Illustration Essay Workshop Ideas

At the end of last year I was asked by the Ahead Partnership if I’d be interested in delivering a workshop at a local school. The workshop was to be part of an enterprise day aiming to connect students with local businesses. I didn’t know much about working as a freelancer when I was at school so thought it might be interesting to develop a workshop to give the students a taste of life as a freelance designer. The class were Year 10 so students were aged between 14 – 15 and each workshop lasted about an hour.

When I was putting the workshop together this excellent article about the importance of design by Dean Vipond was a big help.

I started off by introducing myself and showing a few examples of my work. We talked about the meaning of the word freelance and what an illustrator does. I mentioned how lots of different types of jobs can be freelance and how the internet has made it much easier for people to build their own business.

We talked about the importance of design and how design is everywhere, often without you even noticing it. I showed this image of two hotel signs and asked which one they thought would be a nicer hotel and more expensive to stay at.

This led onto typography and how the look and feel of a simple word can instantly determine your impression of a business.

I then presented a slide full of emblems and talked about how some of the best logos don’t rely on text at all.

I asked the students to call out the names of each business. We talked about the word ‘brand’ and how it originates from business owners literally ‘branding’ their products (barrels, crates, cattle) with a burning metal symbol.

The next slide showed a few examples of logos that use illustration or negative space and have hidden meanings within them.

The students enjoyed picking these out and showing others who couldn’t see them. These hidden easter eggs such as the arrow within the FedEx logo or the bear within the mountain in the Toblerone logo adds an extra level of memorable detail.

I then showed three different businesses that were about to open a store in a local shopping centre.

I asked the students to work in groups and design a logo for one of the businesses. I asked them to think of a name and just start writing down words and images associated with their business. I wanted them to be free and easy with their ideas and explained how if you’re pitching to a client you’ll often be expected to present several ideas. I also gave them limited time to try and put a bit of pressure on them and explained how in the working world you’ll probably be required to meet a strict deadline.

Next I showed a bunch of mascots and we talked about how a character will make a brand appear friendly and more memorable.

The students called out the different companies the mascot’s represented and we discussed how characters are particularly good for advertising and businesses that want to appeal to a family market. The students then designed mascots to accompany their logos.

The final slide showed a selection of slogans and I asked the students to call out the names of the businesses for each tagline.

We talked about how a slogan accompanies a company name and how a successful tagline can stick in the mind. The students then thought of slogans for their own business.

I then asked some of the students to stand up and present their ideas to the rest of the class. Some of the teenagers were very reluctant to do this and I talked about how giving presentations and talking in front of groups is a really handy skill to have.

I finished with a few ideas on what skills a freelancer needs and weighed up the pros and the cons. I explained how you have freedom to do what you want and you’re your own boss but you also need to be reliable and deliver on time. If this means working evenings and weekends then it needs to be done, otherwise the client might not ask to work with you again. I also talked about how the world of freelancing can be insecure and you don’t get paid when you’re sick or want to take a holiday. But it is possible to make a good living as a freelancer and the positives easily outweigh the negatives.

It made a nice change to spend a day with students and hopefully the workshop made some of them think about a future working as a freelancer. It was great to see the students come up with so many ideas and it was a good top-up for my own creative battery. Doing a challenging workshop like this took me out of my own daily routine, made me take a step back and think about where I want to go in my career.

Not all of us are “right-brained” enough to have a powerful visual imagination. So, when the tutor handles the illustration essay task, hands could get a little shaky. But, no worries! This type of essay is not about artistic visualisation nor it requires any kind of drawing experience. It is much more about the “big picture” vision and the ability to formulate examples supporting your claims/arguments. So…


What is an Illustration Essay?

Illustration essay is here to prove a particular thing exists. This particular essay type relies much more on a research than analysis in order to prove a particular point. It contains a great deal of description and provides the reader with vocal examples. The thesis is formulated in the introduction; then it is developed with the help of illustrative examples within the body paragraphs – just to be perpetuated in the conclusion by the end of the essay.

Writing the Illustration Essay

An illustration essay is also commonly referred to as an Example essay. Of all the different kinds of essays students write, this exists as the most straightforward, easiest essay to write. While other essays require very specific aspects, such as the Cause and Effect essay, an illustration essay is exactly what it sounds like: an illustration of a particular subject. If you’re wondering if it requires drawing, have no fear! In an illustration essay, the writer illustrates his or her points with clear, authentic examples—not pictures. The body paragraphs should contain research illustrating the thesis, and likely the Works Cited and/or Bibliography pages.

