Cartoon Close-Up – Robert Half

Cartoon Close-Up is a recurring feature where I highlight Andertoons cartoon subscriberscustom cartoon clients, and customers who just buy the occasional cartoon.

Cartoon Close-Up Robert Half Technology Blog

This edition’s answers come from custom cartoon client Clea Badion at Robert Half.

1) Tell me a little about yourself and your job.

I’m a freelance writer, editor and content manager. Currently, I’m a blog manager for Robert Half Technology. I plan, write and edit content for the blog, working closely with the Robert Half Technology brand team. I’ve worked with Robert Half, mostly in a freelance capacity, for almost 15 years. I’ve been fortunate to get regular, interesting work from the company, and being a freelancer gives me a lot of flexibility with my schedule.

2) How do you use your custom cartoons from Andertoons?

IT professionals are our audience, and they’re a group that can be challenging to reach and engage. Our blog content includes career advice for tech professionals and hiring managers, trends impacting the industry and jobs, and suggestions on what programming languages are most in demand and why. The cartoons are a fantastic way to engage this audience in a different way, and they always perform well. Sometimes we post them on their own, but recently we’ve been integrating them into posts on the same topic. They make an otherwise straight-forward post more visually engaging and, of course, funny!

We use the cartoons on social channels, too, and they not only get a lot of engagement, but they also drive traffic to our blog.

3) Please give me an example of how someone has responded to a cartoon.

When we shared a comic on the topic of girls who code, we used the hashtag #ilooklikeanengineer. The woman who started that movement, Isis Anchalee, retweeted it with some kind words and we consequently got massive engagement on the post. It was very cool to make that connection with someone who led a social media movement

4) Which cartoon is your personal favorite?

I have many favorites. This is a recent one created to go with a story about tech nightmares. We posted it around Halloween and I love how it turned out:

Custom Cartoon 1

This one about how hard it is to find .NET developers still makes me laugh. It’s very specific to this audience, obviously, but I think any hiring manager having trouble filling a specific role can relate to it:

Custom Cartoon 3

I also really like this one about things you can’t put on your LinkedIn profile:

Custom Cartoon 2

5) Where online can people find out more about you?

They can check out my LinkedIn profile.

6) Do you have any questions for me?

Yes! How and when did you decide you wanted to create cartoons for a living? Was this your first choice as a career? How do you prepare for a career as a cartoonist?

As a kid I always read the comics and thought it would be pretty much the best job ever. Turns out I was right.

I actually went to school for music and then worked in fastener sales, metal coil distribution, and advertising. It was only after my wife and I knew our first child was on the way that I decided I’d quit my job and try to make a living as a cartoonist full time. It’s a crazy journey.

If you want to know more you can check out my talk at the National Cartoonists Society event last year.

 Thanks so much to Clea for her time and terrific answers!

If you use Andertoons cartoons and would like to be featured here on the blog and in our monthly newsletter, drop me a line!

Custom Cartoons Discounted for a Limited Time

2015 Custom Cartoons

Visual marketing continues to be popular, but some of the traditional kinds of images are beginning to get a little stale.

Stock photos are routinely mocked, and infographics aren’t nearly as effective as they once were. In fact, Google’s own Matt Cuts has said:

“I would not be surprised if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree.”

And as much as I like a good cat GIF, opportunities to use them are, well, limited.

There is, however, another type of underutilized visual marketing that might be just what you’re looking for…


2015 Custom Cartoons

Cartoons are social media’s secret weapon. According to Moz founder, Rand Fishkin…

“Comics, illustrations, or storyboards that tell a narrative visually, (are) incredibly popular and get picked up all the time.”

So what makes cartoons powerful content? Cartoons are:


Because we grow up reading picture books, comics strips, comic books and the like, we have a deep connection to and affection for cartoon images.


Multiple studies show that humor improves memory. Here’s just a few:


See Rand Fishkin above.


I think this quote says it best:

“95% of New Yorker readers read the cartoons first. The other 5% are lying.”

