Monday, July 30, 2007

The Illustrators Advantage

In order for you to be a great designer, do you need to be able to illustrate? Many graphic designers throughout history have been very good illustrators, but many have had very little illustration skills. Is it possible to create high quality design without knowing how to draw?

Because of the ever growing field of design, many universities are questioning their formats and some are eliminating illustration classes for graphic designers. Since my background started in illustration, I have a very hard time accepting that. I also teach illustration for graphic designers, so this happens to be a passionate issue for me.

I admit that there are some very good designers that do not have illustration skills. They rely on their design skills to put together all of their designs. In the rare cases they use illustration or photography; they hire out the freelance artist and try to translate their vision of what they want. Is that translation accurate or is the power of the marketing and/or image lost in translation.

A designer who can illustrate has several advantages over a designer who can't draw. Sketching and concepting becomes much easier. Time is less of a problem. If that designer needs an illustration, they jump on the drafting table instead of calling up five freelancers hoping that someone fits the job and is available. Having illustration skills available allows for illustration elements in the design such as a quick hand drawn decoration or character. Illustration also allows for natural effects instead of a computer generated filters creating more original looking design.

The most important thing I've noticed over the years is... Designers with no illustration background don't seem to understand general drawing or color rules. Shadows are not just black and don't just fall straight down from objects. Snow is not white and oceans are not pure blue. Perspective is not always straight on, but can be from multiple points. These and many more basic drawing techniques are very important in creating high quality art. These techniques are the first thing you learn as an illustrator and are some how ignored by much of the design community.

Let’s bring the quality back to design and lets make some gallery quality design.


  1. I agree with your opinion. When I've brought it up on forums there have been obvious hurt feelings. I guess it's a sore point with those who feel they cannot draw.

    And learning how to draw isn't so very difficult. Three months with the book 'Drawing on the right side of the brain' should take care of most fears.