HDW 2017: How to create your own illustration style?

IMG_0470Grafia (Association of Visual Communication Designers in Finland) organized an event called ‘An illustration in design process‘ during Helsinki Design Week 2017 on 15 September. Graphic artist Leena Kisonen and illustrator Linda Linko discussed about illustration styles and design processes. Leena shared the story behind her own visual language and showed examples of her work over the years. She gave many ideas on developing and finding inspiration for illustration work. Linda walked through the design process from idea and pitch to ready illustration. She also explained how to communicate visually with a customer.

Create your individual visual personality

How to create your own illustration style as a designer? If you want to concentrate on the illustration design process you should create a style that can be recognized. It’s important to create an individual style that can be repeated effectively. Most designers use same software but adding a personal touch makes the illustrations unique.


As a designer and an illustrator, a personal style is a much broader concept than just a combination of techniques, colours and shapes. Everything is based on a designer’s personality. Colour scales and shapes can be copied but not your personality. Defining your own framework is essential. There are many aspects to think about; what kind of background you have, where do you come from and what do you want to achieve. You need to think what kind of working processes you have, what techniques you prefer and how much time you need. It takes several years of practice to develop one’s visual style.

img_04731.jpgWhen creating an individual visual style one has to identify a visual memory that reflects past experiences and background. A visual memory is a wide framework that can include anything you feel is a visual part of your personality. You should analyze who you are, Leena Kisonen highlighted. A visual memory it can be a combination of your childhood’s experiences. Leena introduced one of her visual memories that is a combination of My Little pony aesthetics and her big brother’s heavy metal posters.

In addition to creating an individual illustration style it’s important and inspiring to look at other peoples’ illustrations. Try to learn from others but don’t copy. Analyze what is useful to you and add it to your illustration process.

You can use almost any techniques such as painting, drawing, cutting papers, photographs or anything that comes to your mind. Leena mentioned that sometimes she mixes raw paper cuts with vector graphics to give her work a unique touch. Both Leena and Linda highlighted that don’t try to be too trendy. A trendy illustration lasts only as long as a trend. Be patient – an individual illustration style can take a long time to develop but will certainly outlive short-term trends.

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