– David Remnick, Editor of The New Yorker


So, using relevant cartoons as part of your content marketing is a great idea. But even better are:

Custom Cartoons

Cartoons that integrate your brand and message are incredibly powerful.  On the surface they’re simply the gift of a shared joke, but smart marketers know to use cartoons like a Trojan horse, hiding their content subtly inside.

Here are a few recent examples of custom cartoons I created:

2015 Custom Cartoons
2015 Custom Cartoons
2015 Custom Cartoons
2015 Custom Cartoons
2015 Custom Cartoons
2015 Custom Cartoons

Custom cartoons are a significant part of Andertoons, and every year I create a few hundred for forward-looking clients large and small.

With 2015 approaching fast, I’m beginning to line up clients, finalize my schedule, and reexamine my fees. But I thought I’d try something a little different next year:

Cartoons by the Dozen

Even when business is good, creative professionals like myself are always a little nervous about when and where the next job is coming from. So for 2015  I’m offering a very limited number of custom cartoon packages at a terrific discount so I can sleep a little easier.

I’ll create 12 funny and original cartoons about your product, company, or industry that you can use in:

  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Websites
  • Presentations
  • Newsletters
  • Advertising
  • Ebooks
  • Calendars

And that discount I was talking about?

The fee for 12 cartoons normally begins at $4800 for grayscale or $8400 for color. But if you reserve your cartoons for 2015 now, you’ll only pay:

$3000 for 12 gray custom cartoons or $6000 for 12 color custom cartoons

You probably have a few questions about how it works, and when you pay and all that, and you can find answers to everything at my Custom Cartoons page.

You’ll want to act quickly, however, because there are only 10 of these discount packages available. And when they’re gone, they’re gone.

You might also like these articles:

Custom Cartoons – A Look Behind the Scenes

I’ve written about custom cartoons and the creation process before, but I thought I’d go a little deeper this time and show you not only what I’d normally present to a client, but all of the extra behind-the-scenes work that people never see.

(Note – what follows is an actual example of one of the custom cartoons I’ve created for the good folks at eQuest. A big thanks to John and his crew for allowing me to use it here!)


It all starts with an initial idea from the client:

Person looking in utter frustration at an elongated computer screen with the term “Big Data Dashboard.” Screen should show an abundance of graphs, pie charts, a volcano blowing, fireworks, whatever…. Caption should read “NOW WHAT?”

He goes on to explain that the basic idea is…

“…that the dashboard contains WAY too much information to make a calculated decision. eQuest is developing non-dashboard like tools that make it extremely easy for users to utilize Big Data without actually realizing it. We want to make the point that you don’t need nifty looking dashboards to employ the use of statistical information.”

What happens next is I email over three or four ideas ideas to choose from. Here’s what I sent back:

1) Person looking at “Big Data Dashboard” on computer says to co-worker looking on – “This graph looks positive, the pie chart points to negative, but as for the animated hula girl or the spaceship, your guess is as good as mine.”

2) Frustrated employee looking over shoulder of frustrated co-worker at trying to make sense of over-complicated “Big Data Dashboard” on computer – “Try clicking on Bells, then go to the Whistles panel. After that you’re on your own.”

3) Big Data dashboard salesman looking at laptop with overwhelmed and confused potential client “It’s everything you need to know broken down into 37 bar graphs, superimposed onto 12 real-time line graphs, coordinated into 9 3-D pie charts. Now if you’d like to dig down…”

4) Disheveled manager to people in meeting looking at Big Data Dashboard being projected onto screen – “After careful consideration of all 437 charts, graphs, and metrics, I’ve decided to throw up my hands and go on a week-long bender. Who’s with me?!”

The client chose #4, but what he didn’t see were these additional ideas that I filtered out for various reasons:

a) Person looking at display showing large amount of confusing “Big Data” says to consultant – “I dunno, Tom, maybe we’ll stick with Little Data a while longer.”

This is sort of low-hanging fruit trading Little Data for Big Data. It’s too easy but it clears the way for better gags.

b) Giant laptop is menacing a city. Terrified resident points and yells “Oh no! It’s Big Data! RUN!”

