What Makes a Vector Illustration Look Professional?

There are some excellent vector illustrations out there, but there are major differences in novice vector graphics and professional looking vector graphics. Today, I want to point out some things that make a vector illustration look even better.

I found this beautiful artwork from artist Kaz Oomori, who partnered with Disney and Fandango to create beautiful posters for the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


The artwork shows numerous reasons why it works well as a vector illustration:

Leading Lines

finn leading lines.png

The illustration takes advantage of the design element of leading lines. Your eyes are naturally drawn to the image of Finn and Kylo Ren because of the use of leading lines. Not only are Finn and Kylo Ren drawn in a diagonal, action way, but the lines leading off behind them really emphasize that action. Movement, as shown above, really elevates the appearance of this poster.

Good Use of Value

finn value shadows

There is an excellent use of value to show dimension with the vector illustration in this poster. Through out the design there are examples of shadows on the two men, and also the different value shadows leading off of them. On the face alone there is several layers of different shades of color, some of them the same type of color scheme just lighter and darker, but the artist also takes advantage of the light saber color reflecting off his face as well. There is also dimension with the shading on his pants, and also on Kylo Ren’s clothing and mask as well.


finn contrast

Contrast is prominent in this design in multiple ways. Firstly, the color scheme shows great use of contrast with the cool blue color with the hot red color. There’s also contrast with the vibrant red/pink color of Kylo’s light saber highlighting off of his dark black and grey costume. The contrast between the two characters is also noticeable here as well with Finn on the good side and Kylo Ren on the bad, so having those two perspectives is a fun play on contrast as well.

If you look at the other artwork in the series they all have these same elements with consistency and repetition between the different posters, and all of them show good use of good contrasting design principles.

1_Kaz_oomori-Star_wars kaz-oomori-star-wars.png

Having warm color verses cold colors, using a variety of shades and focusing on the value of the design, and also using diagonal action lines really helped elevate the look and appearance of these vector illustrations. I am definitely a fan.



Getting Nostalgic With Illustrator Icons

While I don’t particularly know much about bears, beets or Battlestar Galactica, I do know a bit about The Office. So when we got the fun assignment to come up with an idea and then design small icons related to that theme I knew somehow I had to incorporate my love of The Office characters.

Project Specifications

We had to use Adobe Illustrator to create 4-6 original icons to communicate a specific message. We couldn’t have any text, gradients, drop shadows, pixels, or raster effects. Other than that, we were free to create whatever we wanted.

My Theme

I decided that the theme of my icons was going to be The Office characters pretty early on. I found The Office TV show right after I graduated college, and I remember staying up in the middle of the night watching The Office over the years with multiple newborn babies. It kept me sane, and I still watch the show regularly today. I have a love for the show and it’s characters, and I thought it would be a fun challenge to try to recreate the characters into icons.

Target Audience

I wanted to target people who are fans of the Office, typically people age 16 and up who enjoy comedy and the fun characters on the fun TV show. This was actually an interesting challenge, since the target audience is very specific. In order to really appeal to my audience I needed to make my icons easily recognizable and communicate who they were through my design.

Color Scheme

I didn’t quite know how to choose colors for this particular assignment because I didn’t want to be limited in the colors I chose for the characters, but then I realized I could have complimentary and contrasting colors in the background that would bring in a nice repetitive element to the design. I chose soft pastels and then a more vibrant color in the same scheme for contrast. I think the colors contrasted each other nicely and made the design fun and colorful.

Design Analysis

I started my design by sketching out multiple sketches of the characters I wanted to do. I knew the most iconic characters were Michael Scott, Dwight, Pam, and Jim. The next few characters were a little more fluid.

When I was ready to start working in Illustrator I did not like how my first draft turned out. It looked too kiddish, it didn’t look very good. So I started from scratch and liked my second version much better. Here’s what I turned in for my rough draft.

After some feedback I realized I forgot to put in the line on Jim’s background, I swapped out Michael and Andy for Darryl (warehouse manager) and Kevin as character icons because they were more easily identifiable, and made Angela’s face more skinny because that’s a running joke in the show about how small she is.

Final Versions

Here are the final products of my design.

I am happy with how the final assignment turned out. I think all the characters work together, are identifiable, and there’s consistency with the color backgrounds, face shapes, eyes and basic profile layout.

I’ll leave with these wise words from Michael Scott.

“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

Perhaps that’s what I want to communicate with this design as well. Words to live by. Words to live by, my friends.