An Interview with Alice of Meiklejohn illustration agency on Kids Corner

Here at emc, we often commission artwork from a talented pool of illustrators for the projects we work on. As part of this we like to keep up with new and developing artists and the illustration agencies. We recently came across ‘Kids Corner’ – a new area within the Meiklejohn illustration agency, especially dedicated to children’s publishing. We were keen to find out more.

What are the three areas/agencies within Meiklejohn and how do they vary?

The three areas of the Meiklejohn group are Meiklejohn, New Division and Kids Corner. The Meiklejohn agency first opened its doors in 1974, it was one of London’s first illustration agencies and soon gained a reputation for representing a group of high calibre illustrators. Come the 1980’s the illustration scene was changing, digital, stylised art was emerging and the agency wanted to offer this to its client base, so New Division was formed – a boutique agency representing the best up and coming talent in contemporary illustration. Today New Division still focuses on lifestyle and stylised illustration, while Meiklejohn offers a broad selection of styles. Kids Corner is the newest addition to the group, launched this January, this is a new collection of portfolios, which focuses purely on children’s illustration and the publishing market.

What are the benefits of having these 3 separate areas?

We have developed the three separate areas to make life as easy as possible for our clients. As each agency has such a distinct collection of artists, our clients know exactly where to go to find the artist they are looking for. As deadlines are shrinking and workloads are increasing having the three separate areas can save our clients valuable time.

Why have you decided to specialise in children’s publishing with the new Kids Corner? Do you have more illustrators that are focused/enjoy working in this area?

We’ve actually worked with a variety of Children’s Publishers for a number of years, we decided to launch Kids Corner now, as it’s such an exciting time for publishing. We’ve seen such a change in the industry over the past few years, we wanted to be able to offer a dedicated service to these clients. Our clients are always hungry to find new talent and fresh new styles to work with and as it’s such a niche genre, it just made sense to create a specialised area on the site.

In terms of our illustrators, we’ve always had a selection of artists who have worked prolifically in children’s publishing. Kids Corner has enabled us to showcase this work more specifically, at the same time as opening up a new client base for other illustrators who were interested in working in this field. We have worked with many of our artists to develop styles, which are suitable for the market. As an illustrator it makes commercial sense to have as broad a client base as possible. Also, children’s publishing allows our artists a certain amount of creative freedom which our other client bases don’t, it can be really good fun working on Children’s books.

The digital growth within children’s publishing has been particularly prolific over the last few years – how have you as an agency reacted to this change? Perhaps more specifically to the type of artwork that is supplied, ie animations? And how are you helping artists to stay ahead or at least catch up with digital formats?

We always encourage our artists to keep up to date with technology to ensure they are keeping up with the industry and their competitors. We do this through regular updates and giving advice and ideas on how they could develop their work. Working in digital formats, suitable for digital as well as print use is pretty much standard now, and it has opened up a new interesting market for their work.

How do you market the different artists you have to the different types of publishing clients – trade/education/elt etc?

Over the years of working with different types of publishers we’ve gained a real insight into which art styles work for each area. With this in mind we designed the search facility on our website so you can find artists by the different areas they work in. Also, when we meet our clients and in our general marketing we have separate portfolios dedicated to the different areas.

How do you source new illustrators and artists? And what tips do you have for any budding artists who want to work within the publishing industry?

We source new artists from various places. We receive a high number of submissions from artists wanting to join the agency, which we always review. The degree shows are always a great place to spot up and coming talent and we also take part in portfolio sessions at various events. Not only is this a good place for us to look for talent, it also gives us a chance to offer advice to young illustrators which we feel is very important.

I think there would be two main tips for budding artists first of all refine your style, build a portfolio which is consistent and that has a very clear visual identity. Secondly, I would say, treat illustration as a career from the very outset, no matter how exciting it is to be approached by clients don’t work for free and try and retain your rights. Start as you mean to go on – it’s better for you and the industry in general.

What are the benefits of coming to an agency like Meiklejohn? 

For our clients there are several benefits, there’s a guarantee of quality when you work through us. This not only applies to the standard of artwork you will receive but also, the commissioning process – our project management means that things go as smoothly as possible. We’ve read so many briefs over the years, we know what questions to ask and also we know how our artists work best, so we will say if a deadline is too tight or if they need more information.

And when a new client isn’t sure what they want, how do you help them to select the right style of artist?

We have a good chat with them. We try to get the feel of the brief and what they want to achieve and what mood they want to create. Most clients do have an idea of what they want even if they don’t know it, it’s just a case of talking them through their thoughts, showing them various options. We often pull style or subject selections together for clients and email them over so they can share the work with their team.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face?

This is a difficult one as the industry is changing so much. We are continually having to evolve the way we work and look at our practices to keep up with our clients needs. But I’d say the biggest challenge is fee erosion and contract negotiations, the terms of publishing contracts are becoming less favourable and it’s continually becoming harder to achieve fair terms for our artists.

Thanks, Alice thats all really interesting stuff and certainly echoes some of the scenarios we’re facing in the industry too! Hope all goes well with Kids Corner and no doubt we’ll be talking to you soon.

To find out more about Kids Corner and view some of the amazing porfolios, visit their website here.

About emc design

emc design is a leading print & digital design agency for publishing.
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