It’s fun, but off topic. The client wants something that shows how confusing a crowded dashboard can be, not how scary Big Data can be.

c) Person in drive-thru is asked – “Would you like Big Data with that?”

I was thinking of Big Gulps, Biggie Fries, etc… Again, now it’s out of the way.

d) Consultant to overwhelmed client looking at massive amount of data on screen – “Oh, that’s just the Medium Data. We haven’t even gotten into Big Data yet.”

More playing on Big vs. other sizes. This is junk.

e) Person with glasses looking at screen crowded with massive amount of tiny info says to consultant – “For Big Data, that’s a pretty small font.”

OK, but it’s more a joke about legibility instead of content.

f) Consultant says to co-worker re: client who’s eyes are rolled up in his head and is drooling – “The bigger the Data, the harder they fall.”

Almost made the cut, but, again, it’s more about how Big Data can be overwhelming instead of confusing ways that Big Data can be presented.

I also came up with some weird half-ideas like a giant Data from Star Trek, something about a sack labelled “Bag Data,” and giant anthropomorphic numbers in a waiting room.

The point is, for every few ideas a client sees, there are usually 5-10 additional ideas that I don’t like and reject. I only want to present the very best I can come up with.


So we’ve chosen the gag for our custom cartoon, which, after some additional back and forth, now reads:

“After careful analysis of all 437 charts, graphs, and metrics, I’ve decided to throw up my hands and go on a week-long bender. Who’s with me?!”

Next I draw up a pencil sketch so the client can get an idea of what the final cartoon could look like. Here’s what I sent over:

Custom Cartoons 2

But what the client sees as the first sketch isn’t really my first take. Here’s the actual first sketch:

Custom Cartoons 1

When I started doing custom cartoons, I’d have sent this over to a client. It looks OK, everything’s basically there, and the client should be able to see past any little imperfections, right?

Wrong. What I see in my mind’s eye with that rough sketch is totally different that what the client sees. Sure, a sketch like this saves me time at the drawing table, but it wastes the client’s time by asking them to interpret something that is incomplete. And, frankly, it also often makes them a little uncomfortable about my artistic abilities.

So I draw up another ‘clean sketch,’ and that’s what I present to a client. Here it is again:

Custom Cartoons 2

The client liked the sketch and asked only for a few small changes – put the presenter’s arms up, and add “Big Data Dashboard” to the top of the screen. Can do.

Here’s the revised sketch:

Custom Cartoons 3

So at this point I’m done, right? Not quite.

Research & Revise

A follow-up email from the client:

I showed it to several people – and don’t freak out – but I actually got people asking me what “bender” meant.

Am I getting old? Bender is a great word.

Changing it to a “…week-long drunk…” isn’t as good.


My first thought is this is a really great client; he’s totally right, “bender” is great. But if it’s not as universal as it used to be, I need to come up with some options.

I could rattle off a few “drunk” synonyms off the top of my head, but custom cartoons can often hinge on just the right word, so I do my research. offers up some good choices:

  • Tipsy
  • Crocked
  • Lit
  • Plastered
  • Sloshed
  • Tanked
  • Three Sheets to the Wind

Not bad, but none of them are quite right. I try another source:

  • Blotto
  • Cucumbered
  • Hammered
  • Pie-eyed
  • Wrecked

Good choices (especially “blotto”), but I still don’t have it. So I keep trying various sources until I finally come across what I think is the perfect word: 

  • Snockered

I run this new caption past the client:

“After careful analysis… I’ve decided to throw up my hands, hit the liquor store, and get snockered. Who’s with me?!”

It’s approved and I can move on to the final art.

Ink & Shade

When I ink I work quickly to keep the artwork looking like it was just dashed off. (Nothing kills the fun in a cartoon like a too-careful line that just lays there.) So as I go I write little notes to myself. Usually they’re things for me to fix in Photoshop or little reminders of what the client wanted:

Custom Cartoons 4
  • Use a font for the “Big Data Dashboard” at the top.
  • Resize the second pie chart slightly to bring it in line with the others.
  • Fix the eyebrow on the front right character from angry to surprised.

