London based Art Director and Illustrator Jilly Topping has worked across most fields, from food to fashion, children to art, to botanical illustration. We spoke to Jilly about working with Joe Wicks, balancing parenting and studio time during lockdown and how to inspire kids to get creative.
Can you talk a little about your background and how you go into Art Direction and Design?
I started my career in the mail order industry when the internet was young and printed catalogues were the main way of marketing products. After a few years in ‘big book’ mail order fashion in the north of England I took a role at Innovations and McCord catalogue, London. As Head of Design and Print I was responsible for the creative look of the catalogues. This was in need of a huge update so I attended every shoot to ensure we created beautiful aspiration shots with a great team of photographers and stylists. This became my favourite part of the role and I decided to start a design agency with my partner Martin, where I could be a fulltime art director and he did the graphic design. We called ourselves ‘ome design and for 12 years we designed and art directed books, catalogues and branding for amazing clients including David Beckham!
First off, as I know lots of people will want to know, what exactly is the role of an art director on a shoot?
An art director of photography (it’s different in other industries) is the person who comes up with the creative vision for the project. How the shoot should look, the vibe, the location, the colours and the image we should portray for the client. This is usually shown to the client via a mood board with images, words and graphics. Once this is approved by the client, the art director will either put together a photography team to suit the project or maybe join an existing team. They will brief the photographer, stylist and hair and make-up artist on what we want to achieve. The art direct, either alone or with the photographer will then attend the location for a ‘recce’. This is to choose some good areas to shoot in, the angles we want to use and get a feel for the place whether this is a location house we have hired, a street, a park or any other location.
When the shoot starts the art director will attend each day with a list of shots they want to achieve. They will ensure all shots are taken and that each shot fits with the creative look of the mood boards and ensure it fits the media where it’s going to be used. They will also approve the styling and wardrobe if a model is involved.
One of the main roles however is to make sure everyone is happy and working well together and that the model or celebrity is comfortable in the shots.