Catharine Brandy

Catharine Brandy – Design Manager, stamps and collectibles, at the Royal Mail. 

Dinosaurs Iguanodon

Your career has seen a transition from working across creative sectors, to now currently working as the Design Manager, stamps and collectibles, at the Royal Mail. How have you found the changing landscape of commissioning during this course of time?

Essentially, my approach to what I look for in commissioning hasn’t really changed. It’s about finding image makers whose work one is interested in and who are appropriate to a project.

What has changed the most is aspects of the search. I used to trawl through illustration annuals and have portfolios sent to me; now so much of the search is online. That said, I find illustrators’ work that inspires me in newspapers, magazines, book jackets, and just in day-to-day life where you sometimes least expect it. Another change is that I rarely see physical pieces of artwork anymore as work is usually supplied as digital files.

You participated in April for  ‘The Art of London 2012’: Illustrating Royal Mail’s Sport Stamps’ with David Hillman, to discuss the commissioning process. What are the three main steps in the commissioning process itself?

Research: being informed about various talent, but also being open to possibilities.
A clear brief: this helps manage expectations of all parties involved
Good communication.

Jane Austen stamp Sense and Sensibility

What are the mistakes that illustrators can make when submitting their work to a specific project?

A few that come to mind:

  • Not looking at their work at the size it will be reproduced

  • Submitting work in a new style that is not the style that they were specifically hired for.

  • In photorealistic illustration, not telling a client about specific photographic reference that was used, which can cause a copyright issue within the use of the illustration

What are the three key qualities that you look for in an illustrator when you are sourcing for the Royal Mail?

Enthusiasm for the project and the brief is key. It brings about the best results.

I respect anyone who refuses a project if they have no love for the topic – it would show in the work if they didn’t have a heart for it. Thankfully, that happens very rarely. Other qualities that I look for are the ability to collaborate and accept direction, and a pace of working that fits with the timelines of the project.

Post & Go Ponds Emperor Dragonfly

What is the most effective way for illustrators to submit their work to you?

Some illustrators simply email a link to their website but attaching strong samples of their work to the email is useful in that it leaves a more immediate impression. Others who I have already worked with periodically email me new work that they have just completed, or that they are excited about. Agents are good at keeping clients up to speed by updating commissioners on new work and new talent.

Where do you see commissioning moving forward with its next steps?

I think commissioning will evolve, as it needs to for its purposes. Fundamentally, the ethos hasn’t changed – illustrators will continue to be commissioned to create images that evoke an idea or message in an original way. Long may that continue.


7th March 2014

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