I never made the switch from photography to illustrations on my web properties, but I do very much remember when Unsplash seemed to suddenly be the ‘defacto choice’ for photography on many sites. More recently seeing Craft and others add the service right into their apps, I have felt for a while that I need to discover a new source of visual inspiration.

Was that due to that acquisition, or is it the uniquity of images from the Unsplash library? Are they related?

Case in point …. how many times have you seen this image?

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

According to Unsplash it has nearly 150 million views and has been downloaded 1,225,278 times - not recorded are the 2,397 sites I have visited that use this image!

So yes, I have noticed that I am struggling to find images on Unsplash that work for what I am writing about. Which is why I am eagerly waiting for my access to DALL-E 2 and … Midjourney … because I already have plans to change the illustrative approach to my blogs and social sharing.

I thought it was just me - until I read this today;

Sometime around 2015 there was a mysterious vibe shift in web design. It came so suddenly, and with so much decisive force, that it stood apart from the normal ebb and flow of aesthetic trends. It was like an invasive species taking over an ecosystem from a weaker competitor.

๐Ÿ’ฌ Nathan Baschez

๐Ÿ”— DALLยทE 2 and The Origin of Vibe Shifts

I think when Unsplash (the free photography website) was founded in 2013 it killed the old vibe by democratizing access to great photography, and thereby ruining its function as a costly status signal. Companies then started using custom illustrations in their brand aesthetic because illustrations suddenly became much more rare and expensive relative to photos.

Iโ€™m interested in this little piece of design history because today I think history is on the brink of repeating itself. Now that we have DALLยทE 2 (and other AI image generators), a huge portion of visual vibes will become democratized. What Unsplash did to photography, DALLยทE 2 will do to illustrations, 3D renderings, and eventually all visual styles.

In other words: a vibe shift is indeed coming.