As both an artist and deeply involved Art Director in the world of illustrations, I often ask myself: 'What makes a great illustration?' It's a question that continues to both challenge and inspire me, given that the answer is ultimately subjective.
With the help of our diverse team of creative minds here at Streamline, I sought to answer these questions as 2023 came to a close.
The result? A curated list of standout illustrators that, in our collective opinion, are a definite "yes" when we think of what a great illustration is all about.
As we roll into the new year in 2024, we firmly believe that these illustrators and their distinctive styles are poised to set the tone for outstanding illustration work throughout the year.
The honorable mentions
If you've been watching a lot Netflix lately and have stumbled upon Love, Death, & Robots then you've probably seen this artist's work!
Mielgo showcases a balance of proficiency in both traditional and digital painting. His talent in crafting emotional scenes, especially in the "digital art" section of his portfolio is especially noteworthy.
Alberto is well known for his onscreen works on Netflix's Love, Death, and Robots with THE WITNESS' massive success that was soon followed by JIBARO, another masterpiece!
" I Wrote, Designed and Directed : “THE WITNESS” an animated film part of the very new and successful Netflix Anthology: LOVE DEATH AND ROBOTS, Created by Tim Miller and David Fincher. And I'm so proud of this. "
According to him, he's always liked the title "Art Director" better than "Production Design," no matter the fancy status or hierarchy. They even got him to direct a little clip that eventually turned into something called "the animation test."
He was also approached to create some color concepts, thumbnails, and ideas for HARRY POTTER: THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS before the script was even written!
Check out his website to see more of his works! Albertomielgo.com
Hackett demonstrates great attention to detail with their cartoon-like style!
He also demonstrates an adept use of space, skillfully weaving a balance between fun and meaningful elements within each composition.
And for the last 14 years, he has been working as a freelance illustrator since 2007 who has a profound love for skateboarding as well!
" Skateboarding is my muse. I've only been doing skateboarding illustrations for the last three years or so. I once drew a skateboarding illustration - just for fun. I put it on Instagram and it was a success! "
Source: Philhackett-Horsefeathers collab.
He wasn't kidding when he said his works are lively, fun, colorful, sometimes surreal, and often containing skateboarding.
Hackett also did illustrations for VANS particularly for the ongoing celebrations of the Vans Shop Riot Series 10th Anniversary.
But what else does he have to offer aside from skateboarding, pickles, and shoes?
He has an impressive roster of clients featuring The BBC, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Sky, and GQ. Amidst various projects, he keeps the skateboard series thriving, regularly unveiling fresh creations on his Instagram!
When an artist says "Create your own visual language, one that is unique to yourself." and that "My board is my muse" you know you are in for a treat.
Hackett's illustrations are available at his website: Hacketillustration.com
There's a need to highlight illustrators specializing in abstract art, such as Henning, who skillfully crafts abstract shapes reminiscent of traditional mediums.
Bernardo is an Argentinian artist who mixes illustration and photography to create these amazing collages that are full of life and color.
He is the co-founder of HolaBosque where he works as an art director, designer and illustrator. His mastery in design is evident in seamlessly incorporating these elements into photos, making each project stand out with vibrant abstract elements!
"Messy, meticulous, colourful, fun and eclectic. Although, I don't think I've reached a personal style yet. But what you see today is the product of drawing something everyday, practice and a lot of inspiration from everyday internet. "
Also stated in one of Bernardo's interviews, he would describe his works in 3 words as "Organized, eye-catching and a mess."
He creates naturally and confidently using what he wanted to work for, while happily making a living out of it at the same time, is commendable.
Some of Bernardo's best works can be seen in his collaborations with big brands, such as Coca-Cola, Adidas, WeTransfer, Lego, MTV, and Spotify.
Check out more of his works at: Bernardo Henning
Meanwhile in Japan, we have Ryo Kaneyasu!
With only dots for eyes, how does one make their character expressive? Well, Kaneyasu is a perfect example of how to do it right.
He is an illustrator that does a lot of activities in various media such as advertising, web, books, TV commercials, and collaborations with fashion brands.
His talent lies not just in the minimalist yet emotive portrayal of characters, but also in the mastery of body language, breathing life into each illustration! This minimal style earned him his collaborations with several brands, be it apparel or accessories.
The vibrant colors and clean lines, coupled with funky poses, contributes to the unique allure of their artwork. Talk about a universal art style! It must be fulfilling to not only see your art on different things, but also profit off of it!
Make sure to follow his socials to see more of his works! Ryo Kaneyasu IG
#6 Ross Du
Ross is a Graphic designer and Illustrator from the Philippines whose work and style is a result of a decade of non-stop illustrating and designing.
Featuring a unique blend of fashion-forward design, in Du's world, every character emanates an aesthetic and trendy aura, seemingly dressed for an OOTD moment at all times!
Which brings us to our favorite, The Filipino Home Series.
She described the series as illustrations inspired by all the times we’ve been spending indoors, and how the Filipino home is a fluid, multi-use shared space.
Another one of her notable works, Ang Manileña (The Manileña) which is a tribute to Filipinas and the feeling of ''Home'' as she describes it.
Ang Manileña series is inspired by picturesque covers of The New Yorker and The Tokyoiter giving the same nostalgic feeling of being truly Filipino and being the Filipina that you are.
Her illustrations carry a charming children's book style, enhancing the overall visual appeal, creating a desire to immerse oneself in the captivating world she's crafted.
