January 10, 2018

Illustration In Advertising

Who doesn’t love some juicy, clever, and well made vector art? When it’s good, it’s so good, and the flat, purposeful vector look continues to remain popular amongst brands and marketing campaigns. It can encourage clean simplicity, that strikes just the right balance between visuals that remain interesting, and clearly communicate ideas. It’s a marriage made in heaven, and one of my favorite traits of vector artwork.


Sweet, sweet, vector simplicity. From left to right: Snowboard Magazine by Aaron Draplin. Fairlife Milk by Coca Cola Design. Glenfiddich by Purple Creative.


But if you’re anything like me, I’d hazard a guess that you also get excited about hand drawn illustration. Whether you’re scrolling through your Instagram and liking videos of elaborately drawn flower borders, or you pause a little longer on a crazy awesome drawing within a Nike ad, hand drawn illustrations have a way of capturing our attention.

Illustration doesn’t have to be reserved for your kids, or the margins of your notebooks during meetings. Believe it or not, hand drawn illustrations can be injected into your brand as well. The benefit of using these illustrations is that they do stick out from what has become the norm in business (vector based art), and cause viewers to pause a little longer. They also lend an air of authenticity and originality to your marketing efforts, and if you’ve heard anything about marketing these days, it’s that authenticity is the name of the game (check out this Forbes article here)! Illustrations also are able to clarify and bring meaning to difficult, abstract concepts, like “on-boarding”, in ways that stock photography can’t deliver on. All that remains then, is what kind of illustration works for you: simply drawn lines, feminine details, and street art all could be directions you take your illustrations; it only depends on the tone you want your business to convey.


Real World Illustration Examples

Back in the fall of 2017, Sophia Bernazzani of HubSpot reviewed several successful Facebook Ads and analyzed what made them work well. Here, she takes a look at this mobile news feed ad for the New York Times, and has this to say:

“The quirky cartoon drew my eye as I scrolled on my mobile News Feed through lots of text and photography. The nontraditional illustration pulled me in for a closer look at the content”.


Custom illustration makes for targeted, visually interesting advertising.


The illustration is called a spot illustration, and it was made specifically for the article, practically guaranteeing a more visually arresting ad than if it had been created with some neutral (read: corny) stock photography of a 20-year-old cooking (you know the type). The cartoon-y style could easily be applied to any business sector, provided it matched the tone of the business and the accompanying ad or article.

Here, stationary and lifestyle brand, Rifle Paper Co., uses a hand painted design to announce a sale on their Instagram account. The brand excels in producing products that are known for these hand painted designs, and they’re completely on-brand by continuing that into their social media ads. They could have produced a simple text based ad with a photo of their product in much less time, but would have missed out on an opportunity to further cement the hand crafted tone they’re known for. Granted, the ad mimics the products they already produce, but you could imagine how a similar ad would work well for another feminine lifestyle brand, such as a salon, vintage clothing store, a home goods brand, or a women’s business retreat. A similar illustration could even be used for more gender neutral businesses such as a book store, life coaching, or a snowboard brand.


Hand painted, video ad on Instagram. Not too shabby, Rifle Paper Co.


As we just saw, illustration can be utilized in video as well. In this example, three totally different illustrators were invited by Mercedes to create illustrations around their billboard ad. You can literally watch the result of passerbys reacting to the ads the illustrators create. Each illustration aesthetic conveys something unique, and in that way each ad will attract the attention of different individuals long after the stunt of creating the illustration is gone (the stunt is another important part of the marketing mix, but we’ll save that for another time). Now what does any of this have to do with a car? The stunt helps capture that individuality unique to each artist, and in turn, each viewer. In this way Mercedes is saying, “We have THE RIDE that is YOU”.



Hand drawn illustration can be just the thing to do. The trick is to find yourself an illustrator or designer that can execute your vision intelligently, and be able to tell you when illustration is not your best bet. This excellent article by Meg Robichaud of Shopify’s design team offers great insight into the process. If you’re interested in creating a truly branded illustration experience, please reach out to me! I’d love to collaborate on ways to use this unique advertising medium!


FREE Illustrations for your Instagram!

But wait! There’s more! To help you in your illustration quest, I’ve created three designs for you to utilize for your Instagram accounts! Below are images suited for Instagram already, just right click and download them onto your desk top. I’ve also included an example to get your creative juices flowing. Happy ‘scramming friends! Here’s to illustration!


Free designs for your Instagram account! Lots of possibilities.




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