When it comes to crafting a compelling story, it’s easy to focus on the words — what are we saying to deliver this message effectively? But being in the animation business, we know what’s being seen is just as important as what’s being said, and choosing the right illustration style is a crucial part of every production here at Planet Nutshell.

Here are a few questions we ask ourselves and our clients to make sure we always land on the right one:

1. What existing brand elements can we work with? 

If clients come to us with an existing brand (think: logo, brand colors, etc.) we definitely want to use that as a starting point so our work can exist harmoniously alongside any other creative work that may have been done. 

Sometimes, though, our clients aren’t quite there yet. And that’s no problem! We can help anyone find the right visual language for their video. Firstly, we think about the type of marketing we’re being asked to do and the audience we’re looking to connect with: B2B vs consumers, industry experts vs everyday folks. From there, we move on to:

2. What is the subject matter, and what’s the tone?

General design and illustration style are often dictated by what we’re talking about and what we want people to feel. 

If we’re talking about a life science company’s latest drug discovery platform and want to evoke a high-end feel, we may opt for a general design that’s sleek, minimal and modern. If we are explaining something that can’t actually be seen — like the infrastructure of an IT network — we may opt for a design style that’s more abstract. And if we are hoping to get kids excited about learning, we might skew the overall design more whimsical. 

3. How much (or how little) character is appropriate?

Most stories are about people, and people connect with other people. Meaning character design plays a huge role in helping your audience connect with your overall message. And while illustration style informs character design, it doesn’t decide it outright. There are still a few details to parse out. 

How representational should the characters be? If you want to speak to a wider group of people demographically, that’s a good reason to consider less representational characters. But if you are looking to speak to a highly targeted, very specific group of people, or if diversity is important to your message, there’s a stronger case to go representational. 

But what if you don’t want your audience to focus on the characters but on other elements within the scene? What if you’re one of those stories that isn’t about people, necessarily, but about the larger environment or a scientific process? In those instances, we consider how emotive we want our characters to be. Do they express a little or a lot? And how does each enhance or detract from our overall message?

4. What is the role of color?

Colors can be used to convey all kinds of nuanced emotions. Red can convey anger or passion. Orange is often associated with fun. Yellow can depict illness or caution. Blue can mean calm or sadness. 

But that’s just scratching the surface. The same colors can feel different depending on the hue or the saturation level. For example, if everything is bright and super saturated, the piece has a super energetic, juvenile feel. But if you mute those same colors, the piece suddenly feels more subdued and mature. 

But that’s STILL not all. Color tones can play a huge role as well! Cooler tones tend to feel sleek, modern, and in some cases, sterile (which may or may not be a good thing). Warmer tones skew a bit more cozy and sincere. 

While illustration is a lot of fun, it’s certainly not all fun and games. At Planet Nutshell, we take it very seriously because we know, when done right, it is one of the most effective storytelling tools there is.