The Times They Are A’Changing

November 6th, 2014 | Posted in Freelancing

It’s no secret the world of publishing and printing is being taken over by digital publishing, the internet and hand held “media consumption” devices. That said, the world of illustration is hardly dying as a result, it is merely changing to fit into the evolving digital world. No corner of the business is immune. Here’s a case in point.

Followers of my blog will know I do work for a client called The Marlin Company, which produces workplace communication products that employers purchase on a subscription basis with monthly messages of teamwork, stress management, safety, etc. as well as other useful information tailored to various industries. For the last 14 years or so, I have done an illustration every month for them for a 17″ x 20″ poster that is part of that product. The subscriber would get a large plastic wall mounted sign-holder with various pocket frames, and each month receive materials that would be inserted into those various pockets including my poster (if they were part of whatever industry package my poster art was used for that month). I estimate I have done about 160 of these posters.

Last month I got a call from my art director there to tell me they are completely dropping the printed materials program, and moving to 100% digital content. Instead of the large sign holder, Marlin clients now have a large ditital monitor to hang in their employee break room or wherever, and the images and information is displayed on it instead. This has actually been being phased in for some years now, but officially the print part is now a thing of the past. While that changes my role with the company’s products, it does not eliminate it. The chief difference is they want some animated elements to these images.

My work is a little more complex in nature than some of the other art they use for the same purpose, so it’s harder to animate. What I’ve been asked to do is to provide a multi-layered image as opposed to one static, flattened one. This way they can do some simple movement to the art and achieve their animated ends. So, what would have once been this:


Becomes this:






And they do their animated magic to it. I’ve never seen one of my pieces animated, so I have no idea what it looks like.

Adapt or die, as they say in the wild.



  1. Cris says:

    Where can i see all your caricatures? do you have a book or an album. I saw the portfolio but i just find some of your art.

  2. Frank says:

    Since I work in PSD layers anyway, I would think of it as a nice way to present the drawings. Rather than being cancelled.

    • Tom says:

      This is different than merely working in layers. I know have to draw, ink, and color complete background elements, complete figures and other objects that I would ordinarily not have to do. For example the Zamboni in this illustration covers a good part of the background. If this was a static illustration, I’d not have to draw or color that part, but now I do. Likewise I had to draw and color the complete Zamboni, where in a static image the skaters cover much of it. Etc. Etc. It adds time to the process, I’d estimate another 25% longer to do the piece. I have to ink it in sections, scan it in pieces, assemble it and then color it in layers like animation cells. My fee is the same. Yes, it’s better than being cancelled, but I now work harder for the same amount of money.

  3. Thanks for sharing that insight into one of your projects, Tom. Very interesting how digital is shaking things up and requiring more from us as illustrators/creatives.

    I’m curious, did you ask for more money for these new illustrations from the client?

    On the upside, you now have complete assets that you might be able to reuse, cutting your time to produce newer illustrations where existing assets can be repurposed.

    Thanks again for sharing.


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