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What is Illustration?  What is Graphic Design? Where do the two come together? 

The role of illustration has become more and more ubiquitous for brands delivering their message.

What is Illustration?  What is Graphic Design? Where do the two come together? 

Article by Rob Kesler & published in collaboraition with Kommunity

Have you ever struggled to explain what you do to a new business or personal connection? Most folks have a pretty good understanding of what graphic design is. They think perhaps of logos, marketing collateral and website design. When I tell people that I do graphic design AND illustration, I get that same look that parents give their children when they tell them that they’ve won first place in something that said parent has never heard of before. I can see that they’re intrigued by the accomplishment, but they don’t exactly know what that accomplishment is. And to make it worse, that individual has most likely seen dozens, If not hundreds of illustrations that day already. 

So, what exactly do I mean when I speak of illustration? Is it graphic novels? Children’s books? Character design for Pixar movies? Yes. For sure, and absolutely! But, it is so much more! And it’s the reason why I tell those I meet at that I’m an illustrator and a graphic designer. 

The next time you visit your cart on Amazon, you’ll likely see an animated illustration of a shopping cart. If you’re a social media user, check out the “help” or “settings” section on any given website, and they’ll be littered with illustration. Ya know that cute little high five emoji you sent your partner for finishing the wordle? Illustration.

The role of illustration has become more and more ubiquitous for brands delivering their message. Companies use illustration in a variety of ways to distinguish themselves from their competition. It’s a great way to enhance storytelling and convey complex ideas in a more digestible way. It’s eye catching, adds a level of emotional depth, and has no constraints beyond what it is in your imagination. 

For example, let’s imagine you’re a credit card company wanting to depict a father and son playing chess for a social media ad. Additionally, you’d like that chess set to have clearly come in an Amazon box to promote a program partner. (Very specific, I know ☺ ). The use of illustration allows for the display of this exact scene in a dynamic and unique way. Illustration provides design assets that you can employ to build a style and boost brand recognition. 

Illustration By Rob Kelser

When the Ford Automotive Co. asked me to create the custom illustrations for their annual trends report, I was thrilled for the opportunity to create exciting content. Their ideas were complex and it was necessary to present in a way that was dynamic, creative, and easily understood by the audience. Using illustration, we were able to develop concepts as a team that spoke directly to the subject matter in a way that reinforced the brand and pushed the concepts forward. 

Illustration by Rob Kesler

Illustration by Rob Kesler

So, where does illustration come into play in the world of graphic design? Most businesses agree graphic design is a necessary component of their company or service. After all, anything that you use to represent your company visually is, by definition, graphic design. At best, illustration is often lumped in with graphic design or at worst, left out of the conversation entirely. Are your eyes glazed over yet? The Payoff’s about to come, I promise ☺.

Graphic design is defined as “the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books.’ Illustration is an example of “pictures” in this definition; another is photography. Small businesses often opt for the use of photography, specifically generic stock photography, in their design elements.  One big reason for that is accessibility. Stock imagery is readily accessible and relatively affordable but, I believe it falls short of building brand recognition and setting a business apart from the dozens of others who are also using stock photographs on their website or marketing collateral. Stock photography does not have the ability to fully tell your business’s unique story. (The odds that the good folks at Ford were going to find a stock photo of a person juggling a baby bottle, a laptop, a soccer ball, and a brief case are slim to none). 

Access to an overabundance of stock imagery is one side of the accessibility coin. The other side of that coin is lack of access TO an illustrator for small businesses. Many small market graphic designers don’t have or promote the skill of illustration as part of their offerings. It’s why Amazon, Meta, Apple, and Youtube all use illustration as a cornerstone of their storytelling and branding and why the accountant on Main St might not be. 

Well, consider that accessibility issue solved. Your business now has access to a friendly neighborhood graphic designer AND illustrator who specializes in making your brand stand out in unique and memorable ways. I’d love to talk with you about how custom illustration can push your brand forward and set you apart in the localized marketplace. Please feel free to visit me at www.drawnindesign.com and consider the power of illustration for your brand!