Whether it’s a children’s book, a website or a news report, illustrations help communicate your message instantly. They set the tone of the piece, catch the reader’s eye and hint at the emotional. Our new designer, Monika, gives us the rundown of her favourite artists to follow for illustration inspiration in 2021.
KIJO’s New UI/UX Designer – Monika Polus
Monika designs UI & UX at KIJO, creating gorgeous visual interfaces for our projects. As a graphic designer, her illustrations are inspired by nature and music, with a focus on human anatomy. She’s interested in ‘the world where conscious and unconscious meet’, as we can see in some of her dreamy designs.
Check out Monika’s portfolio here for more illustration inspiration.
How did you find Illustration and UI/UX design could work together?
I think it just happened naturally. I studied Industrial Design, specialising in furniture design, and then I switched to Graphic Design. When I graduated, I started doing a little bit of web-illustration and a little bit of UI, sometimes combining these two things.Monika Polus – UI/UX Designer at KIJO
UX (User Experience) came into focus a bit later when I had more time to think about how things work, and all kinds of different users in more detail. UX is a pretty new thing that’s still evolving, so there’s always more to learn.
Because the User Interface is the visual side of a website or app, illustrations provide a vibrancy that traditional photography can’t capture. Using graphics like these as a hero banner illustration or icons throughout a website can set the tone of a whole design.
Who to Follow for Illustration Inspiration
The best writing advice is to read as much as you can, and this goes for artists too. Any creative needs new sources of inspiration to refresh their ideas. It’s not a simple input = output learning experience, but without exposure to new images, colour schemes, styles and compositions, our wells of creativity can run dry.
Similarly, if you’re commissioning a website or app and know you want illustrations, have a browse. If you can tell your designers what style you’d like in detail, they’ll be more confident creating something they know you’ll love.
Here’s our 2021 rundown of the best artists and graphic designers to follow for illustration inspiration.
Futuristic Faces – Maciek Wolanski
Wolanski’s illustrations feature giant, brightly coloured heads in futuristic, often alien settings. These images make contrast a theme, with complimentary colours, such as blue and orange used here, pick out light and dark to create 3-Dimensional depth. There is contrast too in the scales used, placing an enormous, disembodied head in front of a tiny exploring figure.
Industrial Comics – Krzysztof Nowak
Nowak’s detailed line drawings capture the interaction of our mechanised world and the humans inhabiting it. This piece is almost like an L. S. Lowry painting, with tiny figures dwarfed by industrial surroundings. The muted colour scheme highlights the blocks of freight carriers in the foreground and the much larger blocks of buildings in the distance. Nowak’s stylised figures have character, using sharp lines and angles to create movement.
Fantastical Characters – Geneva Bowers
Geneva Bowers creates magical characters with her illustrations, showing them relaxing among dragons or with their heads literally in the clouds. We love the adorable faces and striking colours in these pieces.
Bringing Stories to Life – Dani Pendergast
Dani Pendergast creates beautiful digital portraits full of movement and magic. Her use of bright colours, layering and natural forms bring stories, both fact and fiction, to a new dimension.
Foodie Detail – Eliana Rodgers
Eliana Rodgers is making us hungry with her digital rendering of these pancakes. This Brooklyn-based artist uses detailed illustration and black outlines to create colourful depictions of global foods and urban life.
Vibrant Brush Strokes – Niege Borges
Borges has a great eye for colour, using bold brush strokes to build texture and shadow into her illustrations. The painterly quality of each piece shows she is unafraid of patterns and has a practiced eye for anatomy. We love this image of women sitting and standing together in their boldest outfits, from patterned jumpsuits to dressing gowns.
Emo Aesthetics – Zoe Paterson
Graphic designer Zoe Paterson takes us right back to 2005 with her illustrations for the ’emo diary’ zine. Her candy-cane colour schemes and distressed textures are perfect pop-punk designs. But that’s not all: this Birmingham-based Illustrator’s portfolio speaks to a huge range of illustrative skills.
Psychadelic Pen & Ink – Richey Beckett
Richie Beckett has designed artwork and posters for The Pixies and other amazing bands. His beautiful use of pen and ink creates detailed portraits which are at once reminiscent of Grateful Dead album artwork and Pre-Raphaelite paintings.
Simple Lines – Charlotte Ager
Charlotte Ager’s illustrations evoke a childish naivety, but the sense of depth, perspective and movement shows real skill. With textured colour blocking, experiments with scale and humorous scenarios, Ager’s illustrations offer a gentle and whimsical approach.
Body Positive Power – Meg Garrod
Meg Garrod‘s striking illustrations show bodies for what they are – normal. With stretch-marks, rolls, scars and hair, Garrod turns an unflinching look at how we look into adorable celebrations of our bodies. She even makes these fabulous images into stickers, notebooks and decorative plates.
Inspiration from Illustrators Around the World
To get the most out of exploring illustrators for inspiration, we recommend casting a wide net. This article includes work by illustrators from across Europe and America, but there are plenty more out there to find.
When you see an illustration that inspires you, its a good idea to keep a note of what exactly about it caught your attention. Is it the colour contrast? What about the texture? Do you like the composition, the way the objects sit together on the page? When creating illustrations, you can look back at these notes and experiment to find your own unique style.