Power of Illustration

By Sufana Hammad

Information via images is an international tool allowing us to recognise a toilet sign, or a road crossing, because we process and respond to visual data, such as images, illustrations, graphics and etc., better than all other information. Illustrations growing up told us a story that words cannot show, making it  an underrated form of art that plays a key aspect in countless children’s cognitive development.

Whether through a feeling, a political statement, or a story, the combination of art and words clarify and explain complex ideas. Illustrations, although widely under-appreciated, are powerful tools that can be specialised to target specific audiences in different contexts. Due to human nature, images, and visual communication makes up 90% of information transmitted to the brain.

When it comes to illustration, there are different contexts for using them: knowledge, persuasion, identity, fiction, commentary and humour. Illustrations are important because they give words a sense of personality, it can take a simple concept, and communicate it in many different ways, whether it is friendly, educational, charming, funny, illustrations speak volumes.

A noteworthy woman in the history of illustration is German science educator and revolutionary graphic designer Marie Neurath. From the 1940s to the 1970s, a time when society expected women to stay at home and raise children, Neurath led a team of artists, writers, and researchers to create over 80 illustrated children’s books, mostly about science education. Neurath was dedicated to educating children, taking complex science and transforming it into child-friendly, engaging infographics, illustrations, diagrams.


On July 19th, House of Illustration will open an exhibition dedicated to Neurath’s revolutionary illustrations and books that changed children’s learning. The exhibition will display original drawings and designs for The Wonder World of Land and Water,  and also show case digitalised film strips created by the Isotype Institute. Neurath’s colour books were all made at an Isotype institute, where isotype was used to visually communicate different subjects, particularly science education for children. Isotype is an international system of typographic picture education, which was a method that included assembling, configuring and disseminating information and statistics through pictorial means. It is also a method of exhibiting technological, social, educational, biological and historical connections in the form of a picture. Taking basic elements, which are the pictograms that are easy-to-identify pictures of people or things, that are designed to function as repeatable units, and help communicate complex science education clearly and vividly.

The London-based writer, designer and creative director David McCandless explains in his best-selling book, “Information is Beautiful” that we can take statistics, numbers, facts and turn them into easily comprehended infographics and illustrations, that have a clear message. McCandless shows readers how combining the power of the mind with the power of visual aid enhances our understanding of complex data. McCandles transforms data into illustrations and visual communication across numerous subjects, such as drugs, evolution of computers, global spending, DNA, coffee, religion and numerous other topics as well.

Whether its educating children on complex science topics, or you want to learn how to present information beautifully, illustrations are a bigger part of our lives than we thought. Images stimulate our senses, and encourages different emotional responses, making illustration a powerful tool for engaging a reader. Artists such as Marie Neurath and David McCandless are clear representations of people who surrounded and depended a big part of their career on the power of illustration. In conclusion, regardless of the topic or the time period, the script of your storyline is significant, but if used to one’s advantage, illustrations can become the glue and foundation that captures and maintains the reader’s attention.

Verified by MonsterInsights