What clients want from illustrators in 2015

Rising illustration star Edward Carvalho Monaghan talks neon type, political persuasion and why collage is coming back.

We first noticed Edward Carvalho Monaghan's bold, psychedelic, comic-book style in 2013, during a visit to Central Saint Martins' graduate exhibition – and then again at Pick Me Up 2014, where he was named as one of the exhibition's 'selects'.

Since leaving university with a BA Hons in graphic design, Carvalho Monaghan's surreal imagery has quickly earned him attention from an impressive array of clients, from Adobe to Transport for London to the Observer – not to mention a few awards.

Here, John O'Reilly, editor of the Association of Illustrators' magazine Varoom, grills the surreal artist on where he thinks illustration is going and what he's noticed clients starting to ask for…

Have you noticed any new directions in requests from your clients recently?

Named The Band Rides Up The Back, this illustration interprets bra-fitting terminology for Gather.ly and Debenhams

There's been a massive trend for neon type over the past six months. Thankfully we have 3D artist Thomas Burden on our books and he has become something of a specialist.

I think the bigger picture though is that CGI artists like Thomas are allowing art directors to be much more ambitious. A good 3D artist can pretty much render anything that you can imagine, so it's really opened up Pandora's box in terms of what we're being asked to create.

It does seem that collage is having a moment again?

Cover art for Jacobin magazine's Winter 2014 issue

It's definitely having a renaissance. We work with Michelle Thompson and she's having her busiest year in the past two decades. Why? Collage is just like any other process or style – it comes in and out of fashion. Perhaps it was too popular for a while, so people left it alone, but it's now back on the designer's radar and really popular again.

The applications have changed though. In the past it was most commonly used on book jackets. Now we're seeing more call for it editorially, in annual reports and in advertising briefs.

Illustration is increasingly moving. How are clients and illustrators developing this?

Knight & Wildman by Edward Carvalho Monaghan

Making content move has been very hot on the agenda this year. Whether it's full-blown animations or the subtle movement of a GIF, clients are increasingly looking to bring things to life.

It's a reaction to how formats are developing. Whether it's tablet editions of consumer magazines or digital advertising screens, clients want to make the most of the technology on offer to them.

How do you think the election will affect illustration in editorial and advertising?

Billboard design for online creative community gather.ly

We're obviously going to see a lot of politically themed illustrations in the editorial sector. There's going to be a huge amount of column inches that require imagery, and politics and illustration have always had a great relationship.

It'll also be interesting to see how illustrators use their art to get their own messages across via self-initiated work. The illustration community has a big social conscience and, dare I say it, overall a certain political persuasion. It'll be interesting to see what people do off their own backs, either to poke fun at the process or nail their colours to the mast.

What one thing do you think we'll see more of in illustration over the this year?

Take Up Thy Stethoscope, an illustration for Printed Pages magazine

Personally, I think we'll see a big increase in bespoke content commissioned purely for social networks. Brands have had to raise their game when it comes to communicating to their audiences via social.

Followers don't want to see re-hashed content from elsewhere, they want to be rewarded with bespoke content purposely made for a smaller screen.

Words: John O'Reilly

John O'Reilly is editor of Varoom, a magazine produced by the Association of Illustrators. A journalist, writer, consultant and lecturer, his clients have included The Guardian, The British Council and Nike.

You can read the full version of this special report inside Computer Arts issue 235: Make 2015 your best year ever.

Liked this? Read these…