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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

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The illustrator hotlist 2018 (opens in new tab)
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.

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5 inspiring illustration trends from Barcelona (opens in new tab)
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.

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5 rising stars of design from Paris (opens in new tab)
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

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10 killer examples of illustrated ad campaigns (opens in new tab)
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...

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8 inspiring uses of editorial illustration (opens in new tab)
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.

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5 reasons to use illustration in design (opens in new tab)
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.

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7 ways illustration can help a brand stand out (opens in new tab)
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

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8 expert ways to commission better illustration (opens in new tab)
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.

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4 tasks that stock imagery makes easier (opens in new tab)
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.

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Nick Carson
Nick Carson

Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards (opens in new tab) in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.