Illustration has always been a powerful storytelling tool. Whether used to depict scenes from everyday life or to spearhead a political campaign, illustration has the ability to help bring crucial questions to the forefront, raise awareness of certain issues and, ultimately, to impact society.
Let’s take a look at the work of eight illustrators who use their art to tackle the most important conversations of today. Covering themes from the pandemic to racism, solidarity, gender and more, this collection of best illustrations offers us a moment of reflection and a glimmer of hope.
Best illustrations of 2020
Italian artist and art director Marco Oggian has collaborated with clients such as Nike, BMW and Vans. Never afraid to stand up for a cause he believes in, he addresses a broad range of social and political issues, from Covid-19 to the Black Lives Matter movement, using his characteristic bold language, minimalistic color palette and sarcastic outlook.
To further the anti-racism message, Marco offers free downloads for his recent ‘Fuck Racism’ poster, a piece that has received thousands of shares from across the globe.
"With a poster, drawing or painting, it is very difficult to change the world. But it is very easy to convey to people the idea of changing it."
Philadelphia-based artist Gabriella Grimes, aka ggggrimes, focuses their work entirely on Queer People of Color. By placing a spotlight on intimate and vulnerable experiences, they hope to share stories of all types of queer people being happy and loved, whether or not they fit mainstream ideas of queerness.
Using both boldness and sensitivity, ggggrimes addresses topics of gender transitioning, relationships and the fear—and joy—of being loved and accepted.
“I didn't have any representation of people who looked like me or behaved like me in the media growing up. I was closeted in my queer identities for most of my life. We've gotten a lot more representation as queer people globally, but a lot of us still aren't seen, and if we're not seen, we don't feel valid.”
Portland-based author, activist and illustrator Anisa Makhoul has worked with clients such as Vogue and Anthropologie. Using her voice to fight for causes like racism, inequality and climate change, she’s no stranger to conveying meaningful statements through design.
In this piece, she stresses the importance of unity and togetherness, especially now.
“It’s the people who hold the power, not the people in power. Together, we are the majority and we can organize to bring about the change and justice we need to live comfortably on this planet.”
Having worked with global brands from Apple to Facebook and more, Brazilian illustrator Lucas Wakamatsu created this set of personal illustrations to depict the monotonous nature of the lockdown.
Approaching the topic with a subtle quirkiness, he offers a lighthearted perspective on the all-too-familiar challenges of being confined to the four walls of your home.
“I created this piece inspired by my daily life in lockdown, and how the days are pretty much the same, resulting in a crazy looping routine.”
For San Francisco-based illustrator and designer Gabriela Tylenda, this poster design stands for a cause that is near and dear to her heart. Advocating against racism, her work aims to reiterate that the deep-rooted problem still exists in our society today.
“When thinking about the incidents that sparked the BLM movement to roar, you might want to say ‘these are disgusting times.’ But it's not just now, it's always been here and everywhere. The fight isn’t over.”
A firm believer in the power of illustration in shaping perspectives, illustrator Or Yogev aims to represent a wide range of people in his art, employing accuracy and sensitivity. Delving deeper into his Ethiopian roots and taking inspiration from ancient African sculptures, he uses Cinema 4D to bring classic aesthetics to a more current style and celebrate the female form.
“Defying potentially harmful Western ideals of beauty, I draw inspiration from classical sculptures that honor a fuller female form.”
Having had her print designs worn by the likes of Beyonce and Cara Delevingne, London-based artist and print designer Kelly Anna explores complex subject matters through vivid, eye-catching visuals. The independent, heroic females she depicts showcase women’s inner strength and tell the story of the constant pressures and self-doubt we often experience in today’s society, particularly in our new online reality.
“Through my work I explore the dichotomy between external pressures and our own internal strength, examining the links between art, physicality, psychological persistence and drive as tools for coping in this new 24-hour online (and homebound) world we have all been thrown into.”
With experience illustrating for brands such as Stella Artois, UPS and Virgin Mobile, Tel Aviv-based designer and illustrator Pierre Kleinhouse shares his techniques with thousands of followers on his YouTube channel. Choosing to expose a more personal side in his work, Pierre’s illustration depicts familiar feelings of constraint, loneliness and panic from the first lockdown.
“I don’t usually explore current themes or events in my work, but the lockdown felt really dramatic, as though we were nearing the end of the world.”
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