Drawing a brand: the mystery behind illustration

Hi I’m Eve, an illustrator and designer here at Attention Media. During my year at the company I have been fortunate to apply my illustration skills to many projects. Observing from photographs, and using a mixture of techniques on Adobe Illustrator, I create both simple and intricate illustrations for several of our clients.

I believe illustration adds a special something to a brand, in a way that typeface, photography and words alone cannot. This is because illustrated design results in a truly original piece of work. Every illustrator has a unique style and a unique palette of favoured colours – so for a brand, it’s about finding the right illustrator that represents them. A unique, distinctive illustration is a stamp of creativity, which instantly raises it far above any characterless system font or standard stock imagery.

A regular client of ours – Absurd Bird – recently required a Country Weekender poster, and with the intention of adding a bit of originality to the design, I illustrated Dolly Parton and placed her next to the title text. Rather than just relying on type, the distinctive image of Dolly portrays the message of the country and western theme in an instant. Even more recently, the restaurant chain required simple illustrated icons of cocktail glasses to accompany their bar menu. This again,  provides immediate communication with the consumer (which may be even more useful after their fifth cocktail!).

I have also illustrated the awesome team here at Attention Media, which appear across social media graphics, emails and our website.. The fun illustrations represent all of our unique qualities, and bring a more quirky, creative edge to our existing brand. This was displayed well when we were nominated in the Creative category at the Exeter Living awards, where the illustration was displayed on the giant screens!

We also found a unique way of keeping in touch with the new contacts that we met at MIPIM, in Cannes, by posting them my illustrated retro-style postcards with a handwritten message from our MD, Sarah Jepson. This, again, shows an originality that is hard to re-create or copy.

Many other companies are using illustration to add individuality to their brands. Etsy use a hand drawn style of illustration which ties in really well with the handmade, independent artists that sell on the site. Ashley House printers use animal illustrations to promote various aspects of their business, such as their green printing ethos. One of my favourite graphic designers, Marta Veludo, was behind the Soda Make up brand, where each piece of makeup packaging has a cute illustration, resulting in a really fun, quirky and unique brand identity.

Simple icons can also be illustrated and used within brands to quickly and clearly clarify a message. Clothing brand Skinny Dip use icon style illustrations to highlight key customer information on their website.

We applied this technique for the infographic illustration used for our client Burrington Estates, where I illustrated an icon for each on of their housing schemes. These icons appear on their website and within certain flyers and posters to give the schemes a cohesive look and feel, while fitting the style of the brand.

I believe that illustration used within brands hints at a person behind the organisation, suggesting to the consumer that there’s a lot more to the product or service than just ‘buy me’.  This is because illustration is more than just a sales tool, it’s a personable piece of art!

Why brand positioning is even more important for developers in uncertain times

Despite what the headlines tell us of an uncertain market and low properties levels, this couldn’t be further from the truth in our humble corner of the world. Exeter’s property market is on the up and there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t take note of yet another planning application for new homes or commercial units. But, with this seeming boom, we are more aware than ever of the increasing competition with many large and established property developers cottoning onto the importance of a recognised brand, impactful marketing and importantly, customer care. It’s about finding that spark that gives you a little bit of edge against the rest.

It can be one of the most stressful things we do in life, and in Britain, that’s why we only choose to do it once every 23 years. When it comes to moving, or thinking about buying a new home, it can fill you a fervent excitement; looking forward to the promise of somewhere new, away from all of the ways that your current house annoys you – saying goodbye to the kitchen that’s always felt too small or the garden that’s now too hard to manage. So why don’t we do it more often?

I remember my Grandma telling me the story of how she and my Grandad bought their first house. She remembered seeing an advert in the daily newspaper – A COLLECTION OF HOMES LAUNCHING SOON – with a hand drawn sketch of the street scene. Delicate flowers, gated driveways and that classic 1950’s design. She always remembers the day they went to see the plans laid on the table of the sales office, with each plot sold marked with a red pen dabbed onto the paper. Now, property marketing has come a long way since then, just look at the CGIS, virtual reality… you can almost walk around your potential new home before even stepping foot on site! But the same principles still apply.

