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Makers Spotlight

Behind the scenes with Icons8 and a look into photo collages

Jess Eddy, UI Goodies

Icons8 photoshoot

Icons8 is a team of 40 remote and distributed designers, illustrators, artists, musicians, writers, developers, and engineers. They produce custom, creative content like icons, and photographs, as well as tools for digital design and creating photo collages.

Icons8 was founded in 2012, they started working on photos in 2017 and launched Moose Photos in April of 2018. Unlike some other designer marketplaces who resell creative content, Icons8 produces most of their content.

Icons8 has taken a new approach to stock photography while leveraging their custom photos and photo creator. They have broken the composition of a picture down into its component parts: people, backgrounds and objects. They allow you to remix these parts in any way you wish. So in essence, you can browse hundreds of custom photo collages and use them as they are, or you can recompose any of the existing photo collages to make your own unique composition using their Photo Creator.

Icons8 Photo Creation Tool

Browsing the vast library of photographs, one can see the similarity of the tone and personality of the photos, and this wasn't an accident, and they reference Kinfolk as a source of inspiration.

"Our main objective from the very start of the project was to create stock photos that would harmonically and consistently work together."

Icons8 photographers shoot on different days, locations, and continents, but the team uses the same technical requirements and follows the same principles of lighting so all the photos look like they are from the same family and can be used extensively and limitlessly. It makes the photo content flexible for a variety of creative goals users may have. What’s more, it paves the path to limitless potential for increasing the diversity of the photo stock.

Their approach to photo collages allows Icons8 to scale exceptionally efficiently and quickly. Icons8 can make 100 images in the studio, add 100 backgrounds, and get 10,000 photos. The possibilities become endless when combining various people, photographed and 3D-rendered props, and 3D-rendered interiors.

Photos with a not-so-subtle quirkiness

The photos that Icons8 produces have a not-so-subtle quirkiness about them. They say the photo collages have been used successfully by people in unique ways from appearing in case studies, sophisticated UI designs and blog articles to printed adverts and social marketing. At times, in totally unpredictable contexts.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence to create a diverse photo stock

Icons8 is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to make their photo collage resource the most diverse ever.

"We’ve just released Icons8 Photos 2.0, with the upgraded gallery of models presenting multiple cultures, non-binary genders, various age groups, and body types. All the models are provided in a wide variety of posing, emotions, outfits, and even social roles."

Icons8 is shooting on a regular basis, and adding more models, backgrounds and objects. The most recent version of the photo collage library has filters which enhance searching. Another major milestone is how Icons8 has been able to fold user contributions into their collage offerings.

“Users can recompose existing photo collages and like the photos to move them to the top of the feed.”

Icons8 has plans to analyze the feedback they get from users from upgrades to understand their experience and how to make it better. They are in the process of diversifying and implementing ways that artificial intelligence can enhance the user experience.

Icons8 says that people love to play with the photo creator tool. They’ve seen a lot of people create meme-like collages, and as a response has added 3D meme faces and aliens to the library.

Tools used for a fully distributed team

If you’re interested in the tools Icons8 used to runs a fully distributed team, they use Slack for comms and product channels, and Zoom for daily meetings. They utilize Facebook Workspace to discuss photo creation, see the casting results, decide who to shoot, share new ideas, and more.

(Thanks to Nastya and all at Icons8 who helped contribute to this post!)

Icons8 products and creative resources