93ft’s long standing creative partnership with Seen Opticians in Manchester began a decade ago when we worked on their branding in 2012. Seen’s founder, Tareq Moustafa, approached us for ideas on how to implement their brand in their Manchester store.
At 93ft, we’re used to thinking creatively when it comes to finding interesting ways of implementing brand touch points, as well as taking the lead on creative direction for independent optician brands. We wanted to link the current Manchester store on St. Anns Square channeling its store history and brand heritage to evoke feelings of nostalgia, yet with a fresh, modern feel that feels a great fit for brand 'Seen'.
Branding is equal parts creativity and strategy — the magic and the logic. Our logic comes from over 17 years of experience in brand design and application, but sometimes we look outside of our in-house team for a little extra magic, working with our network of independent artisans, illustrators and crafts people. Seb Agresti, a designer and illustrator based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is one of those artists.
Illustration can’t be underestimated in branding. While copy is vital for communicating the narrative, sometimes an image is the most impactful way of getting your message across, and a unique illustration works harder than most. When we take on a branding project we work hard to ensure that the visuals we use are completely tailored to the client and their brand, and that each one carries the brand message across.
Illustrations are often seen in a business’ logo but using them elsewhere brings a certain element of delight that becomes a memorable or even nostalgic experience for a customer. Illustration allows the brand to move away from stark realism and introduce an element of playfulness — Seb’s pigeon strutting past the store is a wonderful example of this. Don’t be fooled into thinking that illustration is just for lighthearted topics or a younger audience, though. Illustration can be as sophisticated and high end as the brand requires.
Illustration can also be a useful way to capture the imagination of something that has yet to exist in reality. To demonstrate a concept, a vision or an image of how things could, should or were. They are visually accessible meaning your audience can make an assessment of your brand within seconds. Illustrations also transcend language, they almost know no boundaries as a medium for communicating a story, emotion or idea.
In the case of Seen Opticians, we wanted customers to walk into their new Police Street store and feel a sense of recognition, an experience that comes from having a shared memory of time and place, that means you feel a part of something bigger. Between 93ft and Seb, we came up with the concept of illustrating the Seen storefront as it used to look, to be hung in their store - creating a moment of nostalgia as customers new and old witness Seen's brand evolution.
We love the personality and vibrancy of Seb’s illustrations and knew that this would make the perfect partnership.
“In 2019, I travelled to Fukuoka, Japan for 5 months, taking time off from commercial work to focus on creating something just for me. Creating storefront illustrations is exciting since there are always interesting details to draw that I haven’t tried before. They require a bit of research and experimentation, which keeps my work fun.
I try to simplify, creating an image of the building that I liken to how a memory would look.
Being interested in Japanese storefronts while I was travelling, I found that when I took photos of these buildings, the images lacked the warmth and atmosphere that I saw with my own eyes and felt observing them. This was when I decided to try to translate them into illustrations, capturing the essence and the details which aren’t always visible, but felt.”
Seb’s work brims with personality in the colours he uses, the lines he creates and the details he leaves out as much as the ones he gives attention to. His inspiration comes from the scenes and objects he observes and consumes daily — record and book covers, flea market wanderings, museum visits and hours spent roaming around bookshops.
Seb creates the line work for his illustrations in Adobe Illustrator, simultaneously applying colour and texture via Adobe Photoshop and building up the image as a whole. Coming from a traditional background of hand drawing and colouring all his work uses pen and ink, only switching to digital in 2018, he is conscious of the pros and cons of working this way. Digital artwork allows him to experiment more, moving elements around like building blocks which can result in a bolder end result. He is mindful however, of avoiding his illustrations looking “too digital” so works hard to create an authentic look, constantly experimenting with textures, layers, styles and custom brushes to get a natural, hand-drawn feel.
Illustration can be a powerful tool in distinguishing your brand from your competitors and creating a strong connection with your target audience. Instantly, this helps recognition of your branding across different forms of media, even if your company name is not visible.
Illustration in branding can be applied to all kinds of brand materials to communicate your business’ services and values. The potential applications are vast: website, social media, stationery, advertising and marketing materials, packaging and interiors. Having a package of illustrations as part of your brand’s visual identity helps keep a consistent look and feel across digital and physical spaces and contributes to a strong online presence.
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