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Art Directors know that the saying “an image is worth a thousand words” is a major  understatement.

It’s only a thousand to you, in the moment you’re looking at it.

There’s also a thousand from each person who came before and after you.  Everybody sees something different. Depending on their mood or recent events, every viewer comes with a bit of baggage.

No problem right? We’ll just cut to the chase and only show them what’s important. Nothing extra.  But, as we know, that’s a lot easier said than done.

This is the reason that in a time of digital photography, graphic design, and digital manipulation the illustrator is still desired, in fact required, in a lot of advertising.

As a marketer, how do you know when it’s the right time to use an illustrator?  Well that’s simple. At minimum, you should always, at least, consider using an illustrator.

Obviously I’m a little biased but let me explain why.

1) There is a large difference between an illustrator and an artist, especially when you’re trying to sell something. Since artist’s and illustrators are often using the same craft of drawing and painting and the outcome looks similar, we can sometimes think that they are doing the same job, but they aren’t.  An artist works from a personal viewpoint, exploring their own emotions and ideas in each piece.

A good illustrator will disassociate their personal feelings, instead focusing on treatment and audience engagement. This is not to discount the importance of emotion in the illustration, especially when done for advertising. However, the focus needs to be on the customers emotion,  as it relates to the product or service – not the illustrators.

2) A great photographer can separate personal and customer emotions, but there’s a reason there is so much retouching done in photography.

Photo’s come with a lot of baggage. Whether the person in the photo looks like somebody you know, the ethnicity of the model is not quite right, you really dislike the model’s outfit, or the location is wrong.

Especially in corporate settings, I have noticed,  that issues of race, gender, fashion, location have all gotten in the way of the main idea of the photograph. This is why sometimes a simple line drawing, especially if the illustration is iconic or a cartoon, can be so effective. There is only the lines and what they mean, nothing extra.

3) A graphic designer is often quite good at Iconic illustration. It’s simple and can get to the point quickly, sometimes that’s all that’s required. But unless they have taken some time to practice their craft and make their illustrations stand out with a unique style, you’re getting an icon that any designer with a vector program can do.

Try taking it to the next level and grab a person who spends all day illustrating concepts and see where they take it. Designers and illustrators can team up to make something truly amazing.

4) Finally it’s all about that unique voice. When you’re looking at your next project and talking to your client,  you will see that maybe, to really stand out, you need a new voice. A bit of style to go along with the concept. Something that’s eye catching, exciting, and can only be done by a unique craftsman.

That craftsman is an illustrator and good illustrators can ensure the piece is designed to market an idea, service or product. The illustration needs a unique perspective and style, with as little distraction as possible. This way the picture is worth 1000 words. No more, no less.


About Michael

Michael Grills Illustration is located in Calgary Alberta Canada. The business was established in 2005 and since then I have been collaborating with design agencies, editorial, publishers, video directors, and game makers from all over the world. As well as doing art for illustration fans.