Why Illustrations Are Key to Great User Interfaces

Illustration is one way to ensure that your UIs create delightful experiences. Here's how they can make your UI awesome!

Jay Perlman

I don't know you. Probably not, at least.

BUT! Even though we haven't met personally, I can guess with a high degree of certainty that I know the first thing you do when you wake up every morning.

You roll over to the side of your bed, grab your phone, and start scrolling through your favorite apps.

Am I right? Of course I'm right! If you're reading this then there's a 99.99% chance that apps and technology are a ubiquitous part of your life. Which is great!

The fact is that the vast majority of us are perpetually plugged into the digital world, and everyday more apps and products are vying to capture our valuable attention. You might even be helping create one of these apps!

But what is it that hooks someone to a product? Why do some apps keep us more engaged than others? One of the main reasons is good UI; a functional and beautiful user interface is a key factor in keeping people engaged with an application or website.

Creative UI created with the 'Shiny Happy' illustration systen by Blush

So how does one go about making user interfaces that are both effective and visually pleasing? The answer is, of course, illustrations!

The breakdown on illustration

Illustration, simply put, is the visual aspect of a story or message. It acts as an additional form of communication that fills in the space that copy can't. In other words, illustration is a stylish way of clarifying an idea. It's the artistic tool for helping someone understand information.

Just think of illustration as a beautiful form of storytelling. It's a combination of doodles, characters, colors, shapes, and other catchy visual elements that shine light on a message or story.

Many of us may think that when it comes to UI, interacting with a product or an app can seem pretty straightforward, but the truth is that it's a very fine line between super-duper simple and ultra-stressful-mega complicated.

The use of illustration and the combination of beautiful doodles, fun characters, and well-placed scenes help make this digital interaction much more simple, thus making the user experience delightful and memorable.

This is just one of the basics on how important illustration is for quality UI, but if you want more cool ways in which illustration enhances user experience, then keep on scrolling.

Illustrations travel at warp speed

How long did it take you to read those last few paragraphs? A couple of minutes? That's a lifetime longer than what it would take you to mentally process an illustration!

According to some of the leading neuroscientists at MIT, "the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds."

That. Is. Wild.

Illustrations: Croods by Vijay Verma

This means that when it comes to user interfaces, illustrations can turn messages into lightning-quick digital interactions. UI that has doodles and other visual elements is likely to convey an idea much more quickly than UI with just text and empty space.

This is one of the most important factors of designing high-quality UI and delightful user experience: the quicker a user understands a product, the faster that person starts to fall in love with the service.

It should be music to your artistic ears that illustrations transmit an idea at mind-boggling speeds, but speedy messages aren't all that a splendid illustration is good for.

Illustration is versatile

The ways in which illustration is used is vast. Especially within the modern digital realm, illustration is essentially everywhere.

Here are just a few of the ways in which fun customizable illustrations can be used:

  • Onboarding processes
  • Website and app design
  • Social media and advertisement graphics
  • Email banners
  • Gift wrapping or packaging
  • Visual support for company blogs
  • Brand characters and company mascots
  • Notifications and alert visuals
  • Reward icons
  • And a personal favorite, STICKERS

And the list goes on! Additionally, regardless of industry, illustration will always be a valuable tool. A customized set of doodles can literally touch every part of a company's user interface, and play a role that text otherwise couldn't.

Illustrations: Città by Sofia Salazar

This versatility works in other clever ways, too! Illustration can be molded and formed to resonate with a specific audience.

The combination of versatility and instantaneous recognition makes illustration one of the most powerful elements in creating impactful UI, but there still are more reasons that a powerful visual system is the special sauce in making the dopest UI.

Illustration is stylish and stands out

It's hard to imagine an app being successful these days without having some fun and dynamic visual element. Why would anyone want to interact with a blank screen with words? That's what books are for!

Illustrations: Hands by Ivan Mesaros

But I'm not here to bash on words and their value to UI, because obviously, they are very important. Illustration, however, gives an element to user interfaces that words sometimes simply can't.

Whether hand-drawn creations or abstract doodles, illustration evokes feelings that both stand out and create lasting memories. In 'Design for Emotion' by Aaron Walter. he says, "We’ve been designing usable interfaces, which is like a chef cooking edible food. Certainly we all want to eat edible foods with nutritional value, but we also crave flavor. Why do we settle for usable when we can make interfaces both usable and pleasurable?"

Illustration and fun doodles are the flavor that users crave in UI. It's often what makes people register the user experience as positive and worth spending time on. Hence the reason why the biggest tech companies in the world rely on their designers to make beautiful UI.

Illustration makes UI fun!

Illustration is often what makes a user interface worth interacting with. A well-placed doodle or a beautiful theme is often what snags our interest, and leaves us wanting more of what the UI is selling.

Show us your UI creations

Been working on some UI that is bound to be a masterpiece? Have you used Blush illustrations to help make it unbelievably spectacular? We want to see!

Tweet us your work @blushdesignapp so we can see the cool projects you're working on!

Product Design