Before I became a freelance illustrator I often worked at various language schools (英会話) as well elementary and junior high schools in Japan. Whilst working there I noticed that a lot of the materials they were using were of poor quality, and at times very crudely painted or designed. In the private sector in particular, a lot of schools seek out websites that provide free materials, such as flashcards, posters, worksheets etc, however as the style, color and sizing were often inconsistent and seemed unprofessional, it was a poor representation of the school's image. Through word of mouth, I was put in contact with such a school, and was commissioned to create illustrations to suit their language course and to help advertise their business. Here are a sample of a few flashcards that were designed for their own language course.
The outcome of that project was very successful. In addition to having a collection of artwork that students loved and could be easily understood, we also managed to create a textbook that could be sold to other schools thereby providing an addition source of income. One piece in particular (an advertisement poster that assisted tourists with ordering a local food delicacy) had an amazing response and led to it being featured on multiple TV shows, as well being included in the "Japan Times" newspaper.
I thought that this example would be a good way to show how fast a company can improve and grow by pushing forward to the next step and utilizing quality illustrations and professional illustrators rather than always seeking out the free, cheap and easy options.
One reason why a lot of the illustrations in education materials are of lower quality than picture books, is that the budgets are much lower and therefore an illustrator can't spend as much time on them as their other work. However, I have found that by finding the right work flow, you can still balance time and quality. and have an a great looking product by the end of it. I mostly use Adobe Illustrator for such work, as it fast and easy to use, but most of all, the final product is a vector image. For those that don't have experience with vectors, vector imaging is an image can be scaled to any size without losing any image quality. This is because it doesn't rely on the amount of pixels, but rather uses fancy mathematical equations (that I have no understanding of) to create the artwork, whereas other programs, such as Photoshop, uses raster imaging which will cause the quality to degrade when increased or decreased in size (try it yourself). Next week I will post a tutorial for how I create my vector art and some helpful points to help you create art quicker.
Here are a sample of some of my vector illustrations that I am currently working on for a different project aimed at young children. Time spent on each one can varies, especially if the object requires a more dynamic pose or complex style. Animals in particular take much longer than fruit as they are more complex and parts cannot be recycled as easily, but we will get into that next week as part of the children's vector art tutorial!
If you have any questions or comments, then feel free to leave them below and I will do my best in getting back to you.