An illustration is a versatile means of expressing a message.  Used in web design, illustration helps to provide a visual representation or example of what is being shared, making it a message clear.  It also offers an attractive or aesthetic element to a website.

If you’re using illustration to add to your website, using it to its full potential means creating an attractive or decorative message.  This will help you get the most out of illustration.  Let’s explore what it means to use illustration in website design, and what can be done to use illustration to its full potential.


Branding is used to create an emotional message which transcends the product and gives it a meaning.  When you create a website, you want the design to give visual representation to a business.  A website needs to give a visual feel to a client’s brand.

This means creating a visual impact.  When viewers land on a site, it should be memorable.

Illustration helps to create a memorable site because it gives a site uniqueness.  Whether you use eye-catching graphics or vector designs, your site will stand out from the competition.

Visual Appeal

When a site uses illustration, it will have an instant visual appeal.  Many companies use stock photos to add a graphic element to their sites.  However, stock photos are not unique, and not created in accordance with your brand.  As a result, your site may fade into the background.  Illustration fits in with your brand, adding an element which instantly identifies your company and makes it stand out.

An example of a site which uses fun illustrations to create a unique and exciting brand story is Luhse Tea.  This tea stands out from the competition and identifies itself as a unique but delicious and memorable brand.

Illustrations tell a story

In addition to creating an interesting and unique appeal, illustration helps to tell a story.  Some sites use illustration storyboards or slideshows to put across a message in a way which is appealing to clients or viewers.

When illustration tells a story, it can share how a brand is able to add to people’s lives, offer service or meet a need.  An original and very human story helps to connect with viewers.

An example of this is the WWF Website, which uses colorful images in the form of a slide show.   Instead of using words and statistics, WWF gives customers a clear message using an illustration.

Illustrations add interest

Long and involved messages can be hard to understand, and numbers and charts are often confusing.  Very often, viewers may feel overwhelmed or even bored by stats.

However, you can add zest to your message by using an illustration.  If you don’t have an illustrator to add unique images to your site, you can learn Adobe Illustrator by following a few simple tutorials.

Use different styles

Websites rely on hierarchy in order to communicate important messages.  Using different styles of illustration can enable you to draw attention to navigation buttons or calls to action.  These are the elements of your site that you would like to stand out.

Creating contrast often helps a design element to stand out.  If your illustrations are heavy and rough, you could create a user interface which uses sharp edges.  If illustrations are monochromatic, use design to create brightly colored navigation buttons or calls to action.

Illustrations can be used to create themes

Illustrations can be used to create a theme for a website.  This might mean using images of mountains and lakes for a nature-based company or using architectural blueprints for a building and design company.

An illustration may also be used to identify a company’s location.  In other words, a company can use illustration to identify a company.  Illustration becomes the most prominent feature on a site, and this helps to create a unique image for a company.


Mascots provide a friendly and approachable character for a brand.  The Kellogg’s Rice Krispie characters Snap, Crackle, and Pop provide images of friendly mascots who help to define a brand.

Mascots help to identify and give personality to a site.  Using a character provides a face for the company which is able to talk to your customers.  This gives your brand a ‘human’ element and helps to make it memorable.

Illustrative Decoration

This means that illustration is used to decorate a site, offering an underlying framework or style.

However, the goal is not to represent a person, product or place, but simply to offer a sense of style or structure.  This style helps the site to connect with an audience.  Very often simple drawings and well-chosen colors add an aesthetic appeal to the site.

Illustrated Text

Creating text out of hand renderings is an opportunity to create a unique design or style for a site.  This is a great way to put your art school experience to work in order to create a distinctly individual element to your site.

Hand rendered type can be used to demonstrate a purpose.  A creative website can use illustrated text to demonstrate talent in the arts, careful craftsmanship or the uniqueness of a product.

Keep it simple

Simple illustrations help create an attractive image which informs your readers but doesn’t overwhelm them.

Keep illustrations informative

Aesthetic illustrations keep your site looking good, and this is important.  However, using illustration can help your site to share a message with your viewer.

Illustration can be used purposefully.  When designing your site, ask yourself why you would need to add to add illustrations, and how they will contribute to the goals of your site.  This will help with conceptualizing your illustrations.

Plan your designs before incorporating them into the website.  You can use pen and paper or a whiteboard to map out your designs.  This will help you to create an abundance of ideas before venturing into the digital realm.

You can then draw on similar ideas and find inspirational images.  Explore graphic design galleries and take notes on how the designers have brought their designs to fruition.  How are they similar or different to what you would like to achieve?  How would you like to use color?  How does illustration relate to content?

Ending thoughts

Illustrations add uniqueness to your site, adding personality and a sense of warmth.  Your goal as a web designer is to ensure it is used with purpose, communicating a message to your audience.

This means ensuring that there is a clear distinction between elements which share a message and those which encourage your audience to interact.  This will enable your viewers to navigate your site clearly, and take actions such as signing up for a newsletter.

It also means assisting viewers with understanding a product or service, ensuring that the site is not only beautiful but meaningful for viewers.

About the Author

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Bogdan Sandu

Bogdan is a designer and editor at DesignYourWay. He's reading design books the same way a hamster eats carrots, and talks all the time about trends, best practices and design principles.