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Illustrations in corporate design are becoming increasingly popular.
©VR Payment

Illustrations as an element in corporate design systems have become increasingly popular. There are many good reasons to take a closer look at why this is the case.

By Stefanie Kropp (Art Director wirDesign) and Stefano Conzatti (Creative Director wirDesign).

Immediately in people’s minds

Illustrations are unique and instantly recognizable. Today visual codes in corporate design are often kept to a minimum and a brand is sometimes only identifiable by the color and the design of a small element like a button. Therefore, illustrations are a powerful tool to give a brand personality. They effectively shape a brand’s identity and strengthen its visual character. In recent years, illustrations have managed to rise from being perceived as cartoons to darlings of global brands.

Illustrations are unique and immediately recogniseable parts of a corporate design
©VR Payment

Making the abstract tangible

Especially when it comes to technical topics – which we often deal with at wirDesign – it’s a challenge to find images: The topics and products are becoming increasingly complex and digital but must be explained simply and understandably. They lack form and we have to give them one with a convincing design.

If we would use photography, it would all be about people interacting with different devices. We would see people using their computer, tablet or smartphone at home, at work or in the city.

Here, illustrations can be a good alternative. They can be used to tell stories in a condensed manner in a small space. They can break down complex topics into easy-to-understand images and lighten up difficult subject matters. No one expects illustrations to be as serious as corporate photography. They can be quirky, unusual, entertaining, and irritating.

Illustrations can tell stories
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The building block approach

As a modular system for corporate design, the illustrations can be easily adapted to a wide variety of formats and media and are fully editable.

The “atomic design principle” originally comes from software development and was used by programmers: You take the smallest building block as a basis and build on it in a modular way. In corporate design, we can take advantage of this by thinking in terms of individual design elements. Illustrations offer even more possibilities when we think of them as building blocks.

A building block approach for illustrations
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For example, individual illustrative components such as faces, hairstyles, bodies and clothing can be variably assembled into characters. With the help of further illustrative objects, they can also be quickly expanded into larger scenes with characters, environments and landscapes. The resulting illustrations can be adapted and reassembled again and again and are flexible in format. They work in all media and applications – from small to large, from wide to narrow, from horizontal to vertical.

Ready to go!

Illustration libraries, such as “Humaaans” , offer a huge selection of illustrations for free and can even be customized to a certain level. Especially for start-ups and smaller companies that are still in their initial stages and need to launch a product quickly, these illustration kits are a quick and inexpensive way to generate images and tell stories.

Illustrations as a brand-defining element offer many more opportunities

Of course, it’s more exciting when you try to combine the character of the brand with the style of the illustrations down to the smallest detail. Then they’re not just pretty images but a concise illustration style that derives directly from the brand.

This is what we did for our client VR Payment. The financial service provider belongs to the cooperative financial group Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken. It quickly became clear that “off-the-shelf” illustrations were not an option.

The illustration style should be as intimately connected to the brand as possible and at the same time be adaptable to the most diverse requirements. Due to the complex themes and the range of stories, the style had to work in a modular way and be individual at the same time.

The illustration style should be adaptable
The illustration style and the brand should be strongly connected in a corporate design
©VR Payment

The first step was to go back to the core of the brand. We examined the character of the brand, the tonality, and the positioning of the brand in relevant markets. The second step was to examine the individual brand codes – i.e. design elements such as color, font, design language and the colon that the brand uses to structure headlines and copy. All these parameters form the starting point for the development of an illustration style.

The brand's character should shape the style of the illustrations
©VR Payment

The colon for example defines the shape of the head, highlights an element of an image or frames a scene as a background element. The grid, proportions and relationships of the individual elements, objects and figures are based on the basic brand elements of VR payment. Together they are a series of illustrations consisting of different objects, backgrounds or people. All these elements work statically as well as animated.  This results in a multitude of possible applications that work across all media. This is how we tell stories, explain complex things simply and present the brand according to its visual character – without using standard brand codes such as logo and font.

Illustrations tell stories and represent the visual character of the brand.
©VR Payment

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