Illustrating your point

Senior Designer Miguel spent an interesting afternoon at the London Illustration Fair last week. It got him thinking about the pros and cons of illustration and photography.

Housed in The Bargehouse on the South Bank, this event was raw and exciting. The diversity of genres on show was extraordinary and it felt like an art invasion across four floors. The variety of styles, which ranged from illustration to more graphic design and typographical approaches got me wondering why so many clients use photography when an illustrative approach could communicate their messages more effectively.

Illustration Show
Illustration Show
Illustration Show
Illustration Show

Here are my thoughts on the benefits of illustration.

1. You will add meaning and tone to your imagery

While a commercial photographer usually relies on a fairly literal approach, a good illustrator can add a clever layer of meaning through the graphics, an interpretation of a message which brings immediate clarity and a unique quality to any piece of design. Illustration can also win out over photography when it comes to delivering a particular tone to a piece. Clever illustrators can be as poetic as you like or pragmatic and to the point – the trick is to get the brief right from the start.

Here, we worked with the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) to design a wellbeing booklet to promote healthy lifestyle options and wellbeing to all of their staff. We chose to use colourful illustrations and simple infographics to ensure the booklet was not perceived as a prescriptive list of how to live but a friendly and easy to read booklet encouraging positive change.

RMBI Infographics Design
RMBI Infographics Design
RMBI Infographics Design
RMBI Infographics Design

2. You can simplify complex messages

Another benefit of illustration is that it can be used to simplify the way we communicate complex information and can sometimes completely replace whole sections of copy. Icons and infographics are particularly helpful in this instance. Bold, straightforward graphics which remove excess complications and make information processing more intuitive are loved by readers and are always the first thing to be noticed on the page.

We used this colourful infographic to explain the challenging concept of “Greening Innovation” in a publication we created for The Lemon Tree Trust.

Lemon Tree Trust Infographics Design
Lemon Tree Trust Infographics Design

3. You will surprise your reader

Illustration is still the unexpected option in most commercial design so using this approach offers a great opportunity to delight your audience with something new and different. When you add the creative element of illustration to your work the possibilities are endless and the results often exceed expectations.

4. You will have created an ongoing visual resource

Unlike photographs which capture a specific point in time, illustrations and graphics provide a resource of timeless visual images which can become part of your brand assets. You may have commissioned the images for a specific purpose, but once you have them, you can use time and again; across digital and social media and in future publications.

Our infographics for Malaria Consortium were designed to work across multiple platforms, in print and on digital collateral.

Malaria Consortium Infographics Design
Malaria Consortium Infographics Design

5. Issues around consent and photographic usage can be avoided

Getting photographic model release agreement is a challenge for any organisation, but for those working with vulnerable adults and children or people with learning disabilities or mental health issues, this can be a particularly complicated area. Acquiring written consent can be difficult and if this has to be given by someone else because the individual is not capable of making their own decision, it raises moral dilemmas. Illustrations and infographics avoid these hurdles by communicating the message in a different way.

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