Today the first annual Illustrationism conference is underway in the Glass Factory, in Toronto. Aiming to “inform, entertain and persuade,” the conference is looking at the kinds of visual language that a changing visual world needs, with the influences of technologies, such as social media platforms and tools like Instagram.
The morning session saw about 200 industry professionals and graduating illustration students attending a panel discussion moderated by Will Novosedlik, VP design and brand thinking at Idea Couture. Members of the diverse panel included: David Ceolin, founder of investment firm Grade Ventures; Sean Moffitt, managing director of the Wikibrands digital consultancy; Bob Hambly, partner at Hambly & Woolley design firm; Dave Watson, CD of design for TAXI; Lisa Rapoport and Chris Pommer, co-founders of Plant Architects; and Ian Grais, partner at Rethink Communications.
Many strong ideas were raised about the changing nature of visual communications and the evolving role of designers and illustrators, with much good advice dispensed to young illustration graduate students. In one thread, for example, David Watson claimed that there have been more changes to our industry and communications in the last five years than there were in the previous 100. He lists as the three most important advances in communications the invention of the Gutenberg press, the launch of the Apple Macintosh computer in 1984 and Mark Zuckerberg’s founding of Facebook.
Ian Grais pointed out that in the Facebook/Twitter era everybody has the potential to get 11 million views. But it is image professionals who perhaps are best positioned to add real quality and value to communications for clients.
Sean Moffitt advised the illustrators and designers to think of themselves as storytellers first and foremost – an important function in a world where “content is becoming king.” At the same time he warned that you have to be very good at what you do. With the explosion of people and talents online, those with average accomplishments will be lost in the crush.
For his part, Bob Hambly bemoaned the number of companies that are bringing design expertise in-house, often believing that only a knowledge of technology is necessary. He says this might provide opportunities to real designers and illustrators “who are expert in the use of images.” He also took issue with the popular term “design thinking,” often used by business people and academics who, since they don’t really understand the creative process, try to quantify it. He thinks that such people are perhaps even “afraid of the creative process.” It is up to visual communicators to convey what their process is, so that clients can be comfortable letting them do what they do best.
The conference also announced the Illustrationism project, in which interested participants are supposed to start photo documenting all things illustration and tweet the images tagged #illustrationism. Then they can check the Illustrationism site to see how their work contributes to “this new social experiment.”
Later tonight, from 7 p.m. to midnight, in the same space, there will be a show of the 2012 Sheridan Illustration Grads.