I recently came back from a professional practice visit in London. During this visit I arranged to visit a range of businesses including publishing, advertising and design agencies to get feedback on my work and portfolio standard.
My first contact while in London was with DDB Advertising Agency. We went to see their art buyer Daniel Moorey. He took us through what DDB do and gave us some advice. As an advertising agency they only commission illustrators occasionally and mostly use photography work, in house if possible. They source their illustrators from books, album covers, exhibitions, links of similar websites, D&AD awards and emails. Like many art directors have told me, they get a ton of emails each day that they look through so Daniel Moorey gave us hints on how to structure an email, like most say he prefers: plain, simple, addressed appropriately and easy to navigate. He informed us of a few agencies that they like to refer too, Big Active, Pekka and Breed. Unfortunately he didn’t have time to give us feedback on our portfolio, which was unfortunate as I was looking forward to having my first feedback.
The next day I had a meeting I was most excited about, with Tiger Print. Tiger Print supply exclusive cards and wrapping to Marks and Spencer. Their studio was dreamy. Lee Keeper was kind enough to see me and straight away looked through my portfolio. He gave me some positive feedback on both my portfolio and my style of work. He enjoyed the mix of 2D and 3D work in my portfolio and he mentioned that it flowed smoothly between styles, making it exciting view. He seemed pleased with me bringing some of my 3D samples, he left my portfolio open at my last page (Oldham poster) and arranged my objects around, presenting them quite nicely and showing enjoyment playing with them, I think the tactile element added further compliments to my work.
Lee Keeper complimented my collage style, identifying it as being bold and memorable imagery. He told me there is a that there is market for it (which was reassuring to hear) and that my collage technique was at a high standard, mentioning he sees a lot of poor quality collage so was refreshing to see mine (again very flattering!) he was understanding that I am still a student and saw the rest of my portfolio as being filled with my development in style, he suggested that I should blow up some aspects of my images to make further pages, he particularly liked my ‘Gary Oldham’ poster and suggested to zoom into the figure to create a page, resulting in a double page spread for my portfolio and showing texture quality.
Lee Keeper mentioned that work experience is very important, even if it’s unpaid. He also mentioned the importance of emails and ‘leave behinds’. He liked my new magpie image so much he suggested that I should make him part of my logo, so on all my promotional work the magpie would be the first representation of my style that you see.
Towards the end of the week a selected few of us had a meeting with Serpent’s Tail publishing, Niamh Murray, the marketing director, talked us through what they did and what they expect from illustrators. She showed us a lot of examples of books were they have worked with illustrators in the past, she explained in depth the process, showed us examples of developing stages of imagery and explained the judging the images go through before making the cover, quite a few people’s opinion matter, from author the disrupters, i.e. Amazon, who require book cover imagery and title text to be seen on very small scale-thumbnails for their website also high street markets, who limit their books to a selected few so every cover must stand out.
Niamh Murray also demonstrated how important covers are for books, showing us examples of book covers that sold 3x more after having their covers reworked, which was a shock to me as I thought it was the story or title that sells a book, personally I am an example of that as I choose books with pretty pictures on cover and images that relate the book to me. We were also told what money to expect in publishing for an illustrator, it was interesting to find out about kill fee’s and learning there is no extra money for any changes that they ask you to make. I also learnt that they really admire illustrators who have their own language of type and can combine that into imagery.
Just as the meeting was finishing the art director, Peter Dyer entered the building and we were lucky enough to each have some of his time to look through our portfolio’s for feedback. During my meeting Peter Dyer looked through my portfolio quite quickly, but I was still appreciative of any time he could spare, he said he liked my style and my hand-made text (which they commission illustrators to do quite a lot), he remarked that my images are positioned well in context because I use a lot of space, I let my images breathe. Peter Dyer commented that my style is suited for a children’s audience and he told me to keep him updated with any images that I produce that I think he might be interested in. From this experience I am now hoping to add more context to my portfolio, hopefully some book covers to demonstrate to prospective agencies how my work could look for them.
My final meeting was with Roy Hyndman, Head of Creative Services at St. Luke’s advertising agency. I was recommended to visit by my tutor Gary as he has had experience of St.Luke’s before and felt they could compliment my work. Again it was a short and sweet visit, he mentioned my style would be suited for children’s products and he liked my style of collage.
From my feedback overall, the popular images where Toy Soldier, Zebra, Oldham and Magpie, which are also favorites of mine and now I want to look closer at them compared to my other images and find out what makes them so appealing and work so well. A lot of positive feedback for my 3D objects, especially my set of mug, I think having these in my portfolio helps the viewer see my work in action, giving meaning to my style and helps them imagine how my images can benefit them as a business.
This experience hasn’t made me want to pursue to certain path in design, it has helped me understand the market more, helped with confidence by receiving positive feedback to my style of work and give me a chance to see London.