You’ve seen the bright whimsical illustrations decorate the pages of your favorite digital products—Google, Airbnb, Dropbox, Slack, Intercom, and plenty more. Welcome to the era of Product Illustration—where illustrations are not only used for ornamental purposes, but also for adding a human touch to the user experience.
With the evolving role of illustration in the tech industry, Product Illustration has become popular among illustrators and aspiring illustrators alike. But because Product Illustration is relatively new, it’s harder to find many resources to help you get started. That’s why I scoured the web and compiled a list of the best resources on Product Illustration so you don’t have to go digging for them yourself.
Podcasts to listen to
If you’re busy or always on-the-go, listening to podcasts is a very productive way to learn. While there aren’t many podcasts that tackle Product Illustration yet, typing “Illustration” or “Product Illustration” on the search bar of Spotify or Apple Podcasts has often helped me find great content to listen to. Some of my recommendations include:
“How to Draw a Startup”
How to Draw a Startup narrates how illustration has blossomed in the tech industry, how it’s used to craft delightful digital products, and how it continues to evolve over time. It’s the perfect podcast to listen to if you want a comprehensive view of the illustration in the tech landscape. Another thing that I like about this podcast is the roster of guests who have built illustrated brands, such as Dropbox, Airbnb, and Intercom, from the ground up.
UI Breakfast, Episode 152 — “Illustration in UX”
Krystal Lauk is the founder of an illustration-led design agency and the special guest on this episode of UI Breakfast. Krystal discusses how illustration can make a product stand out, as well as ways to approach the creative process. You’ll learn why illustration is so important to the entire user experience, which brands to get inspiration from, and plenty more insights to guide you on your product illustration journey.
Articles to read
Tech companies nowadays like sharing their thoughts and work on their blogs. What’s so great about this is that we can finally see how illustration is done behind-the-scenes at different companies. Design and illustration thought leaders also do the same, which means that we have access to a treasure trove of helpful resources. Among the articles I’ve read online, I find the following articles the most insightful:
Dropbox: Illustrating a More Human Brand
Dropbox is one of the tech companies that pioneered the use of illustration in its products. In this article, Michael Jeter, Creative Lead at Dropbox, talks about the humble beginnings of illustration in the company. From being used to retain customers during tough times to eventually scaling as more illustrators chipped in, illustration at Dropbox has grown leaps and bounds.
Airbnb Design: Your Face Here
In Your Face Here, Jennifer Hom talks about how Airbnb’s image was diversified through illustration. By researching how people from various races, religions, age groups, orientations, and genders looked like, the illustration team at Airbnb crafted a brand that effectively communicated diversity and inclusivity.
Meg Robichaud’s Medium articles
Meg Robichaud is currently a product designer and illustrator at Lyft. Previously, she was the illustration lead at Shopify. She has also written several articles on Product Illustration on Medium. My top 3 favorite articles are, in no particular order, Using Metaphor in Product Illustration, Illustration Feedback, and Designing Illustration for Small Screens.
Portfolios to follow
If you want a deeper understanding of an illustrator’s process, looking at online portfolios is an extremely effective method. In fact, some illustrators write case studies about their work and will often share a behind-the-scenes look into their process. Dribbble is one of the best platforms to discover illustrators and their work. Here are a few product illustrators I recommend following for endless inspiration:
Radostina Georgieva is an independent illustrator that helps tech companies build a visual language and connect them with their audience. Her distinct style and abstract thinking are what make her product illustrations stand out from the crowd. You can read more about Radostina’s illustration process by checking out her Dribbble blog interview.
Alice Lee is known for her work for Slack and Wealthfront. What I love the most about her work is the attention to process and detail. In her online portfolio, she documented her process on creating Slack’s illustration voice.
Camellia Neri is currently a Lead Brand Designer at Ironclad and has previously worked at Gusto and Salesforce. Her side project, Illustrated History, is a series of Medium blog posts accompanied by some illustrations she has created. Each blog post reveals the hidden history of various landmarks and artifacts in America.
Keep track of your Product Illustration resources!
Learning Product Illustration can be difficult, especially because it’s harder to find the necessary resources online. Sometimes, it can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. So whenever you discover an article, podcast, illustrator, or any other resource that interests you, log it in a spreadsheet or a note-taking app. That way, you can keep track of whatever you’ve found. Who knows? Maybe you’ll need to refer back to that resource someday. I hope you found all of these resources helpful!
About the author: Frances is a Product Designer at First Circle, a FinTech startup ($28.5M Post-Series A), by day. By night, she’s a freelance illustrator who loves to blog. You can view her illustrations on Dribbble and Instagram.
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