deciphering style with custom illustration.

It’s common for brands to fear custom illustration. They’re too expensive. Too risky. Too arbitrary. But have you ever considered that custom illustrations actually solve many of the problems we face as designers?

While it may take some convincing (and some time to produce the final product), illustrating is worth it. It’s a tool to establish an identity, elevate the browser experience and allow brands to stand out from the crowd. More importantly, illustration is a great way to abandon the ever-so-prevalent stock photography you constantly find on the internet.

Here’s how custom illustration can enhance your work, your brand and your user experience.
 

it makes your brand unique.

Using stock photography is simple. You type in a URL, search for “man doing yoga” and instantly have hundreds of photos at your fingertips. While it seems like the more efficient option, you’re actually hurting your brand. How many times have you landed on a website and thought to yourself, “haven’t I seen this before?” The last thing you want to do is have your work resemble every other brand. When you combine your custom illustration with your logo, typography and your message, your brand will stand out like it never could with stock photography.
 

custom illustration can help establish a style guide.

In an ideal world, we all have clear branding and well-established style guides. But we know that isn’t always true. Today, consumers notice when a brands fail to convey their message. If a company showcases real photos of employees and its facilities, it’s more of an memorable, authentic experience for us. So why not go the extra step to make sure website imagery reflects your core message?

Custom illustrations allow brands to leverage a consistent look, feel and message to follow for years to come. Figuring out the important characteristics ahead of time–line weight, color scheme and value scale–will help provide that important blueprint. Whether companies are trying to establish themselves on the market or begin a rebrand, illustration is an investment that will deliver a more cohesive product and benefit them in both the short and long term.
 

it helps to build trust.

If a website lacks emotion, personality or authenticity, a user will have a hard time identifying with the people behind it and connecting with a brand in any meaningful way. Cliché stock photography is a prime example of this. Users can see right through the dishonesty and sense that a brand cannot be trusted. By utilizing the right colors, typefaces and illustrations, you can communicate your personality and messaging through your website and build trust between your brand and the user.

It’s important to remember that a talented illustrator is good at listening, collaborating and interpreting. You should be able to tell them the message you’re looking to convey and what you want your consumers to feel.
 

it promotes engagement and collaboration.

While stock photography requires a quick search and a click, custom illustrations allows for collaboration in two different ways: among team members and among users interacting with the site. While one team member may be focused on the illustration itself, another team member might be responsible for planning how that will play into the overall user experience. Together, members can challenge themselves while creating remarkable experiences for users on the site.

Within a browser space, you have complete control over defining an illustration. You could potentially add interactions through hover states, scrolling capabilities or have them supplement an important message. No matter where you’re starting off in the web design phase, make sure you take full advantage of working with an illustrator. Who will the audience be? What message are you trying to convey? How do you want users to feel and what is the goal of the website? Are there pre-established colors, styles or logos? Bringing these questions (along with examples of mood boards and artwork inspiration) will allow you to get the most out of working with a designer.
 
 
How do you incorporate custom illustration in your web design process? What value does it bring to your work? Let us know on Twitter @clevermethod.