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Big Brands Using Illustration in 2020

A look at how the biggest brands in the world are using illustration in their products and on the web in 2020…

Femme Fatal Hero Illustration
Femme Fatal on Beach—illustration by Rob Levin

Between 2018 and 2019, I collected many links to big brands using illustration on Medium, and it turned out to be quite popular, so, I've elected to feature a 2020 follow up here on my own personal blog as my very first post! I've gotten quite carried away, so if you're looking to collect a bunch of corporate proof to make the case for illustration at your company, you've come to the right place.

Look, I'm going to just say it—if you still think that illustration is some sort of fad that needs to be proven, or that it's outshined by photography, or cannot be a part of a conservative brand, etc., I have to tell you…it's time to come up from under that rock! That's correct, it's no longer to be considered simply as a device only for the most whimsical of of tone, or instruction manuals, or cartoon-like pages–it's literally everywhere and used by all the big giants–you just need to know how, where, and when to incorporate it. Hopefully the plethora of links to real usage below will help you figure out how illustration can and should be a part of your company's brand. Let's get started…

Before we dive in, I have to disclaimer that illustration, like photography, is notoriously transient, so please forgive me if some of the links I post no longer have illustration when you click through.


  • Oracle's home page is literally a carousel of illustration with links to blog pages featuring illustration too. Also, checkout the startup page, oracle academy page, artificial intelligence page, and cloud free tier page. Great examples of a very dignified brand that uses illustration in 2020.

  • Microsoft is using some illustration on their support site, their startups page, their account page, and probably many other places I haven't yet found.

  • Shopify has always been a leader in their use of illustration. Currently, I was able to find usage on their blog (1, 2, 3, 4, and on their twitter page. Historically, they've used illustration for first-time experience or blank state pages, but I didn't go through any of those flows to to confirm.

In fact, their design system has a whole section dedicated to the usage of illustration that's chock full of generalizable guidelines and principles. You should definitely peruse this if you're thinking of incorporating illustration into your brand and haven't yet defined your own illustration style..

  • The pioneers of Google Doodle and prolific users of illustration, Google continues to use illustration. Google Goals has always used illustration, but now they also have Google Fit.

If you comb through the google blog you'll see that use illustration there as well.

  • I noticed using the YouTube Studio interface (YouTube proper), that when I went to edit one of my videos, there was an interstitial popup with prominent illustration that mentioning the rebrand from class to studio:

    Hello new YouTube Studio, goodbye Classic Studio and when I launched into the Studio dashboard it also featured various spot illustrations under the upload videos and News sections.

Their design site is a good place to start to research how they use illustration. Their web.dev site also uses a lot of whimsical illustration.

  • If you end up in the Facebook interview pipeline, you'll notice they're using illustrations in several places on the recruiting portal: https://www.facebookrecruiting.com

  • LinkedIn currently is using a ton of illustration on their front page. These things change fast, so hopefully you'll read this article before they elect to remove illustration ;-)

  • Also, LinkedIn's Premium upgrade takes gives you a first time user experience where you set up certain Skills you're following and these screens make extensive use of illustration. Unfortunately, I experienced this but can't find a link since it was an interstitial page, but this video preview also has an illustration.

  • LinkedIn's 404 page uses illustration too

  • Sumo Logic uses illustrations from Krystal Lauk

  • Ironclad is using illustration on their site.

  • Gusto uses illustration across their site.

  • Phrase Health has a prominent hero illustration on their site.

  • Crunchbase uses illustration on their CTA widget the says:

    Sign up for a free Crunchbase account to follow and track profiles you care about Additionally, the careers page.

  • Facebook's Create a Page registration form features spot illustration, as does their entire Safety Center, their Help pages, Pay page, fundraisers page, and probably many more.

Digression

Btw, here's a hot tip to find illustration such big sites. Open your browser incognito so you're not logged in, then find their peripheral links e.g. in the mega footer, site map, etc. You may find, that although their core app or site may not put illustration up front and center, they've found many other use cases that illustration supports.


Many of the brands that were using illustration in 2018-19 are continuing to do so, and so it's worthwhile to go back and comb through the links in my previous article as well if you're assembling case studies.

Take Aways

  1. One thing that struck me going through this exercise in 2020 after having looked the years before, is that the choice of photography vs. illustration no longer seems to be mutually exclusive–I found scrolling pages that tastefully mixed the two without any sort of visual jolting per se.

  2. CTA widgets, first time experience pages, blank states, completion pages, and transitions or interstitial pages continue to be some of the most effective places to stick a helpful illustration.

  3. It's also interesting that brands that don't appear to use illustration throughout their core app or site, can still find ways to use it effectively on peripheral pages like help sites, guides, landing pages, blogs, etc., where they're free to playfully depart from their brand a bit.


I’m always interested in finding more places where illustration is being used—especially by the big hitters, because it makes it much easier to stand up in front of stakeholders and show them how illustration can be used to effectively communicate to their customers. Please DM me (my first then last name then my favorite sport tennis [all as one word] at gmail dot com) if you've found a notable example of an established company using illustration on their web site or in their products!