Friday, 30 March 2012

London Trip March 2012

Wednesday March 21st

DDB Advertising Agency

Level 6 students & I met Daniel Moorey: Head Art Buyer at DDB Advertising Agency, their clients include, Volkswagen, Harvey Nichols & The Financial Times. We have been to see him for the last few years with students and he is always so very welcoming. He gave us a presentation in a swish ‘Mad Men-esque’ boardroom about they kind of jobs they work on with clients and then the process he goes through sourcing the right illustrator. It is his job to keep up to the minute about new illustrators, trends in styles, new agencies etc. He made reference to the new types of agencies which have really contemporary work and whose representatives work much more broadly and show variety in their portfolios – old school agencies tend to have lots of illustrators that they then label with a particular type of work. See Dutch Uncle, Breed (Neil Murran), Skinny Dip & We Are Flock - these agencies have a more boutique type feel with less illustrators on their books. He also looks all over the world for illustrators working with people e.g. Argentina and Finland (see Pekka).

He is inundated daily with emails from illustrators trying to direct him to look at their work so he showed us examples of good and bad practice of how to get his attention. Emails that were messy and too long were a no-no. He also showed us what would make him look at a website or not bother. He likes to browse websites that are calm and are not too slow with fussy images that slide or fade. He showed Adrian Johnson’s website as a good example. He used a range of sources from books, agents, blogs, links on other illustrators websites, journals (It’s Nice That, Varoom, Eye Magazine, Elephant).It’s Nice That also do day-long seminars which are always really interesting and come highly recommended.

He explained that the process of briefing illustration work for advertising is different to editorial work as the idea has already been crafted by the art director and copywriter. The illustrator brings the image to life in their style. The illustrator should ask about the usage in order to negotiate a fee and agree this upfront. If you do have more than one way of working in your portfolio he said to make sure that you check with the client, which one they have seen and to always make sure you are clear of instructions.

He said that they are getting much more work for illustrators for moving image for websites. This is often animated in-house but he advised for the students to have knowledge of software to make things move, as this was the future. He mentioned other avenues for illustrators to pursue in order to make a living such as selling one-off artists prints. Gina Cross (ex-art director at The Guardian) has set up ‘A little bit of Art’, which supports this. This was a very informative, current and valuable talk, he encouraged the students to ask questions and he willing answered and gave advice. The students all handed him their business cards as they left.

Thursday March 22nd

NoBrow Press

We visited the wonderful NoBrow shop on Shoreditch and met Sam Arthur the creator of Nobrow, which, began in 2008. He saw a gap in the market to produce graphic art, Illustration and art comics in the UK and abroad. It has had a huge influence in the resurgence of original creative content being published at the moment.

Nobrow champion beautiful illustration, that is both rich in form and content. They select and work with illustrators from all over the world, whether fresh from art school or well-known professionals. They say that “We publish books with their inherent qualities as objects in mind, to that end we do everything in our power to ensure that they look good, smell good and most of all tell great stories!” The company want to provide something which has a feel of being hand-made and of unique-ness.

Looking at the books and products available in the shop it is clear that every part of the product is considered and uses only the best materials and printing methods for the design and manufacturing of the books. They use a process called spot-colour printing, where pure Pantone colours are put together in separations to make very colourful and lively images. This means that while there is a lot of different styles being sold or brought together in one publication, they are all unified by colour.

Sam showed us the print studio below the shop and studio which is used to print their own label, Nobrow Press. This does print runs of anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 copies and is distributed to the four corners of the Globe. They are having success in the USA & France especially where they are well received. Europe seems to be much more visually literate and especially in the area of children’s books they can accept imagery, which is far more design led rather than twee and traditional.

They also use this workshop to make small runs of prints which are produced in editions of under, 100 copies. These are numbered and signed by the artists then sold online and in the shop. The business seems to be booming. I asked Sam about the copycats that are appearing of their way of working and he said that while it can be annoying, it is also flattering and that he is confident that they can keep one step ahead.

Pick Me Up

We visited Pick Me Up: Contemporary Graphic Arts Fair at Somerset House. This event is in running for third year and aims to celebrate the graphic arts. The ground floor exhibition was devoted to Pick Me Up Selects, the work of up and coming artists who were chosen by an industry panel. The curation and the standard of the work was stunning, it gave me ideas about degree show presentation and that every aspect form the weight of paper, type of frame, amount of work on show should be really carefully considered to have the most dramatic visual impact. The list of artists work on show here was the colour and handmade work of Zim & Zou, the witty Matthew the Horse, Phil Wrigglesworth, the combination of beautiful drawing and 3-D cut paper elements in Niki Pilkington's work, Zeloot, the fashion illustration inspired Riikka Sormunen, the best bear ever by Sarah Maycock, Sac Magique, hand rendered type by Yuko Michishita & Yoko Furusho.

