Career

How to Contact Art Directors and Get Assignments. My Favourite Art Directors Explain How

How to Contact Art Directors and Get Assignments. My Favourite Art Directors Explain How
Written by Magoz
9 min read 20.7k views 27 comments

When I felt I was ready to start working as an illustrator, I developed a plan to contact art directors and get some assignments.
I didn’t have any experience and I learnt with the trial and error method, after hundreds of emails.

Many of you have written me asking what is the best way to approach an art director and get assignments.
Instead of explaining my point of view and strategy, I thought the best way was to go straight to the source. I’ve asked my favourite art directors to share their thoughts with us and those are the results.

Thanks to Patti Nemoto, Ron Goodman, Jordan Awan, Alessandro Zuffi and Kevin Pudsey. (Also to Matt Dorfman for pointing a previous article that has great answers).

Patti Nemoto

Patti is the Art Director of Scientific American and I regularly work with her for the How to be a better… column. Patti was one of the first art directors I worked with. I really enjoy every image I create for her.

How do you prefer to be approached by new illustrators?
Primarily, I prefer e-mail. I find that I’m able to devote more time going through them than by phone. I also tend to get to the emails sooner than postcards so that my inbox doesn’t get overwhelmed. I do, however, find it’s nice to have something physically to hold on to or pin up.

What’s the most important thing for you when someone contact you introducing themselves as an illustrator?
The most important thing to me is that they are familiar with the magazine; its subject matter and visual sensibility – or they have an idea of how their work might fit. That thoughtfulness goes a long way.

How the ideal email should be?
I prefer a rather short e-mail introduction and a mention of why they think their work might contribute to the magazine. Just a quick sentence or two showing that they have seen and/or understand the content. I do like images attached to give a quick sense of style but if they have written something thoughtful about the work and the magazine, I’m much more apt to click on a link.

What is the most important thing you look for when working with an illustrator?
I get really excited when I sense that the illustrator understands, is curious about and inspired by the topic. I think I can then count on some interesting ideas and, subsequently, a piece that is successful for the magazine as well as the artist.

Ron Goodman

Ron is the Art Director of Adweek (formerly Managing Design Director). I’ve worked with him lots of times and he always bring topics that fit great with my way of illustrating. He knows when an assignment will suit you and he always comes with great topics.

How do you prefer to be approached by new illustrators?
Postcards are great – I’ll keep them on a board if they are interesting. It’s important to target your mailing list – if I receive a sample and it isn’t a style that we utilise I probably wouldn’t contact that illustrator.

What’s the most important thing for you when someone contact you introducing themselves as an illustrator?
Personalised introductions – a short note saying that you want to work for that brand can go a long way. It shows that you are paying attention to your clients and that you understand what they are trying to communicate.

How the ideal email should be?
Always keep it short – designers receive a lot of emails and if you don’t make an immediate impression you probably won’t be considered. Images are essential so that we know what your style is – a picture really is worth a thousand words.

What is the most important thing you look for when working with an illustrator?
We are hiring the illustrator to solve a problem for us. This problem is visual but also involves production schedules, budgets, etc. So aside from compelling images and a unique style I need to know that they will come up with a strong concept on time and within the budget.

Jordan Awan

Jordan is the Art Director of MIT Technology Review. Is one of the most recent art directors I’ve worked with, and I had one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Jordan is very professional and makes your work better. At the same time, he is understanding and very helpful trying to make you feel comfortable.

How do you prefer to be approached by new illustrators?
Email and mail both work fine. I think the best emails are short thoughtful notes with a few attached images and a link to a website or blog. It goes a long way if the illustrator is familiar with the publication and the kind of work it produces. I don’t pay attention to mass emails really – I usually just delete them right away to keep my inbox clear. The one thing I’d advise against is finding an art director’s personal email online and contacting them that way.

Similarly with mail, I always respond better when the approach is a bit more thoughtful, special or fun – if someone sends a zine or print or handwritten note – but postcards can work fine too if the image is good. I always liked doing face to face portfolio reviews at The New Yorker and would try to do a few every week; meeting someone in person goes a very long way. I’ve done a handful of reviews at Technology Review, but Boston tends to be a quieter town with fewer people traveling through. If you get a chance to schedule an appointment with an art director, I would strongly encourage you to go for it.

