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illustrator or Graphic Desinger ?

Planet illustration studio company blog 023 / freelance illustrator struggle with graphic designer identityby. By freelance illustrator Adrian Cartwright

illustrator in Derbyshire
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I'm an illustrator !

7th August 2015


Hello there, I'm an illustrator not a Graphic designer or Web developer, but an illustrator…
Simply put, an illustrator is a profession on it's own, and there's a reason. Because it's a specialist area of Art/Design that's often additionally included to other disciplines of design. But why do arty sorts do this…?
Perhaps because it's simple drawing skills that design types do as children, usually a sign of artistic talent. Being able to draw is a fundamental part of a creative persons early development, but many move towards other areas of design that suits them and have an affinity with, normally in the teenage years.

A couple of years ago I attended website development workshop and was asked what I did, I said "I work in design, I'm an illustrator", the presenter replied, "oh your not a Graphic Designer then, you CAN actually draw".
Now I don't know if they were having a dig at Graphic Designers, but I think that graphic design is a more conceptual process of art, and illustration is more hands on making aesthetic emotional and informative images, normally used by graphic designers to embellish their design.
Many people especially outside of the creative industry collectively group anyone who does “Arty work” in a commercial setting as a Graphic Designer, saving the more traditional none-commercial side to the title Artist.

OK, that’s something we can’t change over night, but when big online companies and you don’t get much bigger influencers than Google not allowing the option of categorising my profession as an illustrator, only giving two logical options… Artist or Graphic designer! This is where I get frustrated. Not so much with Google, as I guess they’re simply following trends, but I do wish their categories were a little more sophisticated. in the UK 10 years ago simplified the categories, and it was a disaster! My adverts were placed under a title I can’t recall, but something like commercial design. This meant my Advert was now in listed in a category of about 100-200 companies in Nottingham ranging from Art buyers and Printers to Weavers…so unless you knew the company name, looking for an illustrator in the Yellow book or on-line became hard work.

Now you could say that Google will list illustrators if you search for “Illustrator”, but many Graphic designers & web developers also say they’re illustrators, and there’s a lot of them out there, and seeing that the only categories for me is Graphic designer, I’m listed as a Graphic designer and mixed in with them, much like the situation with Yell 10 years ago.
Now I’m sure some of them are capable illustrators, but I specialise in illustration. Look at my portfolio to see that my illustrations aren't quick graphics, or a funky infographic downloaded from an infographics-online site. They're carefully crafted and thoughtful illustrations.

I'm concerned that Google's limited categorisation of creatives is diluting local listings where you're presented with suppliers who'll cover many skills in the design umbrella, and be master of none. Creating a mediocre level of design groups. That's Dull! We want different, creative, areas to develop. And not encouraging companies to be everything to everyone. The world is becoming more and more specialised and we need to focus.
So when you need an illustrator or anything, think carefully when you type the words in the searchbox. It will make a big difference.

So if you know someone who’s arty and does it for a living, don’t call them a Graphic designer… Ask them to draw something. ; )

Please feel free to comment on this subject. And share on your social networks.

Author: Adrian Cartwright illustrator at Planet illustration. Contact

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