Over the summer and until the end of the year, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London is show-casing the yearly illustration awards. The range and variety of the imagery is immense and one of the reasons that design and illustration learners should go take a look is that the exhibition highlights the many different kinds of illustration that there are and the uses that these are put to within a publishing context. For example, there are images from book covers, from inside books and from editorial or magazine article illustation. These form the categories of the awards too, which also includes a student prize.

Illustration learners might be encouraged by the show in that it demonstrates that you don’t have to draw marvellously to be a good illustrator – I am sure all of the entrants can draw! – my point being that most illustrators develop a specific style and use techniques that lend themselves to the things they do best. Illustration is rarely “realistic” but instead captures a kind of reality or truth by the use of a style or method of making. Take the winner in the book cover category (below), for instance. This is a collage-style image for the classic Camus novel, The Outsider. The way that the elements of the image are juxtaposed, or placed in relation to each other, helps to strike up a disjointed, alientated mood that relates to the content and title of the book.

Rob Ryan is a GDP favourite. His technique of cutting-out to make a lacey effect in his images is cute and quirky. Here, in A Sky Full of Kindness (below),  he uses mostly cut type, which is a technique that lends itself to advertising as well as book illustration. You can see another report we have done on Ryan here.

The top image is an editorial piece by Stefano Mori called  Henry’s Demons. The angle of the image conjures up Jaws-like feelings of dread or separation between two realms.

I do recommend that anyone who is interested in illustration actually goes to see shows like this because the internet can never show you the texture and character of works as well as you can see that in real life. Close observation can show the little tweaks and changes made by the illustrator as well as the texture of the media. However, if you can’t get there you can see all of the entries and find out the winners of each category here.

Don’t forget that in London there is always the fantastic Illustration Cupboard, and shortly Somerset House will have the Association of Illustrator’s exhibition too.

If you want to make your own illustration you might like our projects Structures, Life Story, Legend, The Words and Book of Books.

All images courtesy of the V&A press office.