What’s the most important thing for you when someone contact you introducing themselves as an illustrator?
I find myself looking less at the aesthetic and more at the ideas and concepts. The most important thing is, can I use this artist? What kind of thinker are they? There are a lot of people who make beautiful work, but far fewer who make beautiful work that can also elegantly solve a problem visually.

How the ideal email should be?
Short, but friendly and thoughtful. A couple of images attached and a link is all you need.

What is the most important thing you look for when working with an illustrator?
Besides the work, a good attitude is always important! There have been plenty of instances where I love an illustrator’s work, but only worked with them once because they had a bad attitude or were so difficult to work with.

Alessandro Zuffi

Alessandro is the Art Director of Causette (formerly the Photo Editor in Chief). I’ve worked with him a couple of times with good results. Both experiences were great and I felt very comfortable working with him.

How do you prefer to be approached by new illustrators?
I prefer an e-mail with a link to the website which has to be clear and show directly the kind of illustrator I’m checking, a portfolio preview with 10 images is always appreciated.

What’s the most important thing for you when someone contact you introducing themselves as an illustrator?
Be direct telling what the illustrator can do (more portrait, more narrative or conceptual) because I want to know what the artist prefers doing too.

How the ideal email should be?
Short e-mail with a spot/illustration in the signature.

What is the most important thing you look for when working with an illustrator?
The location! I need to know on which time zone I’m working.

Kevin Pudsey

Kevin is the Art Director of CPA Canada. I work with him regularly and I really appreciate the professionalism and at the same time the warmth communication we have and the nice working atmosphere we create.

How do you prefer to be approached by new illustrators?
Email + postcards… the quickest way to be seen (but make send several—can’t judge by ONE piece-especially if unpublished).

How the ideal email should be?
Images + contact info (poster style-clean + simple)… don’t need a sales pitch or cover letter, but web page can speak volumes.

What is the most important thing you look for when working with an illustrator?
The quality of work… nothing else really matters, even distance (hence emails, internet).

Conclusions

I always focused on emails, but it looks like art directors also appreciate postcards and other printed material.
Art directors are busy people and they don’t have time for long texts. They prefer straight contact with a personalised email containing the essential information and visuals (if possible). This strategy worked quite well for me.

I would also add to don’t forget that, besides of art directors, they are persons too. They are busy, as we are. They have deadlines to meet, as we have. They want to work in the best way, as we want.

What has been your experience working with art directors? Do you follow a different strategy? As always, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

Magoz

Nomadic illustrator. Thinker. Seeker.

27 comments

  1. Your email was so spot on for me, this is what I’ve been planning to do for a while, so these tips couldn’t have been timed better. Thank you, Magoz!!

  2. Really interesting. Thanks!

  3. C
    Carolina

    Thanks for sharing magoz, it’s very helpful :)

  4. G
    Gemma Cortabitarte

    Molt interessant! Ho compartiré amb els nostres socis/es. Records des de Barna!

  5. A mi tb m’animen molt els teus articles. As suggestion for next articles, how to do to get art directors e-mails? Thanks for sharing ^_^

  6. Molt interessant. gràcies!

  7. ¡Gracias Magoz!

  8. This is really useful and interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Hi Magoz,

    I came across your website today while working on a school assignment. Needless to say, your work is amazing! I like to do conceptual work and find yours very inspiring. I also checked your blog, and am amazed by such helpful information that you have put there. Thank you so much and wish you good luck with your work!

    Regards,

    Shreya Gupta

  10. Hi Magoz!
    Thank you for sharing your experiences, I really love your work

  11. L
    Lacey Liang

    Thank you Magoz for kindly sharing your experience with us!
    I’ve been following your blog for a long time since I was a student, and now I’m a freelancer confusing what sort of direction shall I go for :S
    Anyway, just want to say Hi.
    Best wishes!

    Lacey

  12. t
    taryn charles

    are you an art director as well if so i would like to ask a few questions of my own if so please email me

  13. Thank you so much! It is so helpful~

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