With artistic illustrations elevating products and services into works of art, Clarilda Sharon takes a look at how illustrations that feel hand-drawn change the perception of brands
If you’ve been to Starbucks, you may have received your coffee cup with your name misspelled on it. This comically endearing trend had people clamoring to share it on social media. In the beginning, the sheer volume of orders that Starbucks received perhaps led to the hilarious spelling errors, but eventually, that played out as one of the most effective ways to increase brand exposure. Starbucks has thus established its personality – charismatic and distinct from other coffee houses.
Eclectic, amateur, but ultimately memorable scribbling and doodling has made a wave in marketing and web design. The branding world is constantly changing and evolving, and one of the biggest trends in recent years has been art that has its own personality, replete with quirks and imperfections.
Youth-oriented brands often choose to showcase fun and humanness to their personality by basing their identities around hand-drawn art that sparks joy, and also succinctly shares their marketing message. Therefore, whether it’s a scribbled sketch on the site that makes customers look twice or the cute, animated toons that make people go “aww”, these branding styles suggest that a company is guided by genuine passion and shape the brand as charismatic and unpretentious.
Instead of overtly formal, stylized, or sophisticated animations, going with doodles and scribbles create the impression of a fun, playful, approachable brand that is thrifty, affordable, and while serious about business, doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Being widely embraced by designers and clientele equally, we have listed some quirky creations that tug at our heartstrings with ease.
The hand-drawn, imperfect images on the bright yellow screen are certainly unlike anything else you see these days. Mailchimp, a leading marketing platform for small businesses that helps customers around the world grow their own way, has adopted sketch-style illustrations that are energetic and encapsulate an impression of the brand’s mission. It carries this style throughout all its marketing channels establishing a consistent brand voice. “We champion authenticity, originality, and expressiveness because it’s what helps us — and our customers — stand out. We hope to inspire them to be bolder and more creative in their own branding efforts,” wrote Gene Lee, VP of Design, in a blog post. All the weird, lovable elements endear customers and capture the essence of what Mailchimp has always been.
Personal, hand-drawn, and playful are the three words that ricochet in your mind when you see the art associated with “DropBox”, a file hosting service and a modern workspace. An anthropomorphized animal wearing a dopey smile, a pair of glasses, and shoes tell a story that is more emotionally resonant than any high-brow illustration.
It all started when the company began using doodles created by one of its employees to communicate with users. Today, DropBox is proudly known as a design-centric company. Their crudely drawn stick figures have become an integral part of their brand and have made their service seem simple and welcoming. In addition, these illustrations have helped forge an emotional connection between people and their products, which are admired by millions of users. The wry sense of humor, thus, is an authentic part of DropBox’s identity.
Has an image made you experience a sudden rush of childhood nostalgia? Paper Boat, which sells flavored beverages, aims to develop a connection via the feeling of nostalgia, targeting urban audiences with beautiful illustrations that harken back to childhood innocence that will remind you of your most treasured memories. To evoke this feeling, the brand follows a storytelling approach through lovely illustrations on their product as well as in their social media communication. “There is no memory more innocent than making a paper boat. Everybody in their childhood has made at least a couple of them. And we at Paper Boat bring back the memories with the most cherished tastes of childhood.” said Neeraj Kakkar, CEO, Paper Boat, according to India.com
Amul, India’s favorite dairy cooperative, has been utilizing quirky, hand-drawn brand art for decades before it became a sought-after marketing gimmick. Sketched by art director Eustace Fernandes, the Amul Girl, an adorable round-faced mascot, came to represent a nation desirous of the delicious Amul butter that has remained a staple in Indian households.
Over the past 53 years, Amul has made topical humorous sketches regarding every significant Indian and global event, such as Neeraj Chopra’s monumental gold win at the Olympics in 2021, or calling itself ‘the only bright spot every morning’ during India’s disastrous 1983 economic downturn.
While not directly related to the products, the cartoons have gone way beyond just the brand – a cultural fixture, first in Indian newspapers and now frequently shared and enjoyed over social media. It is a rare but telling example of how art can connect – working to do more than just boost sales, but tie the image of Amul indelibly with that of India, giving the brand a legacy.
If you have an emerging brand, make an attempt to move towards a “natural” or authentic connection, as that is how the wind blows in market psychology. Human psychology says that the time one puts into creating something determines its value to the receiver. This is why a handwritten note or a sketch received by a customer will carry greater significance to the receiver, validating them and creating an emotional memory over a transactional one. This leads to the word-of-mouth goodwill that brands crave, improving their presence as much as their revenue. In the digital era, human interactions are increasingly rare. Giving the audience a “feel good’ vibe can go a long way in reflecting a brand’s ethos and building relationships – more than just business.
Whether it’s mindfulness, relaxing exercises, or deep breathing, there is something for everyone in the Headspace app. And storytelling through illustrations has not only helped drive growth but has also helped people improve their mental well-being, one member at a time. “Most of my works are mini “comic strips” about my personal life, and it feels nice when others can get a laugh out of it or even relate to it,” said Karen Kong, Brand Illustrator at Headspace, during a chat with Blush Design. The styling of Headspace’s illustrated characters has an individual appearance, particularly the characters’ wide smiles giving the brand a friendly feel aligned with their uplifting tone. The simple orange and blue color with the inclusion of little characters reinforces the idea that feeling anxious and overwhelmed is not the end of the world, and anyone can use Headspace to feel better and achieve a sense of mindfulness.
COLLINS, an independent strategy and design company, has given Airbnb a touch of humor and family feels with their sketches. The sketches, which are endearingly similar to the kind of wax crayon scribbles that kids make, envisioned by creator Matt Luckhurst have struck a chord with their customers.
This particular campaign, crafted by COLLINS, highlights ‘LIVE ALOHA’, an expression that embodies the spirit that the Airbnb community is known for: one of kindness, unity, and love.
As the firm puts it, “The campaign expresses the Aloha lifestyle across a series of depictions, mediums and a physical airport activation. We reached our core travel audience instantly and advanced a new way of thinking about the Airbnb experience.”