As the pandemic continues to create multiple challenges worldwide, reduced budgets and strained resources can make it an uphill struggle for agencies to invest in commissioning the craft specialists who can help elevate a campaign from good to great.
Long seen as an alternative route by many ad agencies compared to photography, illustration is fast-becoming a first-choice option for a much wider range of commercial creative work – not least as shoots have proved a logistical challenge in the age of social distancing, lockdowns and travel bans.
It may have been born out of necessity in some cases, at least at first, but creative directors and art directors are discovering the huge potential in illustration for reinterpreting briefs in exciting new ways.
Editorial commissioners are well-versed in how illustration creates visual impact, especially for abstract topics where a literal approach may struggle. It can inject brand personality into even the driest or most conservative of sectors and keep ad campaigns fresh and engaging.
On a practical level, in the current climate illustration is also perfectly equipped to deal with the global shift to remote working. For most freelance illustrators, working from home was their bread and butter long before coronavirus hit.
Choosing illustration as the star of your next campaign can unlock a truly global menu of creative talent, primed to tackle your next brief. The possibilities for a brand’s stylistic expression are endless.
For commercial work, there’s the added necessity of persuasion in an image: tailoring for the right audience reaction can be very thorough
The commissioner can be in a different country from the illustration agency, who in turn could represent an illustrator on the other side of the world from them. None of the parties involved need ever meet face to face.
This offers significant creative advantages in terms of the cultural diversity you can tap into to bring a campaign to life. And the potential to take advantage of time zones to handle quick turnarounds has clear practical value too.
It’s win-win, but the sheer amount of choice can be daunting. You need to find the right illustration agency who has done the hard work of curating the best of the best already and can steer your agency through the process with an expert hand – particularly if illustration has rarely been your first choice until now.
Based in Montreal, Anna Goodson Illustration Agency has built a diverse global roster of illustration and motion graphics talent in the 25 years since it was founded. And while editorial work remains an ongoing staple for the agency, there has been a significant uplift in commercial briefs since the pandemic struck.
A recent addition to the agency’s roster, Houston-based Iliana Galvez has commissions for Facebook, Spotify and Adidas under her belt. With a body of work that “highlights Black and Brown bodies and messages of self-love”, Galvez is proving in-demand as clients increasingly expect a richer variety of lived experiences to be reflected in their campaigns.
Nathan Hackett has been with the agency for his entire career. His intricate compositions are packed with quirky details and intriguing narratives. As well as editorial work for titles such as Esquire and The Telegraph, his commercial clients include Olympus and Marie Curie.
“I try to make my illustrations accessible and audience-friendly with relatable characters and humour,” explains Hackett. “For commercial work, there’s the added necessity of persuasion in an image: tailoring for the right audience reaction can be very thorough.”
Specialising in hand-drawn comics and character design – notably pugs – Gemma Correll has amassed over 800,000 Instagram fans. Correll’s hand-drawn cartoony style has also translated across campaigns and packaging for brands such as Amazon, JetBlue and Keurig.
“Clients like the simplicity of my style, and my ability to communicate ideas in a clear and easy-to-read way,” she suggests. “That’s particularly useful in the digital age.”
Hamburg-based Stephanie Wunderlich blends paper collage with digital techniques to create colourful, graphic compositions. She has worked for publications on both sides of the Atlantic, from Die Zeit to Wall Street Magazine, as well as Google and Pentagram.
A recent commission required Wunderlich to create a series of black-and-white illustrations for Mailchimp’s website, bringing dry topics such as ‘sending and receiving emails’ and ‘insights and analytics’ to life. “This reduced black-and-white style is particularly suitable for use on websites, because it’s not too dominant,” she suggests.
Primarily working with pencil, pen and ink or marker pens, Clare Mallison is further proof that a tactile approach can cut through in commercial work. Her line drawings have appeared in the world’s top magazines and newspapers, from the New York Times to Elle Collections, but she’s also in-demand for ad agencies such as Sid Lee, BBDO and McCann.
“Editorial work has a much faster timeline – often just a couple of days, whereas commercial briefs can sometimes take months,” Mallison points out. “I’ve found clients are attracted to my work because it’s hand rendered, with simple lines and a personal feel.”
Having been with the agency for 15 years, Andy Potts is another example of an editorial style that has since translated effectively across a diverse range of commercial briefs. His work blends collaged textures, photography, 3D, and hand-crafted elements, and has caught the eye of Mercedes-Benz, Universal and IBM, amongst others.
“In the last year I’ve created illustrations and animations for music videos and festival promos, film titles, and also branding videos for a solar energy start-up,” explains Potts. “Having animation skills is a real bonus that can definitely swing commissions in my favour.”
Covid-19 has made illustration and animation more attractive for all kinds of commercial briefs. And when the dust has settled, the creative and practical benefits will remain.
Banner image: How To Drive in Flood by Nathan Hackett for American Automobile Association, art direction by Austin Harris from Paceco; agoodson.com