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Careers in Vector Illustration and Design

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Want vector to pay your bills or an extra piece of income with your vector illustration and design skills? Then you're in the same boat as me, as I want to know more about careers in vector too! Check out today's article that asks the question to some big names in vector, as well as what qualities you need to make that career launching step!

Introduction

I've only recently thought about vector seriously in a way to bring home the bread. I've had this passion for our scalable friend for longer than I've been obsessed with anything else, but always saw it as a hobby and a casual creative thing to do. When looking at vector art as an illustrative art form, it seems a weak medium to work with in comparison to the big guns that paint and create using Photoshop and Corel Painter, so I always thought that my little vector illustrations would get me nowhere.

So what careers are out there in vector art? It is something you could actually earn a crust with? I decided to ask some vector artists, and those who use vector everyday, what they do for a living and how they got into it. Of course, this is only a sampling of what is out there and no way the limit to what can be done with vector in your work life.


Cristiano Siqueira aka CrisVector

I've admired the work of CrisVector as soon as I was aware of his work. He was the first person that made me realize that you can make a living from vector and a good one at that. He's ever inspiring and is probably one of my all time favorite pioneers of the medium.

Q What is your job title? What does this entail? How often do you work with vector?

I'm an illustrator. My work is translate/complete or explain concepts, texts and ideas through illustrations. I work with vector most of the time, but this is not a rule, it's just because I love vectors :) Actually I must use the best technique required for the illustration I need to do. Sometimes this is a vector, sometimes photo compositions, 3D or even pencil drawings.

Q How did you get into your current role? Did it require any qualifications?

I had to be very persistent because it's hard to convince new clients that I was able to produce the illustrations they wanted. Yes, it requires some qualifications, the main one is to be able to create any illustration, so in order to do it, a good skill level in drawing is required. This is not just about using computers or software, but the basic skills to create images, draw objects, people, anything... If the client wants a specified illustration style, let's say a vector illustration for example, so obviously a good knowledge of the tools for creating a vector illustration are required, same with digital, 3D and so on.

Q Are there any special skills, personal traits or abilities you feel would be of benefit to your line of work?

The basics, as I said, is a good skill level in drawing. If the illustrator can draw or sketch your ideas using paper and a pencil, so he will be able to translate this initial idea to a finished illustration, using any ways to finish it.

Another skill that helps much is an eye for a good composition that can translate the concepts and ideas into an interesting, eye catching image. By good composition we can take a good organization of elements, colors and such. For my line of work, I'm working more and more with organic shapes and drawing style, this basic skill in drawing is very important because I can break the usual look of a vector illustration, hard and solid and create some organic and artistic images.

Q So far, what has been your career highlight?

I think the latest works I've been doing for magazines... I'm proud of them, specially the latest collection of works I did for ESPN Magazine Brasil. I had to illustrate portraits of famous Brazilian sports people, including an idol of mine, Ayrton Senna.


Helen Huang aka CQCat

Who else better to ask than a friend of mine who's worked with vector in her day job and is planning to make the move into more illustration based work. Surely with her professional experience with vector working with huge Hollywood clients would give me a little insight…

Q What is your job title? What does this entail? How often do you work with vector?

I work as an interactive designer at my full time job. The agency I work at is an award-winning digital creative shop and experts in entertainment advertising, interactive design, casual games, online media, websites and iPhone apps. As a designer, my main responsibility is design and conception. Since most of the assets we work with are provided by clients, I don't work a lot with vector. I work mainly with Flash, Photoshop and After Effects. Recently however, I'm involved in creating a FaceBook game, designing characters, UI, etc. So I've been working with vector almost every day. That makes me very happy.

I also started an illustration career as a freelancer. I've been doing character designs for games, illustrations for children's books, editorial for magazines and such. This job involves mostly vector.

Q How did you get into your current role? Did it require any qualifications?

I stepped into the design and illustration career by passion and determination. I was working in the legal field for a few years and one day I decided to pursue what I really want to do. It was not easy at first. I gave up everything and started from scratch. But as I always feel, when your heart is on something, it gets easy, and fun. Now I look back, I am still amazed at how far I've come.

