In case you didn’t notice — Enable has introduced new branded illustrations for the Enable product, reflecting every challenging aspect of the rebate management process!
Our company has grown and evolved over the years and we’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings in a stable block in 2000. For over a decade, our rebate management software has helped merchants, buying groups, wholesale distributors and retailers to drive mutually profitable growth with suppliers, whilst improving cash flow and reducing risk. We want our brand to continue to reflect our passion for innovation, and with illustrations emerging as a vital part of brand recognition and user experience, we felt it was time for a change.
We worked in close collaboration with Richard Bookey, Managing Director of Birmingham-based marketing services agency Go Bookey Ltd. Richard has over fourteen years of experience at global based advertising agencies, working with some of the biggest brands, in a variety of sectors. Through Go Bookey’s Art Buying contacts, Richard found 3D illustrator — AJ Jefferies, Director of MDI Digital and represented by Début Art. AJ has produced hundreds of high-end CG artworks and animations for commercial clients across the globe. His addition to the project gave us the much-needed experience required to establish how to bring the Enable brand to life.
We spoke with Richard and AJ to find out more about the creative process and what inspired them.
Why did Enable want to add illustrations to its branding?
Richard: Enable’s products are built on the premise of presenting information in an easy to digest way, so it makes sense for the brand to present itself with stylish and vibrant design. AJ from Début Art opened our eyes to the potential of having a level of fun and abstraction that just wouldn’t be possible with photography.
Some of the language around rebate management software, and IT solutions in general, can be quite dry and dense with lots of technical information. To overcome this subject matter challenge, we decided to inject it with some personality and humanity. Illustrations seemed like a fun way of telling our stories.
We don’t want to assume that on our prime piece of online real estate — the website — we have a captive audience that will process everything we want to say. That would be taking our audience for granted. Having entertaining characters and amusing scenes, with a little drama here and there, will pique the interest of the reader and encourage them to read on. We wanted to create an emotional response that would connect prospects, staff and customers to our brand. In short, to make us likable.
What’s the process of developing a branded illustration style?
Richard: The first step was identifying the eight web pages that we wanted to bring to life, then to identify an insight around which we could tell a story. For example, we were told that dealing with rebates when you don’t have Enable can have a degree of randomness to it, like throwing a dice. This led to ‘The Deal Game’ concept, which shows our characters negotiating a Snakes and Ladders game set in a warehouse.
Once we had the right scenes and headlines, we looked through hundreds of different animated styles, and eventually decided that going with 3D would give us the balance of sophistication and fun. It was important not to come across as too childish. Through Go Bookey’s Art Buying contacts we found one of the best 3D illustrators in the country — AJ from Début Art. His portfolio was very strong at character work, generating energy and personality even in static scenes.
Key for us was to give AJ enough of a steer to understand the brief, but not to limit his talent and imagination. It was important to align behind a visual style and character design before we started rendering full scenes. We aligned very quickly behind the distinctive and original people and world that he presented to us, and he worked very quickly in churning out the artworks, giving us opportunity for comment at each stage.
AJ: There’s really no set-in-stone list of rules to follow, every project can have a different process. The real structure comes from collaborating, initial ideas will spark the creative process and from there we will sketch down our concepts and bounce things back and forth between us, developing and evolving the style.
What was the inspiration behind the illustrations?
Richard: As for the style, we really liked some of the Pixar movies and especially the production values of the ‘Back to the Start’ animated film for the Mexican food chain Chipotle. Conceptually, the inspiration was talking to senior leadership at Enable and understanding the very real frustrations that CEOs, finance teams and commercial directors have with making deals when you haven’t got the true trading story. I had no idea it was so complicated and problematic, which was quite fun to write to.
AJ: The concepts themselves came from Richard, but stylistically we knew it was important that the illustrations have a sense of warmth and fun, without being excessively cartoonish. Enable and Richard had a very good sense of how they wanted the characters and world to look so we drew upon real world cues for lighting and texture. I personally always like it when things look real, but the viewer also knows they can’t be, so things like the character’s limbs being separate from the bodies but still looking like tangible objects was really satisfying.
What was the biggest challenge?
Richard: In order to create a little drama and provoke a knowing nod from our audience who live this every day, we decided to dramatize the negative, rather than just bang on about features and benefits which can sound a little sell-y and not very interesting. It takes some confidence and judgement to show our characters losing at poker, sliding down snakes or being stalked by monsters — but Enable were very supportive of the work conceptually and helped us find the right tone and humour to pull it off.
AJ: On a project like this, everyone will have an idea in their head of how they expect the illustrations will look, but that version is constantly shifting and changing, so the biggest challenge is making sure that we not only capture what everyone involved had hoped it would be, but also to (hopefully!) exceed those expectations so that the end result is also fresh. From experience, if it’s interesting and exciting for the people who worked on the project, then that will come across to the first-time viewer.
What are some of your favorite illustrations from this project?
Richard: For me it’s the monster lurking with menace in the background, while our chap is just trying to focus on his chess game. It’s a neat analogy for how IT issues can creep up on you when you’re trying to focus on growing your core business. It hits the spot tonally and having launched my own business I know how he feels!
AJ: I really like the scenes with the Snakes and Ladders setup. I enjoyed coming up with a creative solution for the ‘game board’ whilst tying it into something Enable’s clients would be familiar with. Also making giant snakes is always fun!
As the old expression goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and these new branded illustrations effectively convey all the unnecessary risks and uncertainties with rebate management across various industries. This marks a new chapter in our ongoing mission to build better brand recognition and create deeper connections between our clients and the Enable product. Our passion for innovation is one of the many things that sets Enable apart from its competitors, giving our customers a taste of who we are and what they can expect from working with us in the future.We hope you love our new branded illustrations just as much as we do.