Why bundles with design assets are worthless after a while
The internet is full of sites selling bundles with design assets and fonts. It is an amazing thing to watch how these sites crank out deals every week or so and chuck more and more assets in a bundle. And these cost you only as much as two lattes. But are these bundles worth the money?
Bundle sites are everywhere. Some sell fonts in bundles, some sell assets plus fonts in bundles, yet another site sells courses and books plus assets and so on.
It is easy to get hooked on theses bundles. Guess why I am writing about them:
Hi, my name is Jan. I am a serial bundle purchaser.
Some of these bundles go up to prices like 29 or even 69 USD, which by itself can add up considerably if you feel like not wanting to miss a great deal. There is always something nice in these bundles which one might consider usable in an upcoming job. Hell, who knows what will come up one day? I might actually need all of the stuff in order to buy me some time later on in a tight project setting.
Compared to buying a font at myfonts.com, hype for type or similar sites the fonts are amazingly cheap. Sometimes a single font can be more expensive than the whole bundle. And the bundle even comes with web font licenses in some cases. So is there a reason not to buy the bundles? Yes and no.
"I think I have something to fit the job"
I am not sure how many times I have thought that I should buy a font in order to get a head start in terms of achieving the right look. How many times have I thought that I have purchased a filter to get my images prepared in a certain way? How many times have I had the need to get an icon set?
The problem is this: I get newsletters a few times a day about a new deal here and there. They all offer more or less the same stuff, well, at least it feels like it. Bundle A mixes font 3, 4, 5, and 9 with assets c, d, g, and k. Bundle B mixes font 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, and 11 plus assets a, c, d, and l. I bought bundle A but saw all newsletters. So I go hunting for font 2 on my hard drive and cannot find it. No surprise: I did not buy it. But I thought I did. So here we go, complete overload and lack of knowledge about what I have in my archive.
Next up: digital dust settles over my assets. I have purchased assets and fonts for several thousands of dollars. Recently I had to organise my backup structure in a different way due to canceling dropbox.com. Now I had to get my files stored somewhere else and I (re-) discovered stuff which I had totally forgotten about.
Use once, pay twice
Actually I found stuff which I could have used just a week prior to my file clean-up. Damn, that made me angry. I paid for assets again, only because I could not remember that I had something similar already. And the second time around it was actually at full price a.k.a. "expensive". The same thing happens with fonts, at least to me: I love fonts and I think one needs a great vault and archive to dig into in order to find the right candidate for a job. The more choices you have, the closer you can get to finishing the job perfectly right. Plus: one needs to collect something for a hoobby, right?! I will keep to myself how many fonts I have purchased more than once …
Search and forget
So what I do now is that I start tagging my assets and sort them in ways that make them searchable. As soon as I need a filter I will search for it. I scan folder names and Finder tags. I use Alfred / Spotlight to search a bit more thoroughly and I am just evaluating an asset management system as well. It does not help to try to remember what you have. I bet you that even with a single bundle you will forget what it offers. If you do not use an asset or font at least once, you will forget it. So there needs to be a system helping you to find your stuff.
Asset management to the rescue
As mentioned before I am evaluating a system to support me in my browsing efforts and the storage of the assets. My Protonet Maya is great for browsing pictures stored away (like stock images), but fails when it comes to other assets like filters etc. So for that I need more searchability.
A positive approach to making bundles more useful and accessible are the bundles sold by Dealcuts. They have understood, that you will eventually run into those problems. So they give you a folder within every bundle with an overview of all the assets and demos what can be done with the things. Basically you get a complete overview of the bundle's contents in a single PDF.
Other bundles vendors just send you a ZIP and wish you well. That ZIP will never ever serve you well. You will forget what it contains. And even unpacking it does only help to some extend. There are no previews or cryptic short read es which are anything but what you are searching for. So the only way to go, and that is how I do it, is to save the web page selling the bundle as a web archive or PDF and have it for reference later on.
Oh happy day: I found an asset in my bundle! Great! I will use it for my client project. Err, no … wait. I am not allowed to use it for anything that is not for me.
Some bundles are real suckers in terms of licensing. You should invest the few minutes to check the basics of the usage terms. What good does a bundle do you if you want to use it for client work and you are actually not allowed to do that.
Updates are a major pain
Back in the day I was even buying bundles containing wordpress themes. Those are often times completely ridiculous: You buy an exact version of the theme because you have no chance to get the latest version. You cannot go to creative market or theme forest and get an update because they did not sell it to you. The seller usually does not provide updates and that is pretty much all you could hope for. Those themes are worthless, unless you accept that you buy it as it is and work from there (in case the licensing allows that).
I have a few monster PSDs with mockup scenes. To update these is yet another pain. Depending on the author it is not an incremental update or something which you could easily merge with existing files. One constantly fears to kill files which are only in the initial file stack. I stopped updating these and will buy it again in case I need it. It costs way too much time.
Collect and archive
But despite the fact that I complained a lot in my article I love the bundles and think that they are a great way to build up a decent archive of fonts, filters and assets. You just have to make sure that you have a system in place which makes it easy for you to find things and maintain them. If you don't, they will "deteriorate" because of compatibility and visibility when searching for them. What I do once in a while is to browse my summary PDFs and remind myself what I have in my archive and check which assets might need updating. That helps a lot: One has a fresher memory when "brain-browsing" your library.
Do not forget that some of the bundles are only available for download for a limited time. Download all of it, including the free fonts which are often used in demos or templates. They can disappear and you are left with fragments of unusable stuff. And of course remember the most important thing: Backup all of your archive. Have a second hard drive with a mirrored version, use Backblaze or whatever you like. But do backup, because even if the bundles where cheap they are too expensive when you loose them.
Let me know how you handle your bundles and manage your assets I would be happy to hear from you.