For so many brands with an online presence, it can be easy to overlook the importance of imagery when it comes to developing their voices and identities.

Too often companies opt for generic corporate photography and stock imagery, and while these images have a valuable place in some industries, they can make your brand look disingenuous, indifferent or just plain boring if used too frequently and without much consideration.

It’s equally important not to rely solely on copy as a means of conveying a message. After all, users only read an average of 20% of any given webpage. Therefore, the images used on such a page will need to do most of the talking.

The internet is now such a busy and competitive space that it has become crucial for brands to make an impactful and memorable impression on potential customers. Incorporating illustration into your branding is one way to do that.

In this article, we’ll delve into some of the brands distinguishing themselves from the competition with illustrative content and explore why this imagery works so well.

1. Etsy

Ecommerce brand Etsy uses brand colours throughout its illustrative content to tie in with its logo. The rustic tones of orange reflect the handmade nature of the products made by independent artists and businesses listed on its website.

I was captivated by Etsy’s quirky illustrative style, which incorporates a combination of different shapes, characters and objects to imitate the unique qualities of the items for sale on the platform. The overall effect is contemplative and friendly, emphasising to the user that Etsy is a safe and trusted place for creatives to sell their work online.

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On the brand’s social channels, posts are reserved for showcasing stand-out products and sellers rather than illustrative content.

A UX review of Etsy, the most user-friendly mobile website according to Google

2. Slack

Team collaboration tool Slack uses bold colour without restraint, resulting in  illustrative content that’s engaging and memorable from the moment you land on its homepage.

I particularly like the inclusion of characters within a scene, and I find myself taking more time to explore the images and their relation to the copy beside them. An occasional angular layout adds movement to the images and, in turn, emphasises the dynamic environment in which the software was designed to be used.

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A slightly different illustrative style has been adopted on Slack’s social channels, but the colouring and use of the company logo ties it back to the overall brand identity nicely.

3. Mailchimp

You won’t miss Mailchimp‘s illustrations in a hurry; partly due to the incredibly bright shade of yellow they have adopted, and partly due to the quirky, hand-drawn nature of the images themselves.

The energetic, sketchy style encapsulates an impression of speed, which goes hand-in-hand with the brand’s mission to make email marketing as quick and easy as possible for its subscribers.

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It is clear to see that Mailchimp have made a huge effort to carry this styling through to their other marketing channels, which gives the brand a consistent voice.

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4. Asana

Work management platform Asana includes an illustrated ‘tour’ feature, as well as a number of spot illustrations and animations elsewhere on its website. Predominantly constructed using simple shapes and a limited palette of a few brand colours, these illustrations are easy to understand and help to represent the basics of each topic.

The simplicity of the imagery here reinforces that the platform itself is as simple to use as it is to learn about.

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While Asana uses a softer approach with the illustrations on its website, images that are posted on its social channels are made to stand out with the addition of black outlining. This serves to differentiate the style used on each of Asana’s channels without altering any other part of their design or character templates.

5. Salesforce

If you’re looking for full-screen illustration with an impact, look no further than the Salesforce website. Each of their featured products comes with its own unique landscape background, complete with Salesforce mascots participating in activities related to that topic.

The bright colours and sense of depth make the website especially memorable, and the placement of information has been well thought-out so as to strike a balance between these elements.

The product pages are designed as entry points leading to further, more complex information, which explains the dominance of imagery over copy at this point in the customer journey. Had this design been carried throughout the entire website, it would be overwhelming, particularly for users with accessibility needs.

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On Salesforce’s social channels, illustrated landscapes are ever-present – if less  focal – leaving room for other visual elements such as copy, CTAs and photography.

6. Headspace

I really enjoy the styling of Headspace‘s illustrations, particularly the inclusion of little characters and the simple orange and blue colour scheme. The focus on the characters’ wide smiles combined with plenty of rounded shapes gives the brand the friendly and encouraging feel aligned with their positive tone of voice.

I particularly like the way that each character has its own individual appearance, reinforcing the idea that Headspace is an app that can be used by anyone and everyone to achieve a sense of mindfulness.

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I was also impressed with the consistency of style across their social channels, mixed with some photographic content to back up more tangible topics.

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7. Casper

Mattress brand Casper made its first impression on me through an ad on the London Underground. It included some really beautiful soft illustrations and a simple scheme of two or three colours.

While you won’t find illustration at the forefront of their homepage, you will find it frequently on their blog. What I really like about these images is their bright colours and repetition – they certainly make an impact. Like Headspace, Casper focuses on rounded edges to portray a sense of comfort and ease; quite apt for a brand that wants you to stay in bed for as long as possible.

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I was slightly disappointed to find that illustration is used sparingly on Casper’s social channels, which instead make use of the photographic imagery favoured throughout most of the brand’s website.How Casper uses clever marketing & content to sell mattresses

8. Magento

The illustrations used on Magento’s website may not be the most colourful or quirky on this list, but they are just as impactful. The unadorned, informative 3D style goes hand in hand with the practicality of the product, which aims to help users effectively manage and grow ecommerce websites.

The placement and scale of these illustrations helps to add context whilst not distracting the eye too much from the information displayed alongside them.

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Where images take centre stage, such as on social media, a greater emphasis has been placed on eye-catching brand colours and engaging layout, whilst remaining true to their original style.

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9. Trussle

Online mortgage broker Trussle aims to catch the attention of young house hunters with its very colourful, simple to use homepage. It is clear that the brand have put UX at the forefront of their product, and the illustrations they have featured are minimalist and cleverly placed with this in mind.

What is particularly noticeable is how the corner illustrations point towards CTA buttons and important, notable information. Rather than becoming a distraction for the user, they help to redirect the attention back to the centre of the page.

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10. Basecamp

Basecamp uses a cartoon style of illustration around its website in both large and small formats. It makes for a refreshing change from the mostly flat vector illustrations present amongst the other examples. The inclusion of brush texture and a slightly messy finish adds a tangibility to an otherwise abstract product.

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My favourite part of the Basecamp website is the clever use of portrait illustrations for each member of their support team. These showcase the individual personalities of people behind the brand and make them instantly more approachable.

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