An illustrator’s take on empathy

I was invited to give a talk last night for students from across the University for the Arts, London who are preparing for their Degree Shows in a few months’ time. It’s great that arts courses are also thinking to prepare students for success in the ‘real’ world beyond their course, and the evening was organised by ECCA as part of a week-long series of events that will also have a web presence.


A fellow speaker was the illustrator Rachel Ortas who graduated a few years ago. She struck me as a great case study of an artist who naturally thinks of her audience in everything she does, seamlessly matching the meeting of their needs with her own creative inspiration. Rachel explained how, for her Degree Show, she realised that her most important target market were shops who might buy her cards, badges and other products exactly as she made them. So that was who she concentrated on inviting; researching appropriate shops and making sure they had personal invitations that reflected her work. And at the Show, there were plenty of little, witty things for people to take away and remember her by.


This awareness of how her ‘audience’ thinks has remained. Today Rachel is also Art Director for a new children’s magazine OKIDO, supported by the Wellcome Foundation. Their market research is intrinsic to their creative process: “We run workshops too, and that’s how we can understand how a five-year-old sees things. So our designs and our ideas work for them. How can you design for a five-year-old unless you know five-year-olds?”


All that, and wonderful illustrations too!