Then I scan in the ink and go to work in Photoshop.

I make my fixes and do the ink wash. I shade in Photoshop using scanned markers because it allows me to keep a more organic feel to the art, while giving me an Undo when I need it.

Final Art

Here’s a look at the final art the client received:

Custom Cartoons 5

The scene and characters read cleanly, it gets the point across quickly, and it delivers a laugh all in about seven seconds. It’s a great addition to a blog post, but could also be used in to pep up a presentation, add some visual interest to a newsletter, or drive traffic via social media.

I retain a copy of all the custom cartoons I create as backups, but I also keep the Photoshop PSD broken into layers (ink, shade, text) in case the client needs to make changes in the future or wants a color version.

I try to keep the client’s experience in creating custom cartoons as easy and enjoyable as possible. And although it takes quite a bit of effort behind the scenes to pull that off, crafting something really great for the client and their audience is totally worth it.

If you’re tired of stock photos and infographics, you might give custom cartoons a try. They’re the perfect complement to your content.

FYI, here are some additional articles on custom cartoons:

Custom Cartoons & Visual Marketing

While custom cartoons have always been a great way to promote your brand, encourage social sharing, and connect in a fun way with your clients and customers, with everyone currently jumping on the visual marketing bandwagon, they’re an even better tool to help yourself stand out in 2013.


custom cartoons 1

Everyone’s heard that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well this year that notion has gone from familiar idiom to marketing phenom:

“The future of content marketing is found in visual content; infographics, photos, videos, memes, and other engaging content that captivates a viewer.”

Jason Miller, Marketo

“We will see this trend grow in 2013, and brand managers will wisely produce visually pleasing content to drive community growth and interaction.”

Autumn Truong, Senior Manager of Social Media, Cisco

“2013 will be the year of visual marketing. Visuals and video done right are highly effective in cutting through the noise. It’s a snackable type of content that resonates with people globally and increases engagement within communities no matter where they are located.

“Brands will need to understand what it takes to do visual marketing well, whether within their current communities or new networks like Pinterest, Instagram and others.”

Ekaterina Walter, social innovator at Intel

And when you really think about it, it’s not even really all that new:

“In 2008, Steve Jobs took the stage at the Macworld Expo and shared what seemed like a startling statistic: ‘Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year…People don’t read anymore.’ Many are saying this statement could be seen as a foreshadowing of the explosive growth in visual content. But that wouldn’t really be accurate. Direct marketers have long known this; creating compelling visual content has been at the center of their world for years.”

Teresa Caro, iMedia Connection

So if you’re doing any marketing online this year, you’re going to be thinking visually. But what kinds of images work best?

Funny Looking

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A recent survey by SocialToaster showed that not only do 90% of social media experts and professionals overwhelmingly agree that images are the most likely content to be shared, 86% also said that humorous content was tops for sharing.

“Humor is one of the most effective-and under-appreciated tactics in communications. This applies to every day business discussions, professional presentations, and yes, social media. Look at Pinterest. Some of the most popular pins are funny or offbeat. Twitter and Facebook is even better. Who can’t resist a clever or funny tweet, or conversation starter?”

Mark Ivey, Social Media Explorer

Why is humor so effective online? One reason is:

“Humor establishes rapport – Almost all people love to laugh. Non-offensive jokes can easily establish likeability and trust. A joke related to a difficult situation can disarm a prospect or client when delivering ‘tough medicine.’ Relationships are often built on experiences of shared humor. People do business with people they like, and if they smile and laugh every time you are near they associate you with happiness. Combined with knowledge, humor enhances expertise, demonstrating confidence and strength.”

Kevin Daum, Inc.

Funny images are a powerful tool for visual marketing and smart marketers know to use them:

“Do you like to laugh? Guess what: so do your customers. And because these people face a constant barrage of Facebook posts, tweets, YouTube videos and emails every day, making your marketing fun can go a long way towards capturing their attention.”

