The rise of the editorial gif

We speak to three illustrators and an art director about the benefits of using gifs over traditional illustration for editorial commissions

Gifs have been around since the late 80s and have become a part of our digital lexicon, often used as a quick response or as a more complex emoji. But gifs have evolved over the years and they’re now being created with more purpose and used to communicate in different ways. 

This is especially true on news and media platforms where gifs and animated illustrations are being employed to accompany articles and stories, and are becoming the norm. The result is an enriched experience for readers as it makes the digital experience of a platform richer, and also provides the opportunity for illustrators and animators alike to experiment and try out their ideas in a new context. 

“I’ve commissioned more moving illustrations in the past two years than in my entire career!” says Jaspal Riyait, art director for the Interactive News Design Team at the New York Times. “Prior to the New York Times, my work focused on print, so coming to a digital landscape really opened up my eyes to the countless ways of using art as a form of storytelling.” 

Primal Women, New York Times, Cari Vander Yacht

Riyait and her team tend to use gifs and animation as a “unique way to frame evergreen content” and make a statement. Full blown animations are costly in terms of both money and time, but these shorter loops are used to sit alongside written pieces and are more achievable with tight deadlines, plus they can be created by the same pool of illustrators who create their static illustrations.