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How can illustration enhance your project and when to use it?

This article was first published by Dominik Korolczuk in the App’n’roll Publication on Medium.

Breathing life into abstract concepts

Sometimes what we are trying to get across is hard to put into words and most of the time, a concept is impossible to photograph.

That’s when illustration comes into play. Imagine trying to explain a water cycle to a child, without a drawing. Sure, you could try to eloquently describe the process of evaporation and condensation. By doing so, you might eventually get them to understand, but is it not simpler to just draw a circle graph similar to the one we’ve all seen in one science book or another?

The instant click you see on someone’s face as you put a few lines on the paper, that “ahhh” moment when they truly understand. That is what you want. If it costs a customer energy to understand your message they will simply ignore it or forget it. Why not make everyone’s life easier and show rather than explain?

Illustrations are most commonly found on websites, infographics, covers, banners etc. and for us, they are especially common in industries which deal with automation, blockchain, cryptocurrency, asset management, VR or AR. That’s because these are all non-physical abstract concepts, things that don’t really have a tangible form. It’s not just these new technological concepts that can be better understood using illustration, we can also illustrate inherent concepts we’re all more familiar with.

Love, kindness and friendship are notions that we have aimed to grasp for a long time. Jane Austen wrote entire novels on the subject and yet without having to use words, Norman Rockwell’s illustrations are able to make us feel all of those things with a single glance, allowing for deeper understanding.


Creative illustration can be applied to so many cases, Harvest uses them to express time management, Mailchimp uses them in animations to show how you can grow with them and Headspace presents a perfect peaceful world of tranquility. Illustration is a tool, a flexible tool to be used, it can reflect countless moods and it speaks all languages at once. So if you have something important to say, why don’t you use illustration to help us not only listen but also to hear and understand what you are saying?


Great illustration sells

Taking all we have shown above into account, it’s not a stretch to realize why illustration sells. Not only does it help bring the abstract to life, when done well it helps us to understand information faster and remember more vividly. Research shows that a slogan by itself only has a memory retention of 10% on average, but add a visual to the equation and the number jumps to 65%. (Brain Rules) Granted this study takes into consideration all types of visuals and it is important to remember that the visual needs to relate to the slogan.

When expertly paired together, this combination is sure to help you stand out to your target audience, by drawing their attention inwards. Think about all of the brands you love that use amazing illustrations to breathe life into their marketing and products. Starting with the three mentioned above: Harvest, Mailchimp and Headspace, but not forgetting companies such as Google, Slack, Airbnb, Dropbox, Atlassian, Uber and Adobe to name but a few of the biggest ones.


If you look at the examples above, you’ll notice all of the variation in terms of the style and feel that illustration brings to the table for them. The best marketing successfully induces an emotional response, it is a neurological fact that the portion of our brain responsible for our feelings and decision making processes is one and the same. By associating an idea or a feeling with a product, you give yourself a better chance of success and an illustration is a great tool to help convey, instil or invoke that feeling.

What Atlassian says about illustration.

The role of illustrations

  • Illustration is a key element of the brand system.

  • It makes complex ideas more accessible.

  • It represents our brand — personality, voice, and platform — in an efficient and clear way.

  • It can scale up or down depending on the context.

  • It can change tone and speak directly to users depending on the job to be done and the user’s emotional state.

  • It can evolve with Atlassian as we grow, and as we iterate on our product and marketing messages.

  • Just like the written word, illustrations exist to tell stories and thoughtfully convey ideas — they should not be used as decoration or without consideration.

Isn’t it super expensive?

If it grabs your focus and it helps with information retention that sounds great but one might think it costs a fortune. Well not really, assuming we are not talking about stock photography or stock illustration, the price of a completely custom project can be relatively low when compared to a full studio photography session.

Not to mention that with illustration the sky’s the limit as far as ideas and subject matter go, with relatively low price increases depending on the time it takes. With photography, hiring a tiger and a handler could get a little out of hand. It’s safer to hire an illustrator to draw your tiger instead.

Changes? No problem. In the age of digital illustration applying a change that may take hours or be impossible in a photograph takes a matter of minutes. Not convinced? Here is a real world example from our own project Dongive. The client came back after the site was already launched because they received some feedback on the diversity in the illustrations. Everyone appreciated the gender and race balance but noticed the lack of age variant. A quick consultation and voila, problem solved.


So to summarise, illustration is best used when trying to display an abstract concept. It helps to pull attention and retain information, it can be a nice upgrade from stock photos while still being cheaper than a studio photography session.

What do you think? Is illustration the answer to your new project? If yes, why not check out our Dribbble portfolio and get in touch with us!

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