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Collaborative graphic design is working together to create a meaningful image
is a powerful, expressive language. The advantages of collaboration, especially Wiki-style collaboration, would probably apply. Yet collaborative graphic design is not widespread in the Wiki world.
Image production vs. graphic design
It may be fair, in a sense, to conflate image production with graphic design. For example, contributors to WikiPedia often edit and re-upload images used to illustrate articles on that site. But in another way, it may not. Cropping or resizing a photograph is different from using the language of graphic design to convey a message.
I'm a little fuzzy on how graphic designers collaborate in more formal groups (businesses, etc.) on- or off-line. How much or how little do designers work on the same piece? This section needs some elaboration. --EvanProdromou
Collaborative graphic design using software as a mediation device has some disadvantages, compared to collaborative development of text.
- Little history. Collaborative development of text in the form of SourceCode? has been an important part of SoftwareDevelopment? since its first inception. Most version control systems, text-sharing software, etc., were tuned to this process, and later expanded to general use for versioning and collaboration.
- Difficult to version control. Unlike "diff"ing text files, it can be extremely difficult to find meaningful differences between versions of a graphic image, especially for bitmapped image file formats. Most versioning tools, if they accept graphics files at all, will simply do full inclusion of a new version, or byte-wise diffing, without any attempt to determine differences at a higher level.
- Variety of formats. There are literally hundreds of formats for graphical images. Although there are a few dozen formats publicly standardized, most are bitmapped formats -- especially hard to collaborate on -- and, worse, many incorporate data compression. Most of the rest require proprietary tools or operating systems to function, which makes collaboration across organizational boundaries difficult. Of particular importance: most vector formats are proprietary (SVG and CGM being notable, but sadly underutilized, exceptions).
- Bitmap vs. vector formats. Formats standardized for the WorldWideWeb are mostly compressed bitmap formats: JPEG, PNG, GIF. Bitmaps are simply lists of pixels with color values. Vector graphic formats have higher-level graphic primitives: lines, boxes, text objects, incorporated bitmaps, etc. It is significantly easier to modify an existing image if you have the original vector format used to create it. A rough analogy would be editing the machine code of a program rather than its source code.
- Emotional investment in image production. Graphic design -- despite its advances into a social and biological science -- continues to have strong overtones of artistic temperament to it. An image is an individual expression reflecting the designer's personal creativity. Although this is the case for text, also, collaboration in non-digital media is probably more widespread with text than with graphic images.
- Lack of tools. As mentioned before, version control and collaborative editing tools are in something of a dearth for graphic images. In particular, many Wiki clones either don't support image upload, or support it poorly.
Collaborative graphic design projects
- A fascinating use of ScalableVectorGraphics (SVG) in a browser to do collaborative graphic design the Wiki way was featured [here]. The actual wiki doing the whiteboarding is [here]. It's implemented with PurpleWiki, but the idea could be extrapolated to other WikiEngines. Also, the whiteboard idea could be used for other types of images.
- The [Symbol Project] seems to be doing a similar thing, but for Chinese symbols.
There are some collaborative GD projects listed under CollaborativeCartography.