The buzz around illustration and graphic design generally seems to me to be at an all time high at the moment (admittedly I follow a lot of illustrators and designers on Twitter and Instagram, so my view may be a little skewed), but events like Pick Me Up and Pictoplasma bring illustrative art forms into focus and celebrate the many top artists, designers and illustrators working at the top of their game. In short, Illustration Rocks!!
In this post, I have tried to break down how illustration could work for you, if you are a business, venture or organisation looking to connect with an audience. Obviously every business is different and with specific individual needs, so this really is intended to be a starting point, a pause for thought...
You may have an existing brand which needs livening up a bit, or be starting from scratch... Here are some thoughts on why (and how) you should consider embracing an illustration vibe..
1. Illustration is a great way to bring character and personality to your brand.
2. It can allow you to have a different look and feel to your competitors, to set yourself apart.
3. Illustration can fulfil different roles to suit your needs, for instance:
- Can form a key part of your brand, designed to sit alongside a new or existing logo
- Help you to engage with customers and impact on how your brand is perceived
- To illustrate content such as articles and blog posts
- To describe your products or services. Information can be made more interesting and easier to understand.
- Infographics can convey large amounts of data or information in a more visual way
- A set of icons can form a useful kit of parts to be used as required, such as to punctuate key points and areas on your website or marketing materials
- As an alternative to photography
The above illustration was produced for Activation Digital to describe a promotional platform they have developed - They offer their clients the ability to run competitions and offer prizes from promotional codes on product packaging, and wanted to illustrate this as a kind of 'virtual machine', with different routes through, and different outcomes.
4. Commissioning illustration might be seen as quite a daunting task It really needn’t be. (A future post on this, I think!) By finding the right illustrator to work with, the returns should be worth any initial reservations.
5. Designer or Illustrator? I have written a previous post about how to choose a designer, many of the points will hold true for illustrators and so might be worth a read... that post can be seen here.
With regard to illustration as part of a brand - likelihood is that a designer should be involved somewhere along the line to keep things in check from a brand point of view (or at least an illustrator with design sensibilities). This would also depend on your requirements, most designers would be able to do illustration work to a certain extent, but for anything beyond their skill set, or for a different take they may themselves enlist the help of an illustrator.
Many illustrators will work directly with commercial clients, others work through agents. Illustration agents will have a number of illustrators on their books, who between them would offer a wide range of styles. Budget, scale of project, and how you like to work are all factors which may influence whether you decide to work directly or through an agent.
6. Stock illustration might(?) be an option. As a general view, I personally wouldn’t advise using stock illustrations if they are to be a prominent part of your brand, mainly because you aren’t able to own them - anyone else can use the same illustrations.
However, depending on your needs, libraries such as Shutterstock offer a range of ‘Royalty-free’ images, which may fit the bill. Royalty-free does not mean ‘free’, there will still be a basic cost, but once you have paid and downloaded the images, there is no restriction on usage. ‘Rights-managed’ imagery is the alternative - a specific copyright license is required to give permission for your particular usage. Costs can vary significantly depending on how and where the image will be used.
A trawl of the internet may find you some free stock illustration options. Again if they suffice for what you are looking for, all well and good, but in my experience you don’t get much worth having for free these days! The thought of using ‘clip-art’ as part of a brand makes me cringe...
7. Bespoke or Stock illustrations? A quick comparison of the options...
- You don’t own it, there is nothing to stop others using the same illustrations
- Search for what you want by subject matter or style
- You may or may not be able to find exactly what you’re looking for
- It may be limiting that not all the illustrations you need are done in the same style
- Likely to be cheaper - although not always, particularly if ‘rights-managed’ imagery is selected
- Can see exactly what you’re going to get before buying
- The illustrations are yours, no-one else can use them.
- Illustrations can be commissioned to fit EXACTLY what you need them to do
- Moving forward, you can potentially commission more illustrations in the same style, as you need them. This can be useful when introducing new products and to maintain consistency across all of your content.
- Might be more expensive than buying ‘off the shelf’ stock illustration.
- Requires an understanding between you and your chosen illustrator/designer. They should be able to advise on what style of illustration would work with your existing brand, or develop a whole new brand if required, incorporating an illustration style
8. A good fit ? Commissioning or buying illustration is much the same as buying anything, it needs to fit right and do it’s job.
An ill-fitting item of clothing will make you feel self-conscious when you wear it. If it isn’t comfortable or doesn’t look right, most of the time it will just sit in your drawer and not be worn. The obvious flipside is to choose something with a great cut, that you look and feel fabulous in, allowing you to project a much better overall image and confidence.
With part of my work being as an illustrator, it’s pretty safe to assume that I will always advocate the use of illustration within all kinds of projects. The key point is to find the correct solution for you and your brand - that fits with your budget, but that also performs as you would like.
I do hope these points have helped in considering the use of illustration in your brand. If you're still not sure, please do feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.
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