Illustration vs. Design

As a creative professional, I've done a fair amount of thinking on what the difference is between being a designer and being an illustrator. I decided to share some of my thoughts here. 

Design and illustration are really two sides of the same coin. They may have different names, but when it comes right down to it, visual design and illustration set out to accomplish the same goal - visual communication.

Illustration: Something that illustrates, as a picture in a book or magazine. A comparison or an example intended for explanation or corroboration. The act or process of illuminating. The act of clarifying or explaining. 

Graphic Design: The art or profession of visual communication that combines images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience, especially to produce a specific effect. 

Both professions revolve around communicating ideas. The big differences are the elements that are used in that visual communication. Traditionally, most illustrators did not include words. They would develop an image and pass it on to the designers to plug into the overall visual strategy. 

Recently though, there has been a melding of these two fields into what Mikey Burtoncalls Designy Illustrators. As far as visual design goes - this is where the future lives. It's a time in which logos are tiny illustrations, and typography doesn't have to be a font, where designs live off the screen as much as they do on the screen, and where hand lettering is re-emerging and appreciated.

I think the combining of design and illustration really just comes down to the fact that people crave a human connection. With technology at the forefront of every industry, tangible examples of a personal presence are what will catapult brands to be industry leaders. People connect with people.

So what is the difference between illustration and design? I would say that illustration brings that human element to your communications, and design organizes those elements into a coherent direction. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! And, as always, get in touch if you have a project you'd like to discuss - or just to say hi!

- Brandon