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What is illustration and wondering about broader definitions | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

What is illustration and wondering about broader definitions

what is illustration

Before I start I should just outline that I’m being a bit facetious with my “what is illustration” diagram. To some degree I think it’s not that helpful to lock any term up because it doesn’t allow for adjustment of definition over time as things evolve. It’s also a circular debate that doesn’t really prove anything in the end. But I was wondering about illustration in terms of design so I’m going to throw out the question. In terms of “Graphic Design”, graphics design has a different meaning, so does graphic artist. I prefer “design” myself as it allows for a lot broader and deep view of things, though “UX” is creeping in quite quickly. Then on top of all that there’s the management that goes along with those services. That got me to think about illustration—where does that fall into the spectrum?

Let’s say you you pick your favourite illustration and assume that many people worked to get the image out there. The image finds itself it the portfolios of the illustrator, the designer that art–directed the piece and the studio that the client started working with. Each of those three entities have a legitimate right to show the work. But then client “B” comes along. They look at each of the three portfolios—each site gives the work different context. So who does the client hire and can they expect the exact same thing in terms of quality? This is where my question of illustration falls. Each of those three types of creative can manage without the other, but can the broader term for illustration be claimed as design like a designer or studio can? Keep in mind that there’s many great illustrators that are better art–directors then art–directors that can illustrate—I’m talking about the general illustrator term… So if it’s not design, it’s probably not art so what is it—or am I just full of something?

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  • http://www.twitter.com/turuk Mark Turuk

    cross-context effectiveness / perception

  • http://andyjacobson.com/ andyjacobson

    Maybe it's because I don't have any formal training, and my mentor, Tibor Kalman, didn't as well, that I believe anyone, with the right “DNA” can create visual treatments to help clients sell their products or services.

    Your question,”who does the client hire…” is a good one. My answer; they hire the the person who understands their needs, has a proven track record, and a rolodex full of talented people. And yes, sometimes that person is called an Illustrator (and sometimes they're not).