Happy New Year! Belatedly, I guess. I would like to reflect a little bit on 2013. I know I'm a little late in the month, but I have excuses, believe me. The main reason is the biggest and most important news: I am twice a father. Marie Jordan was born on January 13. That event deserves its own post, which I will follow up with very shortly. But I do owe you (or at least myself) a general update about the business side of things.
2013 was the year of illustration. Back in January, I was freelancing, working on and off for agencies in Vancouver and North Vancouver. A major illustration commission for BC Eggs came through from Karacters, and it was a dream project: An illustration-based editorial style annual report. Basically the whole thing, from the cover to the inside spreads and infographics, was centred around my illustrations. The report turned out beautifully, thanks to good design and production on the agency's part. This job both encouraged me to keep pursuing more illustration projects.
Meanwhile, I was edging my way into a directorial position at BRANDFX, a North Vancouver-based boutique ad and design agency. The thinking was that, with my new family obligations, the stability of a full time senior position was key. So, in May, after a few months of freelancing, I accepted the Design Director position the agency offered me. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to jump into something just to know you don't want to be there. Immediately, I realized that I valued the freedom and variety independent work and freelancing afforded me. I realized that I valued freedom and autonomy over stability (to my wife's chagrin at times). With a heart filled with gratitude to my employer (and, of course, regret for causing the hassle), I put in my notice and was out on my own again by September.
There was more to my decision than a negative bias against employment. I was getting more and more illustration commissions, and some of the work I was doing was gaining some favourable recognition. In February, LA culture blog The Fox is Black invited me to do a desktop wallpaper (pro bono) for their ongoing series. This work was fun and provided great exposure in its own right, but it ended up leading to more illustration work with clients who would never have come across my work before.
By the end of August, as I was wrapping up in North Van, I had done two or three profitable illustration projects, and I was lining up new clients for September. I jumped right into work for an independent client after Labour Day, and I haven't looked back since.
By December, just four months later, I had amassed some great illustration projects to my portfolio. Here are some highlights (although some are not in the wild yet, so I have to be cryptic):
Creative Mornings theme illustration – I was excited to do this one because of how relevant the Creative Mornings events are to the global creative industry. My work and name would be propagated, flashed on projectors, in major cities around the world. And the client shared my sense of quirkiness and fun, choosing one of my more absurd concepts.
River Rock Casino – Latitude Agency in Vancouver commissioned me to do a set of illustrations for the various Holiday events and promotions at this giant casino resort. It is rare that mass market campaigns go for a pure illustration approach, so I was lucky to be able to pretty much do what I wanted for this one, stylistically speaking. A great process led to a great end product. These ended up being featured on Design Work Life — my fifth featured project on this popular design blog.
BC Liquor – Keep your eyes peeled in 2014 for a series of themed gift cards featuring my illustrations at BC Liquor stores. This commission came through Monolab, an up and coming Vancouver design studio.
Chipotle Mexican Grill – Someone at CAA, the agency responsible for an upcoming campaign for Chipotle, came across my desktop wallpaper for The Fox is Black, and contacted me for the project. It is still in progress, but it is definitely symbolic of the kind of work I hope to be doing more of — work for major clients outside of Canada, where budgets are higher and risk aversion is lower.
Monocle – Most designers know about this bespoke, culture-setting magazine started by Winnipeg native Tyler Brûlé. To be invited to illustrate for Monocle is a dream and an honour. When they contacted me to do some spot illustrations, to be quite nerdy and uncool, I felt like I had really made it. Now, the commission was small and you'd probably miss the work if you were flipping through Issue 70, but it is highly symbolic and significant to me that they called me up—I truly hope that 2014 brings more editorial illustration commissions.
Offscreen Magazine – Another dream job, this handsome, up and coming magazine for people in the pixel-based creative industry. It is staunchly analogue, aiming to provide an offscreen oasis of inspiration for people who stare at screens all day. Kai Brach, the magazine's founder, invited me to illustrate the title spread for a moving reflection by Christopher Murphy in Issue 07. This magazine is on its way to my front door, and I cannot wait to photograph it and get it up here on my site!
[A film production] – Now unfortunately, I have to be very cryptic about this, since the work has not been launched yet and the contract I signed stipulated that I do not name the client I worked for. Let's just say the client is a major Hollywood film corporation with a name that starts with a U and ends with an L and has a globe for its logo (wink wink nudge nudge). They were filming part of an upcoming show based on a popular book series here in Vancouver. They commissioned me to illustrate a few book covers which are to be featured prominently in the show's pilot episode. This was the most intense project I worked on, fitting about 60 hours of work in less than four days. Anyone who's worked in the film industry would understand the pressure! I'm not even sure I will be able to show the work publicly, but, again, the project is symbolic to me as a significant piece of work history.
Things have slowed down since Christmas, and thankfully so — I am able to spend a lot of time getting to know my new daughter, and making sure my first is feeling included with the new addition. But of course, I am very much looking forward to seeing what illustration and design adventures 2014 will bring! Here's to the new year, and here's to making cool stuff to look at.