“I was surprised by not only how many animation entries there were, but also by how many were of such a high caliber,” says juror Sarah Labieniec. “A lot of the pieces used motion and illustration to tell a story and convey information, which was not only effective, but also completely engrossing. It really showed how powerful illustration can be.”
“There were so many amazing animation entries, it was hard to pick one over the other,” juror Chad Beckerman says. “This category is helping broaden and challenge our understanding of what illustration is.”
“It was refreshing to see so much animation in the competition,” says juror Emily Kimbro. “More than ever, animation is being utilized as an important storytelling tool, from short GIFs to videos with high production value.”
In addition to commenting on the strong showing in animation, the jurors noted what impressed them about the content and style of this year’s entries.
“Aside from the sheer number of exceptional illustrations in the competition this year, I was excited to see so many pieces with such simple execution and strong concept,” Kimbro says.
“Crafted concepts and ideas that had a point of view or made a bold statement rose to the top,” juror Hylton Mann says. “The illustrations with a definitive style jump out when you’re viewing 4,500 entries.”
“I loved seeing patterns in the subject matter that reflect both national and international dialogues,” Beckerman says. “Of course, there were a lot of Trump illustrations, each trying to be better than the one before. There were also a lot of anxiety-themed entries. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to why.”
“The vintage travel poster style and the midcentury children’s book look are making a strong comeback, as well as the blocky, minimalist silkscreen-inspired look,” says juror Victo Ngai. “There is also this one Photoshop airbrush tool that seems to have been used on at least 95 percent of the digitally executed illustrations. There were a couple of exceptions in the book category that felt really fresh, provocative and emotional. I wasn’t familiar with the illustrators—getting acquainted with their work has been the highlight of my judging experience.”
The jurors also had some critical observations.
“I was disappointed that a fair amount of people submitted work that lacked any cohesion in the series category,” says Labieniec.
“Some illustrators didn’t do themselves any favors by entering several different styles into the same series,” adds Mann. “A series should hang together.”
“It seemed like there were less classically executed pieces in the mix than I expected,” Kimbro says. “This is potentially because of a shift in medium and the accelerating pace of deadlines.”
“In the student and unpublished categories, it’s self-evident that many up-and-coming artists are borrowing the voices of their heroes a bit too much,” Ngai says. “The homogenizing phenomenon I observed concerns me. As a note to myself after the judging: it seems prudent to draw inspiration from outside our immediate community, and it’s beneficial to experiment with different tools— both analog and digital.”
Lastly, several jurors reflected on how the field of illustration is evolving.
“Illustration will continue to be incorporated in numerous ways, from editorial to retail campaigns to packaging,” says Labieniec. “There is really no limit to what it can be applied to, and it’s great to see so many companies using it in unexpected ways.”
“The field of illustration is becoming more and more global,” Beckerman says. “It is now easier than ever to see the work of illustrators from all around the globe, and this year’s entries reflect that.”
A minimum of four out of five votes was required for a project to be awarded in this year’s competition. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 59th Illustration Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca
Chad W. Beckerman is an award-winning designer and creative director at Abrams, where he oversees the design of picture books, novels and graphic novels under the Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Amulet Books and Abrams ComicArts imprints. He is the designer behind such successful children series as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Origami Yoda, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Frank Einstein, The Terrible Two and Bill Nye’s Jack and the Geniuses. He has also designed several bestselling pictures books, including Rosie Revere, Engineer; Trombone Shorty; and Vegetables in Underwear. A frequent judge for illustration competitions, Beckerman studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Emily Kimbro is the design director for Texas Monthly, where she oversees the design, illustration and photography of the magazine and website. She grew up in Lubbock, Texas, and received a degree in graphic design from Texas Tech University. Previously, Kimbro worked as the art director of Southwest Airlines’ magazine Spirit (now Southwest: The Magazine) and as a designer at Fossil. Her work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, Print magazine and the Society of Publication Designers. She lives with her husband and two fluffy Australian shepherds in Austin, where she likes to spend her free time searching for undiscovered swimming holes in the Texas Hill Country.
Sarah Labieniec is creative director and partner at the San Francisco–based design and illustration studio Lab Partners. Originally from Connecticut, where she grew up dreaming about being a zoologist/Disney animator, Labieniec earned her degree in illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design. She worked as a designer at Berkeley agency Tomorrow Partners and letterpress stationer Hello!Lucky before cofounding Lab Partners with her husband, Ryan Meis. Inspired by childhood memories, nature and their animal companions, Labieniec and Meis have had the pleasure of working on projects for a range of clients, including Seattle Children’s hospital, Target, Tiffany & Co., Warby Parker and Williams-Sonoma.
Hylton Mann is an illustrator and group creative director at Juniper Park\TBWA in Toronto, Canada. Mann was born and schooled in Zimbabwe. After graduating from Rhodes University and AAA School of Advertising in South Africa, he started his career as an art director at Saatchi & Saatchi in Johannesburg. He moved to Vancouver, Canada, in 2002 to work at Rethink. He then moved to Downtown Partners in Toronto. In 2007, he joined Juniper Park as its first creative hire. Along the way, he has won numerous international advertising and illustration awards, from Cannes, Communication Arts, D&AD, the Effies, the London Internationals, the New York Festivals, the Obies and the One Show.
Victo Ngai is a Los Angeles–based illustrator originally from Hong Kong. “Victo” is a nickname derived from Victoria, a leftover from British colonization. Ngai’s work has appeared in books, newspapers, magazines, advertisements and animations. Among her many clients are Apple, Dreamworks, General Electric, IMAX, Infiniti, Lufthansa, McDonald’s, the New York Times, The New Yorker, Johnnie Walker and the Wall Street Journal. Ngai has received numerous honors, including medals from the Society of Illustrators, the Society for News Design and Spectrum Fantastic Art, as well as recognition from American Illustration, Communication Arts, the New York Times and the Society of Publication Designers.