Using illustration for branding is not merely a campaign. Illustrations are crucial in creating a brand’s visual identity. In this article, discover how illustrations make an impact on brands, what factors you have to consider, and how you can integrate a unique illustrative style into your own brand.
Upon starting on a branding project, it is typical to try creating visuals that are unique and fit with the brand as much as possible. Illustrations are great assets in achieving this goal. These design features will be a great addition to your project and will elevate your design game to the next level.
Just like your personal identity defines what makes you YOU, brand identity gives your business a unique personality that will make the consumers set you apart from everyone else in the industry.
But first, let us get to know what brand identity really is:
Brand Identity in a Nutshell
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By definition, brand identity is the group of elements that a company created in order to portray a specific image to the consumers. It is the tangible elements that make the audience instantly recognize a brand. Brand identity forges a connection between consumers and the brand as they associate the established identity with products and services. As the brand becomes more identifiable, consumers will be able to perceive the brand in a more positive way and will even encourage loyalty.
Various visual elements comprise brand identity, including illustrations, logo, brand colors and color palette, typographic treatments, collection of graphical elements, image and content, among many others. These elements unifies into a complementary identity system that are consistent, not only in appearance, but also in the use, scope, feel, and the likes.
The goal of establishing brand identity is to create a consistent story that will build awareness, loyalty, and infinite excitement. It is one of the many ways to keep a brand’s promise of their value.
When and Where Can You Use Illustrations in Branding
Remember that there are two general ways to do it if you are going to work with illustrations on a branding project. The first one is when you have to make the illustration as a part of the brand’s logo. The other one is when you make illustrations as complementary assets that can be used across different materials.
For the first one, the logo design is the foremost branding feature of any company. It would help to add a graphic element that will help communicate what the brand is all about. Simple, geometric illustrations, for example, are great for products and services that are offered digitally. Organic and light illustration styles, on the other hand, will work best with handcrafted products.
Illustrations are also wonderful as additional branding assets. You can use them for various applications such as social media posts, website, stationary, packaging, advertising, and more. They help further communicate the brand message and values, especially when you are able to keep them consistent in look and feel.
Factors to Consider when Building Brand Identity Using Illustrations
When choosing illustrations to establish brand identity, you need to consider these factors:
1. Budget. The available resources matter a lot when choosing to work with illustrations. You can either have a full-time illustrator for illustration direction when applying illustrations across different platforms. Patterns for illustrated logos, icons, and other assets may be created if the budget is a little restricted. A brand style sheet is a genius option if you want to achieve cohesive branding with illustrations.
2. Audience. Who the audiences are and which channels they frequent should also be considered. Social media platforms, for example, tend to be used by a younger crowd. Illustrations for social media posts, therefore, should be on the modern side as they are more favored by millennials.
3. Aesthetics. How illustrations look matters a lot. All graphics that are to be used for branding should look professional and well-designed in order to elevate the aesthetics quality. Aside from the appeal, be consistent on the tone and feel of the design. Corporate brands, for example, complement with simple patterns and icons. The illustrations would elevate the aesthetic appeal and it will amplify the brand message of being elegant and trustworthy.
Steps in Building a Strong Brand Identity using Illustrations
Intricate business models help companies convey the brand message thoroughly. Expert marketers, however, would agree that the right illustrations will deliver the message in a more meaningful way.
Here are the steps on how you can build a strong brand identity through the use of illustrations:
1. Perform a Brand Audit. Doing a brand audit is simply to know who you are as a brand. Identify the tangible elements that would make up the identity that you want to establish. It is by identifying your mission, values, and personality.
Aside from an in-depth knowledge of these key elements, you also have to pinpoint where you currently stand in the market and who your customers are. You may do a competitor analysis so that you can create strategies to differentiate your brand. You can also create a customer profile in order to streamline your branding approach according to the customers’ preferences.
2. Develop the Brand’s Creative Elements. The look, feel, and voice of the brand should be carried through across all marketing channels. The creative elements should be considered as the brand’s visual vocabulary. They include the fonts, colors, logo, and the overall design style that you want to associate your brand with. These elements must resonate with your brand message so that the customers can see that your identity stays true to the company’s values.
You have to lock in the basics of your brand’s design structure by starting from the ground up. You need to determine the building blocks of your design, which includes typography, color palette, and shape. It is particularly important to learn about these factors because they could give more or less impact on your illustrations. Just like colors have meanings, fonts and shapes also represent different characters that would strengthen your identity when used appropriately.
