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Key Trends at the World Illustration Awards 2018

The World Illustration Awards is one of the most highly regarded competitions in the world of illustration and definitely an annual highlight for anyone with an eye on the design scene. Each year the Association of Illustrators (AOI), launches an open call for entries that sees applicants from all across the world (74 countries to be exact), right the way from up-and-coming artists, to well established, professional practitioners.

World Illustration Awards

The shortlisted finalists’ work is displayed at Somerset House, the headquarters of the AOI. If you haven’t heard of them, the AOI are a non-profit trade association and the leading body representing illustrators in the UK and Internationally. They provide advice and resources to working illustrators as well as hosting a wide variety of events.

World Illustration Awards Category Winners

The World Illustration Awards is a great platform for new artists, showcasing upcoming talent. It is also a barometer for where the trends are moving. This year there was an overwhelming variety, as well as some firm Bulletproof favourites, including the likes of past Bulletproof Inspiration Festival speakers such as Ben Tallon and Owen Gildersleeve.

Here are some of the top themes and imaginative trends that we spotted among this year’s selection of shortlisted finalists…

Key Illustration Trends 2018

Future fantasy scapes

We saw a lot of busy scenes built out of fun, fantastical characters and places. Often depicting futuristic environments like the work of Alistair Williams, or stretching the imagination to look at bizarre virtual worlds like that of Esther Goh’s ‘EMOJIWORLD’; these ‘Where’s Wally’ drawings invite your eye to explore their complexities and stumble across hidden details. We also loved Rod Hunt‘s ‘Let’s Fix Our Relationship with Electronics’, illustrating a more sustainable future using electronics.

World Illustration Awards future fantasy scapes

Alistair Williams, A Human Movement (top left), Rod Hunt, Let’s Fix our Relationship with Electronics (top right), Esther Goh, EMOJIWORLD (bottom).

The World of Maps

Whether it’s informative or fantastical, illustrated maps are a world of their own. A way of exploring new and invented worlds or understanding the one that we live in, we saw several artists from this year’s shortlist demonstrating their individual style in the form of a map. Cartography is an ancient practice and it’s great to see contemporary artists constantly breathing new life into it, bringing it up-to-date. Check out Eleonora Kolycheva – Map of Tartu (image below), Iain Cox – The World of Lanphen, and Antoine Corbineau – Cities of the World.

World Illustration Awards Eleonora Kolycheva Map of Tartu

Cut it out!

Paper cut was a popular medium this year favoured by several illustrators, all with a completely different effect. From Owen Gildersleeve’s bold, bright shapes to the delicate backlit layers of the work of Courtney Dyer. This technique isn’t going away and we love the variation of effects that can be created.

World Illustration Awards Owen Gildersleeve

Owen Gildersleeve, Fanta Mash up

World Illustration Awards Courtney Dyer Ruth Mastenbroek signature packaging


Courtney Dyer, Ruth Mastenbroek signature packaging

Print isn’t Dead

Being big fans of print, we’re glad to see the artists keeping this medium very much alive. Joe Gamble combines collage and illustration to produce beautiful and vibrant risographs. His childrens’ picture book ‘Martha’s Moths’, was shortlisted this year and we love it! Other entries include Katja Grosskinsky’s screen printed jumpers, Shih-Hsien Hsu‘s book ‘Nordic Happiness’, which documents a trip to Norway. She also uses risograph, which appears to be having a resurgence due to its bright colours and ‘lo fi’ look and feel, as well as being cost effective to produce.

World Illustration Awards Joe Gamble Martha's Moths

Joe Gamble – Martha’s Moths

Black & Red

We noticed there was one colour palette that was particularly popular this year. Here are just some of the stand out pieces of striking work across different categories – Books, vinyl covers, editorial and much more!

World Illustration Awards black and red trend

Matthew the Horse – Forwards Always (Top left) Sveta Dorosheva – Grown Up Words (Right) Tatjana Junker– The Science of SAD (Bottom left)

New folk

Announced as the New Talent of the year winner for her book, ‘What is a River?’ (below, left), Monika Vaicenaviciene tells the story of human relationships with nature by way of a river as her main subject. The Swedish artist creates poetic compositions, using a sophisticated colour palette that brings a contemporary feel to the folk tale style.

Also of note, Val Catto’s ‘The Green Firefly’ (below, right) looks at the myth, ‘the green muse’, breathing new life into famous old paintings (part of the public domain) by using digital collage to create her work.

World Illustration Awards new folk trend

Although the show is only on for a short time, all the winners for the World Illustration Awards can be found on the AOI website.

Through campaigning and events like this, the AOI have raised the profile of illustration within the design industry. The World Illustration Awards particularly shows how year-on-year, the standard of work is elevated. And this year was no exception! The variety of work is astounding and looks beyond the well known favourites from within the UK.

Blog written by Holly.