What I learned by illustrating more than 2,000 post covers in 2 years – WAU

While I was looking for what to write for this post and what I could teach that would be of great value to anyone who read it, I came across an information that even scared me. After counting all the illustrations I did for the cover of posts on WAU – counting on the blogs […]

While I was looking for what to write for this post and what I could teach that would be of great value to anyone who read it, I came across an information that even scared me.

After counting all the illustrations I did for the covers of posts on WAU – including the blogs Community, Content Marketing, Content Marketing and Intelligence – I arrived at the giant number of 2147 covers (and counting!).

I confess that I was taken by surprise, nor did I imagine that so many were made. However, in an air of curiosity and nostalgia, I decided to analyze my old illustrations and I could see how much I developed at work and what lessons I gained from this whole process.

In this post, therefore, I will share situations in which I went wrong (and how I solved it), what i learned and, if possible, give useful tips for illustrators and designers who are reading. I hope I can help!

I put perfection in quotation marks because I really don’t believe that there is perfection in Design (and if there is one, I’m a long way from it). If we stop to analyze some piece, illustration or product we made, we will always find one detail or another to change.

But if there’s something I’ve learned in my life and proven since I started working at Websites Are Us it was that without practice we don’t move.

When I came here in September 2016, believe it or not, I knew absolutely nothing about vector illustration. I still remember my interview with Renato “Hank” Mesquita and Lucas “Zuk” Chagas. They analyzed my resume and portfolio very carefully and told me:

“Dude, we loved your portfolio. You know how to draw very well. But do not have nothing vector illustration and is something we need for this job. Do you take a technical test? ”

Of course I would!

I had opened the program once in college to do a job. After that I never touched him again. In fact, I hated him for not knowing how to move. But I needed it now, so come on.

After a week observing the current style of blogs, I decided to take a chance with the first post cover I did for Websites Are Us:

rock content designer blog


It was not just this image that I made for my technical test, but it was the first. And, with them, I passed the technical test and for the next phases of the process.

After I joined WAU, my pressure fell when Zuk passed me the demands. I was sitting there looking at the computer screen, having no idea how to get started.

In that initial moment, he was teaching me the vast majority of tools that I was going to use to make the arts and was super patient with me (including, Thank you, my friend!).

With that kickoff, some tutorials on YouTube and many, but many, many trials and errors, I learned to use the program to my advantage.

I cannot say that I reached my maximum – even, I am very far from that – but I have improved a lot since I started, since I literally started from a position that knew absolutely nothing.

This process made me realize that what made me get to where I am was the same thing that made me evolve so much in manual illustration: practice.

I have always listened to my whole life that I had a “gift”. That my drawing skills were the result of my gift and that I have this facility because of him. But really, my only gift was like what i do. This made me always practice a little bit, day after day in my craft, and I always had a lot of fun doing it!

Nowadays I know that I have the ability to achieve my goals and grow as an artist and designer through practice. There is a phrase that I really like that is:

If you don’t evolve, you end up extinct.

Only practice on a skill will make you progress on it. And that also leads me to a very important learning in my life.

I don’t think a lot of people know about it here at WAU (in fact, I don’t know if someone know this here). Even after months of working, producing several images, reformulating the style of the illustrations and being recognized for that, I never believed in myself.

Because I was always passionate about creating and illustrating, the way I developed sounded very common to me. There was not much effort involved in the tasks, and although I was often praised for it, I felt that what I was doing was nothing more than the ordinary.

It was after having contact with my professional colleagues and seeing the whole evolution process that I spent (and spend) making the demands of day to day that I realized that if today I can do what I do quickly and easily, it is why I spent a lot of time practicing for this.

In order for me to learn to draw with practicality, I had to spend almost 17 years training (my first drawings are when I was about 5 years old), and for me to work quickly and calmly with vector art, I needed almost 2 years practicing everyday during my shift.

That is why, don’t underestimate yourself. Acknowledge your skill. If you are good at something, assume it for yourself and be proud of it. This is important for both your professional and personal development.

It is also important to emphasize that recognizing is different from bragging. You need to understand that you are good at what you do, but don’t be arrogant about it. If you consider yourself “The master in your profession”, “The best in the world”, you discard your defects and opportunities for evolution.

Recognizing opportunities for improvement is part of everyone’s life (or should be, at least). So I’ll go to the next subject.

When I joined WAU, the illustrations followed a style dated for the year and were based on ready-made stock vectors. As the volume of production was very large, this was the best way to meet the demand.

With my entry, it got (a little) lighter and then I got a challenge from Zuk:

Rafa, can you think of a new style for our illustrations? ”

But, of course, I would do it again!

Even though I was used to the old style, I set out to research several blogs, companies and designers that I liked the arts and started sewing in a new line, more current and linked to the company’s voice.

rock content designer blogrock content designer blog

The old style | 2016 style.

With that, I came up with some guidelines for creating the images:

  • For color palette, we followed the Google Material guidelines;
  • For the illustrations, we used the semi-flat, which consists of simple shapes with touches of gradients to add volume;
  • In post covers, ever we used complementary colors or with a good contrast between them for better visualization;
  • In addition, we tried to limit ourselves to only 2 colors per cover.

