What is Illustration Design?

Posted on January 31, 2022 | Updated on January 31, 2022

If you’re a designer searching for ways to expand your career, you might be interested in adding illustration design to your portfolio. Now that art and design are more accessible these days, you’re probably wondering the differences between graphic design and illustration design. It’s easy to confuse one medium for another. 

However, many artists are making a living between the two creative fields. So, let’s look at the difference between them to help you learn more.

What Is Illustration Design?

Illustration design combines both the characteristics between graphic design and classic illustration. While graphic design emphasizes communication and illustration falls within fine art, this illustration design becomes the best of both worlds. 

Illustration design will apply the classic principles of form, color, shapes and layouts to showcase original artwork.

Like graphic design and illustration on separate notes, illustration design expresses ideas visually, sells products, educates, clarifies concepts and promotes. You can find them anywhere on flyers, books, advertisements, fabrics, posters, packaging and websites. Artists can also use them for any technique, such as drawing, printmaking, and graphic depictions of data.


Illustration designers have a broad skill set that involves a mix of 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 are known for producing visually appealing designs–either by hand or with a digital pen. If you’re interested in becoming an illustration designer, you need a strong work ethic and an eye for artistic expression. You can start to pursue this career 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 and learn different techniques to develop a unique personal style. The courses typically cover art history, drawing, painting, digital illustration, business and entrepreneurship.

Once an illustration designer graduates and develops a portfolio, they can find clients to work for on books, advertisements, magazines, digital projects and more. Or these artists can specialize in a certain industry and work for companies in advertising, medical field, science field and more.

Types of Illustration Designs

Illustrators are known for using different types of mediums (i.e., ink, markers, pencils, digital tools), and they either use freehand and scan directly into the computer or create vector graphics. So, there are many different styles out there to set yourself apart. However, the most common types of illustrations used for various projects and purposes include:

Vector Art

Vector is the foundation of every illustration. You can use different tools and software to reshape objects, change contrast, edit layers and add finishing touches. Vector art is adaptable because you can enlarge or minimize an image, and the quality and sharpness will always stay the same.

With vector illustrations, 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–allowing children to require less time comprehending educational content, books, resources and other materials.

Conceptual Illustration Design

Conceptual illustrations add personal touches to a brand by using different characters to tell a company’s story. It’s a way of visually communicating an idea in a thought-provoking 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 across multiple industries. 

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 both corporate and marketing.

Icons Illustration

Icons can come in various forms such as linear, flat, monochromatic, minimalistic and geometric shapes. You can combine different shapes, figures and stylizations to create some of the most 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 illustrators and graphic designers for different types of roles, but they often overlap each other. Much of the work in illustration design is similar to graphic design, especially regarding the tools and skills required. However, there are three substantial differences between the two careers.

  • Different concepts of education: Illustrators mainly focus on developing their own creative educations. They often concentrate on drawing and painting classes, art history and digital illustration. On the other hand, graphic designers focus on web design principles, publication and products. 
  • Different design solutions: Illustrators are primarily concerned with their creative style. Meanwhile, graphic designers consider typography, composition, color scheme and other visual elements that consist of the project’s entirety. 
  • Different roles: An illustrator’s role consists of drawing and creating new designs for companies in product packaging, books, comics and brand logos. Graphic designers help brands create a visual identity, advertisement or user-friendly website.

Explore the Wonders of Illustration Design

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


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