Illustration goes way back, back to the era of newspapers and storybooks. However, the past few years have seen companies consider it a crucial element of User Interface design in their sites and mobile apps.

These sketches help business owners relate with their audiences at an advanced level: They also enhance functionality in many ways. For example, in blogs and articles, the illustrations help explain concepts further and challenge the reader to ponder the illustrated theme or idea.

Beyond serving as backup explanations for written text, graphic design experts now use illustrations in instructional videos to explain procedures (or steps).

As a wanna-be graphic design artist, this segment matters because companies now value a user-friendly interface. Slowly, they’re replacing real-life photographs because they don’t restrict how far you can go in terms of expressing ideas.

But where do you learn concept sketching? Where do you get the jobs, and who are some of the best illustrators to follow?

In this article

  • What is it?
  • What is its role in UI?
  • How to get started
  • Where to learn?
  • Famous illustrators to follow
  • Why business value concept sketchers


What Is Illustration?

It refers to the visual representation of a particular concept, thought, or process. These images intend to reinforce or clarify or explain the info that someone gathers from an information source. Many times, these sources are text or video.

To illustrate itself means “to shed light on a matter,” so its whole point is to assist the viewer or reader expand their imagination or comprehend a particular topic.

Over the years, these visual elements have appeared in virtually all sorts of content e.g.

  • Bulletins
  • Product manuals
  • Newspapers
  • Flyers
  • Academic content

Then a new era of tech dawned to welcome a whole new world of troves digital illustration.

Thanks to its elegance and flexibility, this approach continues to popularize, with more sites and apps coming onboard. Brands use these visual features to increase usability, spark the right emotional and add looks to the UI.

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The Role of Illustration in UI

Concept sketches are more of a functional than a decorative feature. Their role is to pass a clear message and make the engagement easier and more thought-provoking.

Still, they multitask as attractive features drawing customer attention to your content. As a graphic designer, you can be tasked with projects such as:

  • Theme pictures
  • Infographics
  • Images for blog content
  • Instructional tutorials and training videos
  • Narration & storytelling
  • Marketing content
  • System messages
  • Visual identifiers for various content categories
  • Guides in mobile apps

So why are website owners pacing the shift towards conceptual images and sketches in place of real-life photographs?

How to Get Started with Illustration

We know that intuitive sketches help engage and guide shoppers throughout the customer journey. But how do you get started as an illustrator? Should you start sketching by hand or jump straight into design software? Can you hit the ground running alone or need to attend classes?

These are common questions among wanna-be illustrators looking to make a living through this hot career.

1.     Familiarize Yourself with the Art

Maybe you’ve never sketched anything before and feel like this isn’t the job for you. However, because these elements hinge more on UI functionality than just visual appeal, practicing can sharpen your skills.

2.     Understand why sketches matter to companies

First, it’s essential to understand why brands illustrate concepts. Sketches on a page aren’t a shortcut strategy for sites that lack original photographs. Rather, it is a customer engagement tool that can bring more benefits to a firm if tapped into.

3.     Learn to be flexible

Second, you must fit a brand’s shoe (and learn its audience) to create content that sends accurate messages. Today, you draw sketches for a finance website. Tomorrow you wind up with a website that cares for pets. Unless you learn to fit your client’s shoe, illustrating some topics can be a hard nut to crack.

4.     Get used to online processes

Lastly, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with online processes and the customer journey. That way, you can relate when a client says, “I need sketches to complement the text on my checkout page.”

Understanding your clients’ needs soon as they share instructions helps you develop creative and relevant sketches.

5.     Explore your creativity

Beyond understanding all the above, it’s crucial to practice the art of creativity. If you aren’t a natural at this, go through lots of sketches to see what other illustrators do. Other people’s work can inspire you to explore your creativity.

Where to Learn Illustration

Illustrating concepts sounds like an easy yet complex thing to do for a living. It’s even worse if you’ve never tried art before. But with experts around, and lots of time to learn (and practice), you can start and get better.

Plus, it takes more than good drawing skills to thrive in this field. Maybe you have an essential tool, the knack to create sketch concepts that resonate with your audience.

Must You Go to Campus?

A bone of contention on the matter, however, is whether going to university is a prerequisite to succeed in this career.

Well, it’s okay to pursue a degree if you have the time and money. You also learn everything from scratch and enter the market ready to thrive. But most importantly, you benefit from the support and ideas of colleagues.

