Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Illustration Commissions: What’s Involved

As illustrators, each one of us, over a period of time, is confronted with offers to produce an assortment of different types of work. And along with the work, these offers come with a wide variation of conditions and circumstances. When a new commission comes along we are usually “in the moment” so to speak, focused on the specific task at hand required by the job offer. We rarely take time to step back and consider the commission with regard to any career goals we may have established. Surprisingly, most illustrators I have talked to haven’t even considered any practical career goals, or a future direction for their illustration business. In fact, many illustrators don’t consider being an illustrator to being in business. This is perhaps due to the art school mentality that an artistic, creative pursuit should not be commercialized. Or it may be the fact that illustrator’s generally work alone, i.e., not in “company” with other illustrators.

Why Illustrators Accept Commissions

The first, foremost, and most obvious reason is to make a living. However, making a living represents the lowest level of reasoning when it comes to taking on a job, and that applies whether it is accepting an illustration commission, or accepting a job in some other field such as car wash attendant. I think all of us would agree that there must be a higher form of reasoning when it comes to accepting work, even if acceptance of a commission occurs in more of an intuitive manner rather than for a specialized motive or part of an overall plan. We accept commissions because they feel right at the time. We have a feeling that might come from a familiarity and a comfort level with the job.

Why Illustrators Should Seek Commissions

Accepting a commission because there is familiarity or comfort level with either the type of work, the client, timeframe, etc. is certainly a valid reason to do so. After all, if we don’t have any kind of intuition about what it is we do, then we are probably doing the wrong thing, and intuition is one of the necessary aspects to accepting the right kinds of commissions.

Intuition plays an important part in how we live our lives. Everyday there are things that we choose to do and things we choose not to do. There are things we want to do and things we do not want to do. Illustration commissions can be considered in the same manner. For a day-to-day approach to business, choices made solely on intuition will be sufficient, but for a goal-oriented approach, some form of forethought or future planning is needed. To organize this, many illustrators create a set of goals and a strategic plan to reach them. Having taken some time to think about the future and outline those thoughts an illustrator is now prepared to make better choices about commissions.


Below is a shopping list of considerations divided into three main categories. Depending on the direction of a business strategy, some may apply and some may not. Some may seem to be positive while others appear to be negative. A single item may trump the decision to accept a commission, even though several other considerations may be in favor of it.

The following main categories represent the three, what have now become universal reasons, to accept a commission: 1) For money (value); 2) For creativity (purpose); 3) For recognition (acknowledgement).

© 2013 Don Arday.
Value refers not only monetary compensation, but to all the financial benefits that can result from a commission.

 Does it pay well?
 Will it pay quickly?
 Will it be time or material efficient?
 Is it a repeating gig?
 Will it involve derivative alterations?
 Does it have resale potential?
 Does it include media licensing?
 Do you retain the original?
 Will you retain copyright ownership?
 Does it require an elaborate contractual agreement?
 Does it require a non-compete clause?
 Is it “work made for hire”?

© 2013 Don Arday.
Purpose delineates the desirability of a commission from an internal standpoint, the personal artistic and creative benefits it offers.

 Do you look forward to doing it?
 Will you enjoy doing it?
 Is it a good fit for you?
 Is it a creative or technical challenge?
 Will it be your concept?
 Will you be able to creatively contribute to someone else’s concept?
 Will you have freedom with the visual content?
 Will it expand your repertoire of subjects?
 Is it something new for you?
 Is it for a worthy cause?

© Don Arday.
Acknowledgement refers to the external benefits the commission has the potential to produce, such as increased--exposure to work, marketability, and reputation.

 Is it for a new client?
 Is the client prestigious?
 Will you receive a byline credit?
 Can the client be used to attract other clients?
 Will you, or the illustration, be promoted by the client?
 Will it result in wide-range exposure?
 Will it extend your marketability?
 Is it international?
 Will it be in use for an extended period of time?
 Can you use it for self-promotion?
 Will it be worthy of juried shows and competitions?

