Saturday, 29 October 2011

Illustration's Digital Future

The last few years have seen a dramatic change in the way we use technology. The introduction of computer tablets, such as the ipad, created both opportunities and challenges for illustrators everywhere.
In the last couple of years, the idea of reading books and newspapers digitally has become increasingly popular. Products such as the kindle have the ability to store hundreds of ebooks and are much lighter and easier to carry than the average book. However, many of the books available for download do not display the cover artwork - the territory of an illustrator. If this trend of reading digitally continues, will illustrators still be needed? Also, will illustrators want to spend time creating a cover if the reader will only see it as a small icon when searching through the online store?
The ipad is perhaps then better for illustrators. Books on the ipad look similar to what they do in print, with pictures and a cover - but in a digital format. Many illustrators have also embarked on creating interactive illustrations which have become popular in children's books. But this then raises the question of the purpose of an illustrator, could an animator not as easily achieve the same thing?
In regard to digital newspapers and magazines, will editors still commission illustrators if they have a smaller surface area to work to? Hopefully illustrations will still be used in printed newspapers but will there still be a demand for editorial images in digital newspapers? Online newspapers use illustrations featured in their printed counterpart, but ipad/iphone/kindle applications are a completely different format and are produced separately.
However, I just can't picture a time when everything is digital and there is no longer any desire for a physical newspaper or book. I think the demand for printed material will still be there no matter how far technology progresses. With books especially, people like to physically turn the pages and hold something 'substantial' in their hands. Where's the fun of buying a digital book for someone? It's so impersonal and I really hope it never catches on.
Despite all this, there are some positives for illustrators. The ipad, in particular, allows you to show people your work on the go. If you talk to a potential client, or are simply networking, and you don't have a particular piece of work to hand - the ipad permits you to quickly access a large, clear image.
Websites/blogs/twitter have become really important for designers and illustrators over the last few years. They're a great way of networking, sharing work and keeping up with news from the 'design world'. Products such as iphones and ipads are therefore useful as they enable you to 'update' on the move. You can upload pictures and thoughts almost immediately, rather than waiting until you get home.
Overall, I think the field of illustration will become tougher in the years to come. We all have to move with the times and if the future is digital based, we will just have to find a way to fit ourselves into it.

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