Emblem form illustration is specialized area of illustration
that not many illustrators have chosen to pursue. A hybrid of design and
illustration, many illustrators find emblematic illustration difficult for it
is not pure illustration per se, and it is not strictly graphic design. It is
an amalgamation of the two, and it requires some familiarity with how both image making disciplines approach or attack a visual solution.
To begin with emblematic illustration, or if you wish, you
may call it emblematic design, requires knowledge of visual composition,
typography, pictorial elements, and functionality.
Lets look at the function of an emblematic illustration. For
all intents and purposes an emblem is a branding element, if not a signature logo
for a product, service, etc. It is not an illustration in the traditional
sense, neither is it strictly an organizational design form. It is both. And it
works to perform a two-fold function. The first being to communicate a message,
this is where it assimilates most closely with illustration, and second to
solidify an identifiable visual, and this is where it most directly relates to
These cross-purposed attributes, which are inherent in
emblematic illustration and design, are what cause it to be a challenge to
execute. It actually demands more than some knowledge of both skill sets to
The physical characteristics of an emblematic illustration
differ from the sole traits of either a pictorial illustration or a logo or visual
symbol design. A pictorial illustration follows a logical compositional
arrangement to create a scene, an image that can be entered into and perused by
a viewer. A logo/symbol on the other hand is designed to become an object that
is meant to be taken in on the whole as a singular form, quite differently than
a pictorial visual.
Illustrated emblems always contain at least two types of
elements and most commonly consist of three types of components, 1) a pictorial
element, 2) a graphic element and 3) a typographic element. And these pieces in
combination configure a single form, i.e., elements arranged to form a
coordinated emblematic illustration.
The Pictorial Component
Pictorial components vary in how they are used in an
emblematic construct. In some instances the pictorial element is the headliner
of the emblem, while in others it plays a minor role, and sometimes there is no
pictorial element at all. A pictorial element is a pictorial visual, although as
part of an emblem, it doesn’t function in the same manner as it would in a
purely pictorial illustration. In other words, a viewer will not necessarily
“enter “ into it. It functions more like an aesthetic placeholder for a scene
rather than a complex pictorial illustration.
The Graphic Component
In emblematic illustration, graphic elements are the glue
and mortar that hold the typography and image in place by creating a structure for
them to share. A graphic element can be very simple, such as a single geometric
shape used to frame the type and image, or quite an elaborate arrangement of
custom rendered shapes, lines, symbols, etc. juxtaposed to compliment and
enhance the pictorial and typographic components. The amount of “real estate”
taken up by graphic elements can vary greatly from one emblematic illustration
to another, and there are many ways graphic elements can be incorporated.
The Typographic Component
While the pictorial component provides a contextual depth for an emblem, and the graphic component provides its compositional structure, the typographical component provides its designation. As such, it is arguable the most important part of the emblem, even though as illustrators, we may feel the pictorial element to be the most important. Without the support of the typographic component, the identity and function of an emblem illustration could be compromised. For this reason the typographic content must not only be present, but it must be visible, legible, and readable.
Pictorially Dominant Compositions
The emblematic examples below place the most emphasis on the pictorial component, a representational form that dominates the visual real estate. In these illustrations, the image portion can take anywhere from 60 to 95% of the compositional area.
Graphically Dominant Compositions
The conspicuous use of shapes as a primary component to
establish a unique overall form is what distinguishes a graphically dominant
emblem from other types. This characteristic is established in the examples
|Ray's Video Sound Production. Illustration by Yom Nikosey.|
|Area 5 Design Video Production. Illustration by Dennis |
Todd Oldham Products. Illustration by Kelly Munson and
Clockwork Heating and Air Conditioning Service. Illustration
by Graphic D-Signs.
Woodward Heating Service. Illustration by Graphic D-Signs.
|Aardvark Foundations Video Game. Illustration by Mark |
Typographically Dominant Compositions
Letterforms and words supersede the importance of either
visual components or graphic ornamentation. In fact, it is not uncommon for a
typographically dominant composition to be without any pictorial component. In these
illustrations, the typographic treatment provides the aesthetic attraction for
the emblem. Contrary to a pictorially dominant emblem, here the typographic
portion can take anywhere from 60 to 95% of the compositional area as seen in
the emblematic examples below.
|Magazine Anniversary Logo. Illustration by Tom Nikosey.|
|Fuddruckers Restaurant. Illustration by Michael Doret.|
|Typopress Foundry. Illustration by Michael Doret.|
|Wall Street Journal. Illustration by Michael Doret.|
|Graphic Artists Guild. Illustration by Michael Doret.|
|Road Warrior Pack Promotion. Illustration by Logonomic.|
Not all emblematic illustrations display a dominance of either a pictorial, graphical, or typographic element, but present a balance of elements. To balance the relationship of emblematic components, these emblems divide the compositional real estate in more equalized proportions. See below.
Specialty Gardens Landscaping. Illustration by Graphic
|Founders Cross-Fit Team. Illustration by Mario Zucco.|
|Coors World Concert Tour. Illustration by Tom Nikosey.|
Kinetic Self Promotion Identity. Animated illustration by
|Bob Adams Home Builders. Illustration by Steven Noble.|
Hillsborough High School Science Fair Poster Icon.
Illustration by Logoboy.
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