Illustrators produce drawings, paintings or diagrams
that help make a product more attractive or easier to
understand. Sometimes illustration and graphic design
Illustrators may work on a variety of products, including books and book jackets; brochures and leaflets; educational reference materials; instruction manuals; greetings cards; packaging and magazines.
They work in many different styles and for many different projects, ranging from illustrations for children’s books to detailed technical diagrams for manufacturers. In most cases they take a brief from the client or designer and use this as the basis for ideas.
Specialist areas include fashion, medical and scientific illustration. See the Medical Illustrator profile for information on this area.
Illustrators may use computer design packages, but drawing and painting are still very important.
Illustrators usually work between 30 and 40 hours a
week, but might work longer hours to meet deadlines.
Part-time work is possible. Because most illustrators are
freelance, hours may vary and will often be flexible.
Illustrators usually work at home or in a studio. If they are involved in technical or scientific illustration they may also make site visits. Some time may be spent visiting clients to promote work and discuss briefs.
To be an illustrator you need:
Most illustrators work freelance and may use an agent
(who takes a commission of up to 40%), or sell their
work directly. Lists of agents are available from AOI. It
can be extremely difficult to become established and
known to commissioning clients and agents and many
illustrators supplement their income with other part-time
work whilst building up contacts.
It is also possible to work for a design agency, a publishing company or a magazine, though graphic design skills may be required. A very few illustrators work for industrial or commercial clients directly.
Publications such as the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook are useful for researching potential clients. This is published annually, and should be available in reference libraries as well as in bookshops.
As an illustrator working for a company, progression to art director or design manager is possible. There may also be opportunities to specialise or to teach.
Membership of professional bodies such as AOI and the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators gives professional recognition and opportunities for networking. Members of AOI have access to portfolio consultations and business and legal advice. You can also register for entry on the AOI database which potential commissioners can search. See Further Information.
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Creative and Cultural Skills
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