Siow Jun’s smart editorial illustrations

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We saw Siow Jun's work on Behance and the series of illustrations he did; especially the ones for MoneySmart. They were, well, very smart.

It actually reminded us of how things were back in design school and what design ought to be. You get a brief, come up with ideas, then execute. That whole design thinking process and research was slowly fading away for us and we're glad to have been reminded of it.

So we approached him to find out more about how he came up with the visuals.


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Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do? 

I'm Jun, a designer and illustrator from Singapore specialising in editorial illustration and infographics.


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For your infographics, do you have a process in which you design them?

I start by designing the structure, grouping relevant pieces of information together. This structure will then determine how the rest of the infographic will look—it can be anything from a table, a list, a side-by-side comparison, to something more narrative like a series of illustrations that tells a story. Finally, I decide on the art direction of the infographic—choice of fonts, colour palette, illustration and iconography style etc.


What is the main point to note when designing Infographics?

I think the most important point is to communicate the information clearly and concisely to the reader. Of course, there'll be secondary objectives like making it interesting enough for people to want to read it.


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Moving to your illustrations, describe your illustration style in 3-5 words.

Colourful. Creative. Conceptual.


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Can you talk a bit about how you came up with the visuals for MoneySmart’s Editorial pieces? It’s all easy to understand and designed smartly.

I'm glad you see them that way. Those editorial illustrations were actually part of a larger rebranding effort when I was working in-house at MoneySmart. We were in the process of this emotional branding exercise, deciding how we want the users/readers of MoneySmart to feel. One of the emotions we nailed down was that lightbulb, I-got-it moment of feeling smart—which is where the illustrations come in. They're somewhat conceptual and requires the viewers to think a bit.

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For your Michelin illustrations, what were the difficulties? Are food pieces harder to illustrate?

The main challenge was at the start—finding the right style that would fit the brand voice of the Michelin Guide—and determining if that particular style will be suitable for illustrating all the different angles required of that article. I also ask myself—'why is this not a photograph?' and/or 'how can illustration add value to the piece?'—by doing so it's easier for you to nail down the right approach. For eg. the main reason we chose to illustrate the Ikejime article was because showing photos of the process would be too bloody, and might be off-putting to some readers. Therefore, we decided on an illustrated approach that's somewhat cartoonish to offset the gory nature of the subject. In general, I find illustrating food to be a fun challenge—playing with shapes and finding new ways to represent them.


We saw on your Instagram that you did some research on your Michelin pieces. What is the extent of work and research that goes behind your designs?

It depends on the timeline—most of the research that I do nowadays are from the web, due to the quick turnaround time of commercial projects. Other than that, I rely on the writer I'm working with to provide me with the background of the article. In general, I do tend to think a lot (sometimes a little too much) on the direction of the illustration before starting—whether the illustration style is right for the job, if it gels well with the concept, what the colour palette is etc—but sometimes you just got to do it through trial and error. An example would be the Ikejime piece—an initial idea I had was to illustrate it in the style of gyotaku, the Japanese traditional method of fish printing, but upon trying it out, I realised that it doesn't really show the steps of ikejime that well.


A message for readers?

Never lose your beginner's spirit! Keep on learning, growing and experimenting.


Years of Experience
3 years+

Ideal Career
Full-time editorial illustrator

Creative Approach
Never stop learning, improving, optimising, with a bit of Stoicism thrown in for good measure.

Fact
I'm really big on philosophy, psychology and personality types.

FUSSY About
Proper punctuation. Particularly on knowing how to use hyphens, en dashes and em dashes appropriately.


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