Illustration, Notebook

35 from 35: Part one

Notebook: 9 March 2016 | ILLUSTRATION


35 from 35. Part one: 10 commissioned illustrations from the 1980s


Good editorial design is about more than just making a page look pretty – it’s about working with words and pictures to help tell a story or communicate a message. Those pictures might be photos, an illustration or an infographic and they will either be pictures that already exist and are sourced from a picture library for example, or they may be pictures that only exist in the designer’s mind and still have to be created from scratch by commissioning a photographer or illustrator. The artist will be carefully briefed and some time later (an hour, a day, a week) they will supply the designer with their picture. This is the moment of truth for the designer: hopefully they will have commissioned well, they’ll like what they’ve been sent and they’ll get a real buzz from the artwork and they’ll know how well it will help tell the story and how good it will make the page look.

I’ve been an editorial designer for 35 years and in that time I’ve commissioned many different photographers and illustrators. Most commissions worked out just fine and I was pleased with the results. I thought that it would be fun to unearth some of those past illustrations and share the creative skills of their makers. I’ve dug out 35 illustrations – one for each year that I’ve been working. Given that I started as an editorial designer in 1980, I’ve got 10 from the 1980s, 10 from the 90s and so on. So, in no particular order, here are my 10 favourite commissioned illustrations from the 1980s with the other 25 to follow over the next few weeks.


1 The Orange Juice Test by Ian Cox for Datalink magazine → This was the first job that I ever commissioned. I was the recently appointed art editor on a computing magazine called Datalink. Each week we would commission at least one drawing to help illustrate some fairly technical articles. This was a light-hearted feature about the challenges of providing 700 glasses of freshly squeezed orange for 700 delegates at a software conference. Ian Cox was a Devon based illustrator and he turned in this fun drawing which still makes me smile.

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2 Employee Dismissal by Chris Priestley for Accountancy Age magazine → A simple idea brilliantly executed. Chris Priestley now writes and illustrates children’s books.

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3 Accident – Take Cover by Ed Briant for Accountancy Age magazine → I remember loving Ed Briant’s deft linework and he was a regular contributor to the pages of Accountancy Age. Ed now lives and works in the USA.

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4 The Office Christmas Party by Richard Adams for Campaign magazine →
Richard Adams now lives and works in East Sussex as a successful artist.

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Tabloid TV by Simon Edwards for Campaign magazine → Bold montage from illustrator Simon Edwards that captured the essence of a feature about trashy US television.

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Rape of Media Freedom by Ian Pollock for Campaign magazine → Ian is a brilliant artist and can always be relied upon to provide a hard-hitting illustration when needed. This was for an article about advertising’s powerful influence over the media. Ian still works from his home in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

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7 and 8 The Windsor and Walnut chairs by Peter Morter for Working in Wood My very first job was as a designer for the Soho based book publisher Mitchell Beazley working on an illustrated encyclopaedia of woodworking. Mitchell Beazley were a publisher very much in the same mould as Dorling Kindersley and they specialised in beautifully illustrated reference books. These two brilliant drawings by the artist Peter Morter (commissioned by my art editor, John Ridgeway) were just two of many that appeared in the book. Morter had a real knack for capturing the look of the different types of wood and the texture of the fabric in his artwork.

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9 Characters from adverts by Bob Williams for Campaign magazine → We ran an article in Campaign about advertising ‘characters’ that were invented by agencies to represent particular brands such as Hofmeister Lager’s George the Bear. I needed an old-school illustrator who could easily capture the different characters and depict them in a group. A trawl of illustrators’ agents turned up the artist Bob Williams who nailed the job.

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10 Advertisers’ Anecdotes by Axel Scheffler for Campaign magazine → Scheffler had a charming style that was perfect for this light-hearted feature where well known admen revealed humorous incidents from their past. Axel Scheffler later went on to work with the writer Julia Donaldson and helped create the friendly and brilliant monster, The Gruffalo.

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Next time: 10 commissioned illustrations from the 1990s…