University Blog 2: The Myth of the Lone Illustrator?

Welcome to the second installment into my professional practice blog. Within this post there will be discussion and analysis into the ideals and functionality of contemporary design collectives within the industry.  I will be putting this topic in the spotlight from my own personal experiences and opinions as well as those from professionals in the industry.

What is good and what is bad about life now, in 2017?

This area of debate was brought about by the brief that all the visual communication students were given which was just stated above. The one day project was subject to creating a front cover for either newspaper or magazine around the theme just stated. All the outcomes had to be the result of a group effort, which meant creating a small but temporary collective of illustrators, graphic designers and animators for the brief.

Initially being placed in the company of people you don’t usually work with or have no interaction with was quite daunting, yet the awkwardness of bringing strangers together from other disciplines soon become the focus point that made us all feel more comfortable.  Within my group were myself and another illustration student, and one graphics and animation student. After a brief period of getting to know each other and basically having a laugh to ease that annoying awkward silence all come together to plan our thoughts on what was the good, bad and the ugly of 2017.

(Sorry more clichés inbound).

By the end of our splurge of a mind map, it become clear that in contest with the other groups that become it had only been the first month of 2017, that the major themes were too few and mainstream to be original amongst the other groups.

Thoughts included:

(Warning- a certain current president is mentioned try not to cry too much.)


  • Still being alive
  • Another year of memes
  • Mexico won’t pay for trumps wall
  • Article 50 has been delayed by the supreme courts
  • President Trumps inaugural parade looked more like a state funeral
  • Women Protests austerity became united
  • Internet speeds are getting better


  • Donald Trump was elected President of the united states of America
  • Still a massive divide between the social classes
  • No clear Brexit plan
  • Freddo’s are still outrageously expensive (Serious Crime)
  • Politicians are out of touch
  • NHS is failing
  • Fascism is on the rise
  • Trump bans people from ‘Dangerous countries’


This was our process and outcome.

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We as a group couldn’t escape the temptation to mock the new American president Donald Trump, we combined satirical humour with serious provocative symbols. Our idea as you can view above puts a caricature of Mr Trump with a head excessively enlarged that  represents how enormous his ego is or has been portrayed in the media. We wanted him to basically consume the article by blocking the headline out ‘Deep in Trump’ both as joke to his name by being crude in English slang; but also, to show his defiance to the media by his attack on them as ‘fake news’. We decided that to visualise his many controversial stigmas that leech onto him like a shadow, we thought having multiple arms like a transcendent being would suffice. The idea of being a god is more of satirical joke to his own delusions or statements.

Although we did consider put out of context and in real world setting that this multiple armed form related to Hindu faith; therefore, may come across as an insult by portraying a man like Trump in a similar fashion to their worshiped deities.

My thoughts on the project were that the outcome was successful in that we combined the skills of visual problem solving from all disciplines while combining our graphic and illustrative talents to create a clear satirical piece. The shared commitment to a common opinion allowed for an efficient work flow as well as being enjoyable to do. From the experience, I gained a more creative motivation, be it from discussing other views or just working alongside other creative minds like a design super team. Yet there was as sense of reliability on others to get the job completed to a deadline.

In comparison to further brief in my illustration module of direct projects, we had a one day brief as group with solely illustration students, as you an see below the outcome had a more consistency visual language due to the colour scheme despite all of our different visual identities; whereas in the editorial brief  it felt that the visual unity clashed slightly. Albeit there were both just as fun and enjoyable to work on with others in comparison to the solitude of working alone, mostly due to lack of pressure which can be shared in a collective.

I thought it would be interesting to compare my own thoughts against those of designers in the industry, to which I found some open and refreshing perspectives about the subject collective projects. As I pondered the question :

Can an illustrators work as a group despite being a solitary beings?


I found an article online which was written by Madeleine Morely on the site dubbed ‘AIGA Eye on Design’. Within this article there was discussion about how modern illustrators should join collectives, boasting advantages of shared responsible, agreement towards ideas and deadlines, and social community to advise each other and learn from. Morely focuses on groups such as the Peep Show we bring together multidisciplinary members together on high end projects.

The common theme that I addressed where consistency is key when working as a group to create a complete piece of work is echoed within this article. Collectives like Peep Show and Biografktion are interviewed and mention that their attitudes as group comprise of a critique and nurturing I order to truly grow as a company of creatives as well as individual within the creative industry. It seems that this energy towards being involved in what seems to by hybrid company of creatives working towards a greater good essentially. Collectives seem to benefit as a team and as individuals from the family like experiences, its seemingly a constantly progressive state which I would want explore later in my life.

These positive ideals can be cross referenced with a VaroomLab journal entry written by Alice Moloney which was titled ‘A new breed: How should we champion the mavericks and pioneers of the illustration industry?’ She discusses how contemporary illustrators are now taught into creating a visual language while be deeply analytical in terms of having a strong problem solving prowess. Moloney is arguing that by our lone carers in illustration that we must adapt or adopt skills from the design spectrum to show that we are designers and not just artists.

Linking back to collectives, we can learn and develop these needed skills of design strategy and further technical skills like the full Adobe suite, just by working with other disciplines. The individual potential is just as bountiful as the collective goals of such groups; despite the reliability I mentioned before, the pros indefinitely out way the cons.

Ultimately, for future actions I would want to incorporate my self within collective projects to aid my own personal development as a lone illustrator, yet the communication and community of a group mission. This seems like a more professional form of escapism; away from the pressures of solitary freelancing which I would want to explore further own. Even at university doing one day projects, with friends and stranger as it builds up a networking persona through organic working, which I would want to carry on with others from my discipline in later years.

This revolution in the design industries that is unheard of in the mainstream can be backed by this quote by Madeleine Morely, sums up my opinions of this subject.

There have always been collectives, but the fact that so many formerly solo-going illustrators are banding together is telling. In some ways, it’s another sign that illustration is mirroring the multidisciplinary design studio model. And as illustration is increasingly treated like a design solution rather than a decorative element, there’s more need for larger collectives that can put their minds and pens together like an agency might.

Madeleine Moreley


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