Shaping the brand with illustrations

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.

von Stefanie Kropp und Stefano Conzatti, wirDesign

Illustrations are unique and instantly recognizable. Today visual codes 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.

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.

As a modular system, 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.

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.

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.

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 Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken (genossenschaftliche FinanzGruppe Volksbanken 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 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 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 ©VR Payment

read more:

VR Payment Illustrations at Behance

VR Payment Case at

We are one of the top 10 leading brand agencies in Germany.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store