What is Illustration Design?

Posted on January 31, 2022 | Updated on July 17, 2023

If you’re a designer seeking to expand your career, consider illustration design. Art and design are more accessible these days. Although, you may wonder about the differences between graphic and illustration design. 

It’s easy to confuse one art field for another. Yet, many artists are making a living between the two. So, let’s look at the difference between them to help you learn more.

What Is Illustration Design?

Illustration design combines graphic design and classic illustration. Graphic design prioritizes communication, and illustration falls within fine art. Thus, illustration design becomes the best of both worlds. 

Illustration design will apply the basics of form, color, shapes and layouts. That way, you can showcase original artwork.

Like graphic design, illustration expresses ideas in a visual manner. It sells products, educates, clarifies concepts and promotes. You can find them anywhere from flyers and books to websites and packaging. 

Artists can also use them for any technique. This includes drawing, printmaking, and graphic depictions of data.

Illustration designers have a broad skill set. These involve digital illustration, drawing, painting, art history, business and marketing. It requires both creativity and artistic skill to communicate abstract ideas.

What Do Illustration Designers Do?

Illustration artists produce visually-appealing designs. They even produce art through hand or digital drawing. If you’re interested in becoming an illustration designer, you need a strong work ethic. 

At the same time, you must have an eye for artistic expression. You can begin pursuing this path by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in art, design, or illustration.

Many tend to continue their education to get a postgraduate degree. During school, illustration artists will study design foundations. They also learn different techniques to develop a unique personal style. Some courses cover art history, drawing, painting, digital illustration, business and entrepreneurship.

As an illustration designer, you can find clients for various projects. These may include advertising, publishing and digital work. Artists can also specialize in an industry, like marketing, health, and science.

Types of Illustration Designs

Illustrators use different various mediums, such as ink, markers, pencils, digital tools. They use freehand and scan into the computer or create vector graphics. So, there are many different styles out there to set yourself apart. Yet, the most common types of illustrations used for various purposes include:

Vector Art

Vector is the foundation of every illustration. You can use software to reshape objects, change contrast and add finishing touches. Vector art is adaptable because you can enlarge or downsize an image, while the quality is the same.

With vector art, you can reproduce in all ratios and ensure the quality of the image is sharp. 

Children’s Illustrations

Create fun, imaginative characters and colorful illustrations for younger audiences. You can provide visual messages that communicate far beyond text. With images, you can aid a better achievement for educational purposes. This allows children to comprehend less content, books, resources and other materials.

Conceptual Illustration Design

Conceptual illustrations add personal touches in branding using characters to tell a story. It’s a way of communicating an idea in a thought-provoking, visual way.

With conceptual illustrations, you often play on emotional triggers and intriguing style. Many ideational illustrators are sought after by some of the biggest companies. 

Website Illustration

Many companies will hire illustration designers to enhance their business’s website. These designs appear to make messages clear and connect to visitors. When they’re well-established, graphics and communication work together in corporate and marketing.

Icons Illustration

Icons can come in various forms like linear, flat, monochromatic, and geometric shapes. You can combine shapes, figures and stylizations to create unique icons for businesses.

Infographic Illustration

Graphics create value to content by including complex data to showcase visual representations. Some of the most often made elements of an infographic consist of:

  • Visual stimulation of various processes
  • Info icons
  • Diagrams, maps and other elements
  • Timelines and visual presentations

Illustration Design Vs. Graphic Design

Companies will hire designers for different types of roles, but they often overlap. Much of the work in illustration design is like graphic design. This is especially true about the tools and skills needed. Yet, there are three main differences between the two:

  • Different concepts of education: Illustrators have creative courses unique to them. They often concentrate on drawing and painting, art history and digital creations. Yet, graphic designers focus on web design principles and products. 
  • Different design solutions: An illustrator’s primary concern is their creative style. Meanwhile, graphic designers consider typography, composition, color scheme and other visual elements. Thus, they focus on the project’s entirety. 
  • Different roles: An illustrator’s role consists of creating various designs. These may include product packaging, books and brand logos. Graphic designers help brands create a visual identity, advertisement or easy-to-use website.

Tips for Becoming an Illustration Designer

Are you ready to become an illustrator? While it takes a lot of work to make it as one. However, you can grow your art skills by following these tips.

Study Other Professionals

Many up and coming illustrators have turned their dreams into reality by studying other professionals. Doing this allows them to gain valuable insight into what others do to create amazing works of art.

As you continue practicing, consider learning from others by exploring what they’re doing to achieve success. Look into how they work and the companies they’ve worked with in the past. Study how they market and brand themselves to stand out.

Assessing others’ work and what they’ve accomplished can give you ideas for what you want to achieve. Many have scaled in their career because they recreate the work of other creatives. So, try to place this idea into your model for success.

Build a Portfolio

In illustration, quality is important. You must be able to show off your best works of art to get clients or employers to notice. That’s why building a portfolio is crucial. An illustration portfolio lets you showcase various projects, briefs and ideas you’ve worked on. 

It may be tempting to show off all the work you’ve produced. Yet, it is much more effective to include one to two of your best pieces than showing off ten illustrations.

Too many illustration patterns may cause a potential client to lose interest. Thus, keep your portfolio at a minimum so it maintains focus. 

Network With Others

It may be your dream to work as an illustration designer once you’re out of college. However, it takes more than a college education to impress potential employers. College can be a great place to gain skills, but employers care about the experience. Therefore, it may take some time before getting your first job as an illustration designer.

Have patience and consider building up your contacts list. Use your free time to freelance or do pro bono work on the side. Once you start making connections, you can use your network group to search for an illustration job that teaches you new skills.

Networking is a valuable tool for anyone looking for work. They can help you brush up on your skills and leave an impression that makes you more hireable.

Explore the Wonders of Illustration Design

Although illustration and graphic design have many similarities, it has its own techniques. Illustration has many wonderful opportunities to take one’s brand to the next level. As long as you convey an idea the best way, you’ll find the creative aspects and the role can offer a fulfilling career.

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