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Monday, November 5, 2001

Job that needs good sense of humour
Sumesh Raizada

WHILE moving around in an alien country where even spoken language is different, the only assistance available are the signboards at various junctions, airport, railway station, street squares and markets. These sign, arrows and pictures, denoting say, cafeteria, emergency help, hospital, school, left and right turns are some of the illustrations that are universal throughout the world. A person who is illiterate or unfamiliar with the language of that region can easily move around or communicate with others with the aid of these signs or illustrations.

During ancient time too, our ancestors developed writing scripts based on figures or artwork that were easily recognised and understood. Even today, school as well as the college books, consists of educational and teaching material that is supported by pictures, drawings and illustrations. The purpose is to make the reading material more informative and simpler for the student. Many times, a concept that may not be understood by hundreds of lines or paragraphs can get clarified by a single piece of illustration. The professionals who create and provide pictures, photographs, art material, cartoons, sketch, collage, etc. for the books, advertisements, newspapers, print and publication, education and Web pages are called Illustrators. Those who have flair of sketching, drawing, painting and photography have an excellent career opportunity in this field of creativity and art.


During recent years, there had been a steep rise in the demand for illustrators, cartoonists or artists. This has largely been due to the popularity of the Internet and increase in Web-based services and business. The success or failure of many of the Websites is largely dependent upon their picture or art layout, as compared to the written text. Since a surfer does not have enough time to go through lengthy written material, it is the illustration, picture and clipart that are more effective to convey the message or information to the target audience. The other reason of Illustrators being in demand is the growing dependence of firms on publicity and advertising.

Thus, a large number of firms, public relation departments and departmental stores employ artists to develop innovative illustrations of their product to attract the customers. These illustrations are usually descriptive and clear, to convey the benefits and features of a product, in shortest possible time. In publishing and printing industry that is always the source of employment for the artists, demand for illustrators of textbooks have also grown considerably. Due to increase in educational institutions all over the country and with each school or college prescribing different sets of books for their curriculum, there has been a sizeable growth in the print and publishing industry. This has provided a large number of career opportunities for illustrators also.

With the passage of time, the technology has also undergone drastic revolution in the field of art and illustration. Earlier, artists used to draw pictures with pencil or colours and photographers used to search around for innovative material and beautiful landscapes to make the news or a feature more interesting and attractive to the readers. Now as desktop publishing is gaining importance, computer-proficient illustrators, artists and cartoonists are getting lucrative employment in publishing and print industry. Other areas of employment are advertising and publicity, cartoon and animation films, Web designing and newspapers.

The task of illustrators is highly challenging, as they have to be precise and always innovative, while creating artwork, photographs, sketches, cartoons and paintings. The illustration has to support the written text, story, news item, etc. in an interesting and descriptive manner.

For school or college textbooks, many times artists and illustrators qualified or trained in particular subjects say, life science, chemistry or physics are employed. For geography or history books, illustrators have to draw maps and pictures of ancient period or of a particular region. Sometimes they have to be purely imaginative and create artwork based upon their knowledge, expertise and experience acquired over a period of time.

Similarly for a science subject an illustrator has to draw pictures related to solar system or of a particular plant or of different parts of a human and animal body. An illustrator therefore has to be thorough in the subject, as he has to explain the facts and support the text to make the information accurate and clear to the reader.

There are technical or scientific illustrators who may sometimes be a qualified engineer or a science graduate. They provide pictures or sketch of machinery, power-plant layout and factory to explain to the readers. They should be able to interpret and convert the text of the technical writers and engineers into drawings. For newspapers or magazines, illustrators have to draw sketches or cartoons of political personalities or other celebrities, current events, news, etc. They create artwork or collage with the help of photographs and sketches. A successful illustrator therefore must have a good sense of humour so as to make his work more interesting and popular.

Illustrators work in advertising agencies for bringing out the copy for print and other media. They work in design studios and bring out designs for packaging, display, textile or interior decoration. In printing and publishing houses, illustrators design greeting cards, calendars and albums and are also employed in their art department. However, many companies employ their own staff for designing the promotional material. Illustrators are mostly employed as layout artists, art director, designer, pasteup artists, and photographers.

There is also sufficient career scope for artists to work as freelancers on contract basis for illustration work. A successful illustrator has to be an excellent photographer himself or should be competent enough to compile or cut and paste from the available stock of pictures and photographs. They should be able to edit and modify existing pictures to suit the specific requirement. With most of the illustration work now getting digital, those opting for the career as illustrator, needs to be proficient in Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe Illustrator. An artist should also be aware of MS Office tools and other software packages. Besides, a degree or diploma in fine arts is also required for getting lucrative employment. Most of the art schools nowadays are providing computer and IT-based curriculum for training their students.

However institutes like Arena Multimedia conduct diploma courses for those interested in illustration or DTP jobs. There are a number of art colleges abroad especially in UK and the USA that offers online courses on graphic art and illustration. Aquent, a UK based firm, conducts e-learning courses for prospective illustrators. The certificate course covers graphic design, Photoshop and 3-D modelling.

At senior level, illustrators work as manager in the art and design department of a printing or advertising firm. The responsibility includes strong communication, design and coordination skills. They work with outside agencies and client companies to develop the most appropriate illustrations for an advertisement, publicity material or a book. They also monitor the project and performance of art staff associated with the project. They act as liaison between editorial and marketing staff and should have sufficient hardware and software skills to manipulate design in electronic format. Skills desirable are QuarkXpress, Adobe, etc.