Illustrator Job Description, Education, Training Requirements, Career, Salary, Employment

Job Description: Illustrators typically create pictures for books, magazines, and other publications and for commercial products such as textiles, wrapping paper, stationery, greeting cards, and calendars. More and more, illustrators are working in digital formats, preparing work directly on a computer.

Training and Educational Qualifications: Postsecondary training is recommended for all artist specialties. Although formal training is not strictly required, it is very difficult to become skilled enough to make a living without some training. Many colleges and universities offer programs leading to the bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts.

Job Outlook: The growth in computer graphics packages and stock art Web sites is making it easier for writers, publishers, and art directors to create their own illustrations. As the use of this technology grows, there will be fewer opportunities for illustrators. One exception is the small number of medical illustrators, who will be in greater demand to illustrate journal articles and books as medical research continues to grow.

Salary: The median annual earnings of salaried fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, are $41,970. The middle 50 percent earn between $28,500 and $58,550. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $18,350, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $79,390.

Significant Facts:

•    Evidence of appropriate talent and skill displayed in an artist’s portfolio is an important factor used by art directors, clients, and others in deciding whether to hire an individual or to contract outwork.

•    Artists employed by publishing companies, advertising agencies, and design firms generally work a standard work week. During busy periods, they may work overtime to meet deadlines.

•    Self employed artists can set their own hours, but they may spend much time and effort building a reputation and selling their artwork to potential customers or clients.

Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?

I started working part time and weekends.

Which companies have the best internships in this field and are known to help launch successful careers?

Almost every news station has an internship program, including FOX. Some are paid. There are thousands of internship possibilities in this career; in fact, this is one of the art fields in which you can get a definite job and benefits, or freelance any way you like.

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

Any metropolitan area.

What is your typical day like?

Jumping from one project to another. Fixing, and critiquing animations and designs. Managing multiple deadlines while also designing.

What are your job responsibilities?

Motivating employees, critiquing, managing deadlines, finding creative approaches to animations and design. Pulling together long term promotions. Integrating graphics into other departments, software and systems.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Designing new animations.

What do you dislike about your job?

Paperwork.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

I wanted a career in design. Then I saw what was happening in this area and decided it was for me.

How did you get into this industry?

I started part time without a real portfolio. I was able to prove myself and went full time within weeks. I hardly knew how to use a computer but had a great design background; I knew that I could learn the tech side, although it’s harder to teach someone the design side if they are not designers. I paid attention and acted the part of the position I

wanted before I received it (in attire, attitude, professionalism, good design, and “pushing the envelope”).

If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?

Anything artistic. Sculpting, movies, commercials.

To what professional associations do you belong?

Broadcast Design Association, Promax, and the local design directors club.

What professional Web sites do you read?

Many computer and 3 D design magazines: Mac world, STASH video magazine, Computer Graphics World, 3D World, and Computer Arts. Future Publishing from the UK has several magazines that are the best.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

Build up a great reel. Learn to do the graphics that news needs (i.e., stingers, bumps, opens). Even though a person might not know the terminology, he or she can tape a news show and mimic every animation, thereby literally learning all these types of animations. It’s easy to learn the terminology later. Text oriented design and animations are crucial 3D is going to help. Look into Zaxwerks for After Effects; it’s easy 3D to learn, plus AE is the standard de facto program to know in this career.

I didn’t even know that a career in broadcast design existed until a friend got into the business. Sometimes I see this as a secondary listing under animation or graphic design, but there are a lot of jobs in the industry. This field is a perfect in between for editors, compositors, animators, and graphic designers. The animation here is definitely different than standard movie animation. These animations are text based and the learning curve is a lot less than for traditional character animation. It can lead to careers in the movies, post houses, commercials, news, corporate design and the Web.

CAREER LADDER:

Floral designer, freelance graphic designer/illustrator, associate designer (Slaughter Hanson Advertising), designer/illustrator (Southern Living Magazine,)

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

Growing cities in the southeast. Some rather unassuming cities may be a great outlet for design jobs.

What is your typical day like and job responsibilities?

Design magazine page layouts, several info graphic illustrations, logo and icon designs for special projects and meetings with art directors and story editors

What is your favorite part of your job?

Illustration.

What do you dislike about your job?

I have to be more conservative with design than I’d like sometimes.

Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?

Managing a florist shop and helping make its highest profits ever, treating pro bono work the same as paid projects, seeing the vast difference between advertising and editorial, going to an art school with professors who have been in the field.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

I always enjoyed and was interested in ads and design. I wanted to know how ads worked, influenced, and affected the public. Also, I realized that sometimes graphic design could be just as artistic as fine art.

How did you get into the industry?

I applied to editorial and advertising positions when I graduated. In fact, my first job out of school was a year in advertising, which was more fast paced than an editorial job. It prepared me for working quickly and efficiently at a monthly magazine. I worked hard on my portfolio before applying to make sure I had samples that displayed I could make the transition from advertising to editorial.

If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?

Furniture design, cartoonist, advertising, or the entertainment industry.

What professional publications do you read?

I read Communication Arts, How Magazine, Liirzer’s Archive, and Wallpaper.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

Along with being a good designer, you must always keep in mind that you deal with people who may or may not have your vision, your best interests at heart, and varying opinions on how a project should be executed. This includes bosses that supposedly know more than you and clients whom you supposedly know more than they. Figuratively speaking, the human element is our bread and butter the bane of our existence and can never be ignored.

Remember to be thick skinned, slow to judge, and not too easily offended when judged. The visual arts field is a subjective, opinionated and varied career to enter. You’ll have designs someone’s going to love or hate or be indifferent to. Prepare for the negative but always strive for the positive. Have a good understanding of people and what they want and need, along with good design skills, and you’ll do well.

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