The following post is from Ned Drummond, Production Artist.
Since the days of the caveman, people have been using illustrations to convey their thoughts and ideas through pictures. For centuries we have been using art and illustrations in books, manuals, and publications to highlight passages and provide a more immersive experience for the reader, sometimes capturing moments that would be difficult to achieve with photography. In this digital age, however, I’ve found that many websites often eschew illustration in favor of photography as the prime means of visual interest. While this is a great way to show off a property or a product, sometimes a little illustration can go a long way in enhancing a site.
Custom illustration has the potential to add personality to a website or page that could otherwise be considered dull. Take Etsy, an ecommerce site for handmade items. While most of Etsy’s pages are photo-based (after all, they do want to showcase what crafters are selling), the Etsy error page features a surprised looking young woman knitting a three-armed sweater. This simple illustration adds some humor to the standard 404 file-not-found.
Illustration + Creativity = Effective Brand Strategy
In addition to adding some charm to a site, illustration helps bring to mind the company’s craft-based heritage and furthers their branding strategy. Think quick, what brands do these images bring to mind: Polar bears with soda bottles, a smiling leprechaun with a big green top hat, a blue bird with a speech bubble. If you thought of Coca Cola, Lucky Charms, and Twitter, you not only have a pretty good memory, you’ve made a subconscious connection between the image and the product. What does a polar bear have to do with a soft drink? As much as a leprechaun has to do with sugary cereal, but that doesn’t matter, because you’ve remembered it.
Making Custom Illustration Affordable
Surely not every hotel and DMO has the time and resources to create a mascot and branding campaign, so why bother, right? I’d say that just isn’t true. While commissioning an artist to render every room you offer may be out of reach, I’ve put together a handful of attainable examples of how custom illustration can be brought into the hospitality industry.
Since we read from the top down, adding illustrations to the header of the site is a great way to instantly add some character without interfering with your content. Historic Route 1 even goes one step further so that the navigation and promo areas are part of the illustration.
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Illustrated backgrounds can take many forms and styles to suit the needs of your business. From playful and rich to abstract textures, enhancing the background can add some life to even a standard text page such as Roseville’s Terms and Conditions.
Adding icons is one of the easiest ways to add custom illustration to any site. A good icon should be instantly recognizable and memorable, and can be used in place of or along with text links and stock images. These can be created to match your branding so they don’t feel out of place.
Custom vs. Stock Illustration
Despite their different applications, all of these examples have one thing in common: they use custom illustrations to set their site and brand apart. The emphasis is on custom for one big reason: stock illustrations. Unlike photography, which can be easily manipulated to change the feel and tone of an image to suit your property, the unique characteristics of an illustration are often unmistakable.
Think of it this way: your website is your face to the world. You want your face to be unique, memorable, and welcoming, not a carbon copy of someone else. If you do decide to go the route of using illustration in your website, be sure to commission custom artwork to avoid any embarrassing mishaps and potential branding blunders.
Remember, an Illustrated website doesn’t have to be rough and hand-drawn if it doesn’t match your branding, and illustrations don’t necessarily mean cartoons. If you’ve been thinking about sprucing up your site, maybe consider using a bit of illustration to enhance it. Here at MICROS eCommerce, we have a strong creative team who can create custom designs and illustrations to meet your needs.
Interested in ramping up your online strategy? Check out the full suite of MICROS eCommerce interactive marketing tools, send us an email, or give us a call +1 301.841.4700(US) | +44 (0)20 3004 9468(UK).