One may think that UI conventions and patterns constrain the ability to be creative but in fact by giving focus on impact and purpose behind illustrations, they push you into problem-solving mode which requires more out of the box thinking and really gets the creative juices flowing .
Contrary to popular belief that Interface Design is highly technical and "by the book", it actually allows creativity while adding meaning and user delight with proper use of illustrations and animations. Juxtaposed with other elements of the layout, illustrations not only help guide the user but makes the entire experience a more enjoyable one.
Here are some instances where illustrations add value to the work:
Illustrations help brand recall:
Like in real life, first impressions rarely heavily on visuals. Distinguishing yourself from the crowd with unique and custom-made visual elements which are exclusive to your product leads to designs that create brand recall. Illustrations enhance your brand experience and help create a very personal connect with users. On the other hand, relying heavily on stock photography and typography provides limited or no personality to your design.
Illustrations provide visual aid:
Simply put, an instruction manual with images is easier and faster to understand than a lengthy explanation. This is because illustrations have the benefit of being unambiguous and direct whereas people are skimmers and rarely attentive. Icons are universally recognizable symbols, thereby removing language barriers and facilitating understanding among a larger audience. In many instances, text is replaced or clubbed with iconography / illustrations to provide breathing space in an otherwise, cluttered screen. Adequate amount of empty space (in the appropriate spaces!) Allows the eye to navigate easily and freely.
Illustrations create delight:
Straight up – Illustrations are likeable. Even the most banal of softwares can be live-ned up with illustrations. They bring forth a sense of wonder, playfulness, whimsy and an overall positive vibe. They add value beyond functionality and can be used for different purposes like on-boarding, empty states, errors and spinners.
Illustrations make for better conversions:
An engaging and interactive walk-through automatically invokes the users interest in the app at the initial step itself. On boarding screens introduce the key features or benefits of app to the user which helps set expectations and improvements overall experience, a lack of which can be confusing. A well done walk-through can make the user happy and feel eager to start using the app.
All said and done, it's not a hard and fast rule that illustrations should be incorporated in your design. There are diverse reasons for which they are required. Use your best judgment as not all experiences require one. But if used well, illustrations can help in taking digital experiences to the next level.