Art Explosion

See those Barclays ads on TV, trying to sell you the lie that bigger is better when it comes to banking? Well, the software equivalent of Barclays Bank has just arrived: Art Explosion 750,000 Images, from Nova Development. Even with today's sardine-like compression technologies, 750,000 clip-art images is one hell of a lot of pictures to squeeze into one box - although the box is large enough to house a pair of Coco the Clown's gumboots. Art Explosion's three quarters of a million goodies come on 48 CDs, totalling a whopping 29GB. There's more than 195,000 vector images, 35,000 raster images, 113,000 24-bit colour photos, 8,000 backgrounds, 1,800 fonts, 300,000 Web graphics (buttons, bullets and banners), and 500 Web-ready animations. Somehow, Nova has squashed many of these into double-volume 1,800-page catalogues for easy reference. While top-quality royalty-free stock photography can border on art, this "premium-quality clip-art" (as Nova dubs it) edges on the ridiculous. Like a drunk wearing make-up, classic clip art can make any newsletter, poster or pamphlet look like a millionth of a dollar. This mammoth Art Explosion set includes all the old favourites for ruining paper-based publications: rib-ticklingly bad drawings that must rank alongside the worst artistic crimes ever committed by hard-up illustrators and blackmailed cartoonists. That said, just about any scenario is covered, from 'Baby playing with shoe' to 'Man wrestling lion'. There are a lot of useful images here, but there's even more garbage. For instance, check out these images on offer: ceramic racoon; man with carrots; bears on see-saw; bee dreaming; chipmunk eating accordian; briefcase barbeque; business hippo... More useful, are the many borders and frames, symbols, shapes and road signs. But the International and Religion sections could summon up a fatwa or slap on the wrists from the politically correct brigade. Art Explosion's photography is rather sedate in comparison. The quality isn't that spot-on, but the sheer number of images (over 300 birds, nearly 700 aircraft photos, for example) is at least impressive.

OUR VERDICT

Yesterday's pamphlet is tomorrow's Web page, so it's the Web graphics that are most likely to tempt the non-artist today. Art Explosion's thousands of animated and still graphic elements offer much to liven up anyone's Web site. Most people aren't going to create their own rollovers or spinning 3D arrows, so the two CDs of Web graphics represent real worth - although Nova's £29.95 Web Explosion 20,000 is better value. Like Barclays' play on big, Art Explosion's giant claim means little. If most of what you offer is unusable, what's the point? £149.95 for 48 CDs seems a bargain, but even at 0.02p per image, the value is stained by the heaps of junk. Try the smaller sets for size first.

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