5 things art directors hate the most

Breaking into the book illustration business is hard word, so the last thing you want to do is annoy your art director.

In this article, leading art directors explain the top five most annoying things that artists and illustrators can do when approaching them for work opportunities. 

It makes for great advice – whatever industry or art field you want to break into. So read on and take heed...

01. No research

5 things art directors hate the most

A gorgeous Paizo Publishing cover by illustrator Lucas Graciano, who obviously did his research

Don't send your portfolio to a company unless you know what it does and that your work is relevant to it. Paizo Publishing's style, for instance, is high fantasy.

"Getting anime, editorial or children's book illustrations immediately tells me that this was a mass emailing," says Paizo's managing art director Sarah Robinson. And that's never a good start. 

02. Poorly designed websites

What's the point of having a slick-looking website if your contact details are hard to find or, worse still, missing altogether? Make sure your site is easy to navigate and up-to-date, showcasing your ability to design regularly.

After all, you don't want to dazzle someone in person or on social media with your awesome portfolio, only for them to become frustrated by an out-of-date website.

03. False representation

Art directors hate it when the work you hand in isn't the type of work they've seen in your portfolio. They've most likely hired you because they've seen that you do particular things well – and that style or quirk of yours is what they're after.

If you want to try something wild, new and different for an assignment, discuss it with the art director first. Surprise art directors by being great, not by being surprising.

Perhaps follow the advice in Stephanie Vicari and Caitlin Hickey's art director safety card!

Perhaps follow the advice in Stephanie Vicari and Caitlin Hickey's art director safety card! (Image credit: Stephanie Vicari and Caitlin Hickey)

04. Resistance to change

There are lots of people involved in the publication of a book and their opinions are all valid – from sales to marketing, and from the author to the publisher. Amends will happen on your covers, and it's by working together that you get the best results.

If you are overly protective of your initial sketches and unwilling to be a little flexible with your ideas, you will put art directors off working with you. They know what they're doing, and any criticism will be in the interest of making your cover more appealing, after all.

05. No communication

You shouldn't need to talk to your art director every single day, but if you have a problem with anything to do with the project, let them know and discuss it. There might be a simple solution.

Equally, if your art director has a question, respond to it promptly. If you're off the grid when they need you, you'll drop off their list of preferred artists pretty quickly.

Like this? Read these!

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Clifford Hope

Cliff has been working in publishing for more years than he cares to remember. His sub-editing skills have been put to good use on academic, computing, creative and motoring publications, including ImagineFX, Computer Arts, Paint & Draw, Linux Format and Total 911. He particularly admires the work of concept artists such as Doug Chiang, Matt Allsopp and Christian Alzmann, who have shaped the look of Star Wars films and series such as The Mandalorian, Rogue One and The Force Awakens. Even The Phantom Menace's leaden script can't detract from its imaginative visuals!