Leyl Master Black, Mashable

See Yourself In The Funny Pages

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So with seemingly everyone online talking about the benefits of images and using humor effectively, it doesn’t take a genius to see that custom cartoons are a perfect fit for your own visual marketing. They’re great for more traditional uses like presentations and company newsletters, they’re potentially viral content for your website or blog, and they’re amazing tools for Facebook, Twitter, and newer visual social media like Pinterest.

Give custom cartoons a try this year and enjoy the attention of everyone enjoying your cartoons.

Looking for more info about cartoons and visual marketing? Here you go:

Custom Cartoons – Five Things To Avoid When Commissioning A Custom Cartoon

Custom Cartoons Example

A large part of my business at Andertoons is creating custom cartoons and comics for clients ranging from a single person to some of the largest corporations. And while the response is always very positive, occasionally there’s a hiccup in the process, so I thought I’d share a few problems a client can avoid when commissioning their custom cartoon:

Don’t ask a cartoonist to be another cartoonist

The first thing you’re going to be doing is looking around for a cartoonist whose art and sense of humor speaks to you. Make sure you find someone that draws well, looks professional, and is, of course, funny. And then, when you find that person, make sure you hire that person.

What I mean is don’t hire a cartoonist to ape the style or sense of humor of another cartoonist. For example, I like XKCD, but I wouldn’t hire that artist if I were looking for a Calvin and Hobbes type comic. You’re asking someone to do work they’re not comfortable doing, and the end result will reflect that.

Asking a cartoonist to be a different cartoonist is asking for headaches.

Don’t overstuff your cartoon

When a cartoonist creates a cartoon, they’re racing against the clock. I’m not talking about the deadline here, I’m talking about the reader.

A cartoon has about 5-7 seconds to establish the scene, introduce the characters, set up the joke, and deliver the punchline. The most successful cartoons are all about economy.

A common misstep people make is to want to include more detail than is necessary. I’ve had clients want to include:

  • Mission statements
  • Caricatures of executives
  • Long sections of text
  • Funny sounding names
  • Silly signs or posters

In general, the more you include in a cartoon, the more chances you provide for a reader to be derailed. And if you’ve ever told a rambling joke that really bombed, you know it’s not pretty.

Keep it simple.

Don’t wait until the end to voice a concern

There’s a lot of back and forth in the creation of custom cartoons. You’re going to consider topics, jokes, sketches, and, of course, the final art. But make sure if you have an issue along the way that you don’t wait until delivery of the final cartoon to bring it up.

If a joke doesn’t sound right, ask for a rewrite right away. If a sketch doesn’t look quite right, ask for a revision then and there. Don’t be shy, you’re not going to hurt anyone’s feelings. And a professional cartoonist probably has language in their contract that charges additional fees should you request significant changes to final art.

Save yourself time, headaches and money by addressing concerns in a timely manner.

Don’t expect everyone to love it

People love to share cartoons, it’s what makes them so effective. So it’s natural for a client to show their upcoming cartoon around the office to see what people think.

Obviously you’re going to want people to laugh, but if one person, or even a few, aren’t doubled over in hysterics, it’s OK. Not everyone one has the same sense of humor. Or maybe they’re in the middle of something important. Or maybe they’re just in a really lousy mood.

You’re never going please everyone, so don’t worry about it.

Don’t forget to promote it

Custom cartoons are a wonderful way to get some attention. They’re fast, funny, and easily shared. But as engaging as a cartoon is, it’s no good unless people know it’s there.

Tweet it, blog it, like it, pin it, plus it, email it, fax it… Take one hour and send it to customers, partners, suppliers, friends, relatives, industry leaders, anyone! You’ve crafted and paid for a great cartoon, now get out there and show it off!

The more people see it, the more they’ll share it, which means more people coming back to you to check it out, and probably sharing it again.

Custom cartoons are a fun and unique way to promote yourself, your product, or your company. And keeping the above suggestions in mind will make commissioning your own cartoon as much fun as the cartoon itself.

If you want to read more about custom cartoons, here are some additional articles: