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The designer's guide to illustration

Illustration is a beautifully expressive, versatile artform. It can add impact, style and personality to any graphic design project. But it's not always easy to get right.

Whether you're visualising an abstract concept, bringing some highly complex subject matter to life, telling a compelling story, or just adding a touch of stylistic beauty to a piece of work, the possibilities are endless with illustration.

Part of the beauty of working with an illustrator is they can be based literally anywhere, and with talented practitioners all over the world to choose from, it can be a challenge in itself choosing the right style for the job.

In an ideal world, everyone would commission and art direct something bespoke, but if you don't have the time or budget to do so, there are also thousands of quality illustrations to be found in stock libraries.

So read on for our essential guide to getting more from illustration in your design work. We will continue to add to this list in the coming months...

01. Inspiring illustrators to commission

The illustrator hotlist 2018
Whether you're looking for the best illustrators to hire, collaborate  with or inspire you, we've gathered together the most exciting up-and-coming artists to whet your appetite.

5 inspiring illustration trends from Barcelona
Soak up the Catalonian capital's vivid colours and dynamic vibe. Featured trends include dynamic eclecticism, vivid Mediterranean colours, playful optimism, simple beauty, and the blending of illustration and design.

5 rising stars of design from Paris
Be inspired by these ones to watch in design and illustration from the chic French capital, including Frederic Tacer, Playground, Le Duo, Akatre and Violaine & Jérémy.

02. Tips for using illustration in design

10 killer examples of illustrated ad campaigns
Whether it's creating fantastical worlds, grabbing attention with on-trend styles or conveying abstract ideas, illustration can be a fantastic communication tool for advertisers. Read on for 10 stand-out illustrated ad campaigns, created for household-name brands in recent years...

8 inspiring uses of editorial illustration
Master the art of designing with illustration with these standout examples of editorial work from around the world. Featuring Vice, The Sunday Telegraph, Dance Gazette, FT Weekend, The Observer, The Economist, WIRED and Weapons of Reason.

5 reasons to use illustration in design
Why you should choose illustration for your next design project: you want to express something abstract, the subject is too ambitious to photograph, you want to tell a story, you have some data to visualise, or a particular style is required.

7 ways illustration can help a brand stand out
Illustration can make a brand more playful, more charming, more accessible or more beautiful – perhaps even all of the above. But brands don't always get it right. We look at seven brands that used illustration to emphasise their brand values.

03. Illustration commissioning advice

8 expert ways to commission better illustration
Pro art direction tips, which cover choosing the right style, considering composition, setting a detailed brief, discussing references, brainstorming concepts, collaborating on layouts, and giving direction with annotations.

4 tasks that stock imagery makes easier
Make your stock assets work harder, and your life easier, on common illustration tasks such as adding depth and texture to your artwork, and developing UI elements for a digital design.