Over the previous month of October, we had our first ever Artist in Residence (AiR), Tom Martin – or more accurately, Artist in virtual Residence! This has been something new we had wanted to try out for a long time and we’re very glad that Tom was kind enough to come along for the ride.
The residency involved one of our members (Tom) fulfilling our illustration needs over the period of one month. You would have thought finding an illustrator would have been an easy task for us, but things aren’t always that simple. Our first problem was that any artwork produced would need to appeal to our members and also draw in a wide audience of art directors and commissioners, so we didn’t want to go for anything too niche or risqué. Secondly, and most importantly, we needed to take into consideration that whoever we worked with would be a full-time freelance illustrator and we didn’t want them to be turning down commissions due to being too busy with working on pieces for us. You need to remember that part of our commitment to our members is that we’re constantly networking and finding them new opportunities and connections, so making sure that whoever was our AiR could handle the additional workload was essential.
When we asked Tom if he was interested in being our first AiR, we hadn’t quite ironed out all of the details, so there was some trial and error, but essentially we gave Tom directions and then allowed him to guide us. It was a misstep that we had Tom creating Halloween artwork for us in October that would be turned into physical items at some point, as lead time hadn’t been taken into consideration with all the excitement. There was no real need to worry about that though, as we’ll be getting the stickers and pins made up for April to show people at our next exhibition and we’ll have plenty in stock to give away as promo items to lucky clients when next October comes around. However with that in mind, from now on if an artist is working on something seasonal for us, we’ll get them to do it one or two months beforehand.
We really can’t wait to have the pins and stickers made and in our hands! The artwork looks great and we’re really pleased with the website background that Tom created for us, it’s brilliant! There were several other images that he created for us as well, two of them specifically for future posts on this very blog. You’ll have to keep an eye out for them.
We’d like to introduce our newest background, created for us by the very talented Emily Hare. We love Emily’s artwork and thought that one of her paintings could work really well with the site, so after discussing what was needed for of our backgrounds, we left it in Emily’s capable hands to come up with some ideas.
Here’s the first attempt and the work in process illustrations…
At this point Emily decided to go in a different direction, something a bit more cuddly. Although we did really like the previous image and were advising on direction, we gave full creative control over to Emily and we trusted her to complete the task at hand.
And here is the final piece…
We think Emily did a brilliant job and we love our new background! Please note: Emily may have already given the dragons names, but we’ve decided to call them Myrtle and Xaddrarth. 🙂
Right! Time to get you up-to-date with all of our recent improvements. It was long overdue, but our entire website (including the administration area) is now accessed via https rather than http. Along with making the site more secure, it puts us fully in line with what the public and search engines expect these days. All old links will automatically redirect, but feel free to update any links you have from your websites or social pages to include that all important S.
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!
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.
After doing a limited soft launch of our new website last Monday, everything seems to have gone well. So, today we’re rolling out our new site to everyone! Our new site includes improved portfolios and search options, plus we’ve gone fully responsive. Which means all of you who’ve struggled to use our site on your mobiles need struggle no longer. One of the biggest improvements to the site is that it’s now blazing fast; we’ve utilised all of the latest technology to make it as fast as humanly possible.
For our members, our dated administration has also had an overhaul to make it easier than ever to manage your profile and add new work. You may have also noticed we’ve increased the sizes of your images too.
To top off the launching of the new website, we’ve also got a new logo. It’s not a million miles from our old logo as there’s no need to change something if it works. We’ve just had it fine-tuned and embraced what it means to be an illustrator.
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).
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.
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.
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.
We’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.
Other 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.
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
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.
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.