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

So, as you can see, there are many individual reasons to accept an illustration commission, and if you have a strategic plan, you will be able to place more emphasis on some than on others. Compensation, although a necessary evil, may not be the most satisfying reason to accept a job. You might believe the creative opportunity, or the acknowledgement for the assignment, to be far more rewarding.

I’ve always considered any commission that qualified for a benefit in all three major categories to be an assignment, not only worth accepting, but also worth seeking...but two out of three ain’t bad. And whenever I accepted work that offered two areas of rewards, it nearly always worked out well.


Work that only had an advantage in one area always resulted in some form of sacrifice. If money was the reward, then timeframe and acknowledgement were forfeited, and stress ensued. If it was creativity alone, as is the case with many so called “freebies”, then earnings were lost and recognition failed. If a commission was accepted for the recognition only, compensation, timeframe, and creative freedom were lost. And, recognition can take a while, and be a promise unfulfilled. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Action Verbs To Improve Your Resume

Action verbs play a very important role in effectively presenting activities on a resume or in a cover letter. When used to describe academic pursuits, occupations, accomplishments, skills, knowhow, interpersonal experience, and interests; action verbs add clarity and interest to items listed on a resume. Additionally, an effective choice of action words can eliminate wordiness from activity descriptions, thus making a resume more efficient.

© 2014 Don Arday.
Example 1:
Without action verb: 
Was responsible for forming groups of incoming students for activities and exercises during freshman orientation.
With action verb: 
Grouped incoming freshman for orientation activities and exercises.
Example 2: 
Without action verb: 
Had authority over a team of employees who were tasked with producing creative concepts for clients.
With action verb: 
Managed concept production of company creative team for clients.

The verbs below are arranged into skill categories relevant to types of job descriptions that pertain to careers in illustration. Some words are applicable to more than one category.

Management/Leadership Skills

Achieved, administered, arranged, articulated, assigned, attained, authored, chaired, competed, conceived, conducted, contracted, convened, coordinated, created, delegated, designed, developed, directed, earned, effected, employed, executed, facilitated, influenced, initiated, instituted, instructed, intervened, invented, investigated, managed, mastered, modeled, organized, oversaw, planned, presented, presided, protected, recommended, regulated, represented, resolved, shaped, solved, specified, succeeded, supervised, visualized

Research/Writing Skills

Analyzed, annotated, appraised, assessed, authored, briefed, calculated, catalogued, categorized, charted, coded, collected, compared, compiled, composed, computed, conducted, consolidated, contacted, corresponded, created, critiqued, defined, derived, designed, determined, developed, devised, diagnosed, directed, discovered, dispensed, displayed, distributed, drafted, edited, elicited, estimated, evaluated, examined, exhibited, expanded, experimented, explored, forecasted, formulated, identified, illustrated, inquired, inspected, interpreted, interviewed, inventoried, investigated, measured, modeled, observed, outlined, predicted, presented, processed, produced, published, questioned, recorded, regulated, reported, reproduced, researched, reviewed, revised, rewrote, searched, solicited, solved, studied, summarized, surveyed, synthesized, tested

Teamwork/Interpersonal Skills

Articulated, arranged, briefed, clarified, collaborated, communicated, competed, confronted, contacted, convened, coordinated, delegated, elicited, employed, encouraged, endured, enlisted, exchanged, explained, facilitated, fostered, influenced, initiated, inquired, instructed, interpreted, intervened, interviewed, introduced, listened, mediated, motivated, negotiated, participated, represented, resolved, responded, shaped, shared, solicited, supported

Financial/Technical Skills

Acquired, activated, administered, analyzed, applied, assessed, briefed, calculated, catalogued, categorized, channeled, coded, compiled, computed, conducted, defined, delivered, derived, designed, developed, devised, drafted, formulated, implemented, inspected, installed, mastered, monitored, operated, processed, programmed, protected, provided, published, recorded, regulated, repaired, reported, reproduced, responded, searched, shared, simulated, solved, supported, systematized, tested, trained, translated, tutored, updated, wrote

