Illustration - Painting the picture

Guy Nicholson - Creative Lead

At what point do you decide whether to use photography or illustration? Creatively, the decision is not always clear. Costs, time and creative agency resources all affect the decision. In addition, the different approaches can communicate the same message in completely different ways, be it realistic or conceptual.

The default for many clients where imagery is concerned, whether online or offline collateral, is to turn to photography. Stock photography has become the norm for many companies to support their brand. Don’t get me wrong - there is some stunning stock photography out there, many of which is free to use. The problem is that many of these stock images could be doing your brand more harm than good.

With more and more companies using the same resources, particularly on websites, it’s getting harder to differentiate between brands. You could lose customers if they feel you just look the same as another brand as they may view you as unable to offer something different and unique.

Illustration is a way to give your brand a unique perspective, and offers you a multitude of ways to demonstrate your story, engage clients and help a brand stand out from its competitors. As many people tend to pick up on illustrations before reading copy, these are a great way to lead reluctant readers into the story who may otherwise have gone elsewhere. Illustration can be created to reflect the tone of the narrative and simplify the meaning of complicated content through visual explanation. It can cross cultural and language boundaries, and aid people with learning difficulties and disabilities. IKEA instruction manuals are a fine example of using simple illustrations instead of words to make the complex clear - even if you do still have a couple of screws left over at the end!

Illustration isn’t limited by the constraints of photography. Impossible things can be created and different viewpoints can be shown, with the ability to create varied emotional responses.

At The Escape, illustration comes high on the list of our skill set, from traditional, hand-drawn work with pencil or paint to digital illustration created in Procreate, Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. It is a powerful tool in the creative work we produce. Whenever we illustrate anything for our clients, it is always bespoke and fit for purpose.

Brand perception can be influenced by using illustration to convey the story behind the messaging. The connection between the brand and a complementary illustration style helps to create a memorable product and can offer a better, more engaging user experience. When themes or content within an article don’t conjure up specific images, illustration can be the perfect solution. It can invigorate a subject and bring it to life in a way photography can’t. 

The use of infographics also continues to increase as they make complex information easier to understand through an engaging, visual form. Simple figures and stats become enlightening and aesthetically pleasing when illustrated on the page or screen.

Whether it’s a website, ad campaign or corporate literature, illustration can completely transform the look and feel. Choosing the right style is key and it should complement the subject, copy, or brand. Whereas photography can sometimes feel a bit too shiny, an illustration brings through a bespoke quality, something personal about the creator and the brand; it can visually highlight the brand values without blatantly stating them.

There is so much flexibility and an infinite number of styles with illustration – from simple iconography and infographics to work that’s considered close to fine art. An illustration is the perfect asset for enhancing a brand and its possibilities are endless.

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