  1. Find your audience
  2. Launch your product
  3. Make them remember you

Everything you see, think, or do, is connected to marketing. It’s more than just ads, or brand films, or a story you read in the newspaper. Every time you see a brand, or a company, or an idea, that very thing has been marketed directly to you. You can’t just start work on a development and expect the whole population to know what you’re doing without a little bit of marketing. Word of mouth – yep, that’s marketing. Those plans you see on the planning permission – you guessed it, that’s marketing too.

It’s all about hitting the market in the right way, at the right time. Whether we’re developing unique and striking logos, a smart piece of wording that captures attention or crafting an impressive cinema style film, we’re there, behind the scenes, asking ourselves one question – how will this help sell the houses?

Engaging with the customer is the key and magical ingredient, making them feel aware, understood and able; able to buy, able to ask questions and able to find out more. You want your buyers to be excited about your product, their new home – where they pine over every piece of information you provide, lingering on the stunning photography and expertly put together words in the pages of your beautifully designed and on-brand brochure.

From the very first day we don our steel toe cap boots and hi-vis jackets, to the moment you welcome your final homeowner, we’re working to continue pushing your brand, your properties and your vision. There will be endless days of us pouring over the journey, at what touchpoints can we introduce this cool campaign, when will we see the first show home, how can we make those first few homeowners feel a little extra special.

That’s how we get them to remember you. That’s how we get people to say goodbye to their small kitchen and unruly garden and choose your development.

Because, afterall, it’s not just about housing. It’s about building something to be proud of. Just like my Grandparents were the first day they walked into that house on Westfield Street.

Alex’s thoughts on branding: New Media

One topic I have been very interested in recently is the exploration of the graphic and creative possibilities enabled by emerging technology, particularly how they can play a part in the process of creating a brand identity. I believe it is highly valuable to think about the future of design and to be aware of emerging trends. Technology permeates our everyday lives, and without a doubt will play a huge role in the future of design and advertising.

Today I would like to talk about two examples of brand identities that I believe have utilised the potential of new media to create both compelling and forward-thinking design solutions.

First off is the brand identity for the Amsterdam Sinfonietta by Dutch design agency Studio Dumbar. Their work is internationally known for being highly progressive and influential with a focus on typography and brand identities. This is why their work excites me; because they are constantly pushing existing boundaries and challenging expectations of what graphic design is capable of.

When devising the strategy for the Amsterdam Sinfonietta brand, they came up with four themes to describe the brand’s essence; quality, perfections, experimentation and innovation. With this in mind, a technology-led concept was developed which aimed to reflect the forward-thinking attitude of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta.

To execute this technology-led concept, they used a programme called Processing which was created for designers to produce dynamic animations using code. Studio Dumbar then created custom code that allowed them to transform the orchestra’s music into dynamic patterns and movements made up of typography. These patterns and animations could then be used in all of the orchestras branded print and digital material to express the brand’s experimental and innovative values.


Next up is the re-brand for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) by the design agency The Partners, which has now merged with a group of international design and advertising agencies to form one global agency under the name of Superunion.

Music, especially that produced by an orchestra, carries emotional power, so why shouldn’t the brand identity evoke an equal amount of emotion?

Orchestra music has been around for a very long time and may not necessarily appeal to today’s audiences. This insight is what sparked the rebrand; to capture the forward-thinking spirit and emotional power of the London Symphony Orchestra and make it relevant to a new generation.

“If an orchestra takes inspiration from its conductor, why shouldn’t it’s brand?”

This quote is what inspired the initial idea for the existing logo, which was to reference the motion of conducting an orchestra to form the initials LSO.

The Partners collaborated with motion capturing company Vicon Systems and the University of Portsmouth School of Creative Technologies to create the brand identity. State of the art motion capturing technology was used to track Sir Simon Rattles (LSO Music Director) every movement whilst he was conducting. The data and motion captured from this was then used to direct the motion of a series of striking animations.

The idea of ‘conducting’ the visual identity of the brand was further brought to life through the creation of a bespoke typeface that reflected the sweeping moves of the conductor, bringing the brand idea full circle.