Illustration is a wonderful specialism that can add a completely new dimension to a design project, whether it’s part of an overall brand or for a specific project. We regularly work with illustrators across a broad range of applications but I realised that it may seem a bit daunting client side to know how to explore illustration or even consider it as an option for a project. 

A design agency will be able to explore it as a design route for you and provide the necessary information. It may be an approach that is explored naturally within the discovery design phase of a project but before it’s considered it usually hinges on suitability, budget, and timescale.

Illustration is a layer of creativity that can bring a project to life in several ways. It can add rich individual personality to a project, add humour, or bring subjects to life that are conceptual or sensitive that simply can’t be addressed by photography. Illustration can be added to fill the gap of a project that doesn’t require photography but still needs a lift to complement the typography or existing graphical devices. Illustration is particularly useful for projects that need a gentle and descriptive narrative. An example of this is a project we worked on with Primary Care Respiratory Society for their Asthma Right Care where we developed a series of patient-facing tools. These were developed to help clinicians support patients and encourage them to start on the right path from the outset of diagnosis. These health narratives depict the potential journey any asthma patient may travel during their lives and illustrate the recommended path. The story shows the difference between reactive asthma management and proactive asthma management. A simple infographic wouldn’t have had the same impact. 

How do you build illustration into a project?

It can happen a number of ways. You may know that you want illustration as part of your project or your design team may suggest it as a potential route.

You may know of an illustrator or illustration style you like, or you may just know that it’s something you want to explore. A design agency can explore this for you. Illustration is a specialism that works alongside design so it’s something they are very used to. Designers often have an illustration capability and illustrators have a design capability but when the two specialists work together and combine on a project – that’s where the real magic can happen. Think of it as pairing wine with cheese. Most designers already know of lots of illustrators and can identify the right illustrator/s for the project. Alternatively, there are illustration agencies out there that represent a bank of illustrators such as Handsome Frank and Brighton Illustrators Group, but a lot of illustrators work independently.

Our Top 3 Tips for working with illustrators:

1. Find the style that fits

We don’t ask an illustrator to deviate too much from their style. It’s important to choose an illustrator for their characteristics or technique. If you already have a style in mind, provide examples and a creative agency or illustration agent can then find a good fit, pairing that with timescale, budget and availability.

2. Have a budget

Your budget may already allow to bring in an illustrator but consider, explore and allow for a separate illustration budget. Illustration will add another dimension and be a considerable point of difference and uniqueness. It also takes time, so preparing an adequate timescale and budget to reflex that is worth it. 

3. Build in some flex

Illustrators are experts so allow them some freedom. Be clear about the objectives, describe any boundaries, any brand guidelines stipulations, colourways, the intended usages (eg. print, social, large format) and the basic do’s and don’ts but by letting them have creative room, that’s how you’ll get the most out of their expertise.

Some tips from illustrators:

We’ve worked with several illustrators and we’ve asked a couple of our favourites what their top tip is for a successful project:

Anna Charity

Anna is fascinated with the power of character as a way to inspire and delight. We worked with Anna on the illustrations for our brand and website. We wanted to find a way to show our personality and Anna’s style was the perfect fit. 

Anna’s top tip: “Providing a written brief at the start of the project is essential. It’s like the blueprint/architecture plan and provides fundamental direction for the illustrator. At the very least, it should include the company’s mission, objectives and the expected deliverables and deadline. It’s super helpful to have a written record that everyone can refer back to as opposed to a verbal brief that sometimes gets lost in translation. Signed off copy is also essential. The nuances of an illustration can alter even from the slightest of copy changes.”

Nina Goodyer

Nina has a warm quality to her style through colour and texture creating a unique approachable illustrational language. We have worked with Nina on a number of occasions including clients like the NHS, The Eve Appeal and Primary Care Respiratory Society.

Nina’s top tip: “Provide previous examples of the illustrators’ work which reflect the kind of pictures you want them to make for your project. This is a helpful way to guide the illustrator and means you both know, more or less, what to expect for the final result.”

If you’re thinking of exploring an illustrative direction for a brand or project and don’t know where to start, let’s have a chat and hopefully we can give you some pointers and a bit of confidence to consider it.