3. Execute Brand Identity Strategies. Remember that brand identity is not developed overnight. It would take time to successfully establish it and actually use it to increase awareness and strengthen the brand. Several strategies must be implemented that would span weeks, months, and even years to realize the goals. Lucky for modern marketers, it will be easier to execute these strategies with the help of online platforms.
One of the most effective ways to do this is by identifying which channels are used by the customers. If they frequent social media platforms, all efforts must be directed to establish brand identity through a robust social media presence. The idea here is to develop content that will be communicated to the audience directly.
4. Create a Brand Style Guide. The process of establishing your brand identity does not end at implementing your strategies. You need to ensure that future campaigns will still comply with your identity specifications. Upon having all your design assets in place, ensure that they will be used in the right way by creating a brand style guide. You simply have to outline the design assets, including when and how to use them.
Take note that consistency is the key if you want a strong brand identity. You have to make your brand look and feel the same whether on social media or on the website. This would help lessen confusion and ultimately make the audience trust in the brand.
A detailed section about creating a brand illustration system will be discussed later into this article.
5. Analyze and Refine. The final step in building a solid brand identity is to remain competitive through time. Unfortunately, you cannot expect to stay the same especially if you see that what you are doing is not effective. You have to routinely analyze if your strategies are working. You need to identify whether the customers are able to grasp your message and the identity that you want to establish from your illustrations. If not, then it may be the right time to refine the design elements and reformulate new strategies.
What is a Brand Illustration System?
Brand designers craft the brand’s identity with logos, colors, words, fonts, and other design elements. Illustrations are used to help the brand express the brand value by highlighting the talking points of a design. A brand illustration system, to put it simply, is a collection of all graphics that are cohesive in mood and in style. It elucidates the brand’s promise by humanizing the design. Through illustrations, the designer can inject humor, hope, love, irony, and other emotions into the design.
Technically, an illustration system is complementary to a specific branding strategy. Structured and serious campaigns, for example, should do away with an illustration system that is playful and a bit on the loose side.
An illustration system is used in order to add clarity to your design. You can create one for your brand by:
1. Knowing your brand. It must be emphasized to know your brand very well to create illustrations that make a great impact to your audience. This step is actually not complicated. You only have to be very definite on how you want to be perceived as a brand. You can also go back to reviewing your brand values and goals and be your guide in designing your illustration system.
2. Understand the different illustrations that you need. There are numerous types of illustration and they mostly vary according to their uses. You need to pinpoint whether they are to be used for websites, for an app, or both platforms. Will it be used for print materials or solely for packaging? You have to consider whether those illustrations will be appropriate across channels.
3. Spend generous time on research. Start your project by preparing a lot of inspirations. Allocate time to research different illustrations that are used within your industry. It will be best if you keep a record, whether digital or hand-drawn sketches whenever you see something inspirational and use these upon creating your own illustrations.
4. Aim for a unique but flexible style. An illustration system must help you create a distinct style but it shouldn’t be something that restricts your creativity. One way to do this is to have illustrations that will work well with text, photography, and other elements. They should not be too overpowering or you will risk having a hard time integrating it into the brand’s other design elements.
5. Create rules that future illustrations must meet. One way to make a unified illustrations system is by being very specific with certain rules to follow when creating new illustrations. It can be simply about the elements that you can use (example: only two colors must be used), or with the technical aspects, such as faces must be drawn from a side profile or only a specific brand of crayons should be used by the designer.
6. Work in vector format. Going digital has its perks and one of them is using vector format for creating illustration systems. This would make editing much faster and you can resize without pixelation. Other benefits of working in vector format include, flexible colors, smaller file sizes, and consistent assets are easier to add even without hand drawing skills.
Brand identity is an accurate reflection of your business. It is what sets you apart from a sea of competitors. By establishing your identity as a brand, customers will see you for what you are and they can build their expectations from you.
It is crucial to accurately portray your brand in order to nail the identity that you want to establish. This is where brand illustration systems become more meaningful because it helps you maintain consistency with your branding efforts. Illustrations are typically supportive of this goal since they effectively communicate messages to the audience. Just make sure to use illustrations that complement with the brand identity that you are aiming for.
Shelly Solis is a blogger with various experiences writing about digital marketing, finance, SaaS, business, IT, tourism, and infrastructure management. She blogs for https://designstripe.com/ and other partner brands & startups.
She is the co-founder of SaaSLaunchr: SaaS Marketing Agency dedicated to digital marketing services for SaaS businesses.