Teaching/Training Skills

Adapted, advised, assigned, coached, collaborated, communicated, conducted, counseled, critiqued, demonstrated, designed, developed, directed, educated, encouraged, evaluated, examined, facilitated, guided, implemented, imposed, influenced, informed, inquired, instilled, instituted, instructed, introduced, investigated, judged, lectured, modeled, monitored, motivated, organized, outlined, oversaw, participated, performed, persuaded, planned, prepared, prescribed, presented, programmed, questioned, reported, researched, responded, reviewed, revised, rewrote, scheduled, schooled, studied, supervised, taught, trained, tutored

Sales/Public Relations Skills

Articulated, communicated, contacted, convened, corresponded, delivered, demonstrated, developed, dispensed, displayed, earned, elicited, encouraged, entertained, exhibited, expanded, facilitated, formulated, increased, influenced, informed, introduced, inventoried, listened, located, maintained, marketed, motivated, persuaded, promoted, publicized, purchased, recommended, recruited, represented, responded, routed, scheduled, shaped, shared, solicited, sought, stimulated, succeeded, suggested, supported, surveyed, targeted

Organizational/Detail Skills

Administered, arranged, assembled, briefed, catalogued, categorized, coded, collected, compiled, contacted, coordinated, corresponded, distributed, edited, executed, grouped, identified, inventoried, located, monitored, regulated, responded, retrieved, scheduled, summarized, supported, systematized, updated, verified

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Illustration Estimates and Invoices

Estimates and invoices are nearly as important to an illustrator’s business as the illustration’s that are produced for jobs. For without an estimate, an illustrator may never be awarded a job, and without an invoice, he or she would most likely not get paid.

© 2013 Don Arday.
An estimate usually comes before a commission is awarded and upon approval signals the start of a job. An invoice comes when the commission is completed and upon payment provides closure for an assignment. For illustrators, both estimates and invoices should be considered legal documents. Estimates serve as a record of services intended while invoices provide a record of services rendered for both the illustrator and their client. And most importantly, both documents can serve as evidence if a legal dispute between an illustrator and client occurred.

Estimate Contents

Provider Company Information (Header)

1. Business Name
2. Business Logo (Optional)
3. Address
4. Telephone Number
5. Email Address
6. The Word ESTIMATE (Prominently Displayed)
7. Date
8. Job Number (Account Code/Number)

Client Company Information (Header)

1. Client Name (Person Commissioning Job)
2. Client Company Name
3. Address
4. Telephone Number
5. Email Address

Services Description (Body)

1. Description of Illustration Assignment
            a. Type/Usage of Illustration
            b. Publication Name/Placement for Illustration
            c. Format/Dimensions of Illustration
2. Quantity (If Appropriate)
3. Cost/Unit Cost (If Job Was Based on a Single Fixed Fee) or
4. Cost Per Hour and Number of Hours (If Job Was Based on Hourly Rate)
5. Cost of Materials (If Appropriate)
6. Cost for Outsourced Services (If Appropriate)
7. Cost for Licensing  (Extended Usage, Copyright Leasing/Buyout if Appropriate)
8. Total Estimated Amount For All Items
9. Sales Tax (If Appropriate)*
10. Expiration Date of Estimate

Approval (Footer)

1. Client Signature of Approval
2. Date Approved

Invoice Contents

Provider Company Information (Header)

1. Business Name
2. Business Logo (Optional)
3. Address
4. Telephone Number
5. Email Address
6. Business Registration/Tax ID Number
7. The Word INVOICE (Prominently Displayed)
8. Date of Invoice
9. Due Date of Payment
10. An Invoice and/or Job Indexing Number (The Invoice Number Should Be Unique)

Client Company Information (Header)

1. Client Name (Person Commissioning Job)
2. Client Company Name
3. Address
4. Telephone Number
5. Email Address
6. Client Purchase Order or Work Order Number (If Provided by Client)

Services Description (Body)

