Have you found what you’re looking for?

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Following on from the recent redesign and rejuvenation of our website, we’ve continued to make modifications as the dust has settled and we’ve seen what worked and what needed to be changed. Our first stop was a small modification to our search criteria that should have a big impact on usability. When the redesign was launched we suddenly allowed all of our members to select a job title from a predetermined list and this was then searchable on our search pages. This didn’t work as the majority decided they want to just be called an illustrator, so now the job title is no longer searchable, but is displayed in their portfolios next to their name. What has been added to replace the search aspect are two searchable job descriptions. This should allow members to add the terms that help people find them without feeling they need to keep their options open by not committing to a specific title. This change in the options available to our members and within search system inspired a blog post I wrote about job titles for the LCS a few days ago. Read: Finding your niche as an illustrator!

Self-Portrait

As a side note: Since the redesign had been a longtime coming, I decided early on I would try to remove as much of the 9 years worth of bloat as possible. I may have gone a bit too far. Information about our postcard printing and mailers has now been re-added to the members’ administration along with a viewable archive of all the previous member-only updates. A new addition though is a series of downloadable and useful content that should be in every freelance illustrators’ digital toolbox. If you’re a member, login and have a look. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Image Credits…
1. ISO&AGENT Magazine cover (cropped) by Mario Wagner.
2. 2010 Self Portrait by Marcus Cutler.

Server Maintenance

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We’re planning on moving to a bigger and better server, so if you’ve tried to log into your profile and have been redirected to this blog post we’re in the process of migrating at the moment. It should only take an hour or two to make the move and once complete you’ll have full access to your profile again to make changes and submit news.

It’s always a worry moving from one system to another, as you know if you’ve ever done it yourself. We’ve moved servers several times over the last few years as we’ve out grown old machines, or new technologies have become available. Moving a small site is easy-peasy, but when you’re looking at moving the equivalent of 300-400 small sites in one go with hundreds of clients relying on you as part of their business, there’s no shortage of pressure to make sure everything runs smoothy with minimal downtime. Although the tech industry would like you to believe everything is just point and click these days, doing a server migration just isn’t that simple and requires a lot of prep work.

We’re really excited about the new system, we’re going to get a bump in RAM to make everything more spritely. Plus we’re getting super-fancy Solid State Drives to replace our old fashion HDs, again this should give us another bump in speed.

Image by Emory Allen for the Pacific Standard (September 2014).

Exclusive Member-Only Discounts

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We all love a good deal or bargain, and this is why HAI has teamed up with a number of reputable companies and organisations to bring our members some very nice discounts. On your behalf we’ve negotiated deals on screen printing, on and offline art-related educational courses, merchandise and hosting. All our members need to do is visit our discount page while logged into their account to reveal the discount codes.

http://www.hireanillustrator.com/i/discounts/

We’re always on the look out for new discounts and offers that we can arrange for our members, which means we’re going to be constantly updating the discount page as new partnerships are formed. So keep an eye on it and check back from time to time.

If you’re one of the companies or organisations offering us a discount on one of your products, thank you kindly.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes, New Search Categories

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We’re always making updates on the site and with the service for members of Hire an Illustrator, but when it comes to adding or removing the categories our illustrators use to define themselves on the site it’s actually quite a big deal. We never add new categories lightly and normally only when there’s enough demand from clients for them. Over the last 12 months we’ve found there have been more and more job requests asking for the following three areas:

  • Dark & Otherworldly or Surreal
  • Anime & Manga
  • Retro, Vintage & Antique

So from today, our illustrators can add themselves to one of these categories if that’s what their artwork fits into and clients can now do searches based on those areas.

Search for an illustrator or tell us about your project and we’ll find one for you.

Agent search, submit your news and SC100 update

looking-agentWe’ve made a few recent changes and added a couple of things to hai in the last few weeks. The first one is that members can now tell us if they’re looking for an agent to represent them or not. We have always helped illustrators out if they’re looking for an agent, but we’ve now made the process simpler. There’s even a secret page for selected agents to browse for new talent.

gallery-sort-megOther changes are that there is now a reminder on the member’s news submission page to upload their new work to their gallery. And on the gallery ‘add image’ page there’s a reminder to submit new work as news. We have considered combining the gallery and news archives in the past, but we find it works best to still have the two as separate things. The galleries give the illustrators more control over what they’re showing potentials clients and the order they see the work in. Plus if they find their style of work changes over time they can adjust their gallery to reflect this.

Four boxes containing just over 100 black edged frames for the Showcase 100 artwork.

Four boxes containing just over 100 black edged frames for the Showcase 100 artwork.

With regards to the Showcase 100 project we’re running in conjunction with the LCS, all of the work from the final 100 artists is now in and the frames for artwork have arrived. Next on the LCS’s list is to get all the artwork printed up and the accompanying publication designed. You can find out more about the project at http://sc100.co.uk

It’s behind you! Oh, no it isn’t!

