Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Book: Joe Ciardiello

Just got word that Joe Ciardiello's book, Black, White & Blues, published by Strike Three Press will be available on April 1st. The 48-page letterpress volume is being printed and hand bound by Daniel Smith & Virginia Cahill in Brooklyn. It's a limited edition of 64 signed and numbered copies so you'll want to order today from Joe's site. It sounds wonderful and I can't wait to see it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Studio Visits: Kingston and MSU

We followed up the visit by the Emily Carr group with two other universities, Kingston, outside of London  and a group from Missouri State University. Both stretched the limits of our space and both groups were a very patient and gracious. Sorry no photos on these two groups.

The group from Kingston was led by instructor Geoffrey Grandfield whom we had met when I spoke at Kingston in late 2009. We were just one of the many stops the students had on their agenda so we did an abbreviated talk about what we do here at 3x3 and Creative Quarterly and how I see the market. I referenced my new book, Nuts & Bolts about the do's and don'ts of entering the illustration field, we gave them a copy of last year's 3x3 Illustration Directory and quite a few also purchased N&B—hey, it saves the shipping cost. Unfortunately a number of students ended up at the wrong address—thanks to the lack of GPS in our NY taxis—and just got to hear the last few minutes of the talk. We pointed them to the EFII podcast as a worthy substitute.

Our next group came in from Springfield, Missouri on their annual trip to New York City. Led by Joe O'Neill, a fellow-student, this group was a mix of graphic designers and illustrators. We treated them to pizza, they were thoughtful enough to bring us a sweet treat—which we forgot to share, sorry about that. The talk was split between what it's like running a design firm and the importance of illustration. We ended the visit with candid portfolio reviews and then we had lots of requests for Nuts & Bolts so we had to fill a lot of orders. Now we know the secret to selling books, invite people over for lunch!

We enjoy these visits, it gives us an opportunity to see what's happening out there in our colleges and universities. We'll see if we can get more chairs next time!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

For What It's Worth 28

My recent Escape from Illustration Island podcast seems to have stirred up some discussion especially about web sites. It’s timely since this is one of the two times a year that I’m researching illustrators; my go-to site is because it has the best selection of international illustrators featured. And I’ll also checkout the site as well as responding to mailers, emails and postcards. 

In looking at illustrator sites no two are alike and I’m certainly not advocating that they all look alike but you should look at not on what other illustrators are doing but what designers and photographers are doing. This is what the audience is most familiar with. There is way too much fluff on an illustrator’s site, too many life drawings, too much confusion, too many mediocre images, complex loading, cumbersome navigation so yes if it were up to me I’d makeover the bulk of the sites out there and go to a format with simple thumbnails, easy navigation and large images just so an art director can easily view a site.

If illustration was held in higher esteem you could (any illustrator could) say and do anything you wanted to, but unfortunately illustrators aren’t well-respected...yet. So you have the play the game by their rules, violating them makes you look less professional and therefore less worthy of making the money you rightly deserve. First impressions are everything, when illustrators make their sites difficult it really says they themselves are difficult and are not up to meeting an ADs expectations. They have high expectations but want to pay you peanuts—there is a reason behind that.

I’m trying in every way possible to build up the respect an AD should have for an illustrator. When you are as busy as most art directors are you just don’t have the time to spend more than a few seconds to decide if you want to see more of an artist’s work. It doesn’t take me more than a couple of clicks to determine if I want to stay on the site and bookmark it. And I’m not going to your About page, your Links page, your blog or even your shop—my mindset is to find new illustrators. The image is king. And believe me I spend more time on a site than the typical art director will. When I consider the volume of illustrators I’m personally researching at the moment—there are twelve illustrators per page and 593 pages on, that’s over 7,000 illustrators. I’m going to this site because I’m doing a broad search of the market but that’s much too big of a job for a busy art director or even an art buyer. Getting an art director to even know your site exists is even more of a challenge. Something has to prompt an art director to find you—you can’t just put up a site and do nothing.

Web site design is certainly just one of the issues but not even with one template could we do anything about showing mediocre work or showing everything the artist has ever done—our job is not to overwhelm an art director and we should only show our very best work. And I disagree with comments that suggest an illustrator has to show an AD that you can draw an apple for them to believe you can. Any really good art director can determine your talent base and how you could be best utilized. Judge your sites harshly, don’t show any mediocre work—it’s no different than in the old days of the hardcase portfolio. All the work has to be at one level, you're judged by the weakest piece in your book as that’s the least an art director will expect; they’re hoping for your best work but if your weakest piece is so distant from your best you’re just not going to get the job. Art directors don’t want to take the risk that you don’t deliver your best.

Fees are never going to go up if illustrators are considered the “cheap alternative”, illustrators do much more work than any photographer out there and get paid pennies on the dollar. People are spending $10,000 on a photographer and a $1000 on an illustrator—it's totally backwards. But illustrators have to earn an art director’s trust and respect; the entire industry has to do a much better job and it all starts with their web site. I’m sorry to say but there are too many web sites I’m seeing over the past few days that take illustration down, not up.

You just need to present your best work in the fastest, simplest way possible. It’s not important that your site has bells and whistles so your site stands out. Being different doesn’t make you good, being good makes you different.