Thursday, March 5, 2009

For What It's Worth

Starting today we're introducing a column called For What It's Worth, from time to time we'll address some of the issues facing illustration today. Our first column reproduces our appeal to art directors, especially ad agency ADs, that's on the back cover of this year's 3x3 Illustration Directory.

Why Illustration?

Illustration is not at the top of the list when art directors are thinking about solving visual problems. Sure there are the devotees out there, particularly on the editorial side, but it’s rare that an ad agency art director will use illustration. I believe there has been a generational shift away from illustration that started when art directors moved away from print to television and i’m just as guilty as the next art director. We forgot somehow about how powerful illustration can be in setting a client apart in the morass of advertising messages. And now those messages are getting smaller and smaller as we move from the giant screen to pdas. Photos lose detail as images get smaller, illustration can be a wonderful alternative.

There seems to be a real fear out there among art directors to hire illustrators, they may think they’re giving up creative control, or may think that it’s too difficult or it takes too long to do an illustration. That’s where they can benefit from the experience of editorial art directors who have even tighter deadlines. Working with an illustrator is not difficult, getting visual ideas from illustrators isn’t a cop-out. Working in partnership with an illustrator can benefit the client and career of the art director. Take it from personal experience, illustrators always made me look better, i got into more shows, my clients got better exposure, it was a true win-win situation. I would never give an idea to an illustrator, i’d just give them the headline, a bit about the concept and the company and let them go. Sure i had something that i showed the client but i always made it clear that this was just one idea, that we were hiring this illustrator—you may have seen their work in time magazine last week—and the illustrator would be coming up with the real visual. Following that tact i never encountered a problem presenting illustration to even the most jaded client. And niether the client nor i were dispappointed with the results. It’s time for art directors to overcome their fears and collaborate with some of the freshest minds out there. Imagine the possibilities.