Illustration has been around since the world’s very first deliberated visual communication: before any written language, in the Palaeolithic period, mankind already illustrated, in caves, what they saw, felt and did. The complexity of human perception changed dramatically with evolution, but illustration still remains one of the most relevant methods to deliver messages. Its impact in digital communication has actually been growing, with the increased demand for content marketing elements such as animations and infographics.
To understand the importance of illustration, we must first understand what it's all about. There’s an undeniable connection between illustration and art, as they are constantly influenced by each other’s trends, but illustration falls into the design category and the reason is simple:
Illustration is about delivering the right information. There is also information in art, naturally. But while art might focus on the artist’s perception of the world and might deliver different messages to different people, illustration has a very clear role and it’s focused on the user: illustration is about sending specific messages to specific people. It’s about finding unique solutions for unique communication needs.
Some might think that designing with illustration is not that good of an option with mediums such as photography and videography available. These are also great options, but it all depends on your focus.
Keep in mind that photography and videography are limited: they respect the physical boundaries that reality imposes. And if the budget can’t accomodate an original capture, chances are you won’t find exactly what you need: stock images and footages are great for an easy and on-budget solution, but they are often generic and fail to represent the specific concept you’re aiming for.
Reality with a twist
With illustration, you get a totally open world: you can focus on the features that you want to enhance to better pass on the message. Illustration can help you bend reality and use approaches like metaphors or plain exaggeration, which are more difficult to achieve with other forms of representation.
But it is also important to keep a certain dose of reality in check, so that the human eye can accept it: physics, although they might be bent, are still essential and every scenario or character created must still obey a certain logic.
Storytelling and UX
Illustration must be about how we look, feel, move and think. These are the things that define one of its key features: uniqueness. Since illustration is designed with a specific purpose and unique features, it naturally becomes one of the best tools for storytelling: a story definitely gets more interesting as it gets more relatable. We only empathize with stories that are relevant to our own experience.
Keeping this in mind, creating sceneries, characters or elements that users can relate to, whether by their looks, special features or how they move and think, is the key to an engaging story.
Illustration is also an important tool to guide the user experience: if you think about it, you interact with illustrations more often than you think. This is true for interfaces in general, but especially for onboarding screens. They tell you how to create an account, how to find your way through an app and even how to insert your card in the ATM machine.
Get moving: it's the way to go
Our bodies, minds (and the very world we’re in) are in constant motion - the ability to perceive movement is, in fact, a natural survival instinct.
While it is true that a still communication must be able to send the right messages, it is unquestionable that movement is able to add much more information. Once things start moving, we get the whole picture: for example, if a character moves, we can actually get more emotional and behavioural information, which strengthens the bond between the users and the message.
More and more, videos are becoming the leading force in content marketing and, by combining illustration and motion, you can create powerful content experiences. The possibilities are virtually endless!