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Six Steps to Successfully Partnering With an Illustrator

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Sample Illustrators' Work

I can’t draw.

Well, that’s not entirely true. At least not the way I once could and certainly not the way an illustrator can. Developing a style, a methodology, a great idea and bringing it to fruition takes a lot of passion and talent. And patience. That’s why I’m happy to partner with someone from this group of gifted folks whenever I can.

I’ve been fortunate to work with wide range of illustrators, not just in style or personality, but also locale. The UK has been a hotbed of talent for my needs, but I’ve worked with folks as far away as Japan and as close as, well, across the office (see Vaughn Fender). The digital age and FedEx have made it easy to go global for a great piece of custom art.

I’ve also been fortunate to have 99% of these collaborations work out really well. I gather from colleagues and friends in the design industry that I have an impressive track record (Watch, now I’ve probably jinxed myself).

So, that got me pondering: What is it about my process of commissioning an illustration that is so successful and enjoyable? read on

Everything is a Remix

“The act of creation is surrounded by a fog of myths.” So begins part three of Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix” series, which explores the acts of creation: copy, transform and combine. The elements of creativity are set with notable examples and historical context. Take a look and learn why Ferguson argues that “creativity isn’t magic.”

The Ten Commandments of Dieter Rams

The day after the Brand New Conference in San Francisco, I visited the SFMOMA with my friend Earl Gee and we enjoyed the special exhibit of Dieter Rams. The famous German industrial designer’s ten principles for good design are timeless: (1) Good design is innovative, (2) Good design makes a product useful, (3) Good design is aesthetic, (4) Good design makes a product understandable, (5) Good design is honest, (6) Good design is unobtrusive, (7) Good design is long lasting, (8) Good design is thorough down to the last detail, (9) Good design is environmentally friendly, (10) Good design is as little as possible. No surprise, then, that Rams himself recently remarked “Apple is the only company designing products according to my principles.”

The Booooom! + Adobe Remake Project = Not Appropriate

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Adobe’s latest “Imagination Challenge” in the UK asks students to “remake” a famous work of art through photography. Apparently, the people at the blog Boooooom! thought it was such an original idea, they decided to hold the exact same competition. Originality, what’s that?

Of course, there is nothing new about appropriation, as its use is commonly regarded as one of the primary facets of Postmodern art. The only problem is, it’s been done. In the late 70’s, Re-photography practitioners like Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, and Sherrie Levine, each employed appropriation in their art. Richard Prince is probably most famous for his early 80’s “Cowboys” series, in which he re-photographed Marlboro advertisements straight from the magazine. These photographs were then hung in a gallery, completely changing the context of the image. One could also argue that Marcel Duchamp accomplished a similar task of questioning the role of art in the 1920’s, with his “Ready-Made” pieces. You might recall, “Fountain,” a urinal turned upside-down.

The problem, then, with the Adobe project is context. Re-using, or re-purposing art in the context of a competition – especially when the event is being held by a company whose products are used for commercial design — leads to very little insight. The competition becomes merely an exercise. And judging by the submissions on Boooooom!’s web site, an amateur exercise at best. This sort of experiment is to be somewhat expected from Boooooom!, but higher standards should be held at Adobe. Don’t get me wrong, unlike Apple, I love Adobe. My workflow, and hence life, is made infinitely easier with the help of their software. Might I suggest that the competitive platform they employ to showcase the Adobe Suite of product be more appropriate? It should be design-centric, in my mind, and of course, it should charge its competitors to be, yes, more original. Maybe then the participants can truly showoff their talents and, in turn, understand why Adobe is at the forefront of creativity and innovation.

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