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I've worked as a graphic designer for the last 7 years, and I have never once illustrated anything worth mentioning. My illustration skills past college consisted of drawing stick people or the occasional flower. So you can imagine my sheer terror when my manager approached me last December to tell me that I would be illustrating an interactive article series about artificial intelligence.
"Wait, what? Me? I'm not an illustrator, I haven't illustrated a single thing since college," I said to my manager. Her reply was, "You got this."
I didn't realize it at the time, but this was a pivotal moment for me. Not only was I being trusted by my manager to create an entire set of illustrations with barely any illustration experience, but these illustrations were the first of their kind for our team.They had to be good. No pressure, right?
Admittedly, getting started was rough. But, the more I worked on these illustrations, the easier it got to create them from start to finish. My confidence level started to rise. Eventually, I got to a point where I told myself, "I got this." I couldn't see it in myself at first, but my manager did, and that made all the difference.
So what did I learn from this experience?
Trust in the process
Do your research. Create a ton of sketches. Get all the bad ideas out so you can get to the good stuff.
Roll with the punches
There are times when the piece you are creating may take an unexpected turn, and that's okay.
For example: When I started the illustration on the left, I was 2 hours into prototyping when I realized that it just wasn't working. It wasn't conveying the message I needed for the story, so I went back to the drawing board and came up with the image on the right. Completely different, right?
After another 2 hours of prototyping on the new image, I asked my team for input, and we realized that the image needed to transition on the page. To make this transition work, I had to break the original image up into 2 images.
Even though I had to go through 4 hours of prototyping just to realize that we needed 2 separate images to make the interaction work, it made a huge difference in the quality of the interaction when you scroll through that page. I had to keep an open mind and roll with the punches. It was more work than I anticipated, but the final products are my favorite illustrations for this project.
Collaboration does amazing things
There were so many times that I just couldn't figure out the perspective or how to light something. All I had to do was ask one of my coworkers.They would either help me solve my problem, offer pointers that would make a huge difference, or take my file and turn something good into something amazing.
You Got This
When facing any type of unfamiliar or uncomfortable project, sometimes you have to embrace the discomfort and just know that YOU GOT THIS—even if you don't think you do.
In retrospect, I can honestly say that this is the project that I am most proud of in my graphic design career. I may have had a few freak-outs, and some moments of doubt, but I developed a skill, gained confidence in myself, and grew as a creative. I never thought an illustration project would help me evolve as a designer and realize my potential. But guess what? It did.
Take a quick look at the completed illustrations:
See the illustrations in action and read the stories that they support: