Beware of the brand police! This is often a comment we hear when partnering with corporate clients who work with carefully curated sets of brand guidelines, often developed over years, covering design aspects including logos, fonts, colours, slide decks etc. It is easy to feel constrained by visual brand guidelines but imagine keeping hundreds if not thousands of people in a global organisation on brand every day – that’s a tough challenge!

It might sound odd, but we (at Inky Thinking) love brand identity guidelines, which is why we make a point of asking for these whenever we commence an illustration project. They help us develop ideas and concepts that support, rather than jar against. Brand guidelines are an opportunity, rather than a barrier.

‘More and more leading companies are starting to understand the value of having a distinct illustration style for their branding. It makes sense, a more visual extension of your brand can allow for more people to connect to it!’

Jen Backman, Illustrator at Inky Thinking

Talking of opportunity, and here’s the thing, we’ve partnered with clients who have a strong set of brand guidelines but they have not yet made the jump to creating a set of brand illustrations to sit within their identity. For the client this can be a tricky leap to make, here are a selection of reasons we encounter…

  • Not sure where to start, don’t know who to ask
  • Concern about upsetting the “brand police” (whoever they might be)
  • Nervousness about jeopardising the current brand “look”
  • Lack of internal capability to create illustrations.

These are all completely valid concerns, and maybe you can see your organisation here. The good news is that there are many examples of organisations who use illustrations effectively to support their brand identity, without damaging their brand at all. Take Google as a prime example. You’ve probably noticed numerous versions of the Google logo on the home page, often intended to mark specific occasion, such as Labor Day 2022 below, but you still know it is Google. Other brands who have used illustrations well include Headspace, Persil, Asurion, Uber, Slack, We Transfer and Dropbox. 

Google Brand Logo

The advantages of incorporating a set of brand illustrations to your brand guidelines are compelling and include…

  • Recognition – enabling customers to recognise and remember your brand in more ways
  • Explanatory – helping clients to understand what you do if it is not immediately clear
  • Fun – adding enjoyment to your brand identity
  • Flexible – they can be used as an when appropriate
  • Varied – you can build up a stock of illustrations to support different messages, products etc.

Brand illustrations blog by Tom Russell
Illustration by Jen Backman, Inky Thinking

Taking the leap to incorporating brand illustrations into your organisation’s brand identity might push you out of your comfort zone, but with a trusted partner at your side and an open mind you will be astounded at what is possible. 

Tips on where to go next…

  • Be clear on objectives. What do you want the brand illustrations to achieve (for example supporting a specific initiative or your overall brand)?
  • Partner with an illustrator who adds an external, fresh perspective (we hope that will be us)
  • Be prepared to be constructively challenged and maintain an open mind
  • Ensure the right people within your organisation are involved in the conversation from the outset
  • Assemble a diverse test group with whom to socialise the illustrations
  • Once agreed, provide your people with easy to use guidelines on how to use the illustrations – this ensures consistency 
  • Create exciting and useful templates, such as slide decks, which you can offer as tools to be used.

Finally, brands change and often update their looks every 5-10 years. Things are moving faster and faster. To keep up with changing trends is hard, so to create timeless branding is the goal, but even timeless branding will need tweaks along the way. Illustration and brand experts need to be kept in the loop to help things evolve and change in the best ways. So whether people are at the start of adding brand illustrations to their company, or at a stage that they need to update or improve it, we’re here to help! 

Call Inky Thinking on +333 567 2121 or e-mail to make a start.
Huge thanks to Jen Backman for her support in creating this article.


About Tom …

Tom is a facilitator, graphic recorder and founder of Inky Thinking, a creative agency specialising in bespoke visual communication, enabling leaders and organisations to communicate effectively. Tom works with leaders and teams in global organisations to design and facilitate conferences, meetings and workshops. Inky Thinking are also a proud UK reseller of Neuland visual facilitation kit.

Tom’s book – ‘Meet with Impact – 40 visual tools for productive meeting and engaging workshops’ was published by Pearson Business in 2019 and available via