Illustrated Visual Communication for the Online World
As a means of conveying messages and ideas, illustration has long been central to visual communication. At the turn of the c. 20th, the surge in American and European print-based publishing incubated what became commercial illustration. Today however, the primary medium in which illustrated works exist is not one of mechanical reproduction, but rather the various interfaces of the mediasphere.
When online, images exist as data, irrespective of how they were created. The desktop monitors that display images have, since 2008, been joined by the touchscreens of mobile devices. As a result we are continuously surrounded by web images. Without the inherent stability of print, artwork now dwells in a medium where scale and dimensions are subject to flux. In addition, the ever-wider adoption of broadband has made possible the use of motion in otherwise static illustrated images. As the internet has matured into web2, the place where many first encounter images is not at the url where they are published. Instead, the initial contact with images happens on search engine result pages, and the scrolling feeds of social networks.
In 2022 global internet usage stands at around two thirds of the world’s population. To navigate web2 presumes user familiarity with digital symbols. Many of these are provided freely by Google, and are considered a standard convention for desktop and mobile use. The global community recognises these recurring internet symbols and can infer what is meant when they appear in software interfaces. Given our growing fluency with digital symbols, it is clear why they appear in illustrated content, particularly digital product illustration which can be seen on user-facing apps and websites. By definition, illustration must communicate something particular, and these symbols are a way to speak in the language of today’s internet. Historically, changes in print reproduction have affected the commercial art field. Similarly, the evolving web is almost certain to influence the production of illustrated images, and how onlookers interact with visual works.