Embrace the Future

Cannot Predict Now

If only we could look into the magic 8 ball and know in an instant what the future of technical illustration will be.  I know some have seen it develop from the strictly traditional execution of the past to the now multi-functional digital aspects of today.

Yesterday evening, I attended the graduate show for the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Illustration program held by the 2014 class of Sheridan College students, my alma mater school.  It’s interesting to reflect back on where I used to once be, starting out as a professional after completing my degree, with no idea what the future would hold.  To now be able to see how far a career can progress, just by getting out there and doing.

Doing what? Creating, designing, marketing a skill set, keeping current with ever-changing trends and always new and improving software programs, creating and never ceasing to ask questions about how better to visualize information not only from a technical standpoint, but from a perspective where any viewer just “gets it” in one look.

This led me to ponder how the educational institutions play into what’s really going on in our industry and how this shapes the future as we professionals know it.  Sheridan College in particular when I attended educated students in the Technical and Scientific Illustration stream with a focused vision on what types of illustrations you could be creating out in the world.  Now, this stream is no longer going to exist, as they move towards a more University style approach, allowing students to choose which courses they want to explore.  The courses that were previously within the niche of the technical and scientific stream will still be available, however as a student, you would not be getting the end-to-end experience as I once had to hone the skill set in this ever-evolving field.

We have to ask: Are the educational institutions shaping the technical illustration industry properly, if not at all? Have they looked into the Magic 8 ball and know the answer, or are they assuming they know what the future will hold?

I believe there is still a successful career to be had in Technical Illustration, as the work I do daily reflects the need that clients still have.  So, I should be jumping for joy that major competition is being cut out, right? I think not.  The biggest reason I love competition is that is makes me better at what I do.  It pushes me creatively to do more and go further.  So, the real loss to the industry would be a lack of competition to keep those of us that have been doing this for years “on our toes”.

On the other hand, I know that technology is a driving force to how clients hire, whether freelance or in-house and that the other side of the coin, as a professional you always have to be improving upon the foundation of skills that an initial education brought.  A continual growth in knowledge of software, now even more into 3D modeling and animation, web design or even design of info graphics will allow for a more well-rounded approach for dealing with any and all clients that come along, now or in the future.

Sometimes it’s a challenge to get a pulse on an industry when we work in our own little bubbles, more now with online media.  But some of the indication of that pulse has to come from the education that future Illustrators would be receiving.

Inevitably, from where I stand today and where I stood years ago when I graduated from Sheridan, I choose to embrace the future.  If we don’t, we’ll be left behind.  The future may change, but there will always be Technical Illustration.  It may just be executed differently down the road.

A big Congratulations! goes out to the 2014 class of Sheridan Illustration students.  Good luck and embrace your future!  If you are in the greater Toronto area and want to check out the up-and-coming talent of illustrators, the illustration show is on until Friday, April 11, 2014 at 9pm.  You can find more information on http://sheridanillustration.com/

What do you see where you live? Is there a large school nearby that teaches the Technical Illustration skill set if you were to get into the field? Or has a program that you knew previously existed been pushed to the wayside?

Have you been in the industry so long and have a different take on where things are headed?

3 thoughts on “Embrace the Future

  1. says

    I got a degree in Technical Illustration from Ferris State here in Michigan and as far as I can tell that program doesn’t even exist anymore and I’m not sure there are any others in the state. I’m guessing some of the technical stuff is being rolled into other programs now. Now it seems that technical illustrations are being done by the tech writers and industrial designers. The availability of good cad data and being able to turn it into line art I believe has taken away a lot of full time jobs. I’m always keeping an eye on the types of jobs that are out there and from what I’m seeing, most staff jobs now only require an illustrator to be able to convert cad data and clean it up.

    I’m definitely not trying to be negative about it but I think things are definitely changing. There still seems to big demand for illustrations as it seems freelancers are pretty busy these days and I’m fortunate to be making a living at it.

    I feel like there are 2 categories of technical illustrators now, the ones working with cad and converting data, who I imagine will also get real good at modeling and the ones who can really draw. I think most people who went to college are in the second group. What do I know though, I just sit around and draw in my house all day, kind of detached from what’s going on out there now. There must be some good staff jobs out there still?

  2. Hi Leanne,

    Thank you for thoughtful post. Its great to hear you are doing well and enjoying your chosen profession. I visited Sheridan College on two occasions to present workshops to the technical illustration students. I think I may have met you on my first visit.

    I was very impressed with level of education at the school as well as the achievements I saw in the student work. While I have an educational background in fine art I am self taught as a technical illustrator. I can say definitely that I could have saved myself 5 to 10 years if I had the good fortune to attend such a program.

    I could be mistaken but I think there’s not any program here in the states that comes close the Sheridan’s technical Illustration program. It is sad to see the program change as it has. However it you are interested in technical illustration its still the best place to go. Considering the fine faculty of the program are still there I am sure an interested student could craft a curriculum to prepare them for our field.

    On my last visit a number of students attending the program had no intentions in becoming tech illustrators. They were animation students looking to improve their drafting skills. And from what I heard the decision to role the Tech department into the animation school was more driven by the interests of the students rather than broader market forces. It should be no surprise that young students are more interested in a carrier in developing video games or working on the next blockbuster film.

    I agree in part with Clint’s point that in house jobs for tech illustrators are vanishing. But I think that’s been going on for a long time. The days of drab trimetric drawing used in factories and artless blowup drawings to help you assemble your lawnmower are over. These jobs are ether obsolete or being shipped off shore. The changes we need to be looking at are those that effect our profession now and in the future like the evolution from print based communication to video or the demand for more artful communication that can stand out in our noisy world. The broad education available at Sheridan could, I think go a long way towards preparing a student for these challenges. Is there really a big difference between the art of animation, print design, editorial illustration and technical illustration? We are all telling a story, just our story is about science and technology. The message is different but the art is much the same.


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