January 10, 2012

Give Illustrators More Credit

To discover illustrators, I browse both printed and online publications. Newspapers are great for this: numerous illustrators make compositions for written stories, particularly op-ed pieces. It was through the illustration (below) for “How to Rescue Education Reform”, an article by Frederick M. Hess And Linda Darling-Hammond for the New York Times, that I made the delightful discovery of Gracia Lam and her work.

The online version of this article displays like this:

The illustrator’s name, in this instance, is located in the bottom corner.

Communicating the artist’s name is obviously important. Placing it adjacent to the illustration is a typical location. Or in the case of the illustration by Shout (Alessandro Gottardo) for the printed piece “When Secrets Go Viral” by TIME magazine’s senior writer John Cloud, credit to the illustrator is placed at the end of the article.

Though these are only two examples, this general approach to accrediting illustrators is a common one. In all cases, I wind up doing a search of the illustrator to learn more—more work examples, more details. Most of the time, the illustrator has a web-based portfolio. Ultimately, what the web reinforces is that a link acts as a powerful bridge to discovery.

It would be great if the illustrator’s name doubled as a link to her/his online portfolio. Additionally, giving credit to the illustrator at the bottom of the article would be great, too. If a written work is paired with an illustration, then the writer’s micro-bio could be happily paired with that of the illustrator. For accrediting illustrators in printed form, supplying the URL, or a shortened version of it, would be ideal.

Like a writer’s contributions, an illustrator’s are just as crafted and invested. The same goes for contributing works by photographers (1). As the forms of expression—which broadcast the unique intersection of the visible word, illustrations and photographs—develop progressively, so the line of creative accreditation should also progress.

(1) As beautifully diagrammed by Pia Jane Bijkerk