Editorial illustration

One of the most important parts of this project is to understand what an editorial illustration is, as this will help me to ensure the illustration I produce is suitable for the audience and style of publication.

I found the We Heart Illustration WordPress blog post of specific help. There are examples of editorial illustration that I have found of interest and will be most helpful later on in this project, but most importantly is the definition they provided, which I shall quote below and the above link takes you to.

“Essentially, an editorial illustration accompanies some kind of text. Put another way, the illustration illuminates some component of the text that we either do or don’t see in the article.”

So what I can take from this is there are two styles of editorial illustrations:

  1. Adds another dimension to the article not visible from reading it, sometimes this can be by providing an introduction or showing something an article can not cover, an example being political satire cartoon sketches or an image of something such as a medieval portrait of a king or queen that gives a true image not accessible in something like a novel, where the imagination can be left to the reader.
  2. To visually state the contents of the article, and as an image has a much higher chance of holding the audience’s interest, instead of losing it which would most likely happen if you turned the page and there was just a block of text that no unique design qualities to it. This is important, as I know from personal experience, if something does not catch your eye, you are unlikely to not flick the page and move onto what you do find of interest, meaning even an amazing article could be lost in the magazine.

The same principles can be applied to editorial photography as well, and it depends on what the editorial publication is about as to whether illustration or photography. When looking into this I came across Chris Haughton, who has written an article that is of great interest to me for this project. The full article can be read here, but for the purposes of my research and to show that I have interacted with it, here is my summary with a couple of my points added:


  • Can be used for a non-specific image. Example being something common to many places, and not wanting to just specifically show one place.
  • Something that is very difficult to capture in a photograph.
  • Abstract concept work.
  • Work well for information graphics.
  • Can create a more unique style which works very well for branding.
  • Humour can be expressed in a narrative style


  • Can be used to show a specific place, object or person.
  • Closer to reality, so can be more useful or informative.
  • Believability.
  • Manipulation to make changed images look real.

Now I have established this, I can go on and start research into the other areas I need to help this project be as successful as possible.


One thought on “Editorial illustration

  1. I think the point that you have picked up here about ADDING a dimension to the article is interesting. There are debates about the purpose of (any) illustration and whether or not it should actually add to or simply underline a text. Of course,when you have a person making both the text (or music) and imagery you would expect some enhancement of each. But if an illustrator is commissioned to illustrate a piece (an article or book, whatever) is it their business to take it further? I’d like to know what others think. I am not sure I have an explicit answer but I think if I wrote a text and someone then took it upon themselves to add to it through the imagery I would be worried that their interpretation was not mine. But then the importance lies in the audience…..How often do you see a new version of a loved old book and hate the new illustrations because they aren’t the ones you loved as a kid?? Then within info graphics the purpose is to actually describe the words in a simple manner. Interesting question……….

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