Reasons for Illustration

As part of my studies and exploration into learning more about Illustration (now that I’m really focusing on the subject and practice full time), I made a little document for some of my brainstorming thinking about the subject “reasons to use illustration”. I have no idea if it is useful to anyone else, but if you have any thoughts, edits or additions please let me know- it’s a work in progress.

What Illustration can do:

  • Communicate Visually- design words and art combined
  • reason / story / themes
  • concepts / ideas
  • image is worth 1000 words- It is good tool for communicating things that are difficult to express or things that take a long time to explain.
  • See the Illustrations before you read the text- leads you in
  • express mood / feeling
  • stimulate other senses
  • immersive
  • clarifies things
  • beautifies
  • image holds in memory
  • read information quickly
  • convey message / explain


  • Hearing difficulties
  • Disabled children
  • Illiterate / early readers
  • Cross culture / language

Visualize narrative

  • develop imagination
  • show a world from another point of view
  • help explain difficult concepts
  • add visual interest
  • make text more accessible through design
  • education- help explain text / subjects
  • interpret the text in new ways
  • reflect the tone of the narrative through visual clues
  • word and image- sentences and action association
  • metaphor and symbolism- show extra details
  • visualize thoughts through image
  • tell a joke- visual puns
  • tell the story in interesting way
  • encourage new ways of looking at things
  • Introduce new readers through engaging imagery

Add personality

  • taste
  • appeal
  • charm
  • creativity
  • bespoke
  • organic feel
  • vision
  • imagination
  • empathy and intuition
  • human touch
  • humor
  • engaging
  • relatable


  • Enjoyable to look at images / imagery
  • visually stimulating
  • encourages different emotional response
  • useful for holding attention span
  • enrich imagination

Illuminate Knowledge

  • present and clarify
  • inspire
  • decorate

Emotion (some listed here)

  • sadness
  • happiness
  • joy, celebration
  • anger, hate
  • reflection
  • revulsion
  • melancholy
  • love
  • anxiety
  • awe
  • reverence
  • fright, fear


  • original
  • fantasy
  • ways of looking at things / world
  • interesting story
  • characters
  • no limits- concepts, metaphors, abstract
  • not limited to things that are impossible to photograph or film.
  • imagination is boundless
  • promote free thinking and imagination

Cultural importance

  • identity
  • religion and belief
  • mythology and fantasy, symbolism
  • connection with art history
  • connection with social and cultural history
  • e.g. Book of Kells- enhance and illuminate
  • Art patrons: display of power, wealth, status, ownership, identity etc.
  • Words and symbols hold power / magic- gods, spirits and creatures- e.g. Viking Art, monuments, temples

Link to the past- heritage

  • Archaeology and historical documents hold clues to the importance of art / illustration through time
  • Traditions are kept alive in visual / artistic forms
  • Folk art connects with everyday people- more accessible than “High Art”
  • Telling stories is an ancient human practice done through vision, speech and words- e.g. cave art, Bayeux tapestry…
  • with the development of commercial printing illustration was available to the masses. Reproduced art became more affordable for people than original fine art. Forms of visual communication developed rapidly to take advantage of this- e.g. advertising.
  • Show different cultures to audience
  • art for the people: cartoons, satire (e.g. punch magazine), picture books, product design
  • Images helped explain or communicate things to illiterate people or different languages- our visual literacy is very sophisticated
  • Shows moments in time / events

In Graphic Design projects:

  • grab attention e.g. book cover- can determine success of book sales
  • advertising
  • help business
  • promote causes


  • make text more appealing or interesting
  • match illustration style to create consistency in look / brand
  • communicate information in visual way


  • Create new ways of displaying brand with original / unique images
  • inform about the brand in visual way- easy to understand
  • help tell the story

Encourage a response

  • to buy
  • provoke reaction- call to action
  • illustration can repulse as well as attract- what response do you want from the audience?
  • To care about?
  • To read or learn about product or service?
  • engage the audience (hero of the story is the audience)
  • create arguments for the brand based on visual clues that audience can relate to or are attracted to

Make it visually appealing to the audience

  • look friendly
  • product design
  • make beautiful or desirable
  • add personality
  • grab attention
  • encourage to buy based on look

Instill trust

  • equity and value
  • familiar visual images
  • continuity
  • tradition / nostalgia

Stand out from competition or the crowd

  • memorable
  • new products
  • brand awareness
  • style that’s tailored to the content

Reasons to use Illustrators with Graphic Design projects

  • Illustrations can be adjusted for printing and use in other media
  • High quality illustration requires less expensive equipment than a high quality photograph or video
  • You can use drawings / sketches and preview easily- feedback can be given
  • tailored to the projects needs
  • Alternative to dull stock images everyone else can use

Illustration is used in design projects often as a starting point for the production of bigger projects and collaborations.

  • creates stronger messages / immersive content
  • computer games
  • web design
  • music videos, musicals, opera, costume design, fashion
  • community projects
  • print design

Illustration should perhaps consider what is happening in Graphic Design- both are valuable to each other-  very similar goals and considerations. Graphic Design should consider what is happening in illustration- both are valuable to each other and can help both disciplines- inseparable sides of the same coin (visual communication design).
Without illustration our visual lives are poorer.

In the old days Illustrators were “Graphic Designers” they were usually one and the same. Today often the best Illustrators are also trained in “graphic design”. There are many multi-disciplined individuals producing amazing work in the field of Visual Communication Design. Illustration is an important aspect of Visual Communication Design.

Author: Christine Garner

I'm an Illustrator from the UK working in digital and traditional mediums with a focus on character design.

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