1. Description of Illustration Assignment
a. Type/Usage of Illustration
            b. Publication Name/Placement for Illustration
            c. Format/Dimensions of Illustration
2. Quantity (If Appropriate)
3. Price/Unit Price (If Job Was Based on a Single Fixed Fee) or
4. Price Per Hour and Number of Hours (If Job Was Based on Hourly Rate)
5. Price for Materials (If Appropriate)
6. Price for Outsourced Services (If Appropriate)
7. Price For Licensing  (Extended Usage, Copyright Leasing/Buyout if Appropriate)
9. Subtotal Amount (All Items)
10. Sales Tax Amount (If Appropriate)*
11. Total Amount Due (All Items Including Tax)

Payment Terms (Footer)

1. Payment Terms (Payment Due Date, Due Upon Receipt, 30 Days, Etc.)
2. Payment Instructions (Payable To Whom)
3. Payment Method (Company Check, Bank Draft, PayPal, Etc.)
4. Overdue Payment Policy (Optional)
5. Copyright Declaration 

Note: Sales tax is based on the tax rate where the client is located. For example, an illustrator located in New York City producing a commission for a client located in Chicago would charge the sales tax rate for Chicago, Illinois. Information on tax rates can be found at http://taxfoundation.org/ and http://www.taxrates.com/.

Estimate/Invoice Design

The design of estimates and invoices should coordinate with the other marketing materials used such as stationery, website, mailers, etc. If the business has a logo or signature illustration that is used as an identity on promotional materials, it should be included on the estimate and invoice. Although the above lists of information seem complex and highly detailed, when placed into an organized form they can appear to be quite simple. Since so much of the information that is contained in an estimate is also included in an invoice, both forms can utilize the same formatting, typography, color scheme, etc. In fact it is good design practice to do so.

Estimate/Invoice Production

The forms for estimates and invoices can be created using basic word processing or spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel, or they can be produced using graphic visualization software such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator. They can also be produced using dedicated OS desktop and IOS mobile apps available for downloading, and some of these apps (for a fee) provide a cloud service for the storage of estimates and invoices and additional business book keeping tools.

Online Resources

Estimate /Invoice Templates

Estimate/Invoice Services

Monday, April 4, 2022

Typographic Do's and Don'ts: Columns

Setting text into a column format structure can be more challenging than it may seem. It requires a combination of visual sensibility and workmanship, especially when it comes to establishing and maintaining a consistent typographical practice on a page or within a document. There are volumes of information on typographic practice as it applies to the use of typographic columns, both in theory as well as in practice.

The following text of "don't and do" samples demonstrate a number of basic principles that are essential for setting columns of text that will not disturb a reader and will be as aesthetically pleasing as conditions will allow. The statement used in the examples below is an excerpt from Wikipedia. 


Don’t set columns with an excessively long measure. Doing so will discourage readership. 12 to 14 words should be the maximum in any given line.

Don’t set an excessive number of columns on a page. Doing so will also discourage readership. There should be a minimum of 4 words per line.

Do set columns with a comfortable measure for reading. Use a two column format to divide a single long measure. It will improve readership and comprehension.

Do use a three columns format when single sentence paragraphs, bullet lists, and call outs are present within the text.

Don’t set uneven measure columns of continuous text. Doing so can unduly influence the importance of a section of text.

Don’t set uneven measure columns of continuous text, especially when using multiple columns. Doing so disturbs the continuity of the layout format.



Don’t use an excessive amount of space between columns. One pica of space between columns is sufficient. A rule of thumb is never to have more space between columns than there is in the side margins.

Don’t use an excessive space between thin measure columns. Again, one pica of space between columns is sufficient. Space between thin measure columns can be distracting to a reader, especially if it is equal to the space of the side margins.

Don’t use uneven spaces between columns. Uneven spaces discourage readership.


Don’t add space between paragraphs of editorial text for print media. It creates visual distractions and interrupts smooth reading. Space between paragraphs can be appropriate for text presented in a digital online format.

Don’t add space between paragraphs of editorial text for print media. Even in a multiple column format, spacing disturbs the continuity of the text. Used in online single column situations, space between paragraphs can be appropriate.

