Want to show how your product helps people, but it’s kind of abstract? Or, want to show how your product works, but it’s software with many parts? Rather than photography or words, illustration is generally the most effective technique for communicating those kind of things and is therefore becoming an increasingly common and important part of the visual branding arsenal.
Illustration can be a highly accurate representation of a concept, and at the same time be styled so that brand ownership of the image is undoubtable. For these reasons, smart brands, including many in tech, have created an illustration style and then applied it widely throughout their website and beyond.
Here are some examples which work well.
The Zendesk illustration style is bold and stylised but also a bit hand-drawn. It feels personal and professional, and the colours come from the brand itself. These clever illustrations convey complicated messages about a communication framework.
Rockley Gardens, a high-end apartment development, shows that illustration is not just for tech companies. The Rockley Gardens illustrations set the development brand apart, making it feel fresh and personal, and also like a work of art.
Does anyone really understand what this business does? I’m sure their target market do, but that doesn’t include me. More importantly, they’ve used great, simple illustrations to make what they do feel approachable, but also smart. At the same time the illustrations complete the brand and so are fixed tightly to the visual language of Intercom.
Illustration v. photography
While photography is the go-to for company images, there are a number of ways in which illustration is better.
Illustrations are created with colours which come directly from your brand colour palette, or which compliment it. Shapes and textures in illustrations can also somewhat reflect or contrast brand essentials, like logo and typography. Branding photos is also possible with control over lighting, subject and camera.
Diagrams are a kind of illustration, and so brand illustrations can easily lead into diagrams. Complicated concepts may also be represented metaphorically without difficulty in illustrations, whereas in photos that can be far less straightforward.
Photoshoots are hard to organise as they involve many variables and costs. Illustration is comparatively simple. Re-shooting photos can be a real headache, but creating more illustrations in a series can be a smaller task.
The major, and obvious way in which photography can be superior is that photos are “real”. They show the world as we know it, and therefore indicate an aspect of truth and honesty. Seeing a real person in a photo is incredibly powerful and engaging, qualities which endure even in our photo-saturated world.
For the majority of brands, there is a place for both illustration and photography. Smaller brands can sometimes still appear quite professional without either medium, but that has its limits.
How do you include illustration in a project?
Clients in new, smaller ventures wanting to use illustration should state it as a requirement during brand development briefing. Giving brand strategists and designers this heads-up will enable them to consider different styles of illustration in conjunction with the design of the logo and other brand visual essentials. Working illustration in conjunction with other visual aspects is the most direct and rewarding path to good brand illustration.
At Univers we consider image style, including the possibilities for illustration, during the discovery and stylescaping phase of a project. Of course, an illustration style can be created for any client at any stage, but the later it’s left, the more time it will take to develop and be endorsed. We have worked with professional illustrators to create unique brand styles, but we also have strong in-house talent to create and roll out brand illustration. Furthermore, we can create brand illustration kits and guidelines for use by any designer, so images can be made more efficiently.