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As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Human beings are highly visual creatures able to process visual information almost instantly—90 percent of all information that we perceive and that gets transmitted to our brains is visual. A single image can convey more to the observer than an elaborate block of text. Furthermore, in lots of cases, a fairly complex idea can be easily conveyed with just a single still image. This happens because the human brain is able to recognise and understand an image faster than text copy.

Photos have long remained companions of good interfaces, but more recently it’s possible to notice an increased interest in using illustrations. This happens for the reason: Illustrations give designers more freedom for creative effects and more control over image choices, both with content and technical details.

In this article, we’ll define what ‘illustration’ means in term of user interface design and how it can be used to improve user experience.

The Essence Of Digital Illustration

Historically, the verb “illustrate” used to mean “to clarify.” In modern graphic design, illustration becomes a working functional element. Illustrations became a tool for communication. The aim of the illustration is to enlighten, to clarify, to deliver the message by means of visual elements. Where words can tell you something; illustration can show you something. To make the illustration functional, the image should be easily recognisable and the information it transfers should be decoded similarly by different viewers.

Here are some instances where illustrations are able to bring value to design and users…

1. Homepage Illustrations

Good web design has a significant impact on potential customers. People judge a company based on the quality of a website, whether that’s fair or not. User perception is what really matters. As a result, designers constantly try to find new ways how we can improve the experience for visitors. And just like in the real world, first impressions rely heavily on visuals. This is where illustrations enter the scene.
Homepage illustrations are able to create the more artistic feel to the whole website. They appeal to users’ imagination to establish a stronger personal connection with the user. Using unique custom-made illustrations can distinguish you from the crowd and create a better brand recall.

Illustrations help Intercom create a very personal connection with users.

2. Mascots

Mascots are those little characters that are able to make your product more authentic, trustworthy and engaging. Mascots create a connection between the user and the app/website: they bring life to the interaction process, keep users’ attention and become the memorable element of user experience. This is a great way to get people engaged.
Probably the most popular example of how a mascot can help to improve the user experience is the email newsletter service Mailchimp. Freddie, the friendly chimp of Mailchimp, appears on every page, taking in a different role, to either draw attention to a certain element or to crack a joke in order to make the user feel better.

Good mascots provide the solid basis for positive user experience.