The Digital Marketplace & How Can It Be Utilised?
This essay aims to explore the realm of the digital marketplace and its relationship with self promotion, subject knowledge and job opportunities. How can the illustrator take advantage of this, and are there pitfalls? It is not the aim to weigh up traditional promotion methods against the digital, as With global web use increasing ever rapidly, illustration and design is at its highest ever presence in the public sphere. Almost every web user has come into contact with an ad campaign or Youtube video which has gone ‘viral’, and it is exactly this interconnected, rapid information sharing experience which provides a potential gold mine for an artist looking to exhibit and receive commissions and opportunities from the digital world.
There are a multitude of ways by which an artist can publish and digitally exhibit work, be it through web-based magazines and publications, blogs both personal and collated, portfolios, referrals, affiliation, but not all methodologies offer the ease which others are able to. The fact though, is that the web is also an extremely open platform for piracy, which a topic of its own entirely, not limited to illustration. Some artists take a forward thinking stance with regards to the sharing of their work and others feel plagiarism is the only real end result of such openness. This skepticism, however, is partly undermined by the rise of websites such as Flickr, Tumblr and Behance, which allow for easy and open viewing of high quality work in their respective environments, and the general content sharing nature of the internet.
The internet also provides a constant up to date assessment and tool for review of the marketplace and all that goes on within it to the artists themselves. Which style is popular, what is XYZ currently doing, where is the money or the work flowing towards? Without leaving your chair information on almost any topic, brief, or (technologically up to date) artist can be found within minutes and used for whatever means necessary.
Studies show that in the 10 years elapsed since 2003, there has been an increase in internet users from 608 million to 2,749 million, which translates to just under 40% of the global population. (http://www.internetworldstats.com/emarketing.htm Internet User Statistics) This immediately places more than half of the adult population of the world in direct contact with an environment where imagery and visual communication is unavoidable and paramount to user or consumer satisfaction. It also underlines the point that a piece of content posted in say... London, can be seen globally with one click of the ‘post’ button - milliseconds.
Smartphone users will check their phone on average 150 times per day. This represents the digital community’s willingness to engage and consume content on a colossal scale, and is partly the source of the aforementioned viral phenomenon the web offers. Perhaps one of the most high-profile beneficiaries of this is President Obama, as seen in his pre-election campaign from the ‘Hope’ imagery generated by illustrator and designer Shepard Fairey, aka Obey.
Left: Shepard Fairey ‘Hope’ 2008
Right: Milton Glaser ‘I love New York’ 1977
The image is a crucial component of Obama’s campaign, with its bold, crisp imagery depicting the clear-cut, patriotic Obama in the American colourway. Reblogged tens, if not hundreds of thousands of times and stylistically imitated for a multitude of (unrelated) works since, the poster can be found in corners across the planet. Shepard Fairey himself describes seeing his shock work upon encountering his work in Africa - somewhere he certainly did not expect to find an American electoral poster. This now iconic imagery has only been able to reach such a global audience due to the marketing power of the internet in copying and reproduction. (Fairey, Shepard, 2012) Since 2008 and the subsequent success of the