Creating an Illustration Guideline

An Illustration is like any other form of design. It’s vital that it is consistent. The best way to do this is by creating guidelines across our illustrations

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Why is it needed?

Identifying the core values and a high-level rationale as to why you need illustrations is key to outlining your style. Having a consistent style will obviously create an overarching style that will create harmony across you illustrations. It will mean that various illustrators can tackle illustrations on the same platform safe in the knowledge that their work will look part of the family.

Highlighting key areas such as a colour palette or the stroke weight are obviously vital to creating solidarity across a style. But outlining information such as the values attributed for the illustration style, or what you want to achieve from having them on your platform are also just as important.

A sample of some exploratory styles

Don’t just jump in…

Before you start any project, it’s important that you understand exactly what you or the stakeholder wants to achieve from the project.

I generally break it down to the following few questions to give both myself and the stakeholder a better understanding as to what we’re trying to get out of the project.

1. Goals

Why do you want to introduce illustrations to the platform? How would you deem the project a success?

2. Existing Styleguide

If there are existing styleguides already in place, it obviously helps a great deal. It doesn’t have to be illustration based. Core design guidelines, brand guidelines, anything that feeds into the overall brand identity of the platform will help create focus.

Particularly existing colour palettes and how heavily you would expect the illustrations to lean on specific colours available. Even if the company has an existing colour palette, it doesn’t specifically mean that the illustration style should follow this. You’re illustrations may need to stand out away from the interface and using the brand colours might work against itself to a certain extent.

3. Values

How do you see the illustrations fitting into the platform. How do you feel the illustrations should shape your brand identity. Will they be fun, quirky, soft, passive, detailed, elegant, sharp etc. It’s basically a general synopsis of the style.

Even before you start you should have a general idea of how you want the illustrations to work within the interface, or how you want to use them, to educate the user, for basic empty states, or maybe you simply just to inject some personality into your project.

4. Moodboards

Create a moodboard of styles that you feel would be a direction that you feel might be a good fit for your product. This is always a really good way to get to to the point where the stakeholder can literally point at a style and say ‘I want that one’…. Obviously they can’t have ‘that one’ but it will give the illustrator a really good idea of what the stakeholder wants.

When creating a moodboard, they don’t need to be totally consistent. It’s more just to give an overview of what direction you think may work. There are various outlets to do the research, specifically Behance, Dribbble, Pinterest, iStock or even good old Google Images can work. It’s all about gathering as much information as possible before you ever go near an artboard.

Dont just jump in You have to figure out why youre doing it first
Don’t just jump in. You have to figure out why you’re doing it first

Time to Pull up your Sleeves

Luckily enough, here’s one I prepared earlier. Having recently joined Globoforce, I was tasked with creating an illustrative style that would be used across our white-label platform.

Our main aim for our illustrations is to inject some personality into areas on the platform that felt unfinished. Or at a very high level: To create an overarching illustrative style that will introduce consistency across our platform.

Explore, Explore, Explore

No one said it was going to be an easy, quick process. We explored various styles that ended up in the bin. It’s all about exploring ideas. Nothing is really wasted, it all plays some part in finding the final solution. It’s just another hurdle you jump before getting to the finish line.

Some styles work, some don’t so you’re going to have to be willing to dump the ideas, that may be good, but just don’t work for what you’re trying to achieve for this particular project.

Dont just jump in You have to figure out why youre doing it first

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