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Design Trend: Intricate Illustrations

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Websites with an “artistic touch”. They’re popping up more and more often. The intricate illustration design trend is taking the web by storm with detailed hand-drawn and computer-drawn images with so much detail that you can get lost in them.

These designs can be beautiful, engaging, and time-consuming to create. But they go a long way towards giving you brand more character, and setting your project apart in a sea of minimal design!

Here’s a look at this design trend.

Identifying the Intricate Illustrations Design Trend

Intricate illustrations are highly detailed images that can be generated by hand or computer.

They may include plenty of fine lines, hidden details, gradients, patterns, or massive scenes. (You will see examples of all of these variations in this article.)

This design trend might be used alone as a hero image, throughout a design as the visual theme, or in a specific use case (such as a diagram or map). Styles can vary greatly depending on the website and designer, making this a wide-ranging and very interesting trend.

Key Characteristics

The primary characteristic of this website design trend is detail. All of these designs have deep levels of detail that make them interesting. Take a look at any of the examples here, and you are likely drawn in to keep looking deeper into the designs.

Other key characteristics of this design trend include:

Use of color to deepen the design
Texture and shading
Elements of realism
Massive number of elements
Hints of animation
Cartoonish design elements

Tips for Using this Web Design Trend

When working with an intricate illustration, it needs to be visually sound, tell the right story for your website, and include room for other design elements.

That can be a tall order.

That’s why many intricate illustrations land on a scale of extremes – they are oversized or undersized, they are on the screen alone or with many other elements, they include no animation or a lot of motion, they are the full aesthetic or a tiny piece, etc.

Illustrations can be a polarizing design element. While some people and brands love them, they aren’t for everyone.

This concept can help you develop a style for an illustration that’s workable in the overall design. Creating an intricate illustration is not a task for beginners. Finding the right illustration and inspiration can be tough.

And there’s also this: Illustrations can be a polarizing design element. While some people and brands love them, they aren’t for everyone. It can be difficult to strike the right balance until you’ve tried this technique a few times.

Illustrations seem to work best for websites where the illustrator is a key contributor. It can be difficult to contract an illustration like this and explain exactly what you are looking for. Having the illustrator on the team and involved in the planning process of the overall website design can help tremendously.

What really makes this design element work is when the illustration tells a story that’s perfectly in line with other design elements. It has to work with the copy and full design framework for a consistent theme where the illustration is part of bringing it all together.

Intricate Illustration Inspiration

Where do the ideas for intricate illustrations come from? Why is it emerging as a website design trend now?

Trending visuals often evolve from other design elements. Here, illustrations are picking up from other parts of the digital landscape. Many of these designs are inspired by gaming – just look at how intricate video games are visually – NFT design and crypto elements, the emergence of the metaverse and digital spaces, and borrowing from art to get away from the stress of reality.

Look closely at many of the intricate illustrations out there and there’s some mix of reality and virtual reality. The designs are highly imagined but clearly identifiable.

Further inspiration is in the details of the design themselves. The range of texture, high-level detail, color and space, and even pixelation to represent the digital world provide an element of visual storytelling unique to this design element.

3 Examples We Love

This is one of those website design trends that just speaks to creatives. The energy and art involved in this trend are brilliant. Here are a few websites that really stand out.

Creative Jam

Creative Jam is one of those sites you need to click through to experience. There’s not just a homepage illustration, but the level of detail and the hand-drawn theme continues throughout the entire design. The result is a storybook feel that makes you want to engage.

Philosophical Foxes

Philosophical Foxes is another example where the intricate illustration carries through the entire design. The modern, pixel/NFT-style design here is interesting and artistic. There are tons of little details hidden throughout the imagery that you’ll want to uncover.

Project Lima

Project Lima showcases the other end of the spectrum of intricate illustrations with a design that’s beautiful in every way. The computer-generated illustration isn’t like some of the others that you think about when you think of “illustration,” but it strikes the right chord. The foreground flowers and layered background are equally designed and the simple animated effects are engaging.

Conclusion

Intricate Illustrations provide a different and highly engaging version of storytelling that works well online. These images are an art form in their own right and can merge and work with other design elements.

Illustrations in the digital space are interesting because they can include something that illustrations don’t do in the physical, hand-drawn sense: Designers can add animation and motion to them to bring them even more to life.

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