Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ask Design B*tch: How can I get clients to approve buying custom illustrations?

Terry Lee Stone, fab designer and advocate of illustration, recently asked me to contribute to her column on the Rockport Publisher's new design blog, RockPaperInk.  Her column is called "Ask Design B*tch", and she was working on a post about how to communicate the value of illustration to clients.  Of course, I was happy to add to the argument of why clients should consider commissioning illustration before going the way of stock photos!  Thanks to Terry for asking me for my 2 cents - now help us to spread the word that ILLUSTRATION RULES!

From the blog:

Q. Dear Design B*tch I love illustration. I want to include more commissioned illustrations in my designs. How do I convince my clients to go for it?

A. I'm with you. I love illustration too. It adds a very special quality to any design project. Sometimes it is tough to get clients to make the leap of faith required to approve the creation of a custom illustration from scratch. They need to pay for something sight unseen, and that scares away some folks. Designers often get pressured into using stock photography instead. Here's where designers can be advocates for illustrators, and do a little selling on their behalf.
Why use illustration?

Illustration is a way to visualize ideas that can express a variety of different types of subject matter and functions in a way that no other representational medium is able to do. Illustration can:
  • Provide visual representation of something described in a piece of text
  • Evoke emotion
  • Offer a variety of styles that can communicate subtle themes
  • Visualize, step-by-step, a set of instructions
  • Clarify complex information, ideas, or objects that are difficult to describe
  • Represent something that is not actually created yet (e.g. a prototype)
  • Support a narrative through the unique personal expression of the artist
  • Stress the subject matter more than the actual form of an image concept
  • Expand on the linguistic aspects of the information being presented
  • Give characters in a story a face or likeness
  • Decorate and enhance a piece
  • Link brands to ideas of humanity, self-expression, and creativity
  • Set a tone, from whimsical to serious
As with any creative pro, illustrators appreciate a well thought out creative brief. Bring a talented illustrator into the concepting process and you may be amazed at what they come up with. I know that some of you are shaking your heads and saying, "that's nice Design B*tch, but what if I don't like what the illustrator comes up with? Then what do I do?" OK, fair enough. I put those questions to Jenn Vaughn who has represented illustrators for 18 years. Here is her advice:

"All illustration projects involve the artist submitting a series of preliminary sketches based on the provided creative brief/concept. Each round of sketches includes revisions and tweaks based on client feedback. Through this process, the client gets a clear sense of the overall direction and feel of the artwork to come, which is why there should not be any big surprises when the final artwork is received.

In the rare event that the client is not satisfied with the final art, they should consult the artist or rep and give the artist the first option to make alterations. Sometimes, just talking with the artist and hearing firsthand their point of view on the piece, can give the client further perspective on the work and possibly even change their opinion that any changes are necessary. However, if the client is still not satisfied, then in most cases the artist will make the necessary changes, within reason. The client must keep in mind that, depending on the artist's medium, the level of revisions possible may vary and an additional revision fee may be required.

At the end of the day, the illustrator's goal is to help the client solve a visual problem, and they want to serve the client to that end. Although no two artists—or jobs—are exactly alike, illustration is a handmade experience that can tell a story from a unique and interesting point of view."