Job Description, salaries and benefits
Technical illustrators, who may also be known as scientific illustrators, prepare detailed drawings to help people understand often complex scientific or technical information. Their illustrations are used in textbooks, reference books, instruction manuals and technical sales brochures. Technical illustrators may also produce images for multimedia software, film and television, websites and architectural visualisations.
The work of a technical illustrator may involve:
- discussing requirements, and agreeing the brief and contract with the client
- talking to designers, technical authors and engineers to gain a better understanding of the product
- visiting manufacturing or production sites to view the systems or equipment to be illustrated
- creating ideas that suit the brief
- using drawing, sketching, painting or photographic skills and, increasingly, computer packages, to create and produce illustrations
- consulting with their client, seeking approval at all stages of development and making any changes as required, until gaining final approval.
Self-employed technical illustrators also have to promote their services to potential clients, and need to keep records and accounts.
Employed illustrators work normal office hours, from Monday to Friday. Self-employed illustrators' hours vary according to the pressure of work and the need to meet deadlines. Most illustrators work at home or in a studio.
Illustrators in permanent jobs may earn between £14,000 and £40,000 a year. A few may earn much more than this. Self-employed illustrators charge a fee for each illustration or project.
Technical illustrators need:
- excellent drawing and IT skills
- an eye for detail and design
- precise, accurate and clear presentation skills
- a strong interest in, and an understanding of, science and technology.
Employers include design studios, multimedia and web publishers, manufacturers, film and television companies and computer games producers. There are a small number of jobs with scientific and technical publishers. Some technical illustrators are self-employed and work freelance.
Most technical illustrators have an HND or degree in an art and design subject, although it is possible to become a technical illustrator without any specific qualifications. For general information about becoming an illustrator, see Illustrator.
Technical illustration is open to any illustrator with a good understanding of science or technology. However, there are also two courses that specialise in technical illustration:
- Degree in Information Illustration
- Degree in Scientific and Natural History Illustration.
Courses last three years full time and are offered at Blackpool and The Fylde College.
Success for a freelance illustrator depends on building up a reputation and a steady flow of work. There may be opportunities to progress, if employed, to supervisory or management level positions.
- Blackpool and The Fylde College, Ashfield Road, Bispham, Blackpool, Lancashire FY2 0HB. 01253 504343.
Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC), PO Box 522, Peterborough PE2 5WX. 01733 390141.