How to become an Illustrator: Australian careers in design

If you’re good with a pen, paintbrush or other art tool, a job working as an illustrator, may be the job for you. Using your natural abilities, you could see yourself working for magazines, publishing companies, online organisations, merchandising or an advertising or animation agency. Your job is to convey a message, story or idea in an artistic and creative way in either a physical or digital space. More than likely, you will work from a creative brief that is developed after discussing with a client what they require, so you will need skills in communication and customer service.

  • Task Career in focus: What an illustrator does

    An illustrator aims to convey their client’s message – whether that be in an informative, entertaining or impactful way. Some illustrators work on paper but more and more, the trend is for illustrators to be competent in digital design programs as well. As an illustrator, you can find yourself working in a range of jobs, whether it is designing pictures for children’s books, advertising for a high-fashion or computer magazine, storyboards for animations, videogames, posters, greeting cards or apps – the list could go on and on!

    Tasks:

    • Speak to clients, easily understanding their requirements
    • Design creative illustrations, as per the client briefing.
    • Be receptive to feedback and make adjustments
    • Work across a range of mediums to effectively communicate your message
  • Skills Core qualities: Skills to succeed as an illustrator

    As an illustrator, you will need strong talent in creative work, and be able to quickly pick up new tools or mediums. Design and illustration can often be frustrating if you don’t properly understand what a client is asking for, so you will need to have good listening skills, with the confidence to probe further for the information you require. If you work as a freelancer, you will also need to perform administrative tasks such as invoicing, quotes and general filing.

    Skills/attributes
    • Natural talent and artistic aptitude
    • Able to be flexible with clients and your illustration tools
    • Advanced communication and customer service skills
    • Able to work as part of a team and by yourself
    • Confidence to be daring but effective in your work
  • Specialisations The field: Specialisations within design

    Nearly every business requires an illustrator at some stage, so there are a wide-range of specialties you can explore. You can work in animation, either in 2D or 3D, or hone your technical skills. For those who love construction and architecture, there are also opportunities available as an illustrator to help shape and design new building plans.

    Animator

    Working in animation can be very enjoyable, as you create and design characters that come to life and will literally dance off your page. As an animator, you will work alongside producers or directors, to create something off of a story board or completely from scratch. Animators usually use a lot of different tools to create their character and will often show the model in different mediums, which can include rendering, clay-mation or cell animation.

    Cartoonists

    Successful cartoonists often work for large newspapers creating humorous illustrations on political issues or work with publication companies doodling away on some graphic novels, or something similar. Cartoonists use their illustrations to enforce the message, sometimes working with authors or photographers to make their message effective.

    Technical illustrator

    A technical illustrator is more analytical and uses complicated mathematics to create illustrations for engineers, councils, scientists or government authorities. Usually these illustrations are highly detailed, and are created in a technical program such as CAD, although sometimes skills in more traditional mediums, such as paper, are also used.

    Architectural illustrator

    An architectural illustrator is involved in large or small projects that help to design new constructions such as buildings, parks or shopping malls. You would often work with councils, developers or construction companies and would need strong analytical skills to perform technical and mathematical calculations.
  • Pathways The right track: Find study options for becoming an illustrator

    As an illustrator, you are not required to have a degree, but in order to stand out from the crowd, it’s highly recommended you would seek out some form of specialised education in this area.

    Starting Out

    Get started on your illustrator career by picking a course. 

    Building Skills

    Hone your design skills with these courses. 

    Developing Your Resume

    Build your resume by acquiring additional qualifications, which should be coupled with a strong and unique design portfolio. 

    Industry Recognition

    There are many professional design or similar associations who can connect you with potential work, as well as boost your skilled reputation with employers.

    Entering the Workforce

    Here are some quick and easy example resumes and cover letters to help you kick start your career in illustration, keeping you one step ahead of the competition.

    Job Prospects in Design: Working life as an illustrator

    Thanks to technology, jobs in the design industry are expected to grow exceptionally into the future, however salaries are below average.

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