‘Illustration and Visual Media’ is the rather long winded title given to my degree; a course that allows for exploration into the visual world with no limit on medium or method, allowing for students to experiment liberally to find their own style. You would think that this creative freedom would make for well-rounded individuals prepared for any situation or any creative-based job, but myself and the other IVM students have found it slightly harder to find a place for ourselves in in industries that seem dauntingly design-orientated.
As the second biggest course in LCC (behind only Graphic and Media Design) we naturally made up a large portion of the DPS students gearing up towards a year out in industry. Yet from the offset the lectures we received, the speakers who came in for lunchtime sessions and the briefs we were set were all heavily seeped in design requirements. Not many people do manage to make successful careers solely out of being illustrators without having to do something else to pay the bills. There were so many of us on DPS – how would we all find employment as illustrators with little design knowledge without having to mould ourselves into something we were not?
I started my first placement last week – a position that I landed at the advertising agency Karmarama after winning a competition brief to make them a new company tote bag. They picked the winners solely based on the entries, without reviewing portfolios or conducting interviews – so of course had no idea that I was from an illustration course. My role is as a junior designer on the design team. I was nervous to start, worrying that they would feel robbed of an actual design intern or that a design student would have benefitted more from winning the competition. I had a frustrating first few days when I realised that my Adobe skills were not up to scratch enough to be of proper use working on client briefs, despite spending a large portion of summer working through online tutorials.
However, one day in a frenzy of creating visual mock ups for concepts for a poster for a client, I made one text based interpretation that wasn’t as bad as what I had been doing earlier in the day. Sat next to an LCC graduate who also did DPS, I had slowly been learning from him more of the functions of Adobe Illustrator and been getting to grips with making things look like how they looked in my head. I finished at 6, slightly downhearted at not being proud of my work, but when I came in the next day many people had my design on their screens – it turned out that the team members who had been staying in late took it to review and the creative team in charge of the project had picked my version. My text design was being mocked up onto cups, notepads and pens, which of course gave me a confidence boost and broke me out of the shell of fear and doubt of the first three days.
I slowly began to realise that actually, I do have a place here as an illustrator. It is just something that makes me a bit different from the rest of the team with design based backgrounds. I managed to get this job with an illustrated piece which probably helped it stand out from the rest. I am also heading into the final stages of a pitch for designing the Christmas window for Wieden and Kennedy, and I reckon that the illustrated mock ups of my idea helped to get it across and made up for the designed aspect that was lacking in the presentation. One morning I was working on a personal piece on a work computer, and many of my colleagues said it was cool. Certainly, it was different to what they were using Illustrator for. Perhaps the way I look at Illustrator and InDesign are different – we see different potentials with the toolkits in front of us.
I have also been learning a lot about the design world, and gaining skills relevant to it. In the past week I have extended my knowledge of the Adobe suite far more than the tutorials I spent so long watching. It almost doesn’t matter that the learning curve has been so steep – all my colleagues are lovely and help me out without seeming too bothered. As an intern I think it is expected that I will not be able to handle things totally by myself as others who have been doing it for years could. It has certainly broadened my horizons. I don’t think any illustrators should be put off chasing design based jobs – our skills are still useful, valid and our creative eye essential. I think illustrators should be less precious about refusing to compromise on their specialism, and that designers should be less facetious about the importance of illustration. We have a lot to learn from each other, and I am excited for what is to come in my remaining few months.
For confidentiality reasons, I am not able to put up any images of the work I have been doing.