Friday, August 16, 2013

Good Content Is The Ticket!

"Is my site boring?" 

"Should I hire a designer to redesign my blog?" 

"Why can't my blog look like that?" 

Honestly, I've wondered this myself. This site looks pretty and I love that background on theirs...and wait... how did they do that?


I think we are in an online state where many feel that things do not quite visually measure up. Pesky comparisons can really shake up our perceptions of what's good and what's useful. Being online can be a pain in the membrane! 

Plain Need Not Be Boring
Worrying about our sites is a genuine concern. There's a lot of competition out there and there are many sites that get noticed before ours. We get swept up by articles everyday and yes, we do pay attention to layouts and design. However, HTML does not mean what is on a site is good. It may have attracted us there but the fluff wont keep us there! 

My thoughts: We're illustrators not designers. Scratch that-not all illustrators are designers and HTML experts. Secondly, the purpose of a site or a blog should never be hidden under all the flash, pop ups, banners, big text and multiple colours.   

Creative Gold
Call me old school (yes I've been called that), but when I read a blog I am looking for good content not glittery flashy design. If you can write, share ideas and show good work then it's all GOLD! Content should be the most important thing. Focus on what's important and add the subtle details later.  

Art Directors want the quick visit. They stop by and say hello but really there is no time for tea. They want to see it right away and they do not have time to dig through page after page to find your work and information. It makes sense to have it simple and effective. You've invited them there to show them what's important. 

This does not mean you cannot add your own personal touches but just try the have that 'keep it simple Spock' approach on standby along with 'a less is more' mix. We cannot drive away clients in this day and age. 

Good words count and titles should be attention getting too. SEO is not as big a worry as it used to be. Twitter has built in SEO and so does google. The proof: Google is now making it easier for good content to be found. So now we do not have to worry as much about SEO and focus on that important stuff. 

Things to consider: 
• Ample use of white space is a good approach. Too much clutter means your message could get lost. It's more visual noise and we really do not need any more eye strain as it is.   
• No flash because it's labour intensive. Not everyone has optimum Internet or the latest computer. Our computers are already being put to the test daily with all sort of new apps and technology updates. 
• Avoid interrupting the viewer. It's not a pop up book so try not to scare your audience. One time I was jolted by a popup and I spilled my coffee all over myself. I wasn't impressed. 
• Make sure your audience gets to see what they wanted to view in the first place. Be a good host!    
• Write in your own voice. Avoid art speak and big words (your tongue does not want to take an exam). If you are like me and you want to share ideas, then do that so your audience feels like they are part of the equation. 

Reminder: It's a busy internet so think simple, create value and always include your audience. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bold and Humble Illustration

"Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare."-Dale Carngie 

Hi illustrators! I received an interesting email asking me how bold an illustrator should be while online, with promotion and as a creator? Can you be both bold & humble at the same time? I thought these were good questions. 

The experts tell us to be bold but not too pushy. Be humble but don't be too quiet and to avoid the hard sell but tell a story. So many rules! So we are looking for the friendly, positive, story telling ratio to networking mix so we can get it just right. 

Here's the thing: not all of us know what that is nor do we all take it as seriously as the pros do. If we did, we would never have time to actually work.

"Freedom lies in being bold."-Robert Frost 

Here are the other things to consider: those who scream the loudest get noticed. Give them something to listen to or pay attention to. Be bold with a purpose. Keep your expectations in check because some things will get noticed and some things will get lost in the feed. 

How about we change the title to this: be confidently humble. 

Be bold. Jump into your career but remember to take your brain with you. 

My approach is to start with what you are comfortable with and then give yourself a gentle nudge to go farther. By doing this you are thinking about what the audience is going to read/see plus you can try to put yourself into their networking shoes. The other factor that is blatantly clear, promotion is something we must imperatively do to get out there. 

The next tid-bit is your fearless factor. We are only illustrators once. So, we have to push some to get some or push to pull them in. This formula is experimental and does not come without mistakes or challenges.

I shared these ideas on my illustration group page on Facebook to get some great feedback. Here are the responses: 

"Let your work be bold and do all the shouting for you! You get to sit quietly beside it like a slightly embarrassed parent with a look on your face that seems to say, " I'm sorry, this piece doesn't know how to behave in public. It has the nasty habit of grabbing everyone by the eyeballs. "  

"Since I believe the profession of an illustrator is a business, I feel that it is
necessary to approach every promotional activity, whether online or other, like an advertisement, or at the very least, a job interview. Is that bold? I don't know, but if that means my finances are in the black at the end of the day, then I need to do what it takes. Plus, I think that even the best art will go unnoticed if it is not somehow promoted."-David Vallejo 

"I personally think you should be bold in your enthusiasm for books and excited to be a part of this business, but you should be humble about your work. I just interviewed the brilliant Ed Young who is as humble a man as you will ever meet. I will never cease to be humbled by the great and varied talent in this business!"- Linda Stanek 

I once wrote that your work has a life without you-sometimes it hangs out with the crickets and sometimes it hangs out in the applause. Either way it takes a certain amount of courage and boldness to let it be out there for all to see. 

Jeremy is right-it is like being a parent to your work. It's not easy letting your work be out there on it's on without you controlling it. It will be judged and it will sometimes get overlooked.

The positives are much larger. Your work will also get attention. You will also get feedback. You will also develop a following. By being bolder you run the chance of letting the right eyes see what you do and what you do well. Stop waiting. 

Ask yourself this: Do you want to be safe all the time and be good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?