Quite simply; illustration which accompanies an article of text.
Where does it come from?
'The Tempter' Sidney Strube, Daily Express, 1925
Originated from political cartoons/caricatures that would accompany political opinion pieces in magazines and newspapers such as Punch and The Daily Express. Satirical pieces with a focus on statement and humour.
What is the nature of Editorial Illustration now?
Though political cartoons are still very much alive, editorial illustration has grown into a much more varied area of work. Where there once was very much a niche of political articles paired with satirical cartoons, we now see articles with any subject or purpose being accompanied by images of any drawing style. The term has more broadly come to be used to encompass magazine cover design also.
Despite this, the key purpose of editorial illustration remains the same; to emphasise or illuminate a key concept within the article. Editorial illustrations are visual elements within a publication that support or explain a concept. This could be a visual representation of a segment of text, such as an info-graphic of statistics, or an abstract image which the text does not describe.
As graphic design has gained a more prominent place and therefore become more integrated into the layout of publications, modern editorial illustrations appear in a far greater range of formats than the classic predecessor's form of a single cartoon or narrative strip.
Where there is now an emphasis on the visual relationship between text and image, modern editorial illustrations may take the form of a single or series of images in many shapes and sizes; covering a majority of a double page spread in some cases.
Editorial illustrations are in regular demand, as most magazines/papers are published on a regular basis. As with most publication-related illustrator roles, editorial illustration requires a flexible, client friendly attitude and willingness to collaborate with an art director. There is generally a quick turn around involved in making editorial images, due to deadlines being set several months before the date of publication.