I’m currently sat in one of the small breakout areas at Somerset House's Pick Me Up: Graphic Arts Festival in London. The reason for my visit, is to get a feel for whether today’s illustrators are embracing the digital world, or if they feel that they are still confined to their traditional canvas. Unfortunately, the digital offering was nearly non-existent. If the selection of illustrators on show is representative of the UK illustration scene, can more be done to get creatives thinking digitally?
The Formula For Success?
I have always worked in an agency environment. This means everything that I have had to output has always needed a commercial side to it. This has however, never stopped me striving to use my illustrative abilities in as many projects that I could fit them in. Adding that extra bit of bespoke craft to a piece of work goes a long way in making it stand out from the crowd. This is why I’m so confused to see that there is not a lot of fresh & exciting illustrative work being produced in the digital space.
Illustration on modern websites has become a tad formulaic. The likes of Google with their flat geometric shapes and primary school colour palettes have left us awash with soulless, copycat vector nothingness. I miss the charm and character of the illustrators I grew up with. Has simple UX design principles traded off for unique illustrative quality? Have we been brainwashed by the world of the bland?
At Rawnet, we employ a very collaborative approach within the creative team and across the wider business. This allows us all to bring each of our strongest skills to the overall process. Through doing this, our clients reap the benefits of having a product that is not only functionally superb, but it will have a level of craft and originality that is becoming harder and harder to find online these days.
Going back to the Pick Me Up event - I’m glad that I took my chance to catch up with the exhibiting illustrators before the majority of people turned up. I can now look around the room and see swarms of excited students muddled in with industry types, all of them trying to find creative enlightenment amongst the rows of brightly coloured pieces of artwork. There are several workshops going on with people colouring in, cutting things out and generally being creative.
Although when I scan the room I can see a few MacBook Pros on the knees of exhibitors, I still know that almost nothing of their output is digital. I’ve spent a lot of time designing for print and I must say I still love a beautifully embellished piece of paper - but I am concerned that none of these artists are even aware of the leap their work could make to the digital realm. Even the illustrators that are using computers to formulate their work, are still doing so to ultimately have it printed.
The students amongst the crowd are here to learn how their skills could one day be a genuine route to a successful career. Unfortunately, I feel they will come away from today’s event with no sense of how they could impact the world’s fastest growing creative industry. I spoke to several of the delightful creatives taking time out to show off their talents and on the whole I have to say they were understandably keen to hear of Rawnet’s proposed digital illustration revolution. I mean… Who wouldn’t want to broaden their own client pool?
For some reason though, this felt half-hearted. Many of them didn’t quite recognise the potential and limitless-canvases that are out there waiting to be drawn, printed or even doodled on. When I first arrived today I spotted a small paper model amongst the featured artists section that had been created by illustrator Hattie Newman.
Her 3D paper illustrations are superb, and certainly full of retro charm. Rawnet recently launched a site full of her work for one of our clients - we had adapted her work from the clients printed sales brochure. Her illustrations made the digital transition seamlessly, creating a wonderful paradox of depth and reality in a flat digital space. This is the most basic of marriages between interesting illustration and digital, yet it sets the clients site apart from anything else in its field.
Drawing a Conclusion
The possibilities for more creative ways to use illustration are endless… and that is exactly why the creative industries need to be thinking about how they can take their craft into a purely digital medium. We at Rawnet are about to embark on a new illustration focused project that will hopefully show others what can be achieved if you dream big. But for now I will continue to sample the printed wonders that surround me, as after all… they are still breathtakingly beautiful - I just wish they existed somewhere that everyone could find them.
Pick Me Up London 2015 runs until Monday 4th May. I encourage you all to go and check out the fantastic work on show - more details on the Pick Me Up website.