Our illustration style reflects our brand
Our illustrative style is inspired by the Bulb supergraphic and logo. The Bulb supergraphic is a large, hand-drawn ink version of the Bulb logo. We use close cropped sections of it throughout our branding.
The ink texture in our supergraphic brings a sense of energy which I really love. It’s a visual representation of what we provide to people. It can be abstract, and represented in many ways. Sometimes it is not visible. But I love that this is a trace of movement that has had to take place for us to see it. I want to create the feeling of movement in our illustration and whether its moving or still, the ink texture makes this work really successfully. It’s also a great representation of the four elements that create green energy; earth, water, air and fire, so wonderful!
The hand-drawn nature of this work sets my process apart at Bulb. Bulb is a tech company and most of our work is produced with digital tools. I have thought about using more software to produce illustrations, which could be seen as more time efficient. But I feel taking out the tactile, pen-to-paper element would remove important parts of the process which encourage exploration, and looser experimentation.
The process allows room for exploration
The process for creating an illustration is an iterative, explorative journey. Here, I’ll share what that process looks like from start to finish for one of our monthly email headers.
Step 1: find your concept
At this stage, it’s good to ask some questions: ‘what do you want to communicate?’, ‘who is your audience?’
For the December email header, I worked from a concept of bird feeders over the winter months. This felt like a familiar, seasonal idea, which related to the environment and our relationship with it.
Step 2: research to understand your concept
It’s important to research around your concept and approach the idea with fresh eyes. Again, I asked myself some questions: ‘what type of birds do we see in December in the UK?’, ‘how do they behave?’. I watched videos of robins on Youtube before I started drawing.
Step 3: question through drawing
Drawing is a practice and language of looking, questioning, communicating and responding. To make an animation you need multiple frames, or many drawings. Together, they create the final moving image.
The need for so many drawings requires patience and allows room for exploration and playfulness, as you don’t rely on a single image to tell the whole story. I use pen, black Indian ink on paper. I believe drawing by hand creates more room for expression and experimentation.
Drawing from life or movement can produce interpretative, looser lines which can feel like an emotional response, or dance on paper.
Step 4: sequence, edit and simplify the animation
Once I have enough content to play with I scan the drawings and clean them up on Photoshop.This can take time but, by going through and addressing each frame, I always see something new. At this stage, I apply colour to the drawings so that they fit with Bulb’s brand guidelines.
One of our design principles is to ‘Keep it simple’. When illustrating this robin, I decided that the personality in its movement was charming enough that the original concept of having multiple birds and bird feeders wasn’t necessary.
Using process to drive the outcome
When creating this email header, I was delighted to finish with drawings that I would never have arrived to had I not gone on such an inquisitive journey to study our robin. It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:
When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we have already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we are going, but we will know we want to be there.Bruce Mau, ‘An incomplete manifesto for growth’
We even used some early versions of the robin to create an emoji on Slack, a tool we use at Bulb to communicate between teams.
We are looking at including more of our illustration across other platforms at Bulb, including our App. Please keep a lookout for our seasonal emails and let me know if you have any more questions.
Have you noticed our illustrations? Let us know your favourites in the Bulb Community.