What does an illustrator do besides children's books?

Illustration! It is an amazing career, and one I came to later in life than some. In fact, when I was taking courses at an art college I wasn't at all interested in illustration, I preferred the fine arts. The problem was, I didn't understand what exactly it was that an illustrator did, and so it took me awhile to realize that this was the art discipline I loved.

What does an illustrator do?

In short, they create the art and design for all kinds of physical and digital products that you see. Some of these might include:

- Drawings in magazines, newspapers, & other publications

These are called "editorial illustrations", and they are used to show what is in an article in a way that can't always be done with a photo. Many publications use photos and illustration, depending on what they are trying to portray. 

- Product illustrations for things like makeup, beach towels, placemats, bed sheets, children's clothes and more.

Illustrated food container from Anthropologie

All those beautiful, beautiful, products in Anthropologie? The cute designs on your children's pajamas? They're illustrated! This is a really exciting and fun side of illustration, because the art is translated into something practical that is used by people every day. Adding illustration to a product can make it more interesting, eye-catching, and make customers want to purchase it because they are not only buying the item, but a tiny piece of art for their home. 

- Packaging illustrations

Packaging illustration by Trader Joe's

Packaging illustrations come on all kinds of products, from food, to medicine, to make-up, to monthly club boxes. These designs really enhance the look of the product and bring joy to those who have them in their home each time they use them.

- Blog and e-book graphics

This type of art work is becoming more and more popular in the digital age. Those lovely graphic blog headers? These are done by illustrators! 

- Custom wall art

This is a discipline that has become wildly popular. Custom wall art done by illustrators includes pet portraits, drawings of your church or home, custom family drawings, wedding bouquet recreations, & more. 

- Illustrative aspects of grown up books & book covers

It goes without saying that illustrators work on books, but I didn't realize that illustrators can focus in on book covers, and little illustrations inside of books. One incredible example of this is the work done by Wendy Mac in Samin Nosrat's popular book "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat".

- Social media & marketing designs

In the new age of digital marketing, companies and organizations use illustration in their social media to share about holidays, topics of interest to their followers, popular world events, and more. I am sure you have seen many of these floating around, and may not have realized that they are illustration art!

- Greeting cards & stationary

Some artists specialize in greeting cards, but many illustrators also dabble in this domain. Whether for big companies, or your little local shop, chances are some of the greeting cards you see are made by an illustrator. 

- Educational drawings

Coloring pages, printables, text book illustrations, and visual aids for online curriculums... illustration is everywhere in the education field. Educational illustrations are used to enhance the learning experience and explain complicated topics visually.  

- Informational pictographics 

One of the most important fields of illustration is illustration information. This helps convey important data to consumers and people who may not understand it as well when presented as text. It helps make knowledge accessible and understandable to all, and it is often done in easy, shareable contexts that help spread important information quickly. 

- Social commentary (those little shareable pieces of art on social media)

We've seen many of these recently. Illustrators create pieces that easily convey perspectives and points of view, and others are able to share these around to show their agreement or support for various issues. 

- Hand lettering (also done by calligraphers)

Hand lettering is a part of nearly every illustrator's job, and learning some fun styles really helps enhance all of the other illustrated products produced by that artist.

- Surface pattern design

Apron from Anthropologie

Surface pattern design is all the illustrated work found on fabric, wrapping paper, and other products featuring repeating patterns. It is incredibly fun, and brings a lot to these items making them beautiful to look at and fun to use.

So you don't do children's books?

Well, yes, illustrators do this of course too. Some specialize in it. I love children's books for the right project... but there is so much more to this field and many people (my former self included) do not understand that.

To sum it up...

Illustrators DO illustrate books, and they do so much more. Illustration is a versatile field that brings joy and beauty to so many industries, and it is a wonderful career that I am passionate about. Some illustrators specialize, some do it all, it is all up to their personal preference. 

What did I miss? I'd love to hear what other kinds of illustration work you do, or you've heard of!