Saturday, February 17, 2007

Illustration as artistic realism

I was interested in looking at how illustrations were used in advertising. Wondering what makes a company choose to use illustration rather than photography to communicate their product message.

I like the way Leland Eve describes the use of illustration:

Illustration has always been a powerful and versatile communication tool. It is able to speak in a way that design and photography cannot and is used across almost every industry. Businesses are using illustration more and more everyday to help sell products, attract consumers to services, promote retail stores and even in their identity. Illustrators are able to bring a unique perspective and vision to each project. Where pictures say a thousand words, illustration can say so much more.

The fact that illustrators bring unique perspective and vision to a project I think is the heart of why this medium is chosen. Although photographs can be manipulated in very sophisticated ways now, I think that an illustration's rendering of "reality" can be more eye catching. Some illustrations are so real, it's difficult to tell that they are not photographs. Take, for example, the Ritz cracker web site. They offer the viewer the opportunity to see the myriad ways one can stack a Ritz and get the recipe if one appeals to them. This could have been done as a photograph, but the illustration adds a different level of animation that a photograph might not -- the box glows and ties in nicely with the illustration of the recipe "treasure chest" in the lower left corner and their web navigation. The stacking motion is effectively done as an illustration. Even as I write this, I am questioning whether it is a photograph or not....I think that Nabisco is also trying to appeal to kids on their site by offering games, which are also illustrations. Since this is a product that appeals to both kids and adults, illustrations are an effective way to advertise.

The Picture Grill site features some of the illustration work they have done for product advertisement. Here, it seems that illustration allows for "exaggeration." The illustrator is exaggerating real movement and expression. For example, the lunch, including Doritos, that is "bursting" out of the lunch box. Same thing with the illustration of the person "pouring" two bags of potato chips into his mouth and the Gillette shaving cream "floating" through the clouds. Illustration adds animation to a still picture, often in an exaggerated way that might not be captured in a photograph.

Illustrations are often more eye-catching than photos, sometimes, I think because they are so real that we are intrigued by them (causing us to look at them longer -- particularly helpful if it's a product ad).

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