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Last week we put the final nail in the coffin of the White Label Portfolios version two and removed it from the site for new users. This is while we work on a new and improved version three. Hopefully the new version should be ready before the end of the year. While working on it we’ll also be updating and improving the functions of the hai portfolio pages; two birds, one stone. So keep an eye out for some exciting changes! A couple weeks ago we also introduced a new page on the site to show off some of the wonderful website backgrounds our illustrators have created for us over the years. They’re supposed to be seen and we shouldn’t be hiding them away for only our pleasure! Now you can check them all out, find out more information about them and see more work from the artists who created them. As we work on new backgrounds with new artists we’ll add them to the page.

It’s behind you… Oh, so it is.

Check out: http://www.hireanillustrator.com/i/backgrounds/

The website background image used at the top of this blog post is by the talented Wylie Beckert. Also if you didn’t know, the White Label Portfolios are our system for illustrators to have a personal portfolio website that pulls and automatically updates with the content from the hai portfolios without the hai branding.

Illustrators’ skills and such…

hire an illustrator – Search

Due to a simple change on the site (we changed the “Art Buyer” link to “Submit a Job”), we now have even more clients asking us to help them find an illustrator for their projects. To help us find the right people for each job even more efficiently, we’ve introduced a new section for our members to let us know about some of the many illustration-related skills they have. So for example, if a client needs someone who can do live drawing for a conference, convert an image into vectors, or use specific software, we’ll now be able to recommend members faster. This new information will be a big help to us in connecting the right illustrators with clients and overall improving the quality of our recommendations. Please note that the skills section is not currently viewable on our members’ portfolio pages. You can get in touch with us using the Submit a Job page.

We also thought it was time to introduce a few new portfolio categories and separate out a couple of the areas that were getting a bit big for their boots. For example, the children’s and young adult category has now been divided into two sections. You can see our updated categories on our advanced search.

Hopefully these changes will make it even easier for clients to use hire an illustrator to find the right illustrator for the job!

Free hosting with hai!

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All members of hire an illustrator are now entitled to free website hosting. I’ve debated for a long time whether to offer our illustrators hosting space on our server and have made the decision that it’s a good idea. One reason that we held back for so long was that we weren’t quite sure how much to charge them. Hosting is such a competitive market that if we were to charge too much it would be pointless… So I’ve come to the conclusion that “free” is a fair rate.

If you’re a member and you want to take advantage of the free hosting, log in to your profile and search for the Free Hosting link in the admin. If you’re not a member of hai, hard luck. Our free hosting is only available to our lovely illustrators and artists. If you would like to become one of our members… Submit your portfolio for consideration.

The above artwork was created for Research World by the talented Scott Balmer. Please check out his portfolio to view more of his work.

Elise Martinson’s Winter Wonderland

A while ago when we asked Elise Martinson if she would create a new background for hai we were super excited when she said yes. Have you seen the work Elise did for the Perth Mint? It’s absolutely gorgeous.

The process when creating a background is pretty much the same each time and this one was no exception. We make sure the artists understand the dimensions and how the background would work with the site, but apart from that we give them free rein to come up with something unique that reflects their style and look. Another thing we also give them is no deadline; I never know if this is a good or a bad thing, but I guess it depends on the illustrator really.

Last October Elise got in contact to show us some very cool sketches. I personally love checking out the sketches and pencil work. We had talked about a Christmas background, but I think it was decided it should be less specific to any particular event.

This was one of the rejected ideas.

This one got rejected, but was still an interesting idea.

I think it was a little bit too “environmentalist”… (It was penguins chasing colourful pegs and other plastic junk that look like schools of fish). Above is a super rough draft. I realised it was quite a negative theme even though my intention was to render it so that you have to look twice to realise the plastic. – Elise Martinson

Pencil sketch with the site overlaid. Idea two.

Pencil sketch with the site overlaid. Idea two.

After seeing the lovely sketches above, we asked Elise to proceed as the direction was exactly what we were looking for… Heaps of snow-camouflaged animals!

The sketches were then followed in January 2014 with a coloured version of the sketch with the website overlaid to show how it would work.

Idea two in colour.

Idea two in colour.

A close up of the coloured sketch.

A close up of the coloured sketch.

From there Elise went ahead and started cleaning up the sketches. As you can see they look great!

This is the one we went with.  :)

This is the one we went with. 🙂

Close up one.

Close up one.

Close up two.

Close up two.

After the sketch was approved, it was time for Elise to do her thing and here is the progress in chronological order with incremental changes and adjustments.

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First colour rendering.

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Did you notice the detail added to the snow and the addition of some birds?

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Big changes with lots of refinements. Some elements are gone and a couple have been added.

This is the final image and we absolutely love it!

This is the final image and we absolutely love it! You probably can’t see it in these images, but comparing this to the last one, there’s so much more detail.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Elise Martinson was a pleasure to work with. She was very quick to understand what we wanted and stayed in constant communication with updates and roughs. Then, when it came to the final image she was able to produce the exact files I needed for inserting into the site. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with Elise again in the future. You can check out Elise Martinson’s Winter Wonderland live on the site and see more of her work via her hai portfolio or personal website.

http://www.hireanillustrator.com/i/portfolio/elise-martinson/