Don’t use inconsistent spacing between paragraphs or sections of text. It is considered a typesetting error, or at the very least bad form.

Don’t be inconsistent with the use of paragraph returns. It will be seen as a typesetting error.


Don’t misalign the baselines of columns. It will be seen as a layout formatting error.

Don’t misalign the baselines of columns. Although it may seem to be deliberate staggering, if the baselines don't align, it is considered a layout formatting error. (See Beginnings and Endings below.)


Do stagger the endings of columns where it is appropriate to the design. Although the ends of the columns differ in height, the column baselines align at the top and line spacing is consistent.

Do stagger the endings of multiple columns where it is appropriate to the design. Columns may vary as long as line spacing is consistent and baselines align.


Do stagger the beginnings of columns where it is appropriate to the design. Although the beginning of the columns stagger, the baselines of all columns remain in alignment as do all lines.

Disclaimer: These examples have been created to demonstrate basic principles of typographic practice, they are not meant to represent aesthetically brilliant samples of typography.

Typographic Do's and Don'ts: Paragraphs

Learning typographic usage may seem like the simple application of common sense and visual sensibility, especially when it comes to rudimentary typographical practice, however it’s not so straightforward. There are volumes of research that have been generated about the readability, legibility, and visibility of typography as it applies to paragraph bodies of text in theory as well as in practice.

The following text "don't and do" samples demonstrate a number of basic principles that are essential for setting text that performs suitably in paragraphs with the potential to be as aesthetically pleasing as conditions will allow. The statement used in the examples below is an excerpt from a treatise on typography written in 1818 titled Annals of Parisian Typography, by William Parr Greswell.


Don’t allow a single word line or “widow” to occur at the end of a paragraph.

Do alter paragraph line endings to change the “rag” and eliminate a widow.


Don’t indent the first line of an article or chapter.

Do remove the indentation. A first paragraph should not be indented. Paragraphs following the first should be indented.


Don’t use a color for text that is difficult to read.

Do choose a text color with adequate contrast to the background.


Don’t choose a display font style that is difficult to read.

Do use display fonts sparingly for short statements or portions of a statement.


Don’t set paragraph text in all capital letters.

Do use all capital letters for single words, single sentences, or short statements.


Don’t use fonts with ornate capital letters for all cap statements.

Do use ornate capital letters only at the beginning of sentences.


Don’t choose excessively bold fonts for long bodies of text.

Do choose reduced weight fonts for paragraph use.


Don’t set text solid or use negative line spacing.

Do add space between lines or use default spacing for the point size in use.


Don’t use an excessive amount of word space for paragraph text.

Do use default or slightly reduced spacing.


Don’t use an excessive amount of letter space for paragraph text.

Do use letter spacing in a moderate amount.


Don’t set text in long lines or “measures”.

Do limit the average length of lines in a paragraph to no more than 12 words.


Don’t set type flush on both sides or “justified” in short measures.

Do set type as justified in wider measures.


Don’t allow auto justification to create "rivers and lakes".

Do manually adjust justified text to improve rivers.

Flush Right

Don’t set a chapter or story flush right, ragged left.

Do use flush right, ragged left for shorter statements or call outs.


Don’t set a chapter or story as centered text.

Do use centered text for shorter statements or call outs.


Don’t allow excessive hyphenation to occur in a paragraph.

Do change the rag so that no more than two adjacent lines are hyphenated.


Don’t excessively compress a font horizontally.

Do use original letter proportioning or find a font designed to be condensed.


Don’t excessively vertically compress a font.

Do use original letter proportioning or find a font designed to be extended.


Don’t letterset type vertically.

Do set words in vertical columns, but only sparingly if necessary.


Don’t use outline type for large bodies of text.

Do use outline type for short statements or contrast, but only sparingly.


Don’t apply excessive visual effects to paragraph text.

Do use visual effects subtly and with restraint.


Don’t set dark type over images with detailed or contrasting elements.

Do lighten  or “dodge” the image to improve the readability of the text.

Don’t set white type over images with detailed or contrasting elements.

Do darken  or “burn” the image to improve the readability of the text.