Carla Lucena
Illustration & Art Direction


Brow rising professions


I’m back from an on and off holidays summer filled with editorial projects and about to start my design classes again. This reminded a conversation I had a few months ago with Ana Martin (person in charge of the community care at Id.Real) in which she told me a very insightful anecdote from her former years as student coordinator at Miami Ad School.

She related me how she was explaining the portfolio program in detail to a student's father one day, going through all the real work that the school involved and the different career options and opportunities those couple of years would lead to. And apparently, when she finished his reaction was to be truly thankful and deeply relieved. He didn't know being a copywriter was even a profession and, before he was introduced to the creative industry, he thought all that portfolio program thing was sort of... well, a way to take people's money. Do you know what that son is now? A really smart creative director with a Cannes Grand Prix among other international prizes.

I found it a great story and an excellent example of how creative professions are still seen in Spain and many other South European countries, regardless our artistic, design and artisanal historical background (let’s drop Oscar Mariné and Isidro Ferrer here, let’s drop Cruz Novillo and Alex Trochut there). Once you explain them, people get it. And once you show them, most of them sort of respect it. But the first reaction is to be suspicious, because we weren't told about them as reliable ways to make a living while browsing career paths on high-school. Plus any artistic and creative subjects were always considered the easy and time filling ones. Sighs…

I had my very own dose of having to repeatedly explain it myself. After spending five years finishing a double degree in advertisement and audiovisual communications while working as radio reporter and speaker, my aunt eagerly asked me about my next steps during a family barbecue. I guess they were expecting an answer about aiming to work as a journalist in a big national TV channel or newspaper, so when I said that I wanted to spend another couple of years doing a master’s degree to become an art director, several brows rose around the dinner table. Mostly because the “director” word sounded to them like I was expecting to become the boss of something not very practical I hadn’t even previously worked at.

By the time they had understood that I was working on advertising, I was already leaving the agency. Time to start explaining myself again. If being a designer wasn’t an abstract concept enough for a group formed by a chemist, a marine biologist, an economist, a nurse and several doctors, how the hell were they going to have a clear and serious image of what an illustrator does? How was it going to be a productive and meaningful job? I’ll never forget the day my father proudly showed them my first magazine cover. Thanks to that, now-a-days my family always relies on me for their businesses’ design and communication purposes, but they weren't capable to explain what I did for a living for a very long time. Before that happened, one of my uncles even confessed to me that people from our city kept telling him that I was really good at my job, which led him to have a strange feeling of being very proud and absolutely clueless at the same time.

So, in case there’s any student or young professional out there struggling to be taken seriously in their beloved ones environment, here there’re a few simply explained lines that helped me:

  • Emotions are the best way to reach people.

    Think about cultural, health-awareness and public campaigns. You need creativity to appeal people in a message crowded world.

  • We translate sales goals into communication goals.

    Brands can’t say I want you to buy my sneakers because I want to become a millionaire. They need to look for creative ways to talk about the perks of their product and stand out.

  • We make people to stop and read.

    When everybody is an hurry and there’re millions of newspapers, magazines, books and articles, people have to be selective with what they choose to read. Witty and beautiful conceptual illustrations is the way to show them in a matter of two seconds that the text is of their interest. Many times, is that image in the cover what leads their hand in the cluttered shelf of the news stand or bookshop.

  • We make products more desirable to be bought.

    We all prefer beautiful things and we tend to choose specific aesthetics. Look at the objects surrounding you. How many of them have patterns, drawings or are intentionally designed? How many times you made the decision of buying them instead of a similar one just because they were visually attractive to you?

  • We draw images and concepts that may be too difficult or too weird to make as a photo.

  • We tell stories. We help movie makers.

    Film directors don’t take the camera and start shooting right away. For the sake of budget, they need a very concise and carefully traced plan behind every single shot. And you need an illustrator to visualize that.

Luckily, things are changing with the following generation. I still hope this was helpful for anyone who may have needed it.

Carla LComment