Custom Brand Illustrations: An Unexpected Trend
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Here’s a familiar scenario for many tech companies: You’re ready to spin up a new marketing strategy, complete with a shiny new website and marketing materials to help sell your software as a service (SaaS) app. Now it’s time to decide what imagery you’ll feature to support your copy. Since your product doesn’t have a physical form, the range of images you can use is wide open, but ultimately you need imagery that conveys your brand values and connects with your target audience.

You could show screenshots of your app, but if your app is more functional than attractive, that can hurt rather than help your efforts. Another option might be to show stock photography, but what you’re able to show is limited to what’s available from the stock art library. Or perhaps you decide to lean heavily on iconography, which can be great as an accent but uncompelling as a featured image.

Traditionally, mixing and matching screenshots, stock images and iconography has been the standard for SaaS sites, and there’s nothing wrong with that. With a little skill (or the help of a full service marketing agency), you can achieve great results with these elements.

In the above video, we combined custom brand illustrations and real software screenshots to tell a data lineage SaaS story.

Recently, a new option has become popular among larger tech companies, and it’s definitely worth considering no matter your company’s size: custom brand illustration.

What Makes Illustrations Different

What differentiates brand illustration from other types of imagery and defines it as a new trend? The most significant factor is heavy stylization: basically, the evidence that an artist had a hand in its creation. Even though each brand may use a number of different designers to create their illustrations, the artistic direction with custom brand illustrations needs to be distinct and consistent enough that there’s no mistaking that the images belong together. This level of stylization also makes it clear that these are not just illustrations composed of repurposed stock art; there was a high level of care and thought put into their creation.

Our illustrated characters show viewers in a whimsical way why it’s important to avoid imitation office supplies.

The flexibility of custom illustration allows a brand to define which company traits they want to represent—for example, trustworthy, whimsical, secure, cutting-edge—and then create an illustration style that embodies these traits in a neat visual shorthand.

Are Custom Illustrations Right for My Brand?

One downside to taking this approach is expense, and that’s because it simply takes more time and effort to create a unique, consistent illustration style for your brand than it does to find stock icons and photos.

However, consider how impactful it will be for your customers to see and interact with a website that tells your brand’s story not just in the copy and functionality, but throughout the site with compelling and customized visuals as well. The amount of trust and brand recognition this can help cultivate cannot be understated. It shows that your brand has the confidence, resources and know-how to invest in a professional presentation and, by extension, to back up your product claims.

How (and Where) to Start Introducing Custom Illustrations

The good news is that introducing custom illustration elements to your website design and brand may be easier than you think! A full-service marketing agency will have talented illustrators and designers on staff who are able to understand the key points of your brand and create an illustration system that visually represents who you are.

It does not take a monumental undertaking or full rebranding to get started. It’s entirely possible to start introducing illustrations into your marketing materials, such as infographics, videos, trade show graphics, web pages and other collateral. It only takes two or three large images and perhaps a few smaller ones to use as accents to form the foundation of an illustrated brand. Once you have a direction and style that works for your brand, it’s easy to build out from this foundation until eventually you have cohesion across the board.

In the infographic to the right, we illustrate a complex danger that is mitigated by our client’s software product.

Let’s start now! I’m just one of the artists at Ridge Marketing ready to create some sweet illustrations for your brand. Contact us to start brainstorming.

Here are some other examples of custom brand illustrations that I found interesting:

‘Alegria’ Illustration Style by Buck for Facebook

Illustrations for CraftCMS Website

A unique illustration style for the Mailchimp brand