Five ways illustration can take your design project to the next level

In a world where stock photography and illustrations are easy to get hold of and no longer cost the earth, is there any reason to commission bespoke illustrations for your brand?

We asked our Creative Director Sam Osborne (who is an illustrator when she isn’t creating designs for Awemous) to talk us through the world of illustration.

“As an illustrator I’m obviously a bit biased towards illustration, I love its versatility, personality and ability to communicate loads of information very quickly. It really can be whatever you want it to be and with clear art direction and vision it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Here are my top reasons to use illustrations as part of your branding and communications with some of my favourite examples to show you what can be achieved:”

Illustration gives your business personality

Illustrations are full of character, far more than you’d ever be able to squeeze into a photograph. If you want to be quirky or cute or serious or informative or cutting edge there is an illustration style for you. Think of how many words you’d have to use to communicate the same thing. Take the example of Mailchimp and their illustrated monkey. The loveable character is a key part of their branding and immediately associates Mailchimp with being easy, friendly and fun. They carry him through all parts of their branding and product from the 3-d character used in their branding to the simple illustrations within their interface.

Illustration makes your communications unique

Commissioning custom illustration means that no other business or campaign will look like yours. Stock illustration can be used by multiple businesses and you could find yourself using the same elements as your competition. When Benecol wanted an advertising campaign to make them stand out from the crowd they turned to illustration. The bright, bold, modern illustration style set them apart from their competition and gave them a fresh vibrant look.

Illustration can be anything

With illustration you’re not tied to the world of physics like you are with photography. If you want a man floating through space with a lightbulb for a head then it is possible. For instance, when Oreo wanted to celebrate their birthday they turned to illustration to add a sense of joy and wonder to their adverts. 10 different illustrators were tasked with coming up with a unique character with the only stipulation being they had to have an Oreo for a head! Just look at the amazing, imaginative artwork they got back.

Illustration is a great way to communicate facts and data

Most business have a need to communicate dull data at some point and illustration can take those stats and make them visually interesting. From livening up your yearly sales report to an infographic about changes in your industry, illustration can help make information easy to understand and appealing to read. Add infographics to your annual report or sales presentation for instant visual appeal. The British Council used illustration in their annual report to bring their services to life and make complex data easy to understand.

Illustrations help tell your story

Nothing brings stories to life quite like illustration and there is no reason why you can’t use them to tell explain your product, service or history. Use them as a complimentary element to your words and you get more bang for your buck. Intercom have used this to great effect on their website, showing in two simple illustrations the story behind their product – before is complex and confusing, after is simple and easy.

Keeping it cost effective

Client’s main worry about illustration is often the cost, it is perceived to be more expensive than photography and often stock imagery is relied upon to fill the gaps, but there are clever ways to manage the process to ensure you get unique illustrations that represent your brand without breaking the bank. My favourite one is to create one large, hero illustration for use on a cover or home page and then take elements out of that illustration, re-colour, re-order and re-combine them to create many smaller illustrations. With no extra original art being made costs are kept to a minimum.

Like all design work, a clear brief that ensures both illustrator and client have a clear understanding of what is being created, and why is key. This avoids any surprises and keeps costly rounds of amends to a minimum.  So putting the work and thinking in early in a project can be dividends when it comes to the bill at the end.

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If you’d like to talk about adding illustration to your brand or design project, get in touch with the team at Awemous.