Why Illustration is more important than ever

Driving footfall through illustration.

Abigail Baldwin runs creative studio Buttercrumble with her twin sister, Chloe. She is a digital illustration expert and believes that as this global pandemic continues, illustration will rightfully see a resurgence as a trusted method of communication. 

Since the time of Egyptian hieroglyphics, society has used illustration to communicate. The word means 'light up' and 'illuminate'. It is intended for the masses, it's inclusive and accessible and more recently, usually used for commercial purposes. 

Why is illustration such an important way to communicate? 


Illustration allows storytellers to be truly expressive. When photography was invented, there was no longer a need for illustrators to create lifelike scenes. Instead, they adopted the techniques of new art movements (such as impressionism and modernism) to create more stylised pieces. This creative and adaptable medium works well commercially today, because images can be manufactured to mimic the existing visual style of a brand.

The diversity and endless possibilities of illustration opens minds and sparks imaginations. It also goes beyond the boundaries of language. It's still used in the modern world through weather forecasts, maps and clothes labels, making it a vital tool for the digital age. 

Why is illustration set to make a comeback? 

With today's very present challenges, illustration will become a priority for storytellers as photography is rendered almost impossible whilst the world is under lockdown. We predict that editorial illustration will make a comeback as photographers find it increasingly difficult to get close to their subject matters. Many of us with mobile phones take pictures without a second thought. Maybe it's important that we spent more time thinking about the images we capture.

Using illustration to engage with consumers 

Chloe and I spent the last weekend before the high street closed down creating live illustrations of customers at Seasalt Cornwall’s newest retail store in Hexham, Northumberland. The partnership with this women’s fashion retailer is the latest in a long line of illustration partnerships for our studio. Even before the pandemic, retailers were on the lookout for ways to drive deeper consumer engagement with their brand and ensure their bricks and mortar retail stores remained an important destination, as online shopping continues to increase in popularity.


This retail theatre that cannot be replicated online really enhances a consumer’s shopping experience and gives them a lasting memory of their day. It surprises them and it sparks creativity.  Getting consumers back onto the high street is going to be a significant challenge in the coming months as the nation starts the long road to recovery from Coronavirus. Consumers could potentially remain cautious of reverting back to their old behaviours so reassurance, kindness and adding value above and beyond the shopping experience is going to be key to the recovery of the high street. It’s time for retailers to get creative.

Inspiring the next generation to illustrate  

Buttercrumble also works with the National Saturday Club, a free out of school learning environment allowing 13-16 year olds to do more of the subjects they love. Asking the teenagers to illustrate a mascot which represents themselves, they had to consider what really represents 'me' and then manipulate the image appropriately. It's a very thought provoking task for young people. 

Just as illustration has transformed from biblical representations into satirical imagery, it will change again. It moves with the times and at Buttercrumble, we can't wait to be part of that journey. 

Find out more at www.buttercrumble.com 

Related: From Aphex Twin to Apple, transforming retail space for brand activation

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