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Sharing what I know about type-based illustration while helping creatives do their best work

Confidently Make the Switch So You Can Enjoy Creating Again

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2016 was a year of growth.

With that growth came greater clarity within the areas of illustration and design I’d been pursuing. Which is the purpose of this post. Here I’m out to share why I’ve made specific changes to my area of focus so I can build a successful illustration business. 

In 2015 I started a side project called "Abstract Eyes" where I interpreted well-known characters within pop culture and the response was huge. At the start of 2016, I had approx 300 followers. Within a year I’ve more than doubled my following count on Instagram which is currently at 712! This was from the character illustrations I had produced and certainly people were attracted to these illustrations.

I felt inauthentic knowing the characters were not my own

Yes, there was some originality into the design but ultimately, the characters were already established by a designer—and also copyrighted! Essentially I was using the character’s popularity to garner attention to my work, which at the time felt like the right move. More eyes on my work right? If I wanted to take my brand to the next level, I knew I had to stop interpreting popular characters (essentially fanart) and build a following around work that was my own.

No doubt, I throughly enjoy the process of recreating characters in my illustrative style, but I reached a wall–a legal wall. I was selling prints of these characters without written consent from the original creator. Why I thought it was okay? Because I saw other people creating fanart and getting away it, which means I could do it too right? Super naive and also asking for trouble.

I didn’t want my brand to be known for character interpretation (which a lot friends started knowing me by) And the idea just didn’t sit right with me. I was deriving value from these characters for my own audience gain.

I was getting attention not because of my work, but of the work these companies have invested in creating

Through creating six abstract eye projects in one year, I’ve definitely reached a point where I have a “style” but it was time to advance my skills in another area of design. 

So, what is my new area of focus?

Typographic Illustration and Lettering

Why?

I’ve dismissed typography for a long time—kind of like a puppy wanting my attention but never giving it. And when designing with type, this would always be the last design I’d work on. I knew the importance of type and the effect good typography has on the viewer (good typography goes unnoticed) but I would always prioritise the graphics and illustrations.

Good design is accomplished by having a strong understanding of typography

And I truly believe this.

Where lettering comes in, I’ve always been drawn to graffiti and bold, type-based street wear graphics. The imperfections, texture and hand-drawn elements of lettering can really add a human touch. My first “real” lettering project was back in early 2015 when I was still dabbling in different areas of illustration and design. You could see the first lettering series I created here

With typography I’m able to use solid design principles to balance, structure and layout the best composition so the viewer is able to quickly understand the message. With illustration I’m able to add a unique finish with an array of illustrative styles to enhance and elevate the message. 

Creating type-based illustrations for me, is the sweet spot between design and art

I also enjoying seeing brands pour their heart into creating their products and positively affecting a person’s lifestyle.  

So I've decided to help brand-owners transform their message using type-based illustration, so they can continue to grow their business and engage in more meaningful conversations with their audience. With this new focus, I’m also able to communicate my own message by using illustrative type so I can too can connect with people from different cultures and make a positive impact on the world. 

I’m learning absolutely everything I can on the subject and I’m throughly enjoying the process. 

If you’ve been a fan of my character illustration work, this is where I want to thank you for any support you’ve given me thus far. It’s your comments and encouragement that have led me to produce one abstract eye series to the next. I’m by no means permanently ending the series, and will be creating more in the future. The character illustrations will just be on hiatus. 

If you’ve stuck this far, I invite you along this journey. I’m aiming to help brands grown with the work I create, meet designers and influencers who are at the top of their game, make long-lasting relationships and create work that fulfils not just myself but everyone around me. 

Three Actions You Can Take Right Now

  • Think about why you are creating. If you’re using someone else’s work for monetary gain, I’d reconsider. It’s not worth the legal hassle.

  • Give yourself permission to try something new. If one subject is not fulfilling you—switch. It’s okay to experiment if you’re still unsure what you’d like to do. 

  • If you do switch, make sure you went 100% all in with the previous subject. The worst you can do is try something for a day and then move on, give time and room to explore before making the switch.

All right! Let’s do this.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this post! 

Feel free to say hi on my Twitter @jaytenart and have a good one!