The State of Art at the Cusp of the Millennium
With illustration, this forced look is eliminated, and it seems that increasing numbers of people in advertising and communications are taking advantage of this strength. I notice more advertisements that feature conceptual illustration; even television commercials are employing it to great effect.
Choosing your tools
There has been a bit of a reaction to the amount of photography we see day in and day out, and this has benefited illustration. I'm not against photography; I love photography, and we sell a lot of exquisite stock photography through our Graphistock subsidiary.
My point is that it makes sense to choose your tools based on their strengths, the strengths that best convey your ideas. Many art directors, graphic designers and marketing people have come to understand that one of the fastest and most effective ways to give a unique look to their communications—be it for a product, service or organization—is by using illustration. Apart from simply looking good, most illustration is highly individual, and so it's easier and faster (therefore, less expensive) to create a unique identity—advertising's fundamental purpose.
With photography, it's much harder to identify the imprint of individual photographers, thus, the branding effect is generally a longer process. Of course, with the advent of computers, it's now possible to create highly conceptual images using photographic elements. However, if not executed with finesse, the results may appear contrived.
Perhaps this will improve over time. In the meantime, I'm convinced that, even allowing for any "retro" sentimental reaction to photography, illustration will continue to be the new millennium's medium of choice for communicating abstract and conceptual ideas, because it is a product of the artist's mind and doesn't depend on technology; if the artist can envision it, it can be illustrated.
The artist and the computer
While the 19th century gave us photography, the 20th century bestowed on us the updated version of the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." For better or for worse, the computer has made our times interesting, indeed, and it will continue to reshape our world to a degree that we can only begin to imagine.