Still, that doesn’t mean you cannot begin without a concept sketching degree. Some people learn better on the job than in class. Plus, you can take advantage of the many online platforms teaching this skill, join communities, and network with others to learn more.

Best Places to Learn Illustration

With many ways to study this art, you’re sure to find one approach that works for you. From online platforms to books that teach sketching and conceptualization, below are some of the best places to start.

Online platforms

Online courses offer flexibility. They are also a cheaper way to get quality knowledge without breaking the bank. Below are some places to attend concept sketching courses:

  • Skillshare
  • Udemy
  • Pluralsight
  • Sinixdesign
  • Savannah College of Art & Design
  • Cornish College of the Arts on Kadenze
  • Lynda
  • CreativeLive
  • Society of Visual Storytelling
  • London Art College

Learn through YouTube Channels

YouTube is undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to access virtually all sorts of info in video format. But with lots of content and millions of YouTubers posting, you must purpose to subscribe to the right channel. Follow these YouTube channels to get better at illustrating.

  • Will Terrell
  • Draw with Jazza
  • Willy Terry
  • Brandon Green

Best Concept Sketching Reads

You can gain lots of inspiration and knowledge from books that teach sketching & conceptualization.

The following reads break down the art of concept sketching in just a few pages and share lots of examples to keep you engaged.

  • Creative illustration
  • Universal principles of design
  • Illustration that works

Be patient. Learn the basics then you can start trying the intricate. After months of practice and lots of samples, you can apply as a pro on Bunny Studio and start meeting clients.

For now, let’s get some inspiration from expert graphic designers.

Famous Illustrators to Draw Inspiration From

If you want to thrive in this job, be ready to deliver because your predecessors have already set the bar high.

Graphic artists who draw sketches win contracts with the biggest companies you can think of. Following their works might inspire your art in one way or another.

Meet some of the best illustrators of the digital world.

1.     Gail Amstrong (illustrationX)

Gail Armstrong is a paper artist who develops 3D images of humans, homes, land, and animals.  One of her best pieces featured in National Geographic. Soon after, he won projects with Anchor Butter, Rotary Watches, and Milkybar.

2.     Iker Ayestaran (Shannon Associates)

Iker Ayestara is a Spanish-based master of Graphic, Digital, and Goucher art. His pieces ate texture-rich, soft-lined, and retro-colored.

Iker works time and again for well-known news sources, including The New York Times, Fortune, Variety, The Washington Post, to mention a few.

3.     Mercedes deBellard (Folio)

She is a graphic expert from Madrid who’s best known for her stunning portraits. Her lifelike drawings seem to speak to you, and most are well-known people.

De Bellard has worked for Warner Brothers, The Sunday Times & Random House.

4.     Morten Morland (Début Art)

Morten is a London-based Norwegian who’s been drawing cartoons for The Times for the last two decades. The artist focuses on political sketches and is indeed a guru at what he does.

5.     Michael Driver(Folio)

Like Morten Morland, Micheal Drive also lives and does his art in London. Apart from developing fictitious make-believe characters, she textures for companies like Apple & The Guardian. He also works for, guess who? Deliveroo!


Why Business Value Illustration

Sketching jobs won’t go anywhere. Not anytime soon. Website owners now understand their vital role of these visual elements in passing messages and engaging clients. However, that’s not all. Below are the far-reaching benefits of concept sketches to websites.

  • Build a unique intuitive website. As stressed throughout the post, your work should help brands stand out as we migrate to an era of experience. How would you like to be the face of a company?
  • Make the most of moving sketches. Though most concept sketches are static, you can go the extra mile and learn how to create a moving illustration. Brands fancy this because it’s harder to ignore a picture that seems to move.
  • Cut costs. Photographs still play a vital role in branding, but sites find them quite burdensome and expensive. Instead of hiring models and an entire studio, they prefer to work with an illustrator.
  • A consistent theme. Concept sketches allow you to maintain a constant theme throughout the customer journey. This coherence is crucial in branding, marketing, and earning customer trust.
  • Narrate stories. Hands down, sketches remain the best accompaniment for narrative texts. Instead of long paragraphs that web users hardly read, brands want artists who can help tell stories through visual elements.
  • Flaunt brand personality. Sketching is a simple way to express your company’s personality. These images speak volumes at a glance and can tell more about you even in your absence.

Lastly, as websites steer clear of liabilities due to copyright issues, they’ll come searching for graphic artists like you.