Human-Centered Illustration

How a team of illustrators changed the way digital product companies communicate with consumers.

There’s this phrase that been thrown around a lot recently in the design community, “the dribbleization of design”. This is in reference to the similarities of work from designers and illustrators on dribble.com and its bleed-over into especially digital product marketing. Through a search for illustration on Dibble, you can start to see how many of the most popular “shots” have strong similarities despite the artists being from different parts of the world and working on very different projects. It seems as if one side effect of strengthening the design/illustration community’s interconnectivity is that trends become more pervasive.

 

 

A descriptive breakdown of the style as it is today:

  • Round “blob-like” figures
  • Strong colors, often slightly desaturated
  • Simplified shapes and figure features
  • Minimalized tonal range, often with distinct digital brush textures
  • Heavy use of isometric angles
  • Use of large curvy shapes and blocks of color
  • Simplified color pallet, usually between 1 and 5 colors plus 1 to three tonal variations.
  • Outlines with rounded corners
  • User interface elements and figures interacting with them.
  • Conceptual Abstractions
  • Friendly Tone/Feeling
  • Animation and interaction
  • Diversity through the use of unusual colors for skin, wide tonal differences from figure to figure, the inclusion of many body types and genders.

 

Bryn Jackson speaking to Meg Robichaud on Design Details Podcast about her teams 2016 Shopify illustration design system.

“…the homogeneity or where we’ve landed and how I feel like a lot of it can be traced back to your style…because everyone copied it.”
– Brien Lovin

“I’m a little bit uncomfortable saying that everyone copied my style but I’m more comfortable saying that there were not that many people doing that style at that time…it was ownable when we first started doing it and it’s less ownable now”
– Meg Robichaud

 

Here are some examples of the style guide her team delivered in 2016:



 

Illustration on Shopifys Homepage Today:

Meg Robichaud writing on illustration:
“Illustration is a communication tool with three superpowers. It can add clarity to a complex idea. It can link concepts to the words we’ve assigned them within our respective products (aka on-boarding). And, it can capture the values and traits of a brand in a single voice, shift the tone depending on the situation, and speak directly to the user.”

This illustration style was adopted as a standard communication tool representing a shift in digital product marketing where many companies started focusing on human-centered design with a warm friendly tone. While this system works within this context, it tends to make each brand feel too similar and is often ineffective for companies who sell distinct physical goods/services. It’s important to understand industry styles and use them as reference points to establish brand identity or when micro-branding a campaign. While this style affords some advantages, interweaving art and design in an unexpected way can help establish a brand and maybe even the next industry-leading trend.

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