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Is a hand-drawn illustration right for your logo?

John Habib
John Habib on February 22, 2017 - 8:01 am in Logo Design

Clean lines, modern typography and a sleek style often work wonders in a well-designed logo. For certain businesses, however, a strong custom illustration makes a logo truly embed itself in customers’ consciousnesses. 

A custom illustration logo is a brand symbol featuring a detailed, hand-drawn image. Famous examples abound, from the NFL shield to the LG emblem to Disney’s palace and signature combo. With their handcrafted origins, custom illustration logos can take a bit longer to develop than other logos. But because of their potential to be exceptionally vibrant and memorable, they are often worth the time and effort.

Custom illustrations have never gone out of style and are one of our 20 logo trends to watch in 2017. How do you know if a custom illustration logo is right for your business? We spoke with Deluxe logo designer Daniel Liete to learn more about how these unique designs work. 

Q: How does a custom illustration differ from other graphics created for a logo?
Daniel: A custom illustration gives a logo a more detailed, animated or complex look than an icon-based or a font-based logo. If a company would like a mascot to represent their brand, then an illustration is a must. That’s why many sports teams use illustrated logos.

Shippensburg beverage logo Montana Moose Espresso logo

Q: What are the benefits of using a custom illustration in a logo?
Daniel: An illustration allows a brand to be more specific about what it represents. Not all of a brand’s ideas can be symbolized by a simple iconic logo. In some cases a business needs to communicate more. A good way to explain it is: “We can tell a story using a simple comic strip, but other times we need an entire comic book.” 

Q: Does a custom illustration take more time to prepare than an iconic or font-based logo? What’s the creative process like?
Daniel: Yes, it does take a little longer. A custom illustration has multiple elements, and all of them need to be developed carefully in order to achieve a balanced look in the final result. We start with one concept that is hand-drawn, using line details and shading. That concept then goes through several different stages, incorporating input from the customer along the way. We create an initial rough sketch, then refine the shapes and general design. Next we finalize the actual wireframe design — the “skeleton” of the logo. Then we re-create the entire design using our design software and begin the coloring-in process. After coloring it, we add in shading and 3-D effects. When all the final details are done, we add the company name, review it again and present the finished product to our client. 

Steps from ideation to completion of an illustrated logo

Q: Are custom illustrations consistently popular? 
Daniel: Definitely! Illustrations are always nice to look at. They evoke the “little kid” we all have inside. Maybe that’s why many fast food restaurants use illustrations in their branding.

Q: What trends in custom illustrations are you seeing now?
Daniel: Two different and very strong illustration styles are in vogue today: 3-D renderings, especially after the popularity of animated movies like “Toy Story,” “Shrek,” “Finding Nemo” and many others. And we also have the flat, vectorial and sharp style of many sports teams.

Q: What are some of the potential drawbacks of having a custom illustration in your logo?
Daniel: A particularly complex illustration may be difficult to reproduce and reduce for something small like a business card. Social media can be tricky too, as most social media sites have preset logo space that’s very small. If your illustration consists of many colors, it can be expensive to reproduce in print, and it may not be reproducible in certain applications such as T-shirt silk screening.

Q: Are certain industries or types of businesses more likely to use or benefit from custom illustrations?
Daniel: Sports, child-friendly activities, food and dining, and the entertainment industry consistently use illustrations. That said, any type of business can use a custom illustration, if it is a good fit for that business. 

Shoe Spa Express logo Sedona AZ Scouts logo

Q: Can you think of any famous logos featuring custom illustrations that are extremely successful?
Daniel: The KFC logo, featuring brand ambassador Colonel Sanders, is a very famous illustration that has been very successful. Most major sports team logos feature custom illustrations to great effect. Mozilla has also succeeded with their illustrated logo for the Firefox web browser. On the other hand, some companies such as Apple used to feature very complex illustrations, but have since changed to simple iconic logos using mainly one color.

Arabi coaching logo

Still have questions about logos and the logo design process? We have answers in our free downloadable Guide to Logo Design.

Custom illustration is one of several logo design options. Explore our gallery and meet our in-house designers to see how Deluxe is different. When you’re ready to take the next step, fill out a creative brief. The Deluxe logo design team will contact you to discuss custom illustrations and all your logo options. Together, you’ll determine the concept that makes the most sense for your company and services.  

Let us design your perfect logo today.

Daniel and the entire Deluxe Logo Design team are ready to help you!

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