How Can Illustration Help My Business?
As a freelance creative, clients often tell me they’re not sure if illustration is right for their business. Their concerns range from illustration not aligning with their brand to it not being stylistically appropriate for a company in their industry. When it comes to business, illustration is so much more than just drawing character mascots. In a modern marketing landscape that includes numerous channels like email and social media, illustration is a powerful tool to ensure your business remains approachable and front-of-mind with customers.
I’ve analyzed my past year of client projects and broken that data into five different ways companies use illustration to enhance their marketing. I encourage you to see if any of these give you ideas of how your business can leverage illustration as well.
Unify and expand your brand identity
Your company’s brand is the way that your customers think and feel about you. Your products and services, your logo, and even elements like the copy on your website all collectively contribute to their perceptions. Think of illustration as one more visual tool to build out your brand identity. People nowadays are bombarded with information and advertisements in their day-to-day lives; illustrative elements can really make your company’s marketing stand out as folks scroll through their social media feeds.
Communicate complex ideas
As a startup trying to share your innovative new product with the world, what better way than through illustration? A good story means showing instead of telling, so pairing your elevator pitch with a series of simple, fun illustrations will ensure it’s memorable and makes sense to potential customers and investors.
On the flip side, as an already-established company, perhaps you’re trying to take a suite of complicated services or ideas and share them with your customers. Visual learners like myself have a much higher likelihood of absorbing and actually retaining information when it’s paired with pictures, rather than pure walls of text. This is an area where there are extensive opportunities to utilize illustration.
Humanize your brand
At its most basic level, the reason illustration is important is that it helps people form deeper emotional or intellectual connections with content. Can you imagine building a piece of IKEA furniture with an instruction manual that was pure text, rather than the illustrative and distinct imagery that they’re known for? Or consider the lasting impact of the beautiful illustration work from famous children’s books like The Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are, and so on — these books likely wouldn’t be as engaging or memorable without illustration.
Yes, some industries are innately perceived as boring: financial services, customer support, and accounting to name only a few. Whether your business is B2C or B2B, there is always a human being on the other side of every interaction. Illustration is a powerful way to say, “Yes, we offer the same product as these other companies, but with us, you get a team of real people and not just a faceless corporation.” When executed tastefully, illustration can enhance your brand’s trustworthiness, even in a “serious” industry.
Make illustration part of your voice
Illustration is not merely an “extra” to tack onto the existing marketing efforts of your company — it can also stand as a pillar of your brand’s identity itself. Companies like Dropbox and Atlassian use illustration as part of their main identity systems, serving to propagate their brand’s values more clearly than design alone could.
If the timing is right, an illustration style guide can be built out at the inception of a new brand’s identity system, right alongside the logo, color palette(s), and fonts to ensure anyone who touches the visuals of your brand puts forth consistent and professional imagery. I’ve also worked with businesses who want to create an illustration style guide much later on, and in some ways, it’s even easier because the company has an established reputation and set of values from which to build an aesthetic.
Improve digital engagement and clickthrough
Time and time again, studies show that social media posts with images get far higher engagement than those that are solely text-based. As more companies wise up to this fact and social feeds become more saturated with image thumbnails, which becomes more appealing: a post paired with a generic stock image, or one with bright, bold, hand-crafted illustrations? Creating a visual language for your brand’s illustrations, then carrying that across all outlets, can really help conversion. There are endless ways to do this!
The five tips above are only a sampling of the many ways illustration can enhance your business and brand. Depending upon your industry, the size of your business, and your marketing goals, your visual needs will vary. Illustration is definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution. I’ve helped businesses small and large strategize their visual messaging and hone their brand identity, and I truly believe illustration can play a big part in that process. If you have any questions or want to have a chat, I’m always available to talk.