A distinctive illustrative style is great to have, as it makes your work unique and distinct, but it comes with caveats. Adapting your personal style to meet the demands of clients can be problematic at times.
It’s a problem that anyone who’s made an Illustration for a client has had to deal with, which is why it’s a common point of discussion for illustrators the world over. Some experts even happily offered some advice on the matter, and here’s a couple.
Rob Flowers says:
Have flexible “building blocks”.
Rob Flowers has what he calls ‘building blocks’, about 15 colors, a selection of go-to shapes, and stylistic choices that make up the core of his style. These stay no matter what the brief or the demands of the clients are, allowing for collaborative and flexible works.
The core style stays but can be adjusted, changed, and transformed as per the needs and feedback of the client, which maintains the uniqueness of the style while allowing for flexibility.
Flowers says that it’s all about picking what to change, and being flexible, as commercial projects demand that the client’s needs be met.
Ben “the Illustrator” O’Brien says:
Discuss the style with the client as early as possible.
Ben O’Brien, AKA Ben the Illustrator, also encourages a flexible style. But he also noted the importance of open communication with the client throughout all of the stages of a project.
O’Brien is known for his clean, geometric shapes, minimal detail, and characteristically bright and bold works. That’s why he always checks with clients to see if they’re on board with the stylistic choices he has in mind with projects.
He notes that it’s best to get this out of the way as early in a project as possible, as this is where the client lays down their terms, and the artist knows where to compromise on the Illustration regarding their style.
Mattieu “Mcbess” Bessudo says:
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.
French illustrator Mattieu Bessudo is known for his black and white style, heavily influenced by the likes of Betty Boop and Fleischer Studios. He doesn’t do color, which he explicitly spells out on his website.
He explains that an artist should know what they won’t draw, and be honest and upfront about what will fit them and what won’t. Bessudo says it’s something about craftsmanship; if people respect what a person does, they won’t force them to change what they do.