How To Use Custom Illustrations In Your Marketing

In the hands of a seasoned marketer, custom illustrations are a very powerful and versatile tool. When it comes to the ability of conveying complex messages in simpler ways, nothing can beat them. That’s why many brands use custom illustrations as a part of their branding. And why you might want to, too!

Creating a custom illustration style for your brand comes with several benefits:

  • Your illustrations will create a unique visual language for the brand.
  • Custom illustrations help you maintain consistency with your branding.
  • They provide your brand with a way to tell your story in a memorable way.
  • They help you engage your customers.

To make the most of all these benefits, there are several steps you should take when developing custom illustrations for your brand. You can’t just pick a style willy nilly and go with it hoping the style will work well. Like all designs, custom illustration styles involve a lot of intricacies. And picking the best one for your brand is a bit of a science.

01 – Know your brand

Before picking out your style, make sure you and your designer know the brand in and out. Even as the creator of the brand, there might be things that you miss out on when it comes to picking an illustration style. Consider your brand story.  What inspired you to create the brand that exists today? How has it evolved? Can you bring that inspiration to the illustrations?

Join forces with your designer and rediscover your brand. Try thinking about your brand through the eyes of the customer. And if you don’t have enough insight to do this, reach out to them and get some data and feedback you can work with. Do this during your design process as well, as you test out different versions. That way you can figure out what style of illustrations will tell your brand story well, and connect with your audience. Each brand has its own personality and it’s own story to tell. 

One brand that has incorporated illustrations, in many forms, into their branding is Redbull.

Redbull has maintained a unique cartoon-like illustration style throughout the years. And it has been quite popular. In all their animation videos and gifs, they highlight their tagline “Redbull gives you wings”. And the illustrations carry the energetic and light-hearted nature of the brand to the audience perfectly.

02 – Do your research 

To create a custom illustration that is relevant and effective,  you need a clear idea of what others in your industry are doing. And what’s working and not. So do some thorough research about the illustration styles that are currently being used in your niche. And complement this by getting yourself informed of other styles which can help you achieve the same effect, in a unique way. Here are a few sites you can check out for some inspiration:

You can always ask your designer to do research to come up with suggestions for you, if you don’t have a particular vision in mind. But it always helps to provide at least 1 or 2 references. And they don’t even have to be styles you like – showing examples of what you don’t like, and explaining why, can be helpful too. Your designer will then be able to incorporate these insights into creating unique custom illustrations that represent your brand well.

03 – Understand their purpose

Knowing what your brand needs to accomplish through the illustrations is important. When you use custom illustrations, it’s not just a matter of aesthetics and what looks good. You’ve got to figure out the form and function of the illustrations. Will they be icons, frames or spot illustrations? And where will these illustrations be used? Social media posts, web sites, presentations, email newsletters, flyers or brochures, guide books, stickers, or on apparel? You’ve got to get very specific about identifying where your illustrations will appear, so that they can be designed with the end goal in mind.

One more thing you have to consider is if the illustrations are going to be used in both digital and printed formats. In the case of digital formats, consider both static and animated applications like GIFs and videos. When it comes to understanding the purpose of the illustrations, and designing with intent, Headspace has done a great job.

Headspace is a guided meditation app that helps users to relieve stress through meditation. The illustrations they use, make the ancient concept of meditation more accessible and relatable to a wide range of potential users. Headspace uses stylized and simplified drawings of people with a cool, calm color pallet that makes it easy for the audience’s eyes to take in all of the details. And they do all this with color combinations that always complement and reinforce their brand color of orange.

04 – Experiment with your brand’s aesthetic

Another way to use custom illustrations in your marketing is to incorporate them into your existing aesthetic. This could mean adding a few elements to your site’s header or footer, for emphasis. Or doing the same for your campaign creatives or email newsletters. 

Custom illustration elements jazz up this section of the Etsy website.

By adding them in occasionally you can put a creative twist on your marketing, while still being aligned with your brand. If you’re unsure about this, and just want to get your feet wet, test it out. Target a particular segment of your audience with a landing page and creatives that include custom illustration elements and ones which don’t. 

Over time as your brand evolves, and you get to know which types of designs your audience responds to best, you’ll be able to evolve your custom illustration style too. As much as it’s really important to establish a particular style and a unique aesthetic for your brand, you also want to be flexible enough to make tweaks when your brand could use a refresh. At Kimp we include custom illustrations in our subscriptions, and provide unlimited revisions for just this reason.

As your brand’s aesthetic evolves, just be sure to capture this in your brand guidelines so that your designer is always creating the best representations of your brand.

A custom illustration from the support page on the Basecamp site.

 How will you use custom illustrations?

From multinational organizations to startup businesses, custom illustrations can help you differentiate your brand from your competitors. They can also allow you to connect effectively with your target audience and tell your story in a more vibrant way. You can opt to create your branding, from your logo itself, in a custom illustration style. Or just add elements for a bit of a refresh every so often to make your marketing engaging. There are a ton of options, and with the right designer’s support, you’ll be able to explore the right ones for your brand.