On Illustrating

Li-Ying Bao

As a professor teaching graphic design and digital multimedia development, I also really enjoy creating illustrations for the literary magazine North American Review.  I regard both illustration and graphic design as means of public visual communication which enhances the impact of the message from the authors, the information initiators, to the audiences, the information receivers.  The designers and illustrators are the mediators in such a triadic relationship to solve the visual communication problems effectively and aesthetically.

Visual communication employs images and texts.  Textual messages evoke viewers’ deep thinking at the intellectual level while images insert direct impacts on viewers’ emotional level.  Textual contents and vivid images cohesively enhance the messages.  Creating an illustration for a story is always a very exciting and challenging experience for me.  The creative process requires an illustrator’s effort to study and analyze the original theme of the story, investigate the social context, and derive resources from a vast visual reservoir.  As a communication mediator, the aspiration is to project the textual messages with additional visual dimensions, therefore, to enhance the communication to the diverse audiences.

Besides the creativity of art and design, I enjoy reading and writing, which I have since my childhood, and have deep interest in literature.  North American Review offers me great opportunity and pleasure to create illustrations for the works by contemporary literary writers and poets.  The revelation and depiction of the nuances in every corner of people’s lives and activities in the literature expand my horizon to understand contemporary society.  The exploration is an exciting and unique connection between the writers and illustrators. Through such writing, reading, interpretation, and visual creative processes, our inner souls communicate to each other and find the resonance in our spirits.


A graphic designer, illustrator, and digital animator, Li-Ying Bao teaches at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.