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Illustrator: Job description

An illustrator uses creative skills in art and design to communicate a story, message or idea. Illustrators work to commercial briefs to inform, persuade or entertain a client's intended audience, adjusting the mood and style of images accordingly.

They usually specialise in a particular design medium, like drawing, photography or digital illustration.

Work is predominantly freelance, and possible markets include:

  • editorial - magazines, newspapers and comics;
  • books;
  • advertising - posters, storyboards, press;
  • fashion - forecasting;
  • merchandising - greetings cards, calendars, t-shirts, ceramics, etc;
  • corporate work - brochures, catalogues;
  • multimedia - TV, film, computer games, websites, apps, animation.

Specialist areas include scientific, technical and medical illustration. In these fields, illustrators create illustrations for text and reference books that may show new products, processes or techniques. See medical illustrator.

Typical work activities

Responsibilities and activities typically involve:

  • liaising with clients, editors and authors in order to understand and interpret their business needs;
  • gaining knowledge of appropriate styles;
  • negotiating pricing and deadlines;
  • analysing a brief's specification and the text to be illustrated as well as researching sources;
  • thinking creatively and using imagination to produce new ideas;
  • creating images and designs by using the traditional hand skills of drawing and painting, alongside other techniques, to meet design briefs;
  • using computer-aided design (CAD) packages to scan images and change size, colours and other elements;
  • providing roughs for approval;
  • redefining a brief through further consultation with the client to include new ideas or text as appropriate;
  • running the business, when working freelance;
  • speculatively approaching potential commissioners to seek new sources of work;
  • working within a set timescale, often to tight deadlines;
  • creating original pieces for self-promotion;
  • researching appropriate galleries to find suitable venues to exhibit work.

There are 8 jobs available in creative arts and design

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Written by AGCAS editors
November 2014

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