Why the FAQs?

Some people who have never worked with creative people do not understand how the whole industry works. Emails take time to write and it is time that I would rather spend illustrating. Here are the most commonly asked questions…

Why should I hire a designer/illustrator?

People tend to underestimate the importance of design. Design is one of the one fundamental things that can add real value to your brand. Designers don’t just “make things look pretty”. Designers can take a product and then make it highly desirable and thereby instantly add a great deal of intrinisic value. It might be a physical product or an idea. Design adds something extra to a business, that something is called “brand equity”.

Just think of brands like Leica, Bentley and Rolex. The basic materials in a Rolex watch or a Leica camera do not inherently cost all that much more than the materials in a Seiko or a Casio. They’re made of brass, stainless steel and titanium. Even the luxury watches that are made of solid gold or platinum still cost much more than the cost of a ‘standard’ watch like a Lorex plus the weight of the gold alone. So why are Leica and Rolex so expensive? How can they be literally worth more than their weight in gold?

Well, the reputation of a company alone does not always account for the value of the brand. But that’s not all. Much of a brand’s value comes from a combination of industrial design, graphic design, interior design and web design. If the Rolex store looked like shit, they couldn’t charge anywhere near as much for them – even if the watches themselves were exactly the same. The same goes for the website, the logo and the creative advertising. And then there are other ‘assets’ to the brand such as customer service, heritage and trust.

A poor logo design or brand can and does hurt your business. Just like the accountant that can ultimately save you or your business money, the work a designer provides you with will pay for itself in no time. A good designer too, is literally worth more than their weight in gold (if only for the value that they can add to your brand).

What is the process of hiring an illustrator?

  1. Create brief
  2. Sign contract
  3. Provide 2 or 3 idea sketches.
  4. Provide a more detailed ‘comp’ sketch.
  5. Provide final illustration
  6. Revisions (if required)

A maximum of two to three revisions are usually included in the fixed-price quote.
If using an hourly rate, revisions are charged at additional cost.

Why do I have to sign a contract?

A graphic design or illustration contract is a simple agreement which informs you of: my obligations as a designer/illustrator; the expected delivery date; the essential details of the project, roughly what you are getting; my hourly rate and/or expected total cost; essential copyright info (not as important for design as illustration, but still it’s good to know); what happens in the event of cancellation; and last but not least, my contact details.

Because there is a level of commitment from both sides, pretty much all professional graphic designers and illustrators work with contracts. Why?

In case something goes wrong, there is documentation to fall back on (think: Judge Judy).

I don’t enjoy asking people to sign contracts; I see it as just something that “has to be done”, part of the job. I usually send a pdf; it can also be done in person if you prefer.

Contracts tend to clarify what things are fixed and what happens if changes are made in the event that “something goes wrong”. The contract is there to remind the client that they cannot change the original brief and then expect the price to still remain fixed. It’s a bit like saying: “I need the bridge to be twice as long now” or “the bridge now has to carry twice the load”. That is why professional designers and illustrators always work with contracts.

So to sum up, signing a contract shows both the designer and the client a level of committment to the design brief. It prevents either side from wasting the others’ time.

Not wanting to sign a contract indicates that you as a client are not yet committed enough to work with a professional designer/illustrator.

Why do I have to create a brief?

One of the first rules in design is to always make the deadline. In order to meet an illustration deadline, illustrators need plenty of time to finish off the drawing. The same goes with graphic design. I like to start my work early on and then make sure that I am happy with it. Also, there has to be some limit to the amount of changes to original ideas and sketches. There comes a point when the illustrator has to ultimately commit to an idea to get the drawing finished in plenty of time. That way, everyone is happy.

Without a brief, there is a small risk that people can get too carried away with coming up with creative ideas that everyone loses sight of the original aims of the project and the deadline is missed or the objectives weren’t even met. The brief is there to remind everyone to focus on finding a suitable solution to the original visual problem before the deadline comes around.

People who have never commissioned an illustration before tend to underestimate the amount of time that an illustrator needs to finish of a drawing. I like to work without getting too stressed out and that means I like to allow more time for each illustration.

On top of that, some people also tend to want to keep tweaking the original ideas which really eats into the time available for creating the final illustration or design.

Tell me about copyright.

Unlike traditional artists who sell physical works, illustrators sell the rights to use the work (because it is usually –but not always– made in a digital format). All illustrators like to retain the copyright to their work. That means you can’t go and take my work and resell it without my permission (either as artworks, merchandise or whatever) . Illustrators sell the rights to use custom illustrations. That is the main thing to know about the terms of my copyright.

The main thing to know is that you are only buying the ‘permission’ to use my customised artwork for the intended purpose and not something else. Copyright is not transferable to another person.

Tell me about ‘editorial’ use.

