Creativity Magazine

Illustrating A Book: How Client & Artist Work Together

By Mrstrongest @mrstrongarm

I just read a great Steve Jobs quote. It comes by way of Ian Leslie from his book, Curious:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

“… (Some people think) that a really great idea is 90% of the work… (and if you just tell it to other people), they can go off and make it happen…

the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product…

Designing a product is keeping 5000 things in your brain and fitting them all together…”

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The above quote highlights the importance of collaboration, back-and-forth, and revising and fine-tuning ideas.
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It also sums up why you should avoid content mills like Fiverr (Get a logo for $5!!) and hire professional designers, illustrators, writers, et. al., for creative work.

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Because collaboration, shared goals, and a commitment to craftsmanship are what’s required for an end result that works.

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What do collaboration and craftsmanship look like? Here’s a good example:

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I recently illustrated Copyediting With An Attitude by copywriter and USC marketing professor Freddy Nager.

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Freddy loves cats, and wanted a cat character for the illustrations (“You can’t have a book on attitude without them.”). Specifically, he requested “a cat wearing sunglasses holding a large pencil.”

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I began by reading the book (Freddy sent me the manuscript). Then I let my mind roam free and made some thumbnail sketches.

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Illustrating A Book: How Client & Artist Work Together

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I did more thumbnails, and tried to incorporate some of the book’s key points.
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Things started to get more fluid at this point. The cat’s not necessarily holding the pencil.

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Illustrating A Book: How Client & Artist Work Together

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I needed to define the cat character more clearly. I came up with 9 concepts. Freddy liked #4.
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Illustrating A Book: How Client & Artist Work Together

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It was time to send Freddy some rough sketches.
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The book contained an Introduction and 4 “acts” or chapters.

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One of the tips that jumped out for me in the Intro was: “Proofread, edit, then wait at least 24 hours to proofread once more.”

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So my first rough sketch was based on that idea: cat with a hourglass on his head, holding the kind of sign used by a flagman.

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Freddy liked it, but asked to see an idea for a different tip: the wisdom of proofreading your copy out loud.

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That second sketch is on the right below; that’s the concept we used for the final illustration.

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Illustrating A Book: How Client & Artist Work Together

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The second act or chapter talked about creating a “brand bible”: specifying naming conventions, including acceptable abbreviations and acronyms for your brand; guidelines for using slang; whether it’s ever acceptable to mention competitors, etc.
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My first rough for Act 2 referenced the brand bible concept.

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Act 2 also talked about the importance of consistency: formatting all items in a list the same way; sticking with the same tense (past, present, future); the same voice (first, second, third), etc.

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Freddy asked to see a rough for “evaluating consistency” (below, right); that’s the concept we used for the Act 2 illustration.

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Illustrating A Book: How Client & Artist Work Together

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I did a total of 5 illustrations. One of them (below) highlights the importance of using active verbs to energize your copy. It was also used for the cover.
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Illustrating A Book: How Client & Artist Work Together

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The above sketches and revisions are a “nutshell summary” of client-artist collaboration. They also show how I work.
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An illustrator (or a designer or a writer, or any outside contractor) should be an invested partner. A collaborator who shares the client’s goals (in this case, producing a book that stands out, attracts readers, and racks up sales).

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A client can proceed with confidence when he knows the artist will do all he can to achieve that shared goal.

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