Who creates the illustrations for patents?
Have you ever wondered how patent illustrations are created? We did, so we spoke with renowned illustrator Mick Wiggins, of Little Rock, Arkansas, who’s successful art career began as a patent illustrator. Mick holds a Fine Art Degree from the University of South Florida, graduating in 1975 with a BFA in Site-Specific Conceptual Sculpture . This meant learning about drawing and printmaking which is something most people don’t think of when they picture sculptors or painters! Upon graduation his first conclusion was that he didn’t have a marketable degree and was pretty unemployable. His father, who was a patent attorney was concerned about Mick’s future, knew he was good with pen and pencil, and offered him a gig as a patent illustrator.
His dad showed Mick how to use his drafting skills to create the illustrations. Interestingly, patent illustrations are not accurate proportionally or from perspective, according to Wiggins. They just have to show the functional differences that make it patentable. So it’s explanatory only. “As the illustrator and not the patent expert, the inventor and patent attorney provide instructions and I just illustrated them.” says Wiggins. There are very specific requirements from the USTOP for using pen and ink, or ball point pen used with a very specific format on 9x14 stock. Waterproof ink, no white out.
Back in the 70’s the drawings were physically stored in Washington, DC. Mick’s father would have to travel to DC to research through the physical documents. That’s one of the reasons it was so costly.
Mick charged $50 per illustration and continued to supplement his income with patent illustrations from the mid 70’s to 1982. It typically took about a day to create each illustration, so not enough to live on but certainly good supplemental income as a young artist. Otherwise Mick was working in restaurants, cooking and washing dishes in San Francisco.
Mick Wiggins is an award-winning illustrator living and working in Little Rock, Arkansas. His work can be found in George Ella Lyon’s Planes Fly! and at MickWiggins.com.