Best images of 2010 and how to contribute the next one |

Best images of 2010 and how to contribute the next one

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In December, we asked you to vote on your favorite images from 2010. Numerous people voted on the five most popular images in each channel (chosen based on Flickr views), and the winners are:


Open for business (open sign)


Hands on computing (crayons)


Policitcal innovation, the open source way (idea networked Congress)


Copyright license choice (broken copyright)


Facebook: The privacy saga continues (erasing privacy)

Of course, these winners are just five of the more than 250 images that have been created for in its first year.

How does an image for get made?

It starts with the article. Our goal is always to enhance the content of the article and to encourage people to keep reading—even about a topic they might not think they're interested in. The channel moderator shares a draft of the article with one of our designers. If the author already has an idea for the image, we do our best to make it real. Otherwise, we read the article to find the key, compelling ideas that we can turn into an illustration.

The next challenge is finding a compelling visual that fits in with the ethos of—we want to create an environment that is motivating, human, optimistic, and editorial. We also work exclusively with Creative Commons resources so that we can release the finished product back into the commons. This rules out all stock photos, as well as anything previously published and still under copyright, so we head for places where we know we can find images that have been legitimately released into the commons.

Flickr is a treasure trove of Creative Commons and public domain content, all easily searchable, clearly marked, and growing every day. Wikimedia Commons is useful too, and a good place to go for things like classical art, maps, or historical images. If we can't find just the right image in the commons, we get out our cameras, art supplies, and design software and make it ourselves.

For example, the winner for the government channel is a public domain image from the Library of Congress that we tweaked and added an original illustration to. The education and life channel winners are photos we took ourselves.

Next comes type. Sometimes an image speaks for itself, but sometimes it needs a little help from words (and sometimes words can do the trick on their own). We use a wide variety of typefaces, but some of my favorites come from The League of Movable Type, who are on a mission to provide quality, open-licensed type. Sometimes when we need a more authentically human feel and have enough time, we'll skip the fonts entirely and draw type by hand.

The winners for the law and business channels are good examples of custom-drawn type. The copyright symbol in the law image is modified from a typeface, and the “open” sign in the business image is custom-drawn based on photos of neon signs.

Once we're happy with the result, we send the image back to the moderator and author for their feedback. Once everyone is happy with the result, a new image is born.

Giving back

Every image that goes live on also gets uploaded to our Flickr stream with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike license. This means that anyone, anywhere can use the images we create for as long as they give us credit and keep it licensed under Creative Commons.

We've seen our images pop up in some pretty amazing places. The Guardian, Forbes,,, and NPR have used our images on their sites, as well as countless smaller blogs. We've also gotten notes from all over letting us know how people use our images offline, including in presentations on open government and brochures for university programs.

How you can get involved

One thing we haven't gotten quite right yet is how to accept image submissions from you, our community. So in honor of our one-year anniversary, we're starting an open group on Flickr where we hope you will share your Creative Commons licensed photos and images with us. We're looking for anything and everything related to open source and our channels—business, education, government, law, and life. We'll be making the group our new first stop on our search for images to use on the site.


About the author

Libby Levi - Libby is a graphic designer on the Red Hat brand team. As an illustrator, she reads articles, draws pictures, and combs Flickr for creative commons gems. When she's not doing that, she makes things... usually monsters, and usually plush. She graduated from NC State in 2007.