spot illustrations.

You know those illustrations on a book’s title page, or chapter headings, or to let you know when an author has switched from one character’s POV to another? Some people call them dingbats (which always makes me think of when I first discovered the wingdings typeface some twenty five years ago). For the purposes of standardising language for illustrators, designers, and art directors, we’ve agreed by consensus (i.e. according to the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines 16 edition) to refer to book interior illustrations smaller than 1/4 of a page as ‘spot art’ or ‘spot illustrations’.

They aren’t random. They are all bespoke, based specifically on the text. Some are unique to each book. Others are created for each POV character in a series. All, however, take thought, skill, and knowledge of exactly how many anchor points a vector illustration can contain before the printer flings their hands up in dismay and curses your name and all your descendants and you get frantic emails that a book is ready to go to press but your artwork needs tweaking (i.e. simplifying it to fewer than 5000 anchor points).

They are also sometimes an absolute joy; like tattoo designs that carry great significance to the wearer of the ink that isn’t always apparent to anyone else without context.

Series designs usually appear on the cover or title page. Below are a sample of series designs created for Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s Noctis Magicae series, Stephen Blackmoore’s Eric Carter series (UK editions), and Seanan McGuire’s Ghost Roads series.

Sometimes a publisher will also ask for ‘section dividers’ to indicate a new scene starting within a chapter. Above are the aeslin mice from Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, the broken spinning wheel from Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, and the crows from Seanan McGuire’s Ghost Roads series.

Chapter ‘dingbats’ are created per book in a series. Below are a sample of spot illustrations created for Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series. Each illustration refers to a specific book and represent specific characters, scenes, themes or objects unique to that novel.

Character ‘dingbats’ are used to show when a book or chapter is from a single character’s point of view. Below are examples of the different narrator spot illustrations in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series and Ghost Roads series.