Illustrations take centre stage

One of the more interesting challenges I’ve witnessed in the world of marketing digital products is that of image selection. I’ve watched whole design teams mull over the debate, usually ending up in one of two places:

  1. Product UI shots & GIF’s
  2. Editorial/Lifestyle photography

The former emphasizes the in-product experience, features, and functionality, while the latter tries to emphasize the product’s human dimension: the effect it has on people’s lives.

But heading into 2018, we’re seeing — and will continue to see — the work of illustrators attain an all-new prominence in both marketing and product design.

Why this is happening fascinates me, and I can’t decide exactly what it is. Perhaps it’s just the same cyclicality we’ve long observed in the world of fashion — after all, illustration dominated the advertising world up till the late 60s or so.

Or, maybe Dropbox’s design team was onto something with this explanation of their new illustration style:

We create rough sketches using graphite, then pair them with colorful, abstract shapes to bring the creative process to life. Our style is inspired by the moment when you first have an idea, and serves as a reminder that the “canvas is only blank until you make the first mark.”

I mean … they had to be onto something with this redesign … right?

Illustrations can also be very powerful in bringing more abstract concepts to vivid life, as you can see in Shopify’s Polaris site. With a single drawing, Shopify clarifies that the Polaris design system is intended to serve as a guiding light — a north star — for every member of the team.

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