Building Abstract — Brand Language for QED42 Cover Arts
Illustrations are what give shape to the visual identity of a brand. It is the company's public face and is the way people perceive the brand. Illustrators in order to incorporate diversity often opt for a generic portrayal of people and figures. This often lacks experimentation and misses an abstract presentation of a wide array of ideas and concepts.
Like most illustrators, we too followed the same path, but over time realised, that there was a need for a unified design language. We knew that designing it would require a strategic approach, to help create an exclusive identity that reflects the brand and its growth. Our aim was to build a visual language that would be unique to our work and what we at QED42 wished to convey. One that was relatable and more than just some generic design content.
Defining a visual language
Visual storytelling is an art in itself. Whether it was shapes, forms, textures, perspectives, and elements with a distinct color palette, the aim is a complete narration through visuals. Giving a voice to our brand, so to speak. This voice would convey company values and communicate a product to prospective users too. It would focus on how users feel interacting with our company and eventually lead to building a strong connection between user and product.
We wanted to establish a clear distinction between foreground and background and layers and depth. This was to generate unanticipated and well-structured interactions between lines and forms to accentuate the message within the story.
To define a visual language, we first focused on outlining our brand. The focus was on drawing out the brand’s core personality and ensuring that it was reflected in all our illustrations. We wanted to try to shift the focus away from representing generic human diversity. Instead, the idea was to use the expression of abstract shapes to alleviate what was to be conveyed.
In order to achieve this, we at QED42 decided to opt for a meaningful abstract approach, wherein the least elements and abstracts would convey the complete story.
Why the Abstract Approach?
The Abstract approach at QED42 was inspired by the ‘bird’s view of things.’ According to this approach, when a bird is in flight and looks down, it sees everything as scattered and not concrete. Similar to what a person might see from an airplane, at a higher altitude. The vision below is unclear and blurry. However, as the flight begins to descend, and reaches closer to landing one can clearly see all that lies below.
This metaphorical understanding of things from a bird's eye view is also incorporated into our approach to our cover art collection abstract. So, the more closely one examines a topic, all possible keywords, insights, and data related to the topic, the more expansive one's views on possible outcomes.
We have a predetermined color palette and a series of abstract shapes and sizes that are customised based on different content categories. This not only helps us unify a design concept but also adds to its appeal. It helps to create an atmosphere by arranging different shapes and controlling the colors.
The goal of creating shapes was to reuse them to make something entirely new. We developed an illustration system that allows us to freely construct and remix forms while communicating stories or concepts through beautiful abstract artworks. As a result, the artwork has a significant impact on the emotional appeal of the interface. It effectively raises brand awareness, narrative, and brand recognition while making content more memorable and engaging.
Similar to every design process, the branding of cover arts and design language also has a set process that we stick to. The steps for the same are as follows.
The very first step to creative reinforcement is to get into an imaginative mindset. To do this, we try to understand the topic at hand and figure out the possibilities and explorations around it. The idea is to look into all possible outcomes on the topic. Whether they’re shapes or a color palette or creating mood boards, drawing out inspiration for the task at hand.
During brainstorming, there are design discussions too with fellow visual designers, to get in an array of insights. This helps ease out the iteration, as different views provide different concrete insights.
Creative Research/Visual Research
Once we have a topic and an adequate understanding of it, we read up further to have a broader sense of it and perform keyword research to try to grasp it. Simultaneously, we strive to come up with and formulate ideas for possible shapes and forms relevant to the topic.
We run creative research on the topic using the keywords we have in hand. This study aids in the design of abstract forms relating to the keywords, and the creation of a mood board. We also construct a shape library with numerous abstracts prepared.
Then with the help of the mood, we have set for the topic we move on to creating a style direction for the topic. When working on style direction we explore the color palette and create 100s of design elements and abstract shapes for that topic. Style direction is an extensive process and once it is complete, it makes further processes easier for us.
With the help of the 100s of abstracts we have created and the color palette, we work on the style direction process. Once that’s completed, we are just left with the process of creating a composition. Thus, whenever the need arises, we create combinations of those abstractions from our shape repository and have cover art ready in no time with the help of the principle of design.
A brand’s identity depends largely on how users remember it. While this has a lot to do with the services provided, it is also because of the branding image associated with it. By following distinct branding principles, brands can tap into the motivations and values of the customer and leave a lasting impression on them.
At QED42, our team of visual designers follows a well-defined process of designing branding principles by putting together all that represents the company’s vision and image to prospective customers and users alike.
Super thanks! to Aslam, Siddhi, and Prerna for bringing abstract together and providing excerpts for this blog.