November 14, 2006
A revolution has taken place. The digital revolution has altered the nature of illustration beyond recognition – taking it from cottage industry to household phenomenon…
Things weren’t always this way. Before the digital revolution, life as an illustrator was fairly straightforward, or so it seemed – there was no Bill Gates, no Apple, no Photoshop, no Google, no internet, no email… no hassle. Looking back at life before the revolution, albeit through rose-tinted specs, the working day for your lone illustrator was a fairly simple affair. In fact, depending on just how far back you wish to peer, it’s clear to see just how much has changed.
Back in the land-that-time-forgot, a common-or-garden commission for a freelance illustrator would come about with a phone call made by an art director to an illustrator’s land-line – mobiles only came into everyday use just over a decade ago. If you were out of the studio when the call came, chances are you could miss the job – answer phones even 15 years ago were not the norm. The brief itself would have to be posted or collected – fax machines were huge, cumbersome and expensive items even just a decade and a half ago. How the freelance illustrator, just ten years ago, maintained a professional profile, informed clients of new work and displayed their portfolios has altered beyond recognition. Without websites and email, illustrators would utilise the humble postcard as their calling card to the creative world, designing, printing, addressing and posting hundreds of these mailshots on a regular basis.
With just that single postcard to judge an illustrator’s capabilities by, art directors would take time out of their working day to view physical portfolios. Yes, they would actually look at real work in real time in the real world. Now, only six digits into the 21st century, those that commission illustration are able to view work in seconds, make creative decisions in minutes, have an illustrator briefed within hours and set the completion of the work with a deadline of a few days.
Gazing into the not-so-distant future back in 1992, John Warwicker, Creative Director of design collective Tomato, said without even a trace of irony: “I can envisage a time when we’ll all need our own individual Macs.” The working life, life-styles and the life-skills needed by today’s ‘creatives’ have altered, adjusted and accelerated. The digital revolution would take no prisoners – it was clear, adapt or die!