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Editor’s Column

This past year provided a plethora of difficult subjects to illustrate, and this year’s winners portrayed them with imagination, insight and, occasionally, wit. Compared to last year, we saw significant growth in the number of entries selected in the Editorial, For Sale and Student Work categories and a strong showing by illustrators based in Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Go to Jurors Biographies

“I don’t think I expected so many entries,” says juror Coralie Bickford-Smith. “It was so positive to see the illustration industry thriving.”

“The standard of the submitted work was very high,” juror Koos Jeremiasse says. “There are an incredible amount of talented illustrators walking around.”

“I thought the entries were of extremely high quality,” says juror Laura Freeman. “In fact, in many instances, I had an extremely hard time deciding on the best. There were so many wonderful ones.”

“Most of the illustrations had ideas and purpose,” juror Nitin Srivastava says. “Some of my favorite pieces were based on culture and the truth about society.”

“What stood out to me was that there was such emotion running through much of the work,” says juror Sarah Kmet-Hunt. “[Many went] deeper than smart visual metaphors, often more of a richly nuanced or even subtle exploration of texture, color and visual language that moved beyond technique into a very expressive space—sometimes subtle yet striking.”

“It was apparent that illustrators are being called on to engage in the most important and challenging issues facing contemporary culture,” juror Martin French says. “I noticed a wide range of diversity in personal vision and visual reference points, images charged with emotional force and stylistic play that demanded an intellectual encounter with the viewer.”

“It’s been a long journey for the illustrators,” says Srivastava. “They have moved beyond craft and good-looking drawings to more meaningful and deeper concepts.”

“There has been an amazing blossoming of the illustration industry during the pandemic, and so many of the pieces had a unique perspective on this and many other subjects [necessary] to solve problems [and] couldn’t be done another way,” juror Michael Mrak says.

“Mental health has been top of mind the last few years, and it showed,” says juror Veronica Padilla. “The collective expression of the world came through in many of the entries. I love how illustration can be a powerful medium because of its disarming nature.”

“The overall mood of the pieces reflect the angst of our second year of COVID mixed with extreme climate and social fracture—dark and  melancholic, but often quite powerful,” juror Cecilia Yung says. “The few pieces of humor really stood out.”

I asked the jurors what surprised them most about the entries.

“I was so happy to see such a diversity of styles,” says Freeman. “There were images leaning more to the abstract, images that were hyper-realistic, others graphic or stylized, some brilliantly conceptual, [some] surreal and others more straightforward but beautiful. It [was] a visual smorgasbord!”

“Don’t worry about the next generation,” Jeremiasse says. “It was gratifying that [a lot of] talent was visible among the student entries.”

“One thing that surprised me was that I didn’t see a lot of hyper-real CGI work,” says Kmet-Hunt. “Most of the entries were founded on traditional illustration techniques—although they weren’t nec- essarily used [traditionally]—with work that was expressionistic, expressive and stylized in deeply personal ways.”

I also asked the jurors what they saw that was new.

“So many new conceptual ideas were brilliantly executed,” Bickford-Smith says, “[with] some fantastically fresh uses of color. Color is such a skill, and some of the color palettes were so well-considered [that they were] exciting to view.”

“It’s refreshing to see so many illustrators adding motion to their art,” says Mrak. “The internet has taken such a liking to moving illustration, and it’s wonderful to see that as an outlet for illustration now.”

“The continued evolution of image and motion is fascinating to watch,” French says. “Many innovative ideas were present in the entries where illustrators thoughtfully and playfully [explored] the integration of the single image in time-based mediums.”

“One thing that felt new and extremely energizing was the diversity of people represented in the illustration work,” says Kmet-Hunt. “I can only speak from my viewpoint, of course, but even just viewing the work from my perspective as a woman, there were such layers and depth to the stories being represented in the work.”

“I was pleased to see lots of people of color portrayed in the illustrations,” Notarangelo says. “Hopefully, we might start taking this for granted, but this wasn’t the case just a few years ago.”

