Technical Illustrator Job Description

Technical illustrators create drawings and graphics, typically with digital software. The images they create are typically used to demonstrate how a product works or to provide a visual representation of an overall design plan. The illustrations are typically used in reference books, instruction manuals, brochures, websites, multimedia software, etc.

A successful technical illustrator should have exemplary communication and collaboration skills. Someone in this role regularly describes and explain subjects to audiences that are nontechnical.

 

Technical Illustrator Duties and Responsibilities

While technical illustrators’ day-to-day duties are determined by their employer, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these may include:

Prepare and Manage Designs

Technical illustrators design and create charts, typography, illustrations, and artwork, such as posters, brochures, presentations, logos, etc. They work with clients and/or teams to understand project needs and prepare graphics concepts, rough sketches, proofs for logos, and other documents involving graphic design to meet requirements. Technical illustrators provide layouts for video graphics and digital animation. These are produced both through traditional drawing methods as well as computer design programs, such as Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, etc.

Project Management

Technical illustrators manage project requirements, including tasks such as production scheduling, job tracking, preparing cost estimates, establishing deadlines, and ensuring productions standards are followed.

Client Management

Technical illustrators manage client relationships, meeting with clients or internal managers to discuss contract details and project requirements. Depending on the industry they work in, they may be required to visit manufacturing sites to view first-hand how items are produced. Once illustrations are created, technical illustrators consult with the client to seek approvals, make alterations to the illustrations as needed, and gain final approval for designs.

Ensure Brand Consistency

Working in conjunction with a larger design team, technical illustrators protect the brand guidelines and integrity of a client or organization, ensuring visual assets created across different types of media are consistent with brand guidelines.

 

Technical Illustrator Skills and Qualifications

Successful technical illustrators are energetic, natural problem solvers, who enjoy working in a matrix work environment. The ideal candidate for this role is comfortable working in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment while managing multiple projects. Employers prefer candidates who possess the following abilities:

  • Adaptability – technical illustrators typically work as a member of several teams in a matrix environment
  • Detail-oriented – for project management and implementation, design, etc. and to multitask in a deadline- and goal-driven environment
  • Communication skills – to effectively demonstrate to non-technical audiences how the designs they create translate into working products or procedures
  • Design principles – to create designs, layouts, brochures, logos, etc.

 

Tools of the Trade

Technical illustrators often use the following tools in their work:

  • AutoCAD, Adobe Creative Suite programs, MS Office
  • Adobe Flash Builder and both Windows and Macintosh systems

 

Technical Illustrator Education and Training

A bachelor’s degree in illustration or a related field is typically required. Other fields of study can include fine arts or business, which is popular for those interested in freelance technical illustrator careers. It is also recommended that aspiring technical illustrators create a website or another form of online portfolio, as this allows prospective employers to easily access and evaluate their work. Employers typically offer on-the-job-training, especially for specific brand guidelines, processes, and policies.

 

Technical Illustrator Salary and Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups technical illustrators with graphic designers. The median annual wage for this occupation is $48,700 per year. According to BLS, employment is projected to grow 4 percent from 2016-2026, which is slower than average for most occupations (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm#tab-6).

 

Helpful Resources

There are many helpful resources available for those interested in careers as technical illustrators. Please review the links below for valuable information and the latest industry news:

Technical Illustration: Techniques and Applications – This book provides introductory information to those looking to start careers in technical illustration. Topics covered include illustration concepts, theory, and applications.

Illustration that Works: Professional Techniques for Artistic and Commercial Success – This book provides an “everything you need to know” guide to those looking to enter the illustration field. It includes assignments and numerous examples of artwork.

TechnicalIllustrators.org – This website provides a community and blog for technical illustrators. The content is provided by technical illustrators with the purpose of promoting, educating, and celebrating this field. It is also useful for sharing tips and tricks of the trade.

AIGA – The American Institute of Graphic Arts is the oldest and largest industry group for design professionals. The group offers tools and resources, networking events, and professional development opportunities for those in the field.

 

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