To start a career in design and illustration, there are three very basic and fundamental qualifications:

  1. Good sense of aesthetics.
  2. Knowledge in design software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash.
  3. Good work ethics and sense of responsibility.

Q Are there any special skills, personal traits or abilities you feel would be of benefit to your line of work?

Aside from the qualifications I mentioned earlier, there are a few more factors I think will benefit this career:

  1. Have a passion for what you do and be eager to learn and improve.
  2. Have good communication skills and teamwork spirit.
  3. Stay current.

Q So far, what has been your career highlight?

As an interactive designer, I feel very lucky to have the chance to promote so many big movies, including the past three Harry Potter movies, Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes, Slumdog Millionaire, Alice in Wonderland, Inception, Avatar, The Hangover, Tron, The Social Network and many more.

As an illustrator, being able to do what I do is already a big reward. Let alone when people tell me they find inspiration in my artwork. I do look forward to opportunities in the near future to do more commercial illustrations and fashion illustrations.


Jared Nickerson aka J3Concepts

I've always enjoyed the whimsical illustrations of J3Concepts. Reading a copy of Computer Arts Projects of recent on "Make More Money As A Freelancer" (issue 142, November 2010), there was a huge smile on my face as I saw his characters scattered across pages.

Q What is your job title? What does this entail? How often do you work with vector?

I'm the Lead Illustrator/Owner of Jthree Concepts, I lead a team of freelancers (programmers, illustrators, and account management, etc.) to determine style and direction of each client project. I only work with vector.

Q How did you get into your current role? Did it require any qualifications?

The company is based on my freelance endeavors and grew from there. Just an imagination and the ability to teach myself a few graphics programs along the way.

Q Are there any special skills, personal traits or abilities you feel would be of benefit to your line of work?

Anyone can learn a program and there are a lot of people who are good artists, but being able to market yourself, deal with clients and conduct business professionally is the most important part of any freelance career or entrepreneurship.

Q So far, what has been your career highlight?

The ability to do what I love and make money at it! Also, the ability to work with large clients like Adidas, Nike, and Microsoft, to name a few.


Sean Kelly of Bucket O Thought

What about working with vector across a variety of formats… not just in static art but more? I went to Sean over at Bucket O Thought to see what he gets up to on a daily basis.

Q What is your job title? What does this entail? How often do you work with vector?

I don't really have a "job title," I am an independent illustrator, compositor, animator, I also teach at RMIT University Melbourne… which frees me up to follow my own creative direction. Vector ranges across most of the programs I use so even if I am working on motion graphics my vector skills will come into play, so for me vector is an almost daily thing. Understanding how the pen tool works really broadens your ability through almost all graphic programs.

Q How did you get into your current role? Did it require any qualifications?

My career has not been linear: Starting as a traditional paint and ink illustrator I went digital to broaden my appeal, I then became a video artist and digital illustrator, taking up University teaching to make ends meet. Video art morphed into animation and composting which leads to where I am today. The only role that really requires a qualification is teaching.

Q Are there any special skills, personal traits or abilities you feel would be of benefit to your line of work?

Imagination, persistence, artistic talent and good communication skills. Though persistence would be the major factor.

Q So far, what has been your career highlight?

That would have to be the Suit Up show this brought together many of the areas I am interested in, illustration, event management, promotions and organization. I am really proud of the project and the artists involved.

Conclusion

I'm still at the beginning of my career in vector and like a school girl with a multitude of options ahead of her, I don't know yet the direction I want to go in. I know I love vector and everything about it, which is why I enjoy writing articles and tutorials about vector. Is this the start of a career or is it something I want to go more into? With food for thought from the people I admire and look up to, it's definitely given me something to think of.

Do you work with vector every day? We'd love to hear about your day to day work and how you go into it. What special qualities do you think it takes to do what you do? What do you aspire to do?

We can be sure that being good with vector and being creative is not going to pay the bills without additional effort. There are definitely other skills a person needs to succeed in the field they want, especially if it's in a freelance capacity. Does this mean we will all be rushing to our local colleges to do a course on selling ourselves to dream clients or learning how to pitch to others your ideas?

If you're wanting to know more or read some interesting articles about life as a freelancer in general, then check out FreelanceSwitch. Here are a few related articles to get started with there:

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