Why we created inclusive illustrations to represent our brand

There’s no question that illustrations are the design trend of the moment. Spend just a few minutes browsing your favorite sites on the interwebs and you’ll see that most brands have traded in cheesy stock photos for gorgeous custom-designed graphics.

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you might have noticed that our graphic and visual language has evolved over the past year, too. We thought it would be cool to tell you a bit more about our illustrations, the values that they represent, and how and why we created them.

We’ll turn the microphone over to our UI/UX designer Guy Levin. He’s the mastermind behind our entire illustration style guide and has created most of the images you see here on the blog.

Meet Guy: pop-culture aficionado, devoted friend of Pygmalion the cat, and wearer of sushi-printed socks.

In the winter of last year, we revived our blog and I led its graphic facelift. We started using a very specific aesthetic, featuring a laptop or computer against a colorful background and a few physical objects. Our goal was to showcase the product and how simple it really is in a context that anyone can relate to. No need to represent it with a mock-up or other graphics; what you see is what you get.

We were happy with the images, but after 10 or 15 posts, we noticed that everything started to look the same. It was limiting our means of communication and wasn’t reflective of the wide range of problems we’re here to solve. So we decided to treat our blog as a playground of experimentation, where we could branch out and try different means of visual communications.

We asked ourselves: who are our customers? How can we best represent them visually? And how can these images connect back to our product?

From the start, we’ve marketed our product directly to anybody and everybody—not as enterprise software to be adopted by the CEO, but as a tool that anyone can use. We say if you have a computer and work with a team, monday.com is for you.

As a result, we have a wonderfully diverse and varied customer-base in almost 150 countries worldwide. Teams as small as just a handful of people use monday.com to manage their small businesses while firms with thousands of employees use it to increase efficiency and boost productivity. Our nearly 20,000 customers range from teachers to entrepreneurs to race car manufacturers to consulting firms.

I started building an illustration bank of characters that reflect the diversity of people who use our product. Our aim was to be inclusive of race, body type, gender identity, and everything else. We also wanted our characters to be relatable. While we do have a lot of corporate “suit-and-tie” types who use our product, many of our customers are much more casual. They work from home, on-the-go, out in the field, and we wanted our illustrations to reflect that.

That’s also why we aim to add background details that humanize the scene and provide some context. People don’t work in empty rooms devoid of furniture and personal items, so our characters shouldn’t either.

One of our most sacred values is to be consistent and concise. That speaks to our product, which is always clear and simple. So we take a minimalistic approach to illustration by using straightforward compositions, simple shapes, and tight color palettes. Just as our boards consist of color-coded rectangular cells, in geometry we trust. Rudimentary geometric shapes can be used to illustrate just about everything.

In fact, that’s why we chose for our characters to not have faces and to consist only of simple and versatile shapes. It’s consistent with the visual language of our product, and gives us a lot of freedom to bring humor and emotion to the challenges we all face at work on a daily basis. The illustrations are easy to relate to, and encourage you to imagine yourself in that situation.

Also in keeping with our visual and colorful product, we use vibrant hues and tonal contrast to make objects in the foreground pop. That helps us focus on what matters and communicate the message more clearly.

The best part of the illustration style guide is that now we have guidelines for team members to experiment and be creative. It’s important to stay cohesive as we grow—all details should feel like they were drawn with the same brush—but we also want to give our team as much room for personal interpretation and freedom as possible. Illustrations allow us to do whatever we want, and it’s fun to take advantage of this opportunity.

As our product and customer-base continue to evolve, our graphics and illustrations will, too. But we’ll always stay true to our values: simplicity and humanity. We are real people designing our product for other real people, with their real problems in mind.