If you want to know more about them, I wrote about it a while ago! In the text I go into more detail about some of these points. Be sure to read!

It was in this style that I developed the most here at WAU, after all we stayed with him for about a year and a half. Within that period, I tried several applications of colors, gradients, effects and I was always changing one little thing or another that bothered me.

In its latest version, the style was quite versatile and defined. There were arts ranging from a 3D representation true to reality to images that looked like overlapping layers of paper.

rock content designer blogrock content designer blog

This kind of illustration enabled me to develop in the application of light and shadow, reflections and, in general, how different materials and shapes behave in real life.

However, the world is constantly changing. And in the design world, this happens 10x more often.

The year 2018 has arrived and, with it, new influences. It was an opportune moment for a change in the arts, since they were taking a very “childlike” path, which would no longer talk to our personas.

With that, the Bruno Montiel, also designer of the team, proposed a radical change in design. Start from scratch, with a new palette, new shapes and something completely different from what was being done.

I loved the proposal, but I confess that it even gave me the chills to imagine. That style was my favorite! But just like I said in the first topic, those who do not evolve end up extinct. I fell headlong into the idea.

We went through, again, an extensive research process. What the referring companies were doing, analyzing several designers and illustrators and creating a new color palette, we came up with a new model.

rock content designer blog

With this new style, we seek to follow human forms more close to the natural. With it, they would no longer be simple and geometric shapes, but organic and dynamic shapes.

Volumetry started to be demonstrated with granulation, a trend that was observed in practically all the references we seek. And the arts started to be defined as overlapping 2D planes, so that you don’t try to faithfully represent what reality is, but become more artistic and sober.

It was quite a challenge, but mostly it was a lot of fun! If I, Bruno or Zuk were not open to changes, probably we would continue using image bank.

It is leaving our comfort zone that we grow the most. Exploring new territories makes us adapt to them, since the opposite will rarely happen.

Personal and professional growth also depends on very important learning. Therefore, it will be the subject of the next chapter.

Since I was little, I have a certain defect. I cling much things. I remember making a pet with bread wrapping wire once and keeping it in my wallet for a whole year because I thought it was so cute and I was sorry to throw it away.

That was last year.

With my illustrations it couldn’t be different. I have a selection of some in my head that are almost daughters to me. Occasionally I revisit them to kill nostalgia.

Only in life people will not always like what you like. And this is great! If everyone liked the same thing, there would be nothing new to discover, nothing to talk about and no one would have access to other points of view.

But the other implication of this is that you will often do something that you think was your life’s work, that you did your best or that was the best alternative to the problem. And, well… it often won’t be.

At first, accepting this is a little difficult.

“What do you mean the job I spent 3 hours doing is wrong?”

“It is not possible, people are not understanding the message behind this image”.

Anyone who works with creative projects knows that these thoughts appear occasionally when others point out defects in them. How daring these people are, isn’t it?

No, it’s not. I would be able to fill several folders with images that I had to redo or change at the request of my co-workers. And I don’t keep a little bit of their grudge for it. In fact, I thank them very much when this situation happens.

Why? Because they are right.

I work making images that will be released to thousands of readers and followers of the company. If in a group of 30 people I am capable of causing any disagreement with an image, imagine what it would do to the company’s reputation.

I will not say not to get attached to your work. I would be being hypocritical and contradicting myself in that same text. But do not keep your head closed to criticism.

The message you tried to convey with the project was not always clear. We cannot demand that everyone see it and understand it. In fact, it is our job to ensure that it is understood as many people as possible.

We all make mistakes, and it is not uncommon. There is no shame in that. So, recognize when these situations happen, be open and willing to redo your work to meet the demand correctly.

And if you are just like me, who creates an emotional bond even with the dirt in your jeans pocket, do as I do when there is an Xodó project that needs refraction: keep in a personal folder, redo and follow life with everyone satisfied.

In addition to all personal learning, I cannot leave out technical knowledge. I will not go into details, but I will mention some skills that I acquired with practice:

  • Illustrate my ideas with the available tools (whatever: Illustrator, After Effects, Photoshop or the good old hand and paper);
  • Execute tasks in a “short” time (varies from task to task, but, in general, with more practice the time decreases significantly);
  • Abstract and create images from a sentence (sometimes, that’s all we get);
  • Sharpen creativity (it doesn’t always show up, so it’s good to have something to turn to: coffee, music, podcast, white noise etc).

These were some of the lessons I gained over the past two years. There is a sentence that sums up well what I intend to pass with these lessons:

What got you here won’t get you there.Marshall Goldsmith

Even if it seems, we never learned everything. We may think that we are at the height of knowledge about a tool or a strategy, but the truth is that nobody is. And possibly it won’t be either.

So, if I’ve learned a lot by illustrating 2,000 posts in two years, I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

I hope I can help, really! Sometimes I miss a piece of content about the real lessons that designers have learned throughout their career. I’m still at the beginning of mine, but I know that there are several people who, like me were 2 years ago, are still running after this chance.

So, I was as sincere as possible about the learning that made me grow in that time, and, if everything goes well, I can help others to grow too, even a little! See you soon! And who knows, with lessons from 4 thousand posts?

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