Here is how to approach each of the sections of your illustration essay:


This paragraph opens the illustration essay. It typically contains anywhere from 5 to 15 sentences; a number of sentences depend upon the density of the topic being explained in the essay. It should begin with a hook – a sentence to gain and keep the reader’s attention. Hooks may also be referred to as “attention getters”. Examples of hooks include:

  • Interesting facts
  • Relevant statistics
  • Quotation
  • Rhetorical question
  • Personal anecdote

Following the hook should be several background sentences. These sentences provide key information the audience may need to fully understand the concept being illustrated in the essay. Such information could include defining important vocabulary, providing historic or social context, or relevant personal background for individuals discussed in the paper. Information plays a fundamental role when it comes to putting up a piece of content, whether it ‘s an informative essay or not. Finally, the last sentence of the introduction paragraph should be the thesis statement. It’s a good idea to craft your thesis statement before you begin any research; a well-written thesis should be able to guide your research and make it more effective. What makes a good thesis? So glad you asked!

A thesis sentence should be both clear and argumentative.  For an illustrative essay, a thesis statement should focus on identifying the subject to be illustrated and the way the writer plans to support the illustration.

Body Paragraphs

A body paragraph’s purpose is to support the thesis. Each paragraph should contain a different piece of evidence that proves the writer’s thesis has merit. All body paragraphs follow a universal format involving five basic sentence types:

  • Topic Sentence. This sentence identifies the topic of the paragraph and how it relates to the thesis statement.
  • Background sentence(s). Depending upon the complexity of the subject identified in the topic sentence, the writer may need one to three or more background sentences.
  • Research sentences. These sentences can be direct quotations or paraphrases of important ideas found during the research process. Any research sentences supporting the topic should be cited according to your teacher’s preference.
  • Analysis. Analysis sentences explain how the research sentences are relevant to the topic sentence and thesis sentence. These sentences often use analysis words such as shows, portrays, illustrates, proves, and communicates.
  • Conclusion/Transition. This sentence wraps up the paragraph and transitions the reader to the next idea in the following paragraph.

Now, here is where the “illustration” part comes in. You need to support each body paragraph statement with examples, proving or supporting your claim. Two examples covering each statement works the best. There is no need to dive too deep into examples – just lay them out as you outline your body paragraphs.

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Beginning the conclusion paragraph means that you’re almost done! Conclusion paragraphs are typically the shortest paragraphs in an illustration essay. Its purpose is to reiterate the main points within each body paragraph and prove to the reader that the writer proved his or her point within the essay. While these paragraphs are short, they are important; it is the last impression the reader has – so make it a good one!

Conclusion paragraphs should be strongly worded and confident. However, they should not introduce any new information; focus only one what’s already been presented as evidence in the essay.

Tips from our writers – free takeaways!

Transitions can really help move an argument along in an illustration essay. Transitions are words that act as connectors in a sentence; they connect one idea to another. They can show similarity, contrast, or illustration among other connections. Want your illustration essay to shine? Consider incorporating the following transitions to improve the flow of the essay:

  • For example
  • For instance
  • As an illustration
  • To illustrate
  • In this case
  • Similarity
  • In contrast
  • Another

Transitions can link similar ideas in the same body paragraph or link different examples between body paragraphs.

As with all essay writing assignments, it’s important to begin early and stay on-task. Keep to a writing schedule, beginning with an idea outline to organize your thoughts and help guide your research.

Check out this no-frills outline:

  • Thesis: Cats make the best pets because they are loving, intelligent, and independent
  • Body Paragraph 1: Prove cats are loving
    • Example 1: they are loving to their owners (well, maybe not all of them)
    • Example 2: they are loving to other animals (except dogs, of course)
  • Body Paragraph 2: Prove cats are intelligent
    • Example 1: capability to train cats
    • Example 2: ability of cats to solve problems and play
  • Body Paragraph 3: Prove cats are independent
    • Example 1: cats can entertain themselves
    • Example 2: they are born hunters
  • Conclusion: Wrap it up with strong statements – prove your initial point

Illustration Essay Sample

Be sure to check the sample essay, completed by our writers. Use it as an example to write your own essay. Link: Illustration Essay on Social Statuses

Drawing the line (figuratively)

Taking the time to outline and narrow your research focus makes finding information much, much easier! But it is not always necessary to verse an outstanding illustrative essay. The best way to prove your point is to show a real-life example. Nothing really works better than cases and situations taken straight from your life experience (almost like the narrative essay, right?) People with colorful life experience tend to be the best in the illustrative essay “business”.

Remember: you have many resources available to you to help you earn the grade you want. Stick to a good writing schedule and take a rough draft to your professor for constructive criticism. Visit the campus writing center if you have one, or send your essay to our professional writers service for editing. Revisit and revise your draft at least once—perfection is a process!



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