Sunday, 6 May 2012

Podcast: Charles Hively of 3x3

Recently, an interview with Charles Hively (from 3x3) was recommended to us in the form of a podcast on Escape From Illustration Island.

On the podcast, Charles goes through his background and experiences as a designer and illustrator, and goes on to talk about issues such as self promotion for illustrators, and how competitions can be a good way to get your work shown. 

Hively runs 3x3 magazine which is dedicated to contemporary illustration, and has an extensive design career spanning 40 years. On the podcast, he spoke about his background in design and all the different jobs he'd done, leaving us in no doubt he knew what he was talking about. As he is and rt director at the moment, a lot of his advice came from that perspective.

He went on to talk about self promotion for illustrators. What I thought was really interesting about this was that he compared the sort of self promo illustrators do to self promo photographers do. He mentioned that for every 10 emails he gets from photographers, he only gets 1 from an illustrator. I had never really thought about the fact that illustrators aren't the only freelancers sending their work to art directors, and you're almost in competition for their time in that case. Throughout the podcast he recommended that illustrators look at the sort of things that photographers to to promote their work, get work, an how they handle the business/money side of the work as they tend to be a bit more business orientated in his opinion.

Some of the his tips for promotion were:

  • to not email out 1000's of the same email, just focus on people you really want to work with
  • Hand write or personalise your mail to art directors; send them something unique and memorable
  • In your portfolio, don't just pick your favourite piece of work; pick ones that solve a problem or answer the brief the best
  • credit art directors you've worked with as it's a 3rd party endorsement
  • constantly promote yourself, once a month or at least three times a year
  • be prepared to spend some money doing this
  • think with a business mind e.g. take someone to lunch and see it as an investment
  • don't use a Christmas card as self promo

He said that a survey found that illustrators on average spent only $500 (~£315) a year on promo, and that it should be a lot more than that, which is really something I need to think about for the future.

He then went on to talk about websites, and again brought up the standard of photographers sites, and suggested illustrators take some pointers from them. The main points he made were: 

  • that sites should be very easy to access and navigate, without things that take a while to load as art directors generally just don't have the time 
  • don't be shy, list your clients and any awards you have won
  • AD's will look for the weakest piece to know what's the least they can expect from you, and if there's even one really bad piece of work in there, they won't take the risk, so get rid of it

And finally, he spoke a little bit about money, and how illustrators shouldn't be afraid to negotiate for more money. He brought up the amount of money photographer can command, and made the point that as an illustrator you have to do the work of a whole team on a photo shoot. You have to decide the setting, what someones going to look like, the colours etc. and are creating something totally unique, so you shouldn't be afraid to ask a fair price for that.
 He also brought up the point that if we all demanded higher pay, it would raise standards for the industry. This is something I've hard a lot about in the recent months and is really something to think about.

Overall, I thought the podcast was really helpful and informative, and he gave a frank opinion on various matters which has given me a lot to think about, especially in the area of self promotion.

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