How to Make Your Illustrator Cry (And why you shouldn’t)

In my head, art is magic.  You concentrate really hard at a computer or canvas or piece of wood and then it miraculously becomes a finished product.  It turns out that real life isn’t quite like that.  My friend  and cover designer David Berg has had to explain physics to me about eight times since November.  He’s patiently responded to nearing one hundred of my emails, which all essentially ask him if physics still work the way he keeps telling me, and if he’s positive there’s no way we can work around that.  Amazing, he may be.  Capable of changing the primal forces of nature because it would be convenient for me, he is sadly not.

So, here are a few tips I would like to pass on to you, should you feel that your specific request is perhaps not challenging enough for your designer, and you really want to put them through their paces:

  1. Go ahead and mix up a lot of genres that don’t normally go together, and are hard to describe visually.
  2. Make sure they know you have almost no money to pay them.
  3. Have an awesome idea in your head and demand that someone at least look at all of the internet to see if someone has already made that exact idea and is selling it, with the hopes of buying it and simply attaching a title to it.
  4. Melt down when you fail (predictably) at Step 3.
  5. Ask them at least four more times if they’re sure that pixels, lines and geometry still work according to mathematical rules.
  6. Make sure your title has words of varying lengths so that they never line up right.
  7. Speak to them only in sentences like “The letters shouldn’t be sitting down for this book! This book demands letters ready to sprint!”  and “I’d like the blue to be more wappow! You know?”
  8. Confirm that physics and geometry exist one last time.
  9. Fall madly in love with ridiculous fonts that no one should ever use (except in emails!  You can’t take that away from me!)

And you will have made a very sad illustrator.  I don’t recommend this very much, however. Because while it may effectively weed out the weak, if you do these things to your designer friend, then they will send you joke versions of your cover that will make YOU hysterical, and of course you’ll run the risk of them deciding your project should take a timeout until everyone stops already with the teeth gnashing and the hair pulling.*

Let this be a lesson for us all.

*Ahem, let’s just note that David actually stayed cool throughout this entire thing.  He’s great to work with.  All hair pulling, teeth gnashing and existential crises were entirely mine.  Thanks, Dave!

2 thoughts on “How to Make Your Illustrator Cry (And why you shouldn’t)

  1. It’s funny — the process of telling you, “here’s why we can’t do that; let’s aim for something more like this,” is very similar to the arc of my own education as a designer, and it’s something I still have to do to myself occasionally when I start getting excited about an idea before really thinking about it. Over years of (in my case, intermittent) design work, I’ve found that the inspirations themselves tend to get more and more informed by reality, but it’s a slow and ongoing process. I still can’t quite believe that text-heavy instructions and comic book panels just don’t go well together, no matter how nice it’d be for my supervillain game if they did.


  2. Note: this project was not a case of “Allison hires me to do a job and then interferes with it.” Rather, it was in large part a “collaboration between friends” in which she suggested concepts, hunted for photos, and performed other tasks I’d normally do for a fully-paid work for hire. So she may be a bit hard on herself above. 🙂


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