On Tuesday 27th September, we explored the colourful world of commercial illustration, with a seasoned panel of practitioners and commissioners.
In the comfortable surrounds of the Library at Shoreditch House, we surveyed the current landscape of commercial illustration — discovering the talented people whose diverse styles are drawing attention, and examining how illustration is making an impact in a host of commercial and cultural contexts.
We were first joined by French illustrator and art director, Malika Favre. Working across campaigns, editorial and beyond, she counts The New Yorker, Vogue, BAFTA and Penguin amongst her clients. Her distinctive style plays with negative space, boldly using colour and contrast to create images suffused with glamour. She shared some recent commissions and gave an insight into her experiences as a commercial illustrator working in the industry today.
To offer an agency-side perspective Stuart Lang, Creative Director at Member Agency We Launch, helped us explore how illustration can make an impact on client projects. Passionate about illustration and practiced at commissioning it, he discussed what it is that makes this such a potentially effective medium.
Lastly, YCN Creative Producer Ciara Phelan also shared some fresh and noteworthy people and projects from the world of YCN.
Here's what we learnt.
Know Your Voice
“Everyone has a different story and, as a result, everyone should have a different voice”. Malika offered guidance on what it takes to be a successful illustrator, stating the importance of establishing individual voice to speak through your work. Exploring the idea that this is developed as early as childhood, Malika led us through some of the interests responsible for moulding her voice.
From an obsession with grids sparked by a background in graphic design and maths, to a love for travel, to a near lifelong fascination with drawing the female form, we saw the ways in which Malika’s different interests had built on top of each other like a collage to create an illustration style uniquely hers.
For Malika, feeding these personal interests into your work helps lead to success. Her fascination with the female form, for instance, resulted in a commission for Wallpaper Magazine’s sex and art issue for which she created “Alphabunnies”, an erotic alphabet of “sexy lesbian rabbits”.
Malika asserted the idea that inspiration can come from anywhere – the colour palette in a box of chocolates or the pattern of a zebra crossing – but that individualism and beauty happens when you marry these inspirations together.
In the same vein, Stuart expressed the importance of originality in the world of commercial illustration: “If you don't get noticed, you don't have anything”. As a Creative Director, Stuart provided a view from the other side of the fence to Malika, explaining what illustration can bring to client projects.
Questioning what makes it such a powerful medium, Stuart asked his team to throw in ideas which, in turn, gave us an insight into what it is agencies look for when commissioning illustration. From adding personality to a project, to communicating something dry in a more surprising way, illustration can be hugely effective in evoking brand values and connecting with an audience. And, ultimately, it's this connection which gives a brand worth.
Another idea was the potential for illustration to inspire creativity; Stuart applied this to charities, who may be on a smaller budget. UNICEF, for instance, asked artists and illustrators to convey their wish for refugee children on Instagram. This resulted in a quick, interesting campaign which demonstrated how social media and illustration can be used in tandem to create engagement across the world.
Stuart concluded on a similar note to Malika with a quote from Grace Coddington, reminding us that “whatever you see can inspire you”.
Facilitating creative commissions and working with clients at YCN on a daily basis, Ciara stays constantly aware of what's popular in the illustration world. She talked us through some of the visual trends that she's noticed emerging recently.
Such trends included the creation of abstract worlds, the use of graphic paper craft and the style of applying illustration over photographs. Exploring work from exciting recent graduates like Hattie Clark, to more established illustrators such as Jean Jullien, Ciara also discussed the ways certain trends have evolved. We looked at a range of work and projects, from Jullien's “Peace For Paris” symbol created after the Charlie Hebdo attack, to illustrations scribbled over photos of Justin Bieber used in a music video.
Another artist mentioned by Ciara was YCN member Daniel Clarke, a relatively new-on-the-scene Camberwell graduate who uses bold vector outlines and geometric shapes to create abstract worlds, often inspired by architecture.
Thanks to our speakers and to Sam Bush for the photos above.
Location:Shoreditch House Library,
London, E1 6AW,
Start:27th September, 2016 at 9:00am
End:27th September, 2016 at 11:00am