How do you start to visualise a concept for an illustration when you have a story or brief? Sometimes the ideas just hit you from the word go but even then you have to test the validity of the solution, better to be completely open to seeing the problem in other ways and feel your way through it, often your first idea can be your best (or worse the only one!), however it is also good practice to be prepared to enthusiastically dump that first idea, completely detach from it, and approach the problem from a different angle. That was described to me at college by a wise man “not to be precious about an idea”. Great advice. To me that entails being able to perceive your communication  directly from the viewers situation, what will draw them in? You need to somehow lure the viewer in with something that attracts them to follow on and digest the communication being presented. I take the view that an illustration’s purpose is to add meaning, using the standard bag of tricks that include metaphor, puns and stylistic devices, technique, I also seek simplication and distillation of visual information which can be used to deliver an idea directly and quickly.  This all includes the what are we communicating, who are we communicating to, and how is this best communicated.

So that starting point requires a genuine understanding of the intention of the communication. Research is assisted by the availability of that gigantic stream of material which is online. It’s all there before us. There’s no such thing as a new idea. Never. Before the internet kicked off one had to use whatever was available to kickstart an idea. This can include key words which can then be bounced around to develop meaningful associations. Meaningful. By looking at related information one can commence gathering images or words that can begin to build up a scrapbook of clues that can then be used to develop an idea. I’ll simply dump something related to the topic onto my image I’m working on and see if I can extract something from it, sometimes yes more often they can be simply a dead-end,which leads to searching deeper. Being able to tap into some  intuition doesn’t go astray and keeping an open mind to finding inspiration in associated imagery or concepts.

Basically I first digest the content of the communication. I find a good practice if I’m genuinely stuck for an idea and time is available is to just simply switch off and then pounce on it when you have cleared the fug of block. It can be useful to read a piece or think about it before  sleeping and ‘store it’ in the hope the subconscious might get involved, and quite often when you wake up you can just go straight into finding a solution in the morning.

The two images below were prepared for an article appearing in Readers Digest that discussed the notion that sedentary work practices created by sitting on chairs all day was causing damage to our postures and well being. The image then possibly needed to imply that sitting for prolonged periods is  potentially bad for us. The first one was a rough, by personifying the chairs (a standard visual trick) the notion is mobility beats a static state (happy leaping chair vs grumpy immobile chair). The second image however was chosen and this again uses personification but with far more sinister implications. You’re going to die on that seat folks…