VaroomLab Visionaries – A New Breed

Here we have an extract from Varoom 31 which features some of the short presentations from Visionaries illustration conference. Alice Moloney, one of the presenters, re-imagines some familiar visual and professional forms.

A new breed – How should we champion the mavericks and pioneers of the illustration industry?

By Alice Moloney 

There is a new breed of illustrator emerging. A breed driven by ideas, problem solving, and working collaboratively. Who use drawing as a tool rather than as a way of visualising someone else’s ideas or words. Who are shaping the future of what has previously been considered a fairly traditional, and at times restrictive, industry.

“commission illustrators for their ideas as well as their image-making”



All Images featured are from The Impossibility of the Journey by Rachel Lillie (A 64 page 2 colour risographed book) The book explores and questions the idea of a journey, collating drawings, photographs and written fragments of text.

It is the perfect time for such a breed to emerge because right now brands and organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of telling their stories in new ways to connect to audiences. As a result, there is a real need for creatives who approach storytelling differently, and I think these people are illustrators. Illustrators who want to be employed for the way they think as well as the way they make images.

I have personally found that the skills I have honed as an illustrator (such as narrative, drawing, problem solving, research, and communicating abstract or complex themes into concise images) have been transferable into the wider design industry. As a Creative at a well known London design agency, I am constantly using these skills. Every day I construct narratives and visually communicate to audiences and clients – but what I produce isn’t ever just an image. Instead I uncover insights through research, develop creative directions, construct brand stories, and build content strategies, all with the mind of an illustrator.


“masters of using drawing as a way of thinking”

Over the years, there are two key people who have motivated me to use my illustration skills in new ways; Alan Fletcher and Leanne Shapton. I would consider both of them masters of using drawing as a way of thinking, to the point where they sit on that exciting border between being a designer or illustrator. Alan Fletcher, for his ability to communicate so much with visually so little. Leanne Shapton, for the way she pushes our perceptions of what storytelling and image-making can achieve. More recently, I am looking to people like Rachel Lillie as an example of this ‘new breed’. The Impossibility of the Journey, a publication that Rachel made during her residency at the House of Illustration, explores the idea of drawing as a process rather than an outcome. What I love about Rachel’s work is that you can clearly see how she is problem-solving through her images, which are like sophisticated roughs rather than final artwork.  


To make the most of this opportunity for the ‘new breed’ of illustrators, I think we just have to start with awareness. Help brands to understand how they can commission illustrators for their ideas as well as their image-making. Help illustrators to communicate to brands how they can offer research and design thinking all with the rare skill of bringing stories to life through drawing.

 Varoom 31 Visionaries is available here

12th November 2015

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