4 Smart Ways to Use Illustration in UI Design

Default avatar.
June 01, 2017
4 Smart Ways to Use Illustration in UI Design.
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 human brain is able to recognize and understood 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 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 recognizable 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 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. image12 Illustrations help Intercom create a very personal connect 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. image13 Good mascots provide the solid basis for positive user experience. 

3. Illustrations for Onboarding and Tutorials

Illustrations provide visual aid. They are able to clarify messaging by boiling down concepts into easily-understood visuals. Pictures speak louder than words — and make the experience go faster. That’s why illustrations are so popular for onboarding and tutorials. Onboarding screens introduce the key features or benefits of app to the user. Illustration used during onboarding provides context, adds clarity, or leads the user to their next step. When combined with a minimal interface, illustrations can really help deliver the key message without too much copy. image2 Image credit: Ramotion An engaging and interactive onboarding automatically invokes the users interest in the app at the initial step. It makes the user happy and feel eager to start using the app. Animations and illustrations have always gone hand-and-hand. Using illustrations you can transform a long and boring tutorial into an interesting and joyful experience. An instruction manual with images is easier and faster to understand than a lengthy explanation. Even apps/​sites that don’t incorporate the drawn style throughout still can use cartoons for instructions and tutorials.

4. Illustrations for Reward Screens

We all familiar with rewarding experience from video games: almost every video-game has a set of achievements or trophies that are gained by completing a set of criteria. The phrase Achievement Unlocked” has almost become synonymous with progression or successful completion. But why is rewarding so valuable for us? The answer is simple: it makes the interface experience feel like there’s a human on the other end, not a computer. Rewarding is a truly emotional interaction: positive emotional stimulus builds a sense of engagement with the user. People forgive the app’s shortcomings when you reward them with positive emotion. image6 A Mayor’s badge on Foursquare. This type of Illustrations creates delight and a joyful experience. 

Success state is a great place to show that you care about your users. Reward the user with an animation when they accomplish personal goals. For example, when a user reaches inbox zero, create deeper engagement with app features using animation.


Illustration is a powerful and important tool for enhancing user experience and making interface both attractive and efficient. While there’s no hard or fast rule on using illustration in your design, it’s important to keep in mind one thing: keep illustrations useful. Ultimately, any illustration should provide a deeper understanding of your product or brand.

Nick Babich

Fireart Studio is a design studio passionate about creating beautiful design for startups & leading brands. We pay special attention to nuances all the time to create professional while cool products that will not only meet all expectations, but exceed them.

Read Next

Apple Opts for AR over VR at WWDC

An Apple VR headset has been one of the most widely-rumored devices of the last few years, and it was finally settled a…

Exciting New Tools for Designers, June 2023

We’re halfway through 2023 already, and the number of incredible apps, tools, and resources for designers is mounting.

3 Essential Design Trends, June 2023

This month we are focusing on three trends within a bigger website design trend – different navigation menu styles and …

15 Best New Fonts, May 2023

The choices you make when selecting a typeface have more impact on your design than almost any other decision, so it’s …

10+ Best Tools & Resources for Web Designers and Agencies (2023 updated)

Having the ability to envision a tastefully designed website (i.e., the role creativity plays) is important. But being …

20 Best New Websites, May 2023

This month, there are tons of great new agency websites to get excited about. 3D animated prisms are a popular theme, a…

How to Find the Right White Label Website Builder for Your Agency

Web design agencies face a lot of obstacles in closing the deal with new clients. One of the most common ones is the ar…

Exciting New Tools For Designers, May 2023

There are hundreds of new tools for designers and developers released each month. We sift through them all to bring you…

3 Essential Design Trends, May 2023

All three of the website design trends here mimic something bigger going on in the tech space, from a desire to have mo…

10 Best AI Tools for Web Designers (2023)

It’s time to stop worrying if AI is going to take your job and instead start using AI to expand the services you can of…

10 Best Marketing Agency Websites (Examples, Inspo, and Templates!)

Marketers are skilled in developing strategies, producing visual assets, writing text with high impact, and optimizing …

15 Best New Fonts, April 2023

Fonts are a designer’s best friend. They add personality to our designs and enable fine typography to elevate the quali…