In October 2021, we rolled out the new Mono look. This new identity, complete with a refresh of the Mono website helped us solidify our core values as a brand, building trust, access, and security when it comes to users’ financial data.
A few months before we announced our new look, we experimented with new elements of our brand identity, within the team, such as motion language, icons, and a unique illustrative style. Between that time and now, we have come to a point where we have a more grounded understanding of our illustration philosophy and style as a company, and we are excited to tell you about it.
Figuring out our illustration style
Our new illustration style was one of the things that really stuck out during the brand identity refresh.
We started this process of defining our unique style of illustration with lots of help from the Da Design team, who also worked on our visual rebrand.
This was a learning curve for us, and while we worked on the illustrations internally, we worked through multiple review sessions with the Da Design team to refine the earlier versions we created. We used some of the first samples from the team to help guide our process. This made both the groundwork for this and the final hand-off as frictionless as possible.
After receiving the initial illustration style samples from the Da Design team, we got to work on our first independent iterations. Here are some of them:
A few months later, following a final review with the Da Design team, we arrived at more refined, context-fitting illustrations that we could now begin to apply to various marketing and brand assets. This also meant that we had devised a proper process for creating our illustrations.
Our illustration design process
After the hand-off was completed with the Da Design team, we found a system that worked with respect to creating and improving on illustration ideas from start to finish. We were able to bring this down to two steps; the first, descriptive, and the second, iterative. These are our steps in detail:
The use of simple metaphors in ideation
A very important step in our illustration process is the ideation stage. This is the point where we try to find the simplest idea that fits the problem, keeping in mind what the end result might look like.
Oftentimes, we do not find a perfect fit after a first draft, but this is a good thing as it eventually leads us to a process of iteration, where we can improve on the idea and the illustrations already created.
References and iterations
Taking the product of the ideation process a step further, we match Illustration ideas from that stage with closely related visual references to support each idea. These could be sketches, images from the web, or anything at all that can support the idea that is being considered and how the illustration might be approached.
We like to bounce ideas off each other, to encourage conversations and feedback within the team. Depending on the acceptance of an illustration idea (with valid reasons), from the team, it is then moved on to the iteration stage, where we take the feedback received to inform the next step. This is repeated until we come to the most closely related, problem-solving iteration of our original illustration idea.
Tools of the trade
Mono’s distinct illustration style is achieved using 3D software. Considering that we usually deal with abstract ideas at Mono, representing them in three dimensions was the perfect approach to turn theoretical ideas into something tangible.
For example, Open Banking and Transaction Classification are relatively new terms that everyday people are not used to, but when these terms are represented using simple everyday objects like keys, wallets, and a sorting box, then it becomes easier for users to relate to these ideas.
As a company that values transparency and trust, we try to steer away from over-complicated or unclear representations. Mono illustrations are fun and relatable, but also depicted with simple and easily identifiable objects.
Our DirectPay illustration is a reflection of how easily customers can receive direct bank payments without engineering knowledge. The paper plane and coin fit into the lightweight, everyday objects language that we work with.
Applying our illustrations
Currently, there are three notable areas that we’ve designed for - the Mono blog, the Mono partner dashboard, and our monthly newsletter (The Mono Log), each one with its own nuances and considerations.
Unlike in email headers where there are certain constraints and considerations, the illustrations are created to appear in fuller spreads on the blog. With each topic that we introduce or write about on the blog, we work with the Marketing team to understand the full idea of the piece, and then work through the ideation and iterative stages to create the best fitting illustration for the piece.
So far, we have done a lot of experimenting and discovered new things about illustrations and how they serve different purposes for us. While we are still finding more ways to apply Mono’s new illustrations, we are happy with the progress we have made in the past year and can’t wait to see how our illustrations and design style will evolve.