University Blog 3: Realities of Work, Work, Work…

Welcome to another installment of this professional practice blog, hopefully this post won’t be death by text like the previous. The entire blogging experience itself is becoming more organic which is a different stance to my every day working practice which is more organised and clinically precise. Within this post, I will be reviewing my thoughts on a lecture provided by Debbie Longbridge on the theme of us as designers working within the visual industry.

Overall, the topic of discussion provided a new sense of self confidence and motivation towards my own practice, without being modest. As I had previously though that that hardships of being an illustrator where much more technical in terms of training and qualifications. Yet the discovery that it’s based on your own visual language and how you apply that definitive talent into the industry to become an individual in demand. The reassurance that to reach that level of professionalism to be recognised depends on following and researching visual debates was well met as it’s an aspect of my illustrative process that I commit intensely upon to really engage with every factor for a brief. So, by having that skill of observational and analysis put my mind at some ease for future employment.

Here are some sketches that I made from this new motivation.

There was discussion into the process of portfolio working which was displayed with a diagram that depicted a timetable of how a designer may reach their professional job. This included having a ‘pay the rent job’ to fund living expenses and general existence; while creating illustrative work at home to bolster your portfolio or creative presence in the design community. Although I felt that this method of switching between a job that pays the rent and a job that appeases your creativity (justifying your degree) could be haphazard. The flow of income would be switching from a salary paid basis to a self-employed basis which could be chaotic for financial reasons including tax. Along with the added pressures of the combined jobs. As terrifying as it sounds, as a visual problem solver it was an instinct to bypass this income dilemma that was being discussed.

The theme running through the lecture was be opportunistic and prepare for everything, so it makes no sense to switch between jobs to build a portfolio which could be founded before you enter the war zone known as the working wold. My solution involves using the time, space and resources from university to stack up the portfolio and my network is a far more forgiving and efficient method in my view to follow.  It would provide much reassurance by having a pay the rent job that was design based due to the early build up before my inevitable leave from academic studies, this could possibly increase any early introduction into my professional area of illustration.

With this solution in mind, it perfectly leads to Debbie’s other suggestion in line with preparing for industry life which talked about the ideals of volunteering, work experience and internships.

Yet it’s fair to say that as a student, the capability to balance academic studies, part time work and general existence is being developed all the way from the start of your degree. Currently within that position, it’s become accustom to abandon stress and let the pressure fuel you like an ironically controlled adrenaline to meet deadlines and maintain your sanity. Having this attitude has been successful in progressing and developing my own academic grades as well as my personal growth. As by taking a creative career path you don’t have the time or energy to concern yourself all eventuality, instead it’s about focusing your efforts to completing a task in your own original voice to profit from it and essential survive in a world that’s already full of pressures.

After the session, I thought it would be best to examine the area of illustration that has caught my interest in recent light. This area coincides with my passion for culture, politics and history which would be the editorial scene in the creative industry; aka newspapers and printed publications. I went out and picked up a copy of The Observer, The Economist and The Private Eye; to analyse a varied range of printed media from deeply liberal to causally satirical.

The range of commissioned illustration ranged from editorial, comic strips to advertising within these infamous publications. Although as individual mediums of print, its best to attempt and hypothesize what price rates the designers would have been paid for their illustrations within these publications.

Implementing the Association of Illustrators helpful and informative section on working rates it would seem there is a varied range of potential earnings dependent on the scale of the publication or the area of influence the publication has.

Below is the link to this insightful section that I will be using.(SPOILERS!… You have to be a member to view..)


The images above show’s scans The Private Eye newspaper known for its highly comical and satirically perspective on world affairs. The publication itself tens to lend its readers to a larger amount of text mostly broken up with small comics strips and illustrations that put a humorous twist on serious events. The illustrations themselves are more intricate in meaning than in aesthetics which moulds equally with the text not being overbearing or underestimated. Using the rates from the AOI it would seem a small spot illustration would earn ‘£100-125’ from this issue in theory, thus creating multiple spot illustrations would provide a somewhat reasonable income, but it would need to be consistent to keep up with living expenses. Yet the more minimalist strokes and designs of these illustrations means you can create a multitude of them as a block to compensate for the publications small allocation to image space.


This image is the Economist where the banner illustration devoted to the voting system would seem to bring in a paid rate between £175-220 due to its relative small size but the sphere of circulation it has makes it a continental publication. This would back up the discussion that the larger the circulation of a commissions is or the royalties it comes with can provide a competitive block sum or a consistent injection of income over time. Although it would take a great deal of portfolio working and experience to reach commissions of global level which is more of an aspiration than a starting goal at this point.


Within the Observer Magazine there was more of an advertising theme with the drawn material, likely as its sister publication The Guardian includes a vast array of scalable illustrative pieces. The AOI talks about all sections of commissioning such as adverts, it would suggest that having clients that would advertise products or services with your illustration it could bring about rates of £ 500-2000 dependant on the client size or time of prolonged advertising exposure. Ultimately having a consistent set of both editorial and advertising commissions would seemingly keep an illustrator afloat, but in a competitive world it would seem you must truly fight and battle out your creative problem solving and visual voice to gain clients.

To conclude what seems like an unfortunate essay of information to digest it’s all about balance and motivation. With a career in illustration you need the spark to shine out in a competitive industry, which is why it would be a efficient idea to start portfolio working as Debbie mentioned before entering the working world to gain the upper hand. For the next blog, I will hope to explore possible working opportunities be it hypothetical or experience based.


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