FOWD 07 New York: Beautifying the web with Illustration

November 20 , 2007

Once upon a time…

I was asked to do presentation on Illustration at the Future of Web Design in New York. Time flew by and November was here in a blink of an eye.
Walking into the conference venue was a bit nerve racking. This was the first time I’ve been in front of a crowd of people alone. The venue was in a glass area of the conference center and the sun was shining as we overlooked the water to New Jersey. The screen for the projector was being out shined by the sun. I tried to convince more people to either come up with a cloud/rain dance or combine all our jackets to create a large tarp so we could block out the sun. No dice. The sun did start changing once I got on stage, I almost started with “Imagine that you could see.” Ryan Sims and I ended up bonding over that, a little laughter to let off steam never hurt. :)


I’ve placed the PDF of my presentation here. The pdf won’t make a ton of sense without context. I believe FOWD made a video they will be posting at a later time of the entire event. The slides are just images but the last slide contains the urls that I have for screen shots.

  • Level 1 of illustration is attraction. You want the users to be welcome, you are setting the stage, enticing them, making a first impression.
  • Level 2 of illustration you are trying to get them to see you more than just a pretty face, you are connecting with them. Engaging them to have a conversation.There are so many designers out there you just have to choose the appropriate look for your site.
  • Level 3 of illustration is having something of value, aids in comprehension of your product/site. There are so many uses for illustration besides just being used for branding, it is also being used as virtual goods. Asia’s been using this on their social markets and Facebook is only starting to tap into sites such as cylops (Korea’s myspace) has know for a while. Their users are paying money to decorate their sites. It’s not just businesses paying to decorate their pages. It’s the audiences. We’re also combining illustration to decorate our photographs. Everyday there are more people with digital cameras.
  • Questions

    I’m a bit to shy to get up and ask questions where everyone is staring so I usually walk over to the speaker after things are over.  I was relieved that people came up afterwards to tell me they got value out of the presentation and had questions.

    • How do you convince your business to use illustration? I would create a sketch of the illustration. Explain what the benefit would be.
    • What style do you think will be next in illustration? Hard to say, I have no crystal ball but the fun part is trying to come up with your own style if your an illustrator so that people will hire you for your UNIQUE approach. Plus its not just the style, its the ideas behind it, the concept.
    • How do you break into illustration? Blog, explain your illustrations, your process so that the visitors to your site can be wow-ed. :) Post your illustrations on places like flickr and tag them appropriately so people can 1. find them and 2. discuss and find you!

    Thank you

    Goes to the crew at FOWD: Ryan Carson, Jo Andrews, Melissa Kirk, and Bryan Veloso. It was a learning experience.
    Thanks goes out to my friends who helped me and listened to me practice. Craig Cook, Chris Moeller, Jackson Wilkinson, Jason Garber, Veerle Pieters, Geert Leyseele, Brian Ivanovick and Matt Harris.


Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 04.32 am

Jeff Croft

Two things:

1. I’m a little appalled that this pst doesn’t have an accompanying illustration. :)
2. It was freaking great hanging out with you some in NYC, Cindy. Loved getting to know you a bit better. Great times!


Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 06.16 pm

Gordon Mackay

I love your breakdown of the three levels of illustration, I love a thoughtful overview of any subject I’m interested in, so thank you.

Illustration is something I’ve been trying desperately to learn, but it’s so much more than technique as you point out, it’s all about personal style.

I just finished redesigning my site using illustration, and messed around endlessly… and ended up with something similar to a Southpark character :( lol

I don’t know how you managed to do the presentation, I was invited by Alan Musselman and Sheri German to speak about Fireworks at Adobe MAX in Vagas, but wimped out :$ :(


Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 10.04 pm


Gordon, it took a lot of nudging from my friends to do the presentation. I was still terrified. You should get out there and present. I’m sure you have it in you to speak. :) Just keep practicing in front of your friends or tape yourself (you’ll cringe) but it’ll help.Maybe I should do a post on how to present without throwing up on the audience ;)


Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 02.29 am

Gordon Mackay

LOL, not throwing up on the audience is definitely a primary skill in delivering a good presentation… I think you should definitely write about that and whether or not your technique involves anti emetic medication, lol.

I have an additional problem, it’s a potential communication barrier… a Scottish accent, lol.


Sat Nov 24, 2007 at 02.36 am



An accent depending on where it is can be considered “cute.” :)
Work it as an advantage the Brits do.
Too much to do and too little time.


Mon Nov 26, 2007 at 12.45 am

Uri L.

hiya - i found the slideshow at slideshare and came here to read more. It’s a cool presentation with nice insights and references, and I hope I can find the video from the event. Thanks for sharing :)


Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 04.07 pm


A big thanks from France, really interesting slide & article :)


Tue May 20, 2008 at 04.12 pm

Online meeting

the web is way to ugly and certainly needs to be beutified.


Constantly, trying to learn new things, and on the way I get to meet some amazing people with my camera by my side. XOXO!

on Flickr