the way to Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences and came back with ImageSearch. With this tool, users can upload an outside image to the website and have it compared to art from our catalogue. It’s not perfect – searches based on colour, shape and brightness can only get you so far – but that’s half the fun! You never know what to expect. Why stop there though? When you use ImageSearch, one of Advocate’s six agents gets notified of the image you’ve uploaded and where you’re looking and they’ll get back in touch to make sure you’re on the right track.
It’s a two-pronged attack that means you’re getting a kick out of the latest in image searching technology, as well as the help of an experienced, and more importantly human, agent.
We’ve also introduced the heart icon, which allows you to pull up a range of artists with related styles. This is particularly useful if you’re familiar with one of our artists and are interested in finding others who are similar.
I appreciate that keywords provide structure, but the thought that they’re the only things linking me to my image concerns me. It’s safe to say that humans – generally speaking – are confused, grammatically incorrect, illogical beings who like to ask a lot of really long, weird questions, which means we’re not that good at communicating with the Internet. We like searching instinctively, maybe tentatively, but certainly adventurously. I don’t have a problem with unpredictability; I’m not going to get upset because I uploaded an image of an artful red shoe adorned with flowers, only to be shown a picture of a woman in a dress straddling a tube of toothpaste. It’s these sorts of flaws that I enjoy; the mysterious brain farts of the Internet. When you go on the Internet to find a piece of artwork it should be like falling down the rabbit hole; an absurd, upside-down journey strewn with funny objects. Even when browsing for a specific picture, it’s nice to encounter or be exposed to the random and unexpected; to be taken on a meandering path through images that lie on the fringe of our original expectations.