Images bombard consumers a million times a day. On an increasingly visual web, content marketing has focused on illustrations as a tool to create brand awareness and drive conversations online, and it’s working. Did you know that when Facebook switched to the timeline format, brands who used images in posts saw a 65% increase in engagement?

Clearly, illustration is an important element in content marketing. So how do you create an image that hits the sweet spot of creating a call to action while also evoking a positive feeling in the viewers? In this post we offer some suggestions about the best way to create those images.

#1 – Be strategic with simplicity
Illustrations need to meet specific design goals – they need to be clear and easy to understand, be easy on the eyes, and be simple enough to appear uncluttered yet interesting enough to catch a consumer’s eye. But it is also critical to consider your overall content marketing plan when you decide to include more images and illustrations. So clearly, you need to be aware of your brand’s visual strategy when you begin incorporating things like infographics into your marketing efforts.

That’s an awful lot for a simple graphic to accomplish, but by using smart design principles it can be done. Just keep in mind how restful empty space can be, while also remembering how fun illustration design can be, and remember: while a content illustration you create may have a goal outside of advertising or promoting your product or brand, it should still fit into your overall visual strategy nicely.

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Design by saiko-raito; check out JouleBug’s contest here
#2 – Tell it like it is
When you are using illustrations in your content strategy, the last thing you want is for the graphic to include poor research or bad information. Always use solidly researched data that has been checked twice and researched again. Albert Ciaro, author of the book The Functional Art said in a recent interview, “An infographic should be thought of as a cognitive tool for understanding, an extension of our visual system: a consequence of this is that its form (or forms) should match the tasks it is supposed to help me complete.” This same thinking can be applied to all content marketing illustrations.

The illustration side of content marketing is a bit delicate; we train marketers to hammer home a brand’s message on the content created, but illustrations and infographics have a different goal. While you obviously want your brand present and clear on content illustrations, you have to consider the audience while creating them. If you want major websites to share your infographic, it needs to be something other than a clear advertisement.

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Design by Rahadyo; check out Mitchell Homes’ contest here
#3 – Play with emotion
Images provide non-verbal and unwritten information, and often that reaction is about feelings more than anything else. Consider how you feel when you see a photograph of a runner on a beautiful mountaintop, sweaty and happy, with a simple Nike swoosh in the corner. Did you even notice the shoes? Consider this while planning content illustrations – and keep this in mind when tempted to use stock images that can easily be used for any industry or business. You want your illustrations to evoke feelings, but also be clearly original.

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Design by Esko Artz; check out Galactic Java’s contest here
Whatever type of content you’re serving up, illustrating your ideas can help drive engagement. Tell us about your successes in the comments!