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Bright Academy: Current Illustration Trends

last updated 03 November 2023

Welcome to the third edition of Bright Academy, your guide to navigating the world of illustration. Today’s post will dive into the latest and most influential trends in the areas of Trade Picture Books, Childrens Illustration, Design & Advertising, and Greetings and Gift.

We’ve chatted with several of our agents from each of these divisions to get their take on the trends they’re noticing, and how artists can ensure their portfolios are submission ready. Our agents are true aficionados in their respective fields, and their opinions and observations hold paramount importance in the creative industry.


Skylar White

Anne Moore-Armstrong, one of Bright’s talented managing agents, has worked in the publishing industry for over 20 years as a book designer and art buyer and Agent. She has an award-winning list of artists and is watchful of visual trends in an effort to make their portfolios market-ready. To learn more about Anne, read her Interview with an Agent. See Anne’s thoughts on trends and special tips below.

Trends in Children’s Trade Books:

  • Strong memorable central characters
  • Unusual animal pairings & underrepresented animals
  • Children around the world showing emotional range in expressions
  • Actions - nuanced gestures or ways of showing movement is key
  • Non-traditional holiday stories or scenes
  • A new take on bedtime, friendships, or family dynamics
  • Handmade images - textures and found objects are very popular right now.

Tip from Anne:
Editors and Art Directors are looking for:

  • Consistency of characters to be sustained throughout picture book
  • Contemporary takes on classic story
  • Indigenous people, stories or artwork
  • Authentic, memorable fresh central characters
  • Draw inspiration from nature, fashion, theatre
  • Experiment with palettes to set you apart - limited palettes are appealing


Martina Stuhlberger

Lucie Luddington is the head of Bright Children’s Illustration in the UK. She’s been with Bright for 13 years and works with an incredible list of artists. She loves meeting creatives and has a deep understanding of the market. To learn more about Lucie, read her Interview with an Agent. See Lucie’s take on BCI trends and a few tips from her below.

Trends in Bright Children’s Illustration:

  • Nature – Big open spaces, back to nature, being at one with nature, respecting nature, learning through nature.
  • Seasons – What do different seasons mean to different children across the globe? Summer for an Australian Child is different to Summer for a British Child
  • The Ocean Seeing the ocean as a natural landscape, ocean for sport, ocean as environment for many things
  • Friendship – Who is your friend?
  • Domestic Wonder – How do you help at home? What is your family life like?
  • Music – Illustrations for kids learning music

Tips from Lucie:

  • Approach briefs with an open mind,
  • Challenge yourself, try something new / fresh.
  • Always keep a notepad with you and keep drawing!


Juliana Oakley

Ed Palmer of Bright’s Design & Advertising division works closely with a select group of artists. To learn more about Ed, checkout his Interview with an Agent. See Ed’s thoughts on trends in branding, packaging, and advertising below.

Trends in Design & Advertising:

  • The height of brand holiday campaigns - An uptick in popularity with non-traditional holiday scenes.
  • Modernized takes on typical holiday scenarios - Higher representation of holidays that havent traditional been prominent in the media landscape
  • 2D Characters - Used for branding and packaging
  • Maximalism - Push back against the hyper-mininmalism

There is no better example of this emerging maximalist movement than Guillermo Flores’ recent work with Burning Man Project. The works in total took him over 600 hours to create and the intricacy is astounding!


Guillermo Flores

Jo Astles has been working in the Greetings & Gift industry for roughly 18 years. Her knowledge and experience allow her passion for licensing to shine – and is always looking to help clients represent themselves authentically. To learn more about Jo and her work, please check out her Interview with an Agent. See Jo’s thoughts on trends in licensing below.

Trends in Greeting Cards:

  • Commercial designs - these appeal to a larger audience. Ex: cakes, stacks of presents or popping champagne.
  • Print finishes - be it a delicately debossed pattern or an opulent festive design finished with lashings of gold foil.
  • Representation – celebrating each other, being inclusive. People want to see themselves represented.
  • Family – families come in so many different forms and all should be celebrated.
  • Nostalgia – we all hold onto the past and treasure those memories which is why we see the resurgence of past eras across fashion, greetings and design.
  • Every day is the holidays - The festivities bring everyone together. What do the holidays mean to you? What traditions do you have?

Tip from Jo:

  • Create the designs you wish you could find in stores, this makes it personal but relatable.


Christine Gore

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