“Editorial use” means that the graphic is intended to be used with a ‘story’ like a news article, magazine article or blog post or other social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Tell me about ‘attribution’.

‘Attribution’ means to attribute my name to the illustration (it could be in a caption or at the end of a blog post for example). This is generally a common courtesy given to artists, illustrators and photographers — otherwise, I can simply sign the artwork somewhere discreet as most artists do.

What is your preferred style of illustration?

Please keep in mind that different illustrators all have different ‘styles’. There are an unknown variety of styles based on lines, texture, colour, subject. Different illustration styles suit different brands. Think of the personality of different brands. What style would you choose to best match that brand?

I purposely choose a cartoon style because I have always been drawn to it. It has been shown that special regions of our brains light up when we see a cartoons! So they are fun & effective.

I try not to make my drawings too realistic. The more realistic it gets, the less artistic it looks. The less artistic it looks, the less people will read what you have to say. I think that illlustrations shouldn’t be too obvious. I think that some mystery is also ok, because it entices people to take a closer look.

Why do illustrators have to sketch everything first?

A sketch that takes one minute to do on paper usually takes an hour or more to finish properly on the computer. So a sketch that has taken three minutes can easily take 3 or 4 hours on the computer. That is why illustrators first work in sketches, so that we don’t waste too much time “drawing for nothing”.

How do you price illustration work?

It depends on the following: size, usage, audience, detail, timeframe. As they say: “Price, quality, speed. Pick any two.”

Why does the size of the illustration affect the cost?

While it’s true that vector illustrations are “infinitely scalable”, bigger pictures usually require more detail. Adding more detail takes more time. Time is always money.

Are more detailed illustrations always better?

No, it depends. Small illustrations should have less detail. What happens otherwise is that the drawing can looks too “busy” in such a small space. Busy = hard to process. You can see this with any thumbnail, complicated images are harder to ‘read’. This is one reason why logos have to be simple, so that they can be easily identitifed at small scales…

Will you be offended if I do not like your initial ideas?

Will I be offended if you do not like my ideas? No. I am trained to handle criticism. It is best to say what you like or don’t like and why. I’m certainly not going to get angry if you tell me you do not like something.

I’m trained to be creative enough to look for a different solution that you are happy with. It’s okay to be blunt, just remember to always be polite!

I may or may not agree with your decisions though. I’ll let you know why I might not agree.

While there is often consensus among designers about what good design is, designers will often disagree with each other. We’re used to it. Everyone has different experiences and therefore tastes.

By the same token, as a professional designer, I’m obliged inform you if your design or illustration is not professional enough.

If you do not like something, you should tell a designer as soon as possible that you do not like the direction the project is heading in. That will the designer time to change track well before the deadline in reached.

If you’re a client, please don’t pretend to like a design until the very end of the project (either right before the deadline, or worse, after the deadline has already been met).

I used to be one of those highly agreeable people that never disagreed with anyone to avoid all forms of disagreement (and therefore altercation). Since then, I’ve learned to communicate well.

What I am trying to say is: it’s much better to disagree with a designer at the beginning of a project, rather than disagree at the end of a project. Why? Because this gives the designer time to find another creative solution.

A good designer will always let you know if they can’t find a suitable (meaning: better than what you’ve already got) creative solution for your project.

A good designer should not really even sign the contract in the first place if they think that cannot find an adequate solution to the creative brief.

What are your working hours?

I work all the time but prefer to have weekends off. Contrary to what many people think, I actually do get out of my house now and then. I am not sitting at my computer 24/7. Please do not expect email replies on weekends.

I haven’t heard from you in a while…

So the deadline is fast approaching and you’re freaking out. Firstly, don’t stress! Please realise also that this is not the only project I am working on and I do know how to manage my own time. So if I’ve accepted your commission, I won’t have forgotten about the deadline. If it’s important, the best thing to do is call me on +612 8502 3048.

Can you do animations?

I have some limited experience with animations, yes. Good-quality animations are one of the most time-consuming things to do of all. That is why there are so many horrible cheap animated cartoons out there on television. Ever noticed how many people have to work for Pixar movies when the final credits are shown? A lot. A real lot.

I prefer to just do the simple illustrations and then have them move on screen or vary in scale. They are not actually changing shape, they are mostly fixed, so it’s not technically an ‘animation’. For true animations, you will really need a professional 2D or 3D animator…

Why so many questions?

Good communication at the very beginning of a new project is essential. Why?

Design is not an easy thing. Designers have to be able to know what you want better than you do! That’s why good, direct communication is vitally important.

Designers cannot read a client’s mind. I’m sure we all wish we could (because it would save everyone a lot of time).

Designers love having creative freedom, but they still need guidelines to work with to come up with the best possible creative solution.

The more information you can provide about the project, the better the results will be.

