Illustration - Different styles and how they can work for you


Rach Brind-Surch

30th August 2018

Using Illustrations in design work for your brand or project can elevate it’s visual appeal. When used well it can give a crafted, bespoke feel to your design and helps it stand out. With so many different styles of illustration though, it can be tricky to choose the right one for your brand.

As CWS’s in-house illustrator I am going to explore the use of illustration in one of the most common areas of design it can be seen: product packaging.

I have chosen to compare and contrast some examples of biscuit packaging. I have chosen biscuits, firstly because they are delicious and secondly because despite being a single type of product, they can vary significantly in who their target market is. This way we can see how different types of illustration can be applied in order to appeal to different price points and audiences.

Normal Biscuits

The Humble, Everyday Biscuit

The first example is your standard pack of biscuits you may grab to pop in a tin or share out at work. The packaging doesn’t need to be fancy or flashy, just clear and clean. Waitrose creates clarity through its simple illustrations. Many own brand packs will use a photograph, however the use of a uncomplicated watercolour and line illustration gives the biscuits the perception of being homemade and suggests they are created by hand, despite the fact they almost certainly are not. The use of traditional media or lines that appear hand drawn in an illustration can often create this impression, making a cheap product instead feel rustic or hand crafted.

The style of illustration also creates a consistency throughout the set of biscuits despite the large range of shape, size and flavour. The inclusion of a dominant colour with in the illustration also introduces a rudimentary colour coding of the different treats.

Biscuits for Kids

Illustrations for a product or service aimed at children will often be quirkier, funnier, brighter and more characterful. They are generally more fun and bolder, using cartoon elements rather than abstract illustration techniques such as pattern. A recurring theme is a cute or funny character, either animal based or an anthropomorphised version of the product. Bolder colours, with single outlines, little to no shading or few colours tend to be a feature of this kind of work.

Where a product or service’s USP tends to sit within a more niché setting, ie organic or gluten free children’s biscuits you may once again see softer, looser illustrations. Hand drawn elements are often more time-consuming to create so their use will traditionally deliver a gentler, more caring context to the product.

Compare the difference between the illustration on the Organix Goodies packaging, versus the Cadbury’s or McVities biscuits.

Biscuits as Gifts

Moving on from your average dunking Biscuit, we begin to see a wealth of illustration styles appear. 

This is simply because with a greater budget comes a wider range of material options, additional time spent on the creation of the illustrations and a more considered final appearance.

A company wishing to convey the heritage of their product or service may opt to reflect this in the choice of media for their illustration.

A traditional watercolour scene, or woodcut style illustration appeals to a more mature, traditional audience. Small embellishments and use of textures speaks of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

The introduction of patterned elements also creates a more premium feel. It gives the images greater depth, making them more interesting and exciting to look at.

At the high end of the market it can create a dual purpose, going beyond merely the initial experience, such as eating the biscuit, to something that delights the consumer time after time.

Illustration has in this way created collectables, both in print and packaging and has kept people returning to see the next illustrated offering.

Collectable Biscuit

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