Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Deadlines Diagnosed

It’s human nature. For most people even the thought of having to accomplish a defined task in a certain, limited timeframe produces an uneasy, queasy feeling. But for illustrators a “deadline” is a sought after condition. For us, and to many other communication arts professions, it’s just part of the job. Physically speaking a deadline marks the cure to an assignment, and when payment can be discharged.

©2014 Don Arday.
Like other conditions, deadlines present themselves various ways, with each variant requiring its own form of treatment and consideration. As such, careful identification and diagnosis of a deadline can provide an illustrator with a notable benefit, which can be brought to bear on the evolution of an assignment.

Six Types Of Deadlines

Express Deadlines 

These acute deadlines arise suddenly and intensely. They are usually contracted from a stress inducing client relationship, and if not managed properly, they can lead to loss of sleep and acute anxiety. Fortunately, due to their brevity this kind of deadline can be cured quickly, if not painlessly.

Staged Deadlines 

This strain of deadline actually presents itself as a series of prescribed deadline stages. A typical staged course would include a deadline for pencil concepts followed by another for a comp, which would then proceed to the finished art deadline. Staged deadlines, because they are well organized are generally easier to swallow than other deadline types.

Solo Deadlines 

As the name implies, solo deadlines are a one shot deal. All stages occur simultaneously and for one time only; at the end of the job’s treatment. The all or nothing nature of a solo deadline makes it difficult to detect any symptoms or warning signs that may become available during the course of an assignment that could alter its outcome, and ultimately its acceptance by a client. Solo deadlines are most manageable when an illustrator has been given carte blanche.

© 2014 Don Arday.

Cyclical Deadlines

Cyclical deadlines are those that will need treatment on a reoccurring schedule. At some point or another, every illustrator has contracted cyclical deadlines during their professional life. These deadlines are somewhat less common these days than in the past due to the constant change that occurs within many periodic illustration commissions. Mild in nature, cyclical deadlines almost always result in a positive prognosis.

Self-Imposed Deadlines

Also known as self-administered deadlines, a self-imposed deadline is a form of vaccination against a common deadline. The self-imposed deadline is meant to head off any anxiety or discomfort that may result from a client imposed deadline. It works by way of keeping an illustration assignment’s progress ahead of a schedule imposed by a client.

False Deadlines

Sometimes beneficial and other times not, a false deadline or blind placebo deadline is meant to keep an illustrator out in front of a true deadline of an assignment. It is similar to a self-imposed deadline except that a false deadline is dispensed by a client to an unknowing illustrator.

Arbitrary Deadlines

Whereas a false deadline is the compression of the time period of an actual deadline, an arbitrary deadline is a deadline that has no basis for existing at all, and it has no positive effect on an illustration assignment.  It’s a prescription written for a condition that doesn’t exist, and almost always administered by an inexperienced, disorganized, or adversarial client.

Why Deadlines Are Healthy

A deadline is an essential ingredient that ensures a wholesome professional career for an illustrator. And most illustrators can easily digest a deadline without difficulty or any bad aftertaste. Deadlines are a part of the DNA structure of the illustration business; they a progenitor to the evolution of all communication arts. Deadlines are a fundamental factor in commerce and even business progress.

What A Deadline Does For An Illustrator

1. Prompts an illustrator to foresee the future and manage time accordingly.
2. Triggers the organization and prioritization of assignment related activities.
3. Provides motivation to see a project through to completion.
4. Ensures closure on one assignment so another one can begin.
5. Combats procrastination.
6. Imparts a feeling of satisfaction, of accomplishment at having triumphed over a challenge.
7. Encourages an illustrator to engage in a smarter, more efficiently workflow.
8. Increases the number of assignments an illustrator can take on by providing a concise schedule.
9. Sets a fixed point in time for a project’s completion that is understood by all parties involved.  
10. Gives support to bringing in a steady income.

In The Too Much Information Category

Printers to denote a line on a printing press, beyond which text would not print properly, first used the term deadline in the early 19th century. (The early day version of what is now known as “live area” in print). In the mid 19th century America to denote a physical lines that were not to be crossed by either an enemy in a battle, or by a prisoner in a stockade without death being the consequence for doing so. The first use of the term deadline as a synonym for “time limit” was coined by the newspaper industry a nearly a century ago.


Deadlines are good for illustrators and the illustration business. They dispel the impression that the art of illustration is also one of self-indulgence. Deadlines prove that illustration, being an art, is also a business that operates to provide a timely service to commercial clients.

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