When I interviewed with Lyft, one of the last things they asked was “Are you sure you’ll be happy? I’ve seen your work and it’s detailed as shit. We work on phones. Have you ever _really_ thought about how small a phone screen is?

I laughed, appreciated the sentiment, and accepted the job twice as hard — with a smug dont-you-worry-about-me-I-can-draw-anywhere* packed into every signature.


Illustrating for small screens is hard.

The first thing I did was try to look for my own blindspots — I know how to illustrate for products, and the Lyft brand is basically my…

Okay, so. Here’s the thing. Understanding your own bias is hard. All we know for sure is that, whatever it is, we probably don’t know what it is. Some kind of you can’t see it ’til you see it — it being your blindspot, standing cold and naked, exactly where everyone else can see itsits comfortably on your shoulder as you move from design decision to design decision. So you try like hell to be thoughtful—or at least, obnoxiously thorough—and prepare yourself for an awakening all the same.

It makes being in the position of choosing how we represent people…

I like to start most things by saying I have no idea what I’m doing, but John asked me for some quick tips about remote leadership and I accidentally sent him a novel, so turns out I have some opinions.

Credentially speaking, I have led two teams remotely; reported into a remote lead; and worked remotely as an IC on other teams. I also did (read: am still doing, sort of) the whole nomad-travel-the-world-while-freelancing thing for two years. In other words: remote is all I know. There are actual books on this stuff, and entire companies built around being really…

**Before I go any further, let me tell you who the “we” is in this story. Our incredible team of illustrators at Shopify include myself ; Ryan Coleman, Holly Schofield & Erin Moncrieff ; with occasional help from Blake Stevenson & Alek Doesnt-have-his-last-name-on-slack-im-not-a-detective-ok**

As someone who previously credited a not insignificant amount of my successes to my attention to detail (read: neurotic perfectionism), learning that working at scale means being extremely deliberate with how you spend your time has been—to say the least—a challenge. …

Based on like actually just running one illustration team, so rly, what do I know?

1. The copy will change.

RIP anyone who is waiting on final copy.

Solution: Always draw to the concept, never to the words.

2. Placeholders don’t work.

No one hears you when you say like this but not this. All they see is an illustration that shouldn’t be there in an otherwise good design, and conclude illustration in general will never work, when it’s actually just the placeholder that’s not working.

Solution: Use ugly scribbles where the illustration will go to get feedback on the design.

3. Every illustrator is a snowflake.

You can make everyone draw the same, eventually, but everyone has their unconscious signatures and tendencies they can’t help but gravitate towards. …

An introduction

Why to product illustration?

The first thing you need to be perfectly clear on, before adding any illustration to your product, is why are you adding illustration to your product? Wait. Shut up for a second. I’ll go: communication (and definitely not decoration) (but you you were going to say that anyway, right? Right). Illustration is the super communicator. Where words can tell you something; illustration can show you something. Illustration captures a feeling, or simplifies a complex idea. It complements the content; builds on it. It amplifies the message you’re delivering to your user.

Let’s say I’m making the worlds best cookie delivery…

How To Work With An Illustrator | Part Three


Giving feedback is hard.

It’s hard when you actually know what you’re talking about (and know you know what you’re talking about). But now your illustration ready and it’s not quite right. You’re critiquing work that is totally outside your skill set; ill-equipped with the language of the industry—and frig—now it’s someones art? You know what? Actually, this is fine. Let’s just run with it okay? I don’t want to be the one to tell someone their art is bad. I don’t even get art. Nope, let’s just put this on the fridge. Try again next year.

Despite what…

How To Work With An Illustrator | Part Two

Okay, cool. So we’re doing this. You need an illustration; I need a project. This is really for sure definitely happening. Everyone comes in bright and shiny: armed with the experience of all the other times that projects were less than room-temperature-butter smooth; and an unbending determination that this one will be different. We’re going to take our time. We’re going to do things the right way. This is going to be GREAT.

Of course, miscommunication happens. Things get lost. People are hard. I’ve heard radical candour so many times that I’m pretty sure you’re just making sounds now. Radical…

Illuphor? Meta-stration? No. That’s definitely not it.

So here’s a question I’ve been answering a lot lately:

What do you look for when you’re hiring an illustrator?”

My answer: Use of metaphor.

Nope, not having a unique style. Nope, not a variety of styles. Nope, not your impressive client list or places your work has been featured. Sure, they don’t hurt. But when I’m hiring to my team of illustrators, I want to see that you understand how to use metaphors to deliver complicated ideas in a delightful and easy to understand way. We can teach you the rest.

I’ve been surprised to see how surprising this…

How To Work With An Illustrator | Part One

My very first ever client/boss/charity-case-worker used to always say I should write about how to work with an illustrator. I was like — wat? You mean, like, other than what we’re doing right now? And does this mean I have to get wordpress? Because I am so not down with PHP. Can’t someone just invent some, like, really pretty minimalist writing platform already? Anyway, somewhere over the course of some unruly number of freelance clients, and on the heels of an internal Shopify talk about how to work with the illustration team — I see what he was talking about.

Meg Robichaud

Draw for $$$

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