Making (the) subject matter: Illustration as interactive, collaborative practice | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2052-0204
  • E-ISSN:



Traditional models for operating as a commercial illustrator are being affected by a rapidly changing media landscape and a reduction in commissioning budgets. Illustration as a discipline can use this time of financial uncertainty and change to reflect upon related fields in the creative industries as well as referring back to its own core values, skills and objectives.

In the context of fine art there have been a number of terms and practices discussed over the last decades that centre around social engagement and collaboration: relational aesthetics (Nicolas Bourriaud), new genre public art (Suzanne Lacy), connective aesthetics (Suzy Gablik) and dialogical aesthetics (Grant Kester). Similarly, design has seen a variety of initiatives and organizations that focus on engaging with communities in order to improve people’s lives in meaningful ways while taking into account complex social, political and environmental challenges.

Illustrators can use elements of these practices to expand their remit while continuing to take advantage of their core skill of giving visual form to externally given content for a particular audience. Taking responsibility for generating content through outward-facing engagement while also having a stake in the methods of distribution opens up a wealth of opportunities that promise to be productive for the discipline.


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