The upper floor was set out more like stalls with designers selling books, one-off prints, merchandise, doing live drawing and small workshops were taking place. There was so mush work to look at it did feel slightly overwhelming. Personal highlights were Cachtejack - for doing there own thing.

However it was really interesting to browse the show with the article in this month's Creative Review by Lawrence Zeegan 'Where is the Content? Where is the comment?' ringing in my head. None of the work was shown in context and it was unclear what it was about. It appeared to be driven by personal motives rather than deep content. I think this can be confusing to students who look at the work and admire the way it looks and aspire to make work like this - but could this (and do this) collection of illustrators make a living of making work which pleases themselves?

The collective, Peepshow, stood out from the crowd. Their work is rich and diverse but also content and ideas driven making it feel far more engaging and a cut above the rest. They created their own show titled the Museum of Objects & Origins. It was presented to the viewer as a curious collection of objects and artefacts, drawings, prints, costumes, masks in cabinets and wall displayes. Themed workshops helped to aid the growth of the museum collection.

A group of us went to visit Serpent's Tail publishing, an independent publishing house owned by Profile books. This division of the publishers works with more daring and edgy books. They published 'We need to talk about Kevin' by Lionel Shriver which was rejected by many other big companies.

Niamh Murray, the marketing director, welcomed us and talked to us about the ethos of Serpent's Tail and how they went about commissioning artwork for their books. This part of the business (part of Profile books), deal mostly with non-fiction, the titles are slightly edgy. They have two seasons of releases, spring and autumn. It is her job to know what the books are about, know where they will be best placed in the market and then consider the publicity drive to sell it. She had showed us lots of examples and that there are standard sizes that they work with. She believes that as an illustrator, "it is really important that they read' , as they pick up on things in the manuscript which become the seed of an idea for the cover. She gave each of us a typical brief which would be issued to an illustrator they had selected to work with then explained the process of roughs to final art work. She made it very clear that decisions on final art work is up for scrutiny not just by the Serpent's Tail art director, but representatives from Waterstones', Amazon and the supermarkets, who all have a say in the choice, based on their own markets - they will say everything that is wrong with it. If a lead account doesn't like the cover, it has to be changed in order to secure the order. Belief in the cover affects how a company like Waterstones' champion it - this starts at head office level and filters down to the stores. An example in the difference of these needs would be that Amazon require that the covers are seen as thumbnails. They need bold, readable type, whereas the supermarkets are looking for a cover that will stand out amongst a lot of books and appeal to a broad range of people. She showed examples of how a different cover on the same book can really affect how it sells. the point that came across was that design for covers was a commercial business - the books had to sell and the illustrator has to trust that the team understand what is right for their customer. The cover has massive impact on sales, this cover for the book "Elliot Allagash" by Simon Rich and cover by the illustrator Billie Jean, was loved by the company but it did not do well in the shops, it was re-designed for the 'Glee' market and sales increased.
These covers by Noma Bar for two books about explain what history's greatest philosophers have said about the meaning behind everything we do, are very visually witty (typical of Noma Bar). Bar, doesn't work with type but think about how a clever idea will pull the cover image together. Niamh advised that it is good to have skills in Indesign and be able to work with type as you will be more employable. Serpent's Tail, do have in-house designers though also who are able to work with type.
Examples of two book covers which sympathetically consider type and image are these travel type books, 'A Russian Novel' by Emmanuel Carrere and 'Wild Coast' by John Gimlette. The text and image are integrated well. Print finishes such as gloss or embossing areas of the cover also transform the feel of the book. The weel-know series of New Scientist books always feature an animal on the cover. When they broke the mould of this and used a human on the cover, sales bombed. It can be best to stick to the tried and tested and know what works. A cover really can lift a story to another level and get it coverage and make it more memorable.
Each student then met with the art director Peter Dyer. He looked through each portfolio with every student in a one to one and gave advice where he could. Of course some students work was more appropriate to for him than others. He suggested that next year, it would be good if he set a specific project for the group who could then receive more relevant feedback from him. I will follow this up. An example was also given of an illustrator who sent a redesign of set of book jackets that Serpent's Tail had already published. This targeted approach, caught their attention as it showed keen-ness and the the illustrator understood working with a set of covers from the same series. This would be a good exercise for some of the Level 6 students do before they return to London for New Blood. they could make a second visit to the publishers or invite Peter and Niamh to visit our stand. This was a wonderful visit where they really made an effort with