" I think my work contains a lot of visual language from Manila culture because I tend to depict comfort and the familiar. That just so happens to be in the context of “home.” "
Source: Adobo magazine
To know more about this wonderful artist, make sure to follow her website, store, and even socials as she recently had a collab with Uniqlo PH! : Ross Du
Honorable mentions set the stage, but the real buzz is around the top 5 illustration sets of the year! Diverse and creative, these sets are pure eye candy.
Let's dive into the heart-stealing illustrations of the year! 🎨✨
If you are looking for an artist that has an art style that encapsulates designs that depict happiness and good in the world then Luke is the man for you!
It’s always nice to see an artist with art that has a consistent, yet distinct style for their characters.
His work draws inspiration from games, music, cartoons, food, and just about anything around him that has an influence on him.
His illustrative world is characterized by bubble-shaped, stretchy elements, maintaining a cohesive aesthetic.
He has been keeping himself busy creating designs, logos, and album artwork.
Represented by Handsome Frank, home to the world's greatest illustrators, he's teamed up with big clients for different projects.
Even with static images, Luke's rounded characters exude a sense of movement, adding dynamism to the scenes.
"I proper love to bring joy and tell stories with my work."
Source: Handsome Frank
And here are our latest favorite works from him!
To browse more of his wonderful world of illustrations, check out his website here: Luke McConkey
#4 Skinny Ships
For a well-rounded list, we mustn’t forget to include technical illustrations, and Skinny Ships’ geometric, almost icon-like works perfectly fit the bill!
Richard Perez and Jennifer DeRosa make up the creative team Skinny Ships.
The vibrant colors paired with the aforementioned geometric style employed in these quirky characters and illustrations resonates well with Type A personalities, who appreciate symmetry and order.
" We love old junk! Plus, we think the best inspiration comes from taking a break from the computer and looking for inspiration outside of usual channels. "
Source: The Noun project
As an avid video game fan and a lover of anything vintage, the inspiration rings clear in their work!
Since 2013, they've joined forces in their Portland, Oregon studio, bringing their unique design flair to projects for major clients such as Target, Google, and Fitbit.
Their work is striking and never fails to captivate, showcasing the artist's ability to craft imaginative and visually appealing compositions from something as foundational as geometric shapes.
The Skinny Ships duo think it’s vital to keep trying to evolve and grow, all while trying to maintain the Skinny Ships vibe: bold vibrant colors and strong solid shapes.
More these duos bold and vibrant artworks available in their website! Skinnyships.com
We have been fascinated with The New Yorker's covers and arts without knowing who the artist was until recently!
Kikuo is a cartoonist and illustrator originally from Hawaii. His drawings and stories regularly appear in books, advertisements, periodicals, animation, and on the cover of the New Yorker.
Known for his work on the New Yorker covers, his illustrations evoke a modern comic style, rich in narrative depth.
On top of that, Kikuo divides his time drawing in Brooklyn, teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design!
What truly captivates us is the art's ability to convey a substantial story through strategic focal points and thoughtful composition. The use of line art resembling pen strokes, combined with a muted palette of colors, adds a distinctive charm to the pieces.
"I was obsessed with the idea of a comic book being an intimate hand-made letter from the cartoonist to the reader. " – R Kikuo about after his worst teen clusterfuck Night fisher. Source: The comic journal
Kikuo's interesting artworks and not just on the cover of The New Yorker are available for viewing at R Kikuo Johnson.
Noritake is another prime example that simple scenes and surreal poses can be as expressive as a full-on anime render.
The clean, black-and-white, minimalist illustrations featuring a recurring character might not be groundbreaking, but they are always a visual delight and is versatile for various purposes like landing pages, merchandise, and packaging.
The scalability of Noritake's work is also noteworthy; he deftly avoids overcrowding scenes!
He is active in Japan and overseas, focusing on monochrome drawings, including advertisements, books, magazines, fashion, and murals. His art style is so popular in Japan and their love with minimalism that even big idols such as Arashi had their own illustration from him!
Aside from that, he also produces products such as notebooks that make good use of his illustrations.
There is no doubt that the strange faces and minimal scenes in Japanese illustrator Noritake’s work are utterly charming and wonderful!
The cleanliness, minimalism, and innocence of his illustrations are irresistible.
For manga readers, Noritake's art might evoke a sense of nostalgia reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka and Fujiko F. Fujio's work!
#1 Josep Puy
And coming in at the number 1 spot, with his exceptional style, we have Josep Puy!
Puy, with his undoubtedly unique art style, is a Creative Director at Folch Studio and an illustrator from Barcelona, Spain.
In the colorful world of illustrations, this artist's specialty lies in single-colored line drawings.
One of our favorite works is the Kindfull project for Target!
The illustrations created for Kindfull, rock a blend of minimalism and cuteness that exudes a comfortable vibe.
Josep Puy has a style that may seem deceptively easy to replicate, but upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that it's uniquely his own. The shapes, curves, and minimal use of lines, coupled with strong conceptualization, set his work apart.
He strikes a balance between icon-like and detailed illustrations, making them easily comprehensible compared to more complex artworks.
Achieving such minimalism is no easy feat!.
And to check out this wizard's site as he has more inside his art world!
See JOSEP PUY
That's a wrap!
And there you have it! This carefully curated list represents our top picks for the illustrators and illustration styles that are set to shine in 2024.
We hope this compilation serves as inspiration for budding creatives, igniting their passion to create exceptional work.
Looking for more creative inspiration? Explore further by checking out our companion article on 2023's best in icon design below.
Happy creating this 2024! ✨🎨
What are your thoughts on our selections? Do you have an illustrator or illustration project that you think should make it to the list? Let us know!