Changing role: An RSA Animate by illustrator Andrew Parks. He will be speaking on these educational tools at the Tedx conference. *Photo RSA Animate on Re-Imagining Work by Dave Coplin © 2013 Cognitive Media Limited
Changing role: An RSA Animate by illustrator Andrew Parks. He will be speaking on these educational tools at the Tedx conference. *Photo RSA Animate on Re-Imagining Work by Dave Coplin © 2013 Cognitive Media Limited

What do you say to an arts graduate with a job? A Big Mac and Fries please. 

This corny joke is fast becoming irrelevant according to illustrator Andrew Park, who believes the role of art is becoming more and more important in the era of the World Wide Web.

Park, a speaker at the upcoming Tedx conference, created the original concept for innovative whiteboard “animates” for the Royal Society of Arts. The drawings serve to explain long and complex subjects in an easy-to-understand, entertaining way. Since then, he has had some rather prolific clients. Bill Gates asked him to illustrate his Gates Foundation lecture on the power of vaccine while other subjects have included economics, education and the human brain.

His company Cognitive Media is dedicated to “Creating animated films and telling stories that help people make sense of what is sometimes challenging and difficult to grasp content.”

Parks creates the RSA Animate Series and has a number of commercial clients. 

He spoke to us about what he will cover in his Tedx talk.

How do you see the role of the artist changing?

It’s not really the case now that artists cannot find work, it was when I was leaving college but especially with the World Wide Web and information being disseminated the way that it is, there are a lot more opportunities. I think drawings are working documents. They are not there to be frivolous or to go with someone’s soft furnishings. They are there to inform.

Describe the process of
creating an animate

The ones we did for the RSA come from authors who have maybe spent a couple of years writing a book about a particular subject. The RSA will present a talk about the book which is about an hour with questions and answers. RSA will edit it down to ten minutes or so and we will be given the audio. I tend to do a lot of  research, it can take a couple of weeks reading and researching.  Then pictures start bubbling up in my brain and I start to see a visual foothold.

With the pictures, I put back the lost information using visuals and audio. To draw it out, it will take about a week and a half.

How is does this format make learning easier?

The brain thinks more in directions and maps — networks of information rather than just serial information. We can’t remember phone numbers. The hand-drawn stuff serves the purpose of collating and disseminating very complex networked information.

What will you discuss at the TED talk?

I will do a live animate style piece during the talk and I will be talking to it live as it plays behind me.

Half of the talk will be me talking about my journey then the second half will be breaking the third wall and talking about what is happening with the live animate. I will talk about what it means to me as an artist, what it means going forward and to society and the role of the artist in the artist in society. 

What is your message to fellow artists?

This is a rallying call to creative and artists to actually not just think about leaving art college and try to be egotistical and just be represented by a gallery. It is about how you can use your talent in order to help society and help people to solve problems.