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15 May 2015

5 Tips for working with Illustrators by ChattyFeet

ChattyFeet is a quirky brand that makes people laugh with funny sock characters such as Kate Middle-Toe, Prof. Brian Sox, The Sockfather and others, and are currently participants on the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme. Here are their top tips for working with illustrators based on their own experience with commissioning work for ChattyFeet sock characters.

Photo source: ChattyFeet

1. Find references

We look online to find inspiration and discover creative work on sites like Behance and Dribbble, or just do a Google image search on a specific topic or theme. You can also search the British Library’s images online which gives you instant access to thousands of the greatest images from the British Library's collections. It is important to define what you are searching for. Are you looking for a realistic illustration, cartoon, 3D or vector graphic? Putting the style in your search query will help you to get more relevant results. Pinterest can also be useful for collecting references. Finding a reference is important for communicating with the illustrator and explaining what you are after. We had some help from the singer Louise Ashcroft to find the best references for opera singing. This helped the illustrator Dimitra Laskou to come up with the right style for La Diva sock character.

Photo source: Edgar Degas WikiArt, ChattyFeet

2. Review portfolios and styles

The simplest way to get a design you like is to find an illustrator that has already created work in the style you need. However if this is not possible make sure the illustrator you end up working with can diversify their work. If they only draw in one style it can be more difficult for them to adapt the illustration for your needs. When looking for illustrators we have found it useful to go to conferences and exhibitions to meet them in person and talk about your ideas. We met Captain Kris, a street artist, at an exhibition and as a result he created the characters Commander Awesome and Venus for our collection.

Photo source: Captain Kris, ChattyFeet

We discovered another talented illustrator, Muxxi, whose beautiful designs are featured on online portfolio platform Behance and we worked with her to produce a collection of four different colorful and fun socks.

Photo source: Muxxi, ChattyFeet

3. Write a brief

A brief will introduce yourself, explain why you need an illustration and how it will be used. Be clear about when you need it to be delivered, the format, size and budget. Is the illustration going to be printed, published online or in our case knitted on socks? Do you need it to be created in specific software so you can apply changes yourself? Be explicit about constraints to avoid future frustrations.

4. Develop a contract

Writing a contract is important for making sure everyone is on the same page. While the brief explains in detail what is required in terms of the work, the contract defines the terms of the project. For example, when will the client pay? We recommend an initial stage where the artist produces a sketch rather than producing everything in one go. This will allow you to review that it’s going in the right direction. You should also agree on the amount of iterations or drafts of the work that will be included in the budget. Asking for changes is common but there should be a clear limit to the scope of work covered.

Photo source: ChattyFeet

5. Give clear feedback

Sometimes your intuition knows if something is right or wrong, but when working with illustrators you will have to communicate this very clearly otherwise you won’t get the result you want. If you are struggling to write feedback, a phone or a skype call might work better. Try to refer to the brief and to what has been communicated before. If you give new directions that can be very frustrating for the illustrator and you might be asked to pay more for extra work.

We hope that these tips will be useful for you when commissioning new work. You can see the work of illustrators who created funny sock characters for ChattyFeet here. ChattyFeet are on the British Library’s current Innovating for Growth Programme which provides up to £10,000 worth of support for small companies with big ambitions – just like ChattyFeet.  If you want to follow in ChattyFeet's footsteps apply for Innovating for Growth by the deadline: 9.00am on Monday 15 June 2015.

Apply for Innovating for Growth here

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Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund



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