Illustrators make your app look more professional and thought out. And to my surprise, that notion is not a common one.

The artists use their abilities to illustrate epic stories. They get paid big money to make news articles more digestible.

And yet, they are often overlooked in the industry of apps. While these creatives can add a great amount of value to your mobile application.

Here is the why and how to hire an illustrator for your app.

Illustrations Make Your App Look More Professional

The use of illustrations communicate that you have put more thought and effort in your app. Users appreciate that.

There are several reasons why you would want to add illustrations. I will list a few:

  • It communicates originality – add some colour to the gray world of apps that all look alike.
  • Efficient communication and interaction – graphics say more with less
  • Emotional appeal – Illustrators have the great ability to evoke emotions.
  • Adding to the Aesthetic Value – They make things prettier and more likeable.
  • Memorable and Recognisable – Text is forgettable, good illustrations stay in your brain
  • Visual metaphors – Sometimes it's easier to communicate with graphics instead of text.

Illustrations make your application more likeable and recognisable. And a great user experience results in an edge over the competition.

Where To Use Illustrations in Your Application

Graphics can soften the negative results of an error message. Or provide a persuasive call-to-action on an empty screen.

You can use illustrations in your app on:

  1. Empty screens
  2. Error/success screens
  3. Onboarding pages
  4. Loading indicators
  5. The product's icon
  6. Hero images
  7. Stickers (in chat apps)
  8. Category markers (icons)
  9. Support pages

Look at the end of this write-up for examples of apps using graphics in an intelligent way.

The following image is a great example of illustrations in empty screens.

Choosing the Right Illustrator for the Job

Every artist has their language. That is why it is important to choose an illustrator that matches the style of your app. There are several different disciplines in illustration.

Examples of styles of illustration:

  • Children’s Illustration
  • Comics
  • Graphic Humor
  • Editorial Illustration
  • Fashion illustration
  • Concept Art
  • Urban
  • Infographics

It’s important to match the style of the artist to your brand. Don’t expect the illustrator to change their style on a whim.

The Costs of Hiring a Professional Illustrator

Paying for creative work has always been a complicated topic. Like any other profession, illustrators come and all shapes and forms.

Scale the budget for the job with the size of your app. The more risk of the the investment, the more you should spend on an experienced illustrator.

There is a whole lot of dependencies to calculate costs:

  • Size of the project,
  • Usage rights,
  • Experience and style level of freelancer,
  • reworking and variations,
  • urgency,
  • the local market

Look at the following table for a crude overview of what costs to expect when hiring a freelance illustrator:

Experience Level Hourly Rate Rough Project Costs
Beginner Illustrator €25 - €60 €960 – €1800
Experienced Illustrator €60 – €150 €2400 – €5000
Senior Illustrator €120 – €240 €6000 – €12 000

I’ve based these numbers on freelance hourly rates in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States of America. Your local rates might vary.

Where to Find Illustrators

There are several platforms where professional illustrator tend to flock. The most prominent ones are:

I recommend finding their contact data and sending them a creative brief to their email. The platforms themselves charge for being able to contact the person on the platform.

Working With an Illustrator

Start with a well written creative brief. Include the following, in detail:

  • Name of Project
  • About the Mobile Application
  • Your vision (What you expect to see)
  • Examples of styles you’re looking for
  • Target Audience
  • Skills (for example, experience with vector drawing)
  • Where the app will be distributed
  • Deadline
  • Budget and Payment
  • Deliverables (Ask your developer for what you need)
  • Contract, Contact and Work Expectations

In general you get two revision rounds. For more, you’d have to pay. This completely depends on the illustrator.

What Your App Will Look Like

Your best bet is to sit down with your designer and go over your user flows. That way you can pin-point opportunities to add illustrations.

Empty screens and landing pages are the most often illustrated. Look for those first.

Here are three apps with great illustration work for your inspiration:

  1. Lifesum
  2. Duolingo
  3. Google Calendar

Inspired? Try Dribbble first. There are some great illustrators on that platform.

My wife Julia van der Bos is an experienced children's book illustrator. Visit her website here. Reach out to her if you are working on a mobile application oriented towards children. She will be able to help you out.

Leave in the comments the things I've overlooked. I will make sure to add them to the post. I am very curious about your experiences.