“Seeing is believing.”
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Photography can be stunning and eye-catching and, occasionally, even free. Yes, photography can certainly document a story. But an illustration can go a step further, and explain it.
While I agree with what Tim stated in his 2014 article on the importance of using visuals to improve understanding, I am an Illustrator. My job is visual storytelling. I’d like to give a few examples where custom artwork is a better option than photography.
When a Photo is Impossible
There are things you simply cannot take a photo of. And they are most often ideas that creative, entrepreneurial minds dream up (and ask me to draw):
- Frogs in bathing suits.
- Angry refrigerators walking around.
- Foxes or crickets playing jazz.
- Employees or spokespeople who look like your logo.
- A giraffe skipping rope.
An illustration in such situations is the only option, unless you have your own special-effects department. And even they would have to start with drawings.
When Illustration Costs Less than a Photo
Examples of custom artwork range from modified clip-art to simple sketches to detailed, realistic illustration. I have been hired many times to create illustrations as an alternative to an expensive custom photo shoot. Even ordinary settings such as a grocery store — in one instance — would have cost a small fortune because models and props would have been needed to populate the scene.
Trademark issues — due to unintentional product-placement getting into the shot — also make for sometimes unwelcome expenses to photography.
When You’re Telling a Story
Rather than finding a photo to “fit,” we can build an illustration that visually expresses your message before your words are read. The un-photograph-able scenario will have the right mood: comical, cartoonish, gritty, technical, futuristic…. And it will draw a wider net, because a non-literal character — a mascot, a big-head caricature, a talking light bulb, tooth or alligator — is not perceived as being of a specific gender, age, or racial background.
For AlignTech’s latest website, we designed an entire new people group of bendy-armed, spindly-legged, big-chinned characters. The story of working with AlignTech to grow a business is told in an easy-to-understand comic strip style. Much more interesting than a flowchart, while less intimidating than a list of procedures and capabilities.
Another hidden cost? Invisibility! In the end, it is about whether or not readers notice your message. A unique image can help your message get noticed, and not be invisible.