THE IMPORTANCE OF ILLUSTRATIONS IN DESIGN
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a phrase that applies to the design world. Designers create and utilize visual representations on a daily basis. Sometimes designers use photographs in their design, whereas other times, designers incorporate custom illustrations into their design. Custom illustrations can be extremely beneficial in a variety of scenarios.
Graphic Design vs. Illustration
Though graphic designers and illustrators are technically two different job titles, they tend to overlap. Graphic designers typically work more in commercial pieces, whereas people perceive illustrators more as fine artists. However, graphic designers often are able to illustrate, and/or are able to use illustrations in an effective way in their designs. Illustrators also often work with graphic designers or marketing teams to create custom illustrations for a campaign or brand. Sometimes graphic designers rely solely on text and photographs to portray an idea, but certainly also rely on illustrations to represent a concept.
If You Want to Represent Something Abstract, Use Illustrations
Sure, many ideas, stories, can be told via just copy/text. However, they should be paired with some sort of visual representation. The more abstract or complex an idea becomes, the more important it becomes to incorporate an illustration into the design.
Even something as little as illustrating numbers or bullet points can convey that the text has an order or important list of items.
Or, something even more abstract, such as the planets in the solar system, is much easier to understand when paired with an illustration to show what each planet looks like, size differences, and the order they are in.
If the Subject is too Ambitious to Photograph, Use Illustrations
If you’re working on a project that involves futuristic concepts or characters, definitely find a way to use illustration. Rather than setting up an overly complex and expensive photoshoot that will need to be Photoshopped, simplify the process with an illustration.
At ocreations, we recently created an illustration for the Pittsburgh Irish Festival. The festival has been held at the same location for years, and is going to be at a new location this year. Since it is in a new location, people may have a hard time visualizing what it will be like. So, the ocreations team created an illustration to show people what the event space will look like. Check out the illustration below:
If You Want to Tell a Story, Use Illustrations
Think about the stories you’ve read or heard over the years. There are often characters or a journey that you can imagine in your head. Bring these imaginations to life in your design projects when they need to tell a story. No, the illustrations do not have to look “cartoony” or “childish” – there are different stylistic ways to approach illustrations, depending on the type of story, brand, or client you work with. The idea of creating characters or other elements to tell a story is a fundamental part of storytelling, and can be applied to many different situations.
For instance, ocreations recently designed a poster for Dr. Tumblety’s Apothecary & Tasting Lounge. The poster gives insight to the brand’s character, Dr. Tumblety.
Visualize Data with Illustrations
Rather than making a standard pie chart or bar graph, try to use illustration to portray the data in a visually appealing way. Utilize sketches, characters icons, etc. to create meaningful infographics.
Use Illustrations in Branding
An entire company’s brand is sometimes based off of an illustration. Designers often utilize illustration techniques in designing logo concepts. Designers also incorporate illustrations in designing other branding items such as custom icons and custom service flow charts/graphs. For instance, instead of writing “phone” on a business card and listing the phone number, a designer would create a phone icon to represent the word “phone” – it saves space and adds an interesting element to the card. Illustrations in branding also create a sense of consistency in a brand’s identity.
For example, ocreations recently designed a series of icons for Franjo Construction for each of their services. Check them out below:
Use Illustrations in Packaging
You can even use illustrations on packaging design! Depending on who the client is, and what audience they’re speaking to, an illustration might be the best design choice. Check out the packaging design (and other pieces) for a game called Brainy Ball.
Use Illustrations for Events
Illustrative styles can add an interesting perspective to an event. For the past several years, ocreations has been the design team for the Pittsburgh Irish Festival. Each year, there is a new theme, and each year we have to illustrate that theme. Here are some samples of designs from the past few years of the Pittsburgh Irish Festival.
Use Illustrations for Promotional Materials
If it works with the brand, try to incorporate illustration into the brand’s promotional materials. This can be anything from interior signage, to flyers, even billboards! Check out how the illustration style for 3 Guys, an optical brand, was carried out across a variety of promotional materials (interior signage, a billboard, and even a light-up sign):
Create a Sense of Balance
When designers work on text-heavy projects, illustrations become especially important. For instance, brochures and magazines are filled with text. Designers can take what is in the copy and make visual representations to balance out the text. Especially in today’s fast-paced world, people read for headlines and bullet points. If you can design an illustration that helps portray the big idea of the piece, it will help grab attention and ensure a reader retains something from the piece.
Illustrations Add Personality to Words
Depending on the context of the information that needs visual representation, illustrations can help determine the personality of the design at hand. They can convey moods or emotions present in the text, or brand as a whole. For instance, designs that express happiness, sadness, humor, charm, etc. are stimulants to the viewer, and can ultimately strengthen a message.
Added Entertainment Value
As previously mentioned, illustrations can stimulate the mind. If a piece is bogged down with a lot of information, an illustration can make the reading much more entertaining.
Speak to the Right Audience
When working in advertising, it’s always important to know who your audience is, and how to properly reach them. In some cases, illustrations might be your best bet in creating a design that appeals to the audience. For instance, an obvious target audience that is likely to respond well to an illustration are children.
ocreations VP, Jesse Mader, illustrated a children’s book called “Everyone Loves Pancakes”
Help Visual Learners Understand
Many people are visual learners – they retain more information by looking at charts, graphs, infographics, or other visual cues, rather than reading. Illustrations are not just for children – no matter what age you are, an illustration is always a helpful tool in learning new information. They become especially important for projects such as educational pieces, like a science textbook, a trifold brochure for a brand that works in complex engineering, or even a manual for instructions on how to put together a piece of furniture. Illustrations provide a visual connection to the information.
Make Your Project Stand Out from the Crowd
People are starting to become used to stock photography, and find that they do not have time to read paragraphs of copy. One way to make your design stand out from the clutter is to have an eye-catching illustration. Something people have never seen before, that will draw attention and be memorable.
For instance, ocreations recently designed a series of pieces for Giant Eagle for their health improvement programs. Utilizing an illustration definitely helped to make this informational subject grab the audience’s attention and spark interest in learning more.
Illustrations are one of the most important tools in communicating ideas (and one of the original methods of communication). They are beneficial in design projects for a number of reasons. Consider an illustration for your next project. At ocreations, all of our designers enjoy illustrating, and all have unique methods and styles.
Interested in illustration? Contact us at ocreations. We’d love to help your brand succeed and stand out among the competition with custom, memorable illustrations. Let’s get illustrating, let’s get creative.