Drawn into a corner.

Drawn into a corner.

A few months ago, I got a call from a rather large agency to create a character for some upcoming ad & POS materials. Their client was a chain of restaurants that had plans to introduce shrimp into their menu, where they had traditionally had other regular fare. After some standard negotiations, we were up and rolling.

The art buyer introduced me to the art director. He was very cordial and complimentary of my work and had expressed excitement to work with me. They showed me some comps of the concepts the team had been working on, and they were very cool and nicely done. Needless to say, I was pumped. Basically, the character I was to create would go on a little 2 color icon on the different pieces.

So, we got started with some sketches, and I tried a few different styles and angles. They had a profile and position they preferred, so I worked in that direction. I submitted the first round and waited for feedback.

Well, it took a day or two to get feedback. After the conference call I had pretty good direction on where to take the next round. They wanted less of a real shrimp and more of an animated-type character, as in some of my samples. So, I added eyes and streamlined the features and submitted round 2.

I get a call from the art director about the round 2 work, with a follow-up e-mail. In the layout he sends, there’s a color shrimp in his layout with a ‘rendition’ of the character I’ve been working on. He tells me that the shrimp in the layout is FPO and not to worry. They just needed something to show the client for presentation. Well, it was not good. It was bad. ‘Sorry, about that,’ he says. ‘I’m sure yours will be better.’ I would hope so.

Then I got that bad feeling. I betcha money the client will go for that one. The hurry-up-and-get-something-in-the-layout-before-we-get-on-that-call version.

I could sympathize with the art director. I just pictured the poor guy feverishly trying to put it together with the creative director camped out in his office, waiting to talk to the client on the phone. I know the feeling. I’ve been that guy.

Subsequently after that layout, the project started going south. The agency wanted to try and recreate the expression on the shrimp, in ‘my style’. Well, the simple fact of the matter was, it wasn’t really obvious what the expression was supposed to be. So, I redrew the shrimp and gave it a try with a devilish, toothy grin. I was pretty happy with the outcome and felt like I had saved face and the project.

Unfortunately, the creative director was liking the agency’s shrimp better and wanted to work on the expression even more (In other words, we sold it to the client that way, so we better make it work). The CD wanted a more cowering, ‘don’t eat me’ type of expression. So, I submitted more versions. To no avail, this shrimp was cooked.

Now, the once excited art director is between a rock and a hard place. He gives me a call with a rather defeated and embarrassed tone to ask me to just redraw the shrimp that he had reluctantly created and call it a day.

I could tell that this project had run its course and finished it up.

It’s too bad that with the even more compressed time frames we have these days, that there wasn’t some forethought into what gets presented to the client. I know you don’t want to show an incomplete comp, but I would rather do that than finish a project with substandard work included. Especially, if you’ve gone to the trouble of hiring and working with an illustrator.

It’s tough. I know from experience that this happens all the time. I wish it could have gone better and that they used one of my versions instead. It just goes to show, that there is more to what we as illustrators are bringing to the table than just a bunch of sketches.