⚡️ TL;DR: The key take away for our illustration style is that our projects are executed/delivered quickly, and that the message conveyed needs to be easily and quickly understood. The illustrations doesn't need to be too refined or too consistent. All it requires is quick recognition and comprehension. By analogy, it's not too different from traffic signs!

As part of our research process in developing the visual aids and illustrated translations, we spoke to many healthcare workers (HCWs) from various hospitals. From those learnings and observations, we came up with a set of principles and considerations that guides the look-and-feel of our illustrations:

Key considerations

  • Clean and Simple
    The illustrations and message conveyed needs to be understood fast. HCWs see a large volume of patients daily, so our visual aids should help to speed up communication. Reduce unnecessary additions to the illustrations to the minimum required to convey the message. The illustrations should not be highly/artistically rendered. The more straight-forward/vanilla the illustrations are, the easier and faster they can be read.
  • Contrast
    Illustrations must work in black and white as most medical staff will print in an office printer without colour. Try to avoid using only colour to convey important details - e.g. a red blood drop conveying blood drawing will just look like a water droplet in black and white. After illustrating, switch to black and white view to double-check.

To convey meaning more swiftly, use these techniques:

  • Context
    Drawing sugar cubes as white cubes can’t work alone, but drawn with context: next to coffee/candy/cakes will allow the readers to make the reference to those white cubes being sugar.
  • White space
    Ample space will allow readers to focus on the important things. Drawing elements too close to each other creates clutter, which makes the reading experience more difficult and time-consuming.
  • Shapes
    Use simple but sufficient shapes and lines to convey meaning. Subtract unnecessary elements in the drawings to increase reading/recognition efficiency.
  • Hierarchy
    The fewer elements there are in the scene, the better. Use scale (larger, smaller), tone (dark vs light) for more emphasis.

Mindful about cultural differences and literacy levels

Avoid illustrating concepts based on figures of speech, idioms or metaphors, as these might not carry well over to the cultural context of the migrant workers. Be mindful of using icons, as not all are universally understood.

We found that just drawing out the exact action that they have to do, or sketching out the physical environment is the clearest way. For example, for the illustration conveying "short of breath", just show a person panting, instead of a pair of lungs. For diabetes, show sugar instead of medical devices.

Resisting over-design

Designers love to design and in our passion for our work, over-designing is an reflex that we have to curb as much as we can. Keep details to a minimum. The visuals should be simple and immediately easy to understand. Too much detail entails that the viewer will take longer to process the image. It doesn't need the fine details like those in medical/anatomical drawings, even though this is for use in healthcare settings.

These are guiding principles based on the best knowledge we have at the moment, and it may change depending on new information coming in, and also different context/environments. If you have any suggestions and feedback, we welcome it too! Contact us here. 😊