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).

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.

Showcase 100 has a website!

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We’re excited to announce that the LCS Showcase 100 project in partnership with hai now has it’s very own website! You can learn more about the project and exhibition, find out how you can get involved, and see some of the entries we’ve received so far at http://sc100.co.uk/

Once the judges have made their final decisions we’ll be adding the selected artists and artwork to the site, and of course, we’ll be making updates with more details about the show and book nearer the time.

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/

Server Upgrade…

We’ve upgraded to a new server, doubling our capacity and power. In real terms that won’t double the speed of our website, but it should make it a lot more sprightly! We had a couple small issue with the upgrade, but everything has been sorted now and the site should be running at full capacity.

Making the right connections

We’re always experimenting with new ways to connect hai members with clients, so we’re really pleased with the amount of use that is being made of the Art Buyer Enquiry Form!

We’ve always worked with art buyers to help put them in touch with our artists, but the form makes for an easier and more accessible way for people to contact us, while making sure we have the information we need about the commission. There has been a steady increase in the number of requests for us to recommend artists for jobs since the form was added to the site around 6 months ago and helping art buyers to find members is now a sizeable part of our day to day work. This is obviously great news for our members!

A wide variety of people use the form to get in touch, from first-time authors to large publishing houses and from local community groups to international advertising agencies. We are always happy to advise less experienced commissioners about budgets, etc, and hope that the service helps to make life a little easier for busy art buyers! 🙂

Elf & Safety – the new hai background illustration

A few weeks ago leading up towards Christmas we asked the loverly Miriam Bos to create a winter background for the hire an illustrator website. We love the way it turned out and we hope you do too!

Here’s the finished article in all it’s glory.

Backtracking a bit, here is the original rough/sketch. Miriam was a joy to work with and very quick off the mark. From the word go, she knew exactly what we were after.

Miriam explained to us that the image had a story behind it and it was the story that was the basis for the concept. There was an elf who thought that the winter was so cold that the trees needed clothing to keep them warm! After receiving the rough I made a few small suggestions, like moving the squirrels onto the inner trees to give them a bit more screen time, but all in all I was happy for Miriam to proceed to produce the final image.

The final was then produced and we went back and forth a few times, knocking off a few pixels here and there, optimising the image for web, and arranging it to work with the layout of the website and logo. Once that was all done with a couple days to spare we got the new background up for Christmas!

With a great eye for colour, Miriam Bos was a pleasure to work with! Check out the new background on the hire an illustrator website. 🙂

How do you like them apples?

It wasn’t a quick job, but we’ve finally finished it. The hire an illustrator website has been rebuilt from the ground up… and we’re very happy with it! I’ve been testing it live for a week now and I’m pleased to consider it officially launched as of today. So tell your colleagues and friends as we would love to know what they think. Whether you send us an email or leave us a comment via Facebook or Twitter, get in contact!

Visually this wasn’t a redesign, as we wanted to keep the look the same, but we’ve made some big improvements in leaps and bounds as far as the underlying code is concerned. Have you checked out our new search pages yet? I’m hoping you’re impressed with the ease and speed at which you can now find our artists and illustrators. We now list additional links on behalf of our members, so you can now see if they have an online store or have a Google+ or LinkedIn profile along with the usual suspects. Also we’ve made improvements to allow artists or animators to have video galleries in their portfolios. There’s more brilliant new features to announce, but I think that’s enough for one blog post… 🙂

We hope you enjoy and have as much fun using our new site as we do! For the latest updates sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.