Monday, June 18, 2012

Illustrations or Photography?

One of the more common questions I get asked as a graphic design teacher is when to use an illustration or a photograph in a layout. This is a very broad question and one that is more complicated than you would think. Each has its benefits and drawbacks and it is up to you as a designer to decide which direction to know. Many things in a project will dictate. You might decide based on the budget, previously established brand standards, the wish of the client or the timing available. PHOTOGRAPHS Photographs have the amazing ability to be very diverse and also convey a feeling and emotion in a very short period of time. It can also get to your brand, demographic and location very quickly. They can also be shown in black and white, color and be altered to convey a specific graphic style that corresponds to current trends. Photographs are also very comfortable for most people and they do not require a lot of explanation and appeal to a wide range of people. In the world of digital photographs, they also can be obtained very quickly.
The downside of photographs can be if you are restrained to using stock, you may spend a lot of time and energy looking for one that is not right. Photography can also be very expensive if you go out on a shoot. They can also be limiting in terms of their dimensionality, space and they also have to stay within the constraints of the earth. I also think photographs can be limiting in that you get what you have shot and they cannot be altered as easily once taken.
ILLUSTRATIONS Illustrations are created by very talented artists of all styles and so can be hugely different and diverse from one to another. They also are usually less expensive to create and can be edited more easily, in some cases if they were created digitally. They also can distort space so that dimensionality and proximity are more open. The sense of what relates and scale is totally up to the artist. The colors, interpretation and timeline is completely open and so the possibilities are endless. Illustrations are so wonderfully imaginative and can add so much to a space or piece of design. The downside to illustrations is that unlike photographs, you cannot see the results immediately. The timing can vary based on the artist and because they are so open to interpretation by the artist and the viewer, the meaning and message can become lost. The vision of the director can be harder to verbalize and it can also be hard to find an illustrator that can pull of the style you have in mind. I am also of the opinion that illustrations can be harder to crop and adjust to various formats. The greatest treat as a designer is when you can use both in a wonderful mash up to create something that uses the best of both worlds. In either case, both photography and illustrations have wonderful options. The timing, budget and resources of your project will usually lead you easily to one or the other.