Monday, May 24, 2010

For The Record, Not Everyone Loves Your Pets

A couple of week's ago, I was contacted by my old friends at The Record to illustrate a feature for the front of their weekly Real Estate section.

The story looked at the challenges pet owners face when trying to sell their homes. In the current market, animal dander, minor pet damage or even signs a pet lives in the house can turn off prospective buyers. Similarly, realtors aren't always prepared to show houses with animals inside. That can lead to a situation where agents are shocked to find the owner's large dogs wandering the house or cats are accidentally let out of the house.

The layout called for a more horizontal image because half of the page was going to occupied by an advertisement. Here are some of the sketches:

This was based on the author and editor's suggestion. The idea was to incorporate as much imagery from the rough draft as possible: realtor letting the cat out, dog on furniture, turtles in bathroom, notes around the house warning about the animals...

Here's the image that was picked. I thought having the cat and dog on the couch would suggest animals that had the run of the house, which seemed to be the basis for the problems sellers and realtors were encountering.

Here's another idea; the dog is the feature of the house for sale that really jumps out at you.


  1. I like the idea that was picked. Many times, editors and authors want to be as literal as possible and are devoted to the text. But I think a more subtle image usually works best.

    Right out of school, RIT asked me to illustrate a month in a calendar they were publishing. They were asking professors and alumni to participate. I had to illustrate the concept that RIT students come from all over the nation. After 3-5 revisions, I was reaching the end of my rope. They wanted an infographic, not an illustration. They wanted the illustration to show the stats and figures clearly.

    Finally, the project was cancelled, because I think RIT was having problems with all the illustrators. The illustration, in my opinion, is not meant to be read like the article it accompanies.

  2. Thanks, Ryan

    I agree with you completely, at times the request to stay super literal are sometimes maddening and don't always make a lot of sense.

    Unfortunately, the realization that an idea might not work doesn't happen until pencil and ink have been committed to paper and the sketch is placed in the context of the page.

    I like to present other options for just that reason. Sometimes my other ideas get used, other times they get rejected in favor of the original idea and occasionally they serve as the beginning of a dialogue on how to better solve the problem at hand. A lot of times this involves taking an original idea and stripping it down and rebuilding it into something that works better.

    Art should be a hook, something to grab attention and aid in the telling of the story, without trying to tell the whole thing. When photography gets used, it doesn't tell the whole story, but because it seems 'real' there is less of a concern about readers getting it. Illustration seems to be different, though.

    Sometimes, I think editors are just afraid of what an illustrator might do - render something poorly, draw something different than what was asked, create something that people don't get. So to get something safe, they ask for something as close to the text as possible. Part of our job soetimes is to evangelize for our profession and creative chops and show that we can create something engaging without being literal.