By Alan Male
256 pages, softcover, $36.95
Published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts
To some, a blank page is a blank page. To others, it is an opportunity, a responsibility, a challenge. No one knows this more than illustrators, who do nothing less than visualize our world and in turn help shape it.
In The Power and Influence of Illustration: Achieving Impact and Lasting Significance through Visual Communication, Alan Male helps illustrators tap into the thinking behind the shocking, subversive, gothic, witty, newfangled, scientific, funny, narrative and beautiful visuals that people encounter every day. Divided into four sections, the book first grounds readers in a historical overview of the birth and growth of illustration before parsing “the language of drawing,” such as allegory and symbolism. It then widens its scope to muse on the “context, impact and consequence” of illustration, like creating work for an increasingly global audience. The last section leaves readers with a view of the future, in which polymath creatives embrace authorship to have their voices heard.
Yes, this book covers a lot. It touches upon the history, ethical dilemmas, practical challenges and opportunities of illustration. It is filled with case studies accompanied by hefty, interesting captions, and Male poses many smart questions. While it’s not a how-to for illustrators who want to achieve “impact and lasting significance,” it will remind them of the importance of message and context in their work. It will also hopefully encourage them to continue filling blank pages with their unique visual language, as the world needs more conversations. —Esther Oh