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The Importance of Illustration in Society

The Importance of Illustration in Society

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The use of illustrations has been significant in human society. Illustrations have always been used to convey ideas and tales in engaging and memorable ways, from ancient cave paintings to historical illuminated manuscripts to modern graphic novels. Illustration continues to be a crucial art form that has a significant impact on many aspects of our daily lives in today’s visually driven society.

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of illustration in society and the unique ability of illustrations to inform, educate, influence, and inspire. We’ll look at examples of how illustrations have been used throughout history and their continued relevance today. We’ll also discuss the ways illustration helps shape culture and society.

How Illustrations Inform and Educate

Providing information and enhancing understanding are among the most fundamental purposes of illustration. Illustrations were the only accurate representation of plants, animals, anatomical diagrams, and other subjects prior to the development of photography. To properly explain topics and give visual examples, many instructional texts still largely rely on images, drawings, charts, and graphs.

Textbooks and Nonfiction

In textbooks, subject specific illustrations are used to understand things easily. A diagram of cell division makes the process easier to comprehend. A map of ancient civilizations grounds the concepts in geography. Illustrations add an important layer of information and clarity. They break up the dense text, bringing it to life.

News and Journalism

In news and journals, editorial illustrations serve to illuminate current events. A political cartoon can skewer hypocrisy and corruption using satire. An infographic might clearly present statistics on climate change. Illustrations help readers quickly understand key points and remember the content better.

Instructional Manuals

In instruction manuals, step-by-step visual guides are essential. Ikea furniture instructions are a perfect example. The illustrations allow people to successfully assemble the furniture by following the drawings. Without clear, sequential illustrations, the task would be nearly impossible.

How Illustrations Influence and Persuade

Beyond imparting information, illustrations have immense power to influence attitudes, opinions, and behaviors. Illustrations can subtly or overtly persuade people to take action.


In advertising, illustrations help brands make emotional connections with consumers. Mascots like the Geico Gecko and Tony the Tiger are beloved pop culture icons that represent their brands. Packaging frequently relies on illustrations to capture the essence of a product. Vintage Coca-Cola ads used cheerful illustrations to associate soda with happiness and wholesome Americana.


For good or ill, illustrations have played an important role in propaganda throughout history. Patriotic American World War II posters used illustrations of Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter to inspire citizens. The Nazis produced vivid anti-Semitic illustrations and caricatures to dehumanize Jewish people and turn the public against them. Illustrations’ ability to simply yet powerfully convey messages makes them a powerful propaganda tool.

Social Movements

Illustrations have frequently been used to promote positive social causes as well. In the 1960s, posters and underground comics mobilized opposition to the Vietnam War. Early feminist illustrations brought attention to women’s rights issues when photographs of activism were rare. Today, illustrations help spread marginalized perspectives and raise awareness through social media.

How Illustration Inspires Imagination and Shapes Culture

Beyond concrete uses like education and persuasion, illustrations also have a tremendous impact on culture, imagination, and emotion in our society. Illustrations for children’s books, fiction, games, and movies transport us to vivid fictional worlds.

Children’s Books

Generations have been enchanted by illustrated children’s books like Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince, and Harold and the Purple Crayon. Beyond sparking young imaginations, these books impart important lessons. The illustrations make the stories and characters emotionally resonant and memorable.

Comics and Graphic Novels

Comics and graphic novels use sequential illustrations to tell intricate stories. Through both independent and mainstream works, the medium allows creators to explore complex themes of identity, society, and humanity. Stylized illustrations make superheroes like Batman feel mythic. Visually striking works like Maus convey history through a unique lens.

Movies and Animation

In movies, concept art illustrations help bring fantastical worlds to life before filming begins. Storyboards map out scenes shot-by-shot. In animation, every frame stems from illustrations. From Snow White to Toy Story, imaginative illustrations are the basis of beloved animated films. Illustrations fuel creativity and wonder throughout the movie-making process.


Illustrations are vital in game development, from tabletop to video games. They conceptualize characters, environments, and key moments in an interactive narrative. Stylized game illustrations also become emblematic of the gaming experience. Where would Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog be without their signature illustrated designs? The visual worlds that gamers escape into originate from illustrations.

There’s still much more to discuss that has already been covered in our other article, why is Illustration Important? Discovering the Field of Illustration so please read it!


Illustrations have been used for thousands of years to convey ideas, inform and persuade audiences, and inspire creative thought. Illustrations are literally as old as human culture itself, as evidenced by cave drawings. More platforms and tools for illustration are available today than ever before.

Illustration continues to capture the human experience in vivid long-lasting ways despite the evolution of media. Illustrators give ideas and dreams form, whether through meticulously researched blueprints, imaginative paintings, or creative mixed media. Illustrations have the unequaled power to change people’s thoughts, affect their opinions, and inspire future generations when they are done well.

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