Functions of Illustration

Illustration can be used to ‘comment’ on a particular subject, and to therefore, be expressive and in turn, form an opinion. The most effective method being, where you the illustrator, begin to express your own feeling, or, discover truths about a subject and pass it on, thereby creating an opinion to a wider audience. It is one of the most interesting and complex aspects of illustration, where illustrators start to express their own feelings on a subject.

‘Commentable’ illustration should be conceptually strong and original in approach and can sometimes draw upon strategies such as subverting texts/images plus the use of visual metaphors.

‘Informing’, is to explain something, or define literally. Informative or explanatory illustration can be seen within diagrams and has a capacity to show places, activities or things that we are unable to see directly from one fixed viewpoint in the real world or display material of a factual nature.

‘Decorating’ can punctuate, alleviate or illuminate a text. It can take the form of an arrangement or composition, act as a frame or rule, break-up an area and provide ‘light relief’ to texts or typography.


Produce one completed visual proposal for each of the defined functions of illustration – commentable, informative and decorative – relating to a topical news item or issue of your choice.

To assist you in this process, a series of newspapers have been provided as a starting point, but your selected topic could equally originate from an existing interest or perhaps linked to a campaign issue that you are passionate about. Essentially, you will need to find a piece of text or texts to enable you to interpret and realise the potential of, in relation to the requirements of this unit.

Consideration should also be given to the ‘end user context’ for each of the visual proposals, which could range from a magazine, book, t-shirt, advertisement, newspaper article, web-site etc., with particular reference and appropriateness to a print or screen-based audience. Ultimately, your final outcomes must be seen within a context, i.e. a relevant newspaper spread, magazine article, website, T-shirt design etc.

Ultimately, your final three visual proposals need to clearly reflect your understanding of the various characteristics of each of the roles that illustration performs.

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