“I loved seeing more diversity in the illustrations,” says Padilla. “That felt fresh and long overdue.”

“It seems clear that illustration continues to be a vibrant form of visual communi- cation with the ability to activate and transform the cultural landscape,” French says.

Among the accolades were also a few disappointments.

“I wish there were more entries from India,” says Srivastava. “We have a rich culture, and our illustrations are based on storytelling and beautiful craft. They deserve to be seen more by the world.”

“I am particularly critical towards colors that are not well chosen or seeing elements of an illustration competing among them,” Notarangelo says. “Some of the entries had these two problems.”

“I was disappointed by a lack of originality,” says Padilla. “We’re all stealing each other’s work because we can, flooded by the visual clutter that bombards us daily in our feeds, inhaling and exhaling the echoes of our own consciousness. We end up regurgitating a sea of sameness.”

Lastly, I asked the jurors what directions illustrators might explore beyond commissioned work.

“Personal projects are a great way to explore new profit areas,” Bickford-Smith says. “My personal project turned into a book and then another book, which brought my work to a whole new audience.”

“Licensing and fine art are some things that many illustrators don’t consider,” says Freeman. “Selling prints on your website or Etsy or some similar site is another form of revenue that I didn’t consider when starting out.”

“There are a number of illustrators who make prints and other types of salable items,” Mrak says. “This could be done by many artists besides waiting for an art director’s or designer’s phone call. Getting great art out into the world doesn’t have to be hard, and the world certainly needs better art!”

“With a world that feels increasingly sophisticated and tuned into personal expression, it seems like there is still room for illustrators to explore bringing their work to life on consumer goods like ceramics, household goods, textiles and wearables,” says Kmet-Hunt. “More sophisticated print-on-demand techniques and the ability to target consumers through social media could continue to make the creation and sale of those items more accessible.”

“There will always be a need for illustrations for print,” Jeremiasse says, “but digital stories, especially from smaller publishers, can also use good illustrative work instead of stock photography or artwork. There’s still a market to win here.”

“These days, the obvious reply could be NFTs or monetization of creators on social media,” says Notarangelo. “That said, I think that the role of the ‘commission’ is crucial from a creative perspective, as illustration is the result of different perspectives. Sometimes, a single client can be a better creative partner than some anonymous buyers or an indistinct crowd.”

A minimum of seven out of ten votes was required for a project to be awarded in this year’s competition. Judges were not permitted to vote on projects with which they were directly involved; I voted in their stead. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 63rd Illustration Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca

Jurors Biographies
Coralie Bickford-Smith
designer, illustrator and author

Coralie Bickford-Smith is a London-based designer, illustrator and author. She graduated from Reading University with a degree in typography and graphic communica-tion. Recognized for her illustrated covers of Penguin’s clothbound classics, she is also the author-illustrator of The Fox and the Star (2015)—the first picture book to win the Waterstones Book of the Year award—The Bird and the Worm (2017) and The Song of the Tree (2020). In 2017, Bickford-Smith was awarded an honorary doctor of letters by Reading University. She is represented by Curtis Brown and published by Penguin Random House Particular Books.

Laura Freeman

Laura Freeman is a Coretta Scott King Illustrator honoree. Her work has been recognized with an NAACP Image Award, reached the New York Times Best Seller List, been honored by the Society of Illustrators, and in the annuals of American Illustration and Communication Arts. She has illustrated more than 30 children’s books, and her editorial images are frequently seen in the New York Times and other periodicals. Freeman’s art can also be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards. Originally from New York City, Freeman now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.  

Martin French
illustrator/PNCA illustration department chair

Martin French is an illustrator based in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, he worked as a designer for Microsoft before opening his studio in 1996. His clients include Apple, Candlewick Press, Joffrey Ballet, Lucasfilm, National Geographic, NBA and the New York Times. His images have won awards from the leading visual communication organ-izations across the United States, including eleven medals from the Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles and New York. In 2006, French designed the BFA in illustration program at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where he currently serves as department chair.

