Using illustration in branding: a how to

Whether you’re tackling a difficult subject or keen to inject life into a brand, illustration is a powerful way to communicate. We delve into the dos and don’ts of incorporating it into branding

Earlier this year, legal company Farewill faced a difficult challenge. How could it talk about difficult subjects such as writing a will or arranging a cremation in a way that felt friendly and approachable? The answer, it turned out, was illustration.

“Basically, the death industry is traditionally cold, sombre and serious,” says illustrator and former head of design at Headspace Anna Charity, who worked with Farewill on its recent rebrand. “The main challenge was how to create a visual world to make people feel at ease when they’re dealing with death. For a lot of people, even the word can be intense, and the pictures it conjures up makes people want to bury their head in the sand. I’d seen how fundamental illustration and animation was to the success of Headspace, in terms of demystifying, and it felt right to explore that language with Farewill.”

Farewill’s not the only company using illustration – JKR recently rebranded Matcha energy drink Hustle using illustrated characters – but it’s a good example of the questions brands should ask if they’re considering incorporating it into their visual identity.

First of all, it’s key to establish a tone of voice that fits the company’s business. Charity says the Farewill rebrand offered some room to be playful, but required a level of sensitivity considering the subject matter.