That’s why we try to ask as many questions as we can in the beginning stages. So we don’t waste each others’ time later on.

What is the process of hiring a designer?

  1. Create brief to establish what work is required
  2. Sign contract.
  3. Deliver final design(s).
  4. Revisions.
  5. Payment within 30 days.

1 to 2 revisions are usually included in the fixed-price quote.
If using an hourly rate, revisions are charged at additional cost.

What are your favourite brands?

In a world full of competition, we all have a preference for certain brands. Designers in particular love talking about their favourite brands.

So these are the brands that the brands I have been intersting in for the last 20 years or so, the ones I still have an affinity with:

Fashion/Beauty: Bershka, CottonOn, DKNY, Hugo Boss, Jack&Jones, John Frieda, L’oreal, Pull&Bear, Shiseido, The Body Shop, Toni&Guy, Quicksilver, Zara.
Cenovis, Guilyan, Sukin, Sushi Hub, The Body Shop, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
Food/Kitchen/Bathroom/Laundry: Braun, Breville, Colgate, DeLonghi, Fisher&Paykel, Gilette, Global, Kelvinator, Kyocera, Miele, Scanpan, Weber, Wiltshire, Wüsthof, Zyliss.
Communication: Ericsson, HTC, Motorola, Vodafone, Nokia, Panasonic, Siemens.
Technology: 3M, Belkin, Bering, Bosch, Brother, Case Logic, IBM, Logitech, Nikon, Olympus, Seagate, Voigtlander, Rado, Skagen, Sony, Swatch, Xerox.
Transportation: Buell, Honda, Kawasaki, Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren, MV Augusta, Suzuki.
Travel: Alitalia, Emirates, Lufthansa, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic.
Entertainment: Kukuxumusu, Pixar, Marley.
Art: Staedtler, Stabilo, Arches, Strathmore, Fabriano, Winsor & Newton, Holbein, Rotring, Quill, Artline, Copic, Faber Castell, Moleskine, Sharpie, Pentel, Pelikan, Tombow, Caran D’Ache.

(Luckily for me, I can appreciate brands like Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren and Rado brands without having to own any of the things that they sell)

Sport/Cycling1: 3T, Avid, Bontrager, Calfee, Campagnolo, Castelli, Chris King, Cinelli,  Continental, Deda, Diadora, Empire, Gaerne, GT, Hope, ITM, Kestrel, Klein, Knog, Look, Marzocchi, Mavic, MET, Miche, Michelin, Mountain Cycle, Mrazek, Pearl Izumi, Phil Wood, Pinarello, Rolf, Rudy Project, Rüegamer, Selle Italia, Sidi, Specialized, Spinergy, Syncros, SRP, Thomson, Time, Tiso, Truvativ, Vetta, WTB, Zipp –and of course my own brand– Vertebrae.

  1. Yes in the world of cycling… I am (or rather I was) a total brand snob… because of my favourite brands.

Tell me more about ‘successful’ brands.

One final note about branding. I ‘like’ a lot of brands. Mainly because I think they’re ‘cool’.

I don’t hate brands. I love them; if I don’t love them, I don’t buy.

Nowadays I am always on the lookout for the more environmentally conscious brands (and so are many others too, so that’s the direction we should all be leaning in). I try to buy from smaller unbranded shops. And I’m just not ‘into’ consumerism anymore.

So if I find out that the companies behind my even favourite brands threaten the environment in any way, or animal rights, my loyalty goes out the window. I quickly choose another brand.

The same goes with customer service. If a business does provide me with adequate service or they refuse my refund, again, my loyalty goes out the window. I choose another brand1.

I think there are a lot of people out there like me today. The coolness of the logo is not the only thing to consider today.

Great design is definitely part of the “success equation”. But it’s not the only part. Cleanliness, customer service, trust and quality are all just as important as design.

What I am trying to say is: I can supply you with a great design, but there’s more to a great business than just great design.

Some of the ‘greatest’ brands in the world (like for instance BP, UPS, Monsanto and now Adani) are often the most hated. There’s a reason for that and it has nothing to do with their logos or their overall corporate identity and everything to do with the way they treat not only their own customers, but the environment as well.

These days, people will overlook the brand or logo and instead focus on the ethics of the company itself. So please do keep that in mind when considering the value of your own brand.

  1. Yes in the world of cycling… I am (or rather I was) a total brand snob… because of my favourite brands.
  2. Not quite as quickly, you have to give some businesses time to correct for their errors. But still, if they keep it up, I choose another brand.

  1. Yes in the world of cycling… I am (or rather I was) a total brand snob… because of my favourite brands.
  2. Not quite as quickly, you have to give some businesses time to correct for their errors. But still, if they keep it up, I choose another brand.
  3. Not quite as quickly, you have to give some businesses time to correct for their errors. But still, if they keep it up, I choose another brand.