The illustrator's business landscape of design, advertising and publishing has undergone enormous change during the past few decades. The role that graphic communication plays in our everyday lives, here at the start of the 21st century, has never been more intense, complex and demanding for the viewer.
In this increasingly digital age. visual communication must compete fiercely for our attention and we stand in the firing line. Free magazines are thrust at us as we leave railway stations, we are handed club flyers on every other urban street corner and we are broadcast to 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, by a seemingly endless supply of TV channels. The Sunday (and increasingly Saturday] newspapers require us to have put in time at the gym if we plan on walking home from the newsagent.
We are fired at by promos, advertorials and infomercials. We are spammed. texted and blogged. Visual communication is on-line, on-screen, downloadable and upgradeable. Never before have we been so bombarded from every quarter, so image-saturated, manically marketed to and media-manipulated. And we only have ourselves to blame for this situation as the media feeds an insatiable thirst from a knowledge-hungry public: we ceaselessly demand Ihe latest, ihe newest and the best, devouring information at a truly astonishing rate with no let-up from the avalanche that we have created.
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1. Fortnightly Magazine Macllser 'The Acceleration Game' Richard May, 2003
2. Weekly Magazine Time Out 'The Washington Sniper" Richard May, 2003
A bold and stylish use of illustration running full-bleed (over the page edges) across an entire double page spread differentiates an article on Apple Macintosh processor speeds from the predominance of photographic-led imagery in the rest of this issue of Macllser magazine. This technique is also employed by Time Out magazine - in both cases the text of the articles is incorporated into the illustration, either printed over in black or reversed out in white.
To even compete in this cut-throat communication war, those companies that seek to differentiate their products and publications have started to understand that creating a brand awareness which offers a unique vision or visual can, in turn, offer some small measure of individualism in this crowded marketplace. Illustration has thus found favour once again, not just because interesting, sassy work is in evidence, but because it is the key to creating images that reflect more than just photographic evidence. Illustration has the power lo capture a personality, a point of view. It can encapsulate a mood or a moment, and can tell a story to give a product history, depth and meaning.
However powerful illustration as a form of communication is. without graphic design, it would struggle to exist. Graphic design communicates, persuades, informs and educates. It covers a vast array of commercial applications and in trying to visualise the scope and breadth of the discipline il is wise to remember that all communication design has emerged from is practice.
The street sign, the book or newspaper, the CD sleeve, the instructions on the medicine bottle, the pack that contains your lavourile brand of breakfast cereal or the software that you use have all been touched by the hand of the graphic designer.
The design studio sits at the heart of commercial graphics and these companies or departments of bigger organisations work across the various diverse sectors of the industry.
The scope o( work for design companies and studios can be endless and it is here that the working relationship with graphic design starts for the illustrator. Understanding how the industry operates and the numerous sectors function is fundamental to ensuring that the relationship with graphic design can be most fruitfully exploited.
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Editorial work is a fundamental aspect of the job of illustration, and it is often bread-and-butter work for most professionals. With an ever-increasing range of daily and monthly magazines catering to general, specific and niche markets, this is a rich vein for an illustrator to mine,
Using illustration makes real sense for the editor of a newspaper supplement or magazine. With photography used to present an image as fact, illustration can be applied to features to indicate a personal viewpoint or an idea, It is the contrast that illustration offers to photography that works so well in editorial projects and it is rare to find illustration used outside of this in a publishing context.
Due to massive increases in the number and circulation of newspapers and magazines, and the knock-on increase in feature or opinion-driven articles, there is a plethora of commissions available every month. Add to the stock available in most newsagents and book stores the huge number of in-house magazines produced for insurance companies, banks, airlines, retail outlets and others, and the number of potential commissions grows accordingly. Illustrators working successfully in this huge sector can keep themselves very busy.
In editorial illustration budgets can be tight and it is important for the professional to maintain a steady flow of work and to ensure invoices are issued on a regular basis. Despite the relatively low fees, most illustrators still enjoy the creative freedom of working for newspapers and magazines; being left to be inventive and original are the rewards here. The freedom to develop new working methods within a project, showcase skills and test new ideas without excessive art direction from an art director or editor can be invaluable. For those illustrators given a regular slot' in a weekly or monthly magazine, the challenge of developing fresh ideas for the same subject on a regular basis can be enjoyably stimulating.
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