Koos Jeremiasse
art director
de Volkskrant

Koos Jeremiasse has been art director of Dutch daily newspaper de Volkskrant since 2016. With a team of designers, he works on the daily news pages, the Saturday supplement and Opinion section. He’s also closely involved in the website and digital editions on tablet and mobile. Jeremiasse has a passion for illustration; through his work, he regularly guides illustrators from briefing to final result, always looking for the best match both nationally and internation-ally. In 2021, de Volkskrant received the European Newspaper of the Year award and was named the world’s best-designed newspaper by the Society for News Design.

Sarah Kmet-Hunt
executive creative director
Bader Rutter

Sarah Kmet-Hunt is executive creative director of Milwaukee, Wisconsin–based ad agency Bader Rutter. Kmet-Hunt began her career as an art director and designer in consumer electronics and music, leading packaging and product design for Koss Stereophones. Since joining Bader Rutter, she has led award-winning work for clients including Dow AgroSciences, GE Healthcare, Northwestern Mutual, OfficeMax, OM Workspace and Zoetis. Her philosophy focuses on creating deep human connections through audience-centered design, art direction and storytelling. When she’s not at work, you can find her hiking the trails of Wisconsin, creating functional ceramics or playing her cello.

Michael Mrak
creative director
Scientific American

Michael Mrak is the creative director of Scientific American and responsible for scientificamerican.com and its newsstand specials. He and his team establish the visual language for the brand and produce its award-winning graphic design, illustrations, photo-graphy and information graphics. He was not always a science journalist, having designed for magazines as disparate as Architectural Record and Esquire, but his love of science led him to work for Discover magazine and produce award-winning design for that publication as well. Always curious, he additionally paints, works on and builds cars, and practices fencing in his off time.

Ilenia Notarangelo
creative director/cofounder

Ilenia Notarangelo is an Italian designer and creative director. With her business and life partner Luca Gonnelli, she is cofounder, chief executive officer and creative director of illo.tv, an international motion design and illustration studio, and algo.tv, a practice focused on video automation and data-visualization. Her clients include Airbnb, Bloomberg and Google and plenty of innovative startups. Awarded by the Art Directors Club and Awwwards, Notarangelo’s work feeds on the contemporary motion design scene and focuses on bringing visual synthesis, bold color palettes and clear concepts to the world of digital design and technology.

Veronica Padilla
head of design

Veronica Padilla is head of design at the Chicago-based office of Havas. Having more than fifteen years of experience in graphic design, art direction and illustration, she has brought a fresh perspective to many clients, from Google to the White House. Padilla founded Tiny Movement, a consciously led design boutique, and Gentle Mentals, a grassroots mental health initiative. Her “Gentle Mentals” animated short was showcased in film festivals worldwide, and she was selected as one of Lürzer’s Archive’s 200 Best Illustrators. She has won awards at numerous industry shows and publications, including Cannes, Communication Arts and D&AD. 

Nitin Srivastava
executive creative director and head of design
Ogilvy India

Nitin Srivastava is executive creative director and head of design Ogilvy India in Gurgaon. A painter turned designer turned art director and aesthete, Srivastava has spent 25 years blurring the lines between work and art. His diverse body of work encompasses graphic design, brand identity, editorial design, book design, illustration, typography, environmental spaces, product design, print and films. His work has won more than 100 accolades at major award shows such as Adfest, Cannes, the Clios, Communication Arts, D&AD, London International and the One Show. Srivastava lives in Delhi with his dog February.

Cecilia Yung
executive art director and vice president
Penguin Random House

Cecilia Yung is executive art director and vice president at Penguin Random House in New York where she oversees illustration and design for its imprints G. P. Putnam’s Sons and Nancy Paulsen Books. Prior to starting at Penguin Random House in 1994, Yung was an art director for four years at Viking Children’s Books. She is fortunate to have worked with major illustrators creating children’s books and enjoys discovering and developing new talent. She is on the Advisory Council of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, where she helps plan programs for picture book illustrators. 


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