Specialising in Illustration

Starting a career in Graphic Design can be daunting. Not only do many people believe it’s a hard industry to find a job in, but there are also many different areas that you can specialise in. Logo design, advertising, publishing, and web design are only a few. When starting out, most young designers would like to do it all. But after you’ve read a few blogs and interviews with other established designers, you’ll find that not many recommend trying to do everything. So how do you choose which direction you want to go in? Follow your passion and do what you enjoy. Illustration can be one of the most rewarding disciplines to find yourself working in. It can involve anything from hand drawn sketches to photography to collage. The possibilities are endless with a creative mind behind the wheel.

Employment for Illustration has grown at a rate of 11.6% over the past 5 years according to Open Universities Australia, indicating that this is an area of Graphic Design that is certainly expanding. Although this is the case, there are also a larger number of designers interested in this field and moving into it. This means that there is more competition for both employment within a design studio and freelance work being offered by other companies.


In order to stay with or come out in front of the pack, it is essential that you keep an eye on the current trends as well as try to predict for yourself what future trends may come about. How do you do this? Unless you have a crystal ball, the best way is to watch websites such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Behance which are great sources of what other artists are working on both personally and professionally. Illustrationroom.com.au is another website to draw inspiration from that features many artists and their portfolios.


So what trends might be making an appearance in the future you ask? Here are a few styles that have been either making more of or are anticipated to make an appearance now and in the near future.


Line Art





Line art are images that consist of distinct straight and curved lines. There are no gradients, shades or hues. These images are generally created with black ink on a white background however can be created with other mediums. An amazing technique, line art has some surprising and unique results. It is modern and simplistic with a hand crafted element to it. The lines and shapes used within create a new and appealing representation of the subject.


Hand Rendered Art/Hand-crafted





Hand rendered art includes pencil sketches, charcoal and ink drawings, water colours even collage. This particular style helps people to relate to the image on a more personal level, it provides a human element to an image which is increasing in popularity. There also appears to be more experimentation happening with the mixing of mediums such as ink and water colours. Although this trend appears to have been around for a few years, it shows no sign of fading out just yet.


Flat Illustration








Flat design has become an increasing trend in web design and has already started to find its way into other areas of design such as logo design and packaging. It is not an easy style to produce but when done correctly it can make a massive impact. It’s only logical that it will find its way into Illustration. After all, a simple design requires simple elements to keep it true to the style. Illustrators have started and will continue creating flat illustrations to be used on flat designed websites. As flat design continues to increase in popularity in other areas so too will flat illustration.


Bright, bold colours



With the appearance of Flat design in Illustration, this will also bring with it the need to use bright, bold colours. Although these colours may be found more in a flat designed illustration, it will more than likely move into other types of illustration also. Dull, dark tones will be out, leaving behind a nice bright future.


As with any trends, how long they will stay around is not known. Their lifespan relies heavily on how frequently they are used, whether they are used appropriately, and how quickly they evolve into something else. So how do you capitalise on these trends while they are indeed trends? What skills will help you? If you’re an Illustrator, the odds are you’ll already have the skills you need. If you work mainly with digital art, it might be an idea however to brush up on your pencil sketching and using different traditional mediums such as charcoal, ink or even paints. Study the flat designed websites to get an idea of what their illustrations requirements will be. For line art, practice drawing a range of subjects with only lines and see what you can do.


Not sure how to develop these skills? Enrol in some art workshops in your local area, start an art class, search YouTube and subscribe to different YouTube channels. Check out websites such as Skillshare and Lynda.com. Your local Library or bookstore if you’re wanting to expand your own collection, should have numerous books that will be helpful to your development. Even trusted old Google can help you on your way by searching for tutorials in the area you are trying to improve in. As many artists will tell you, the main way to develop your skills is practice, practice, and more practice. Set some time aside every day and do exactly that. It will be time well spent.


Whether or not you follow current or future trends is entirely up to you. There are many who look at trends as more of a guide of what not to do, rather than what to do. There are also many Illustrators who would advise against following trends. When asked what advice they would give to people just starting out in the industry, many say not to follow trends, ignore them and stay true to your style. On the website Illustration Mundo, Ryan Inzana said in an interview “…don’t be so concerned with what other people are doing, trends and styles. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. Have some faith in what you do and don’t be so concerned how the hipster-committee weighs in.” If you’re only starting out, you may not have much of a choice. You’re happy to take whatever paid work you can get. If you’re going to follow a trend whether by choice or necessity, inject your own style into it as much as you can, and make it work to your advantage. If you persevere and work hard, you will surely find yourself with a successful career in Illustration.

Written By: Sharon Wyer

Image Credits








  • umanbn

    A great article and I agree, illustration is definitely on the up and up. I think one reason is that just about everyone has a camera phone and is able to manipulate and share images across the web, but it takes a lot more skill, ingenuity and training to illustrate something. I think for this reason, whether its hand drawn or computer generated, original, skilled illustration is growing as it can do things photography and other media can’t.
    Mark @ http://trendillustrated.com/