Graphic design and illustration have always made good neighbors. As we’ve noted recently, more and more studios are placing illustration center stage when it comes to logo design and visual identities, and the two disciplines are merging together now more than ever, with illustrators starting their own graphic design studios and vice versa.
Prague-based Petr Kudláček of studio Lilkudley is a hybrid of this sort—a graphic designer for whom illustration plays a vital role when it comes to identity and branding projects. He’s worked for an eclectic range of companies: from art institutions, fashion brands like Puma, and a local Czech sock designer, to less likely brands like a therapist, a deaf interpreter agency, a heat pump company, and an online application that lets you create a bucket list of last wishes. These disparate enterprises are all united by one thing, the fact that Kudláček’s illustrated logos add an evocative, lively, and playful lift to their identity systems—each logo brims with the company’s unique personality.
“I’m not a fan of minimalism, black-and-white typography, and sterile photography,” explains Kudláček. “I’m fusing illustrations into design projects because they become the things that make each project different. A big influence for me is coming from Latin America, where designers combine illustration and design naturally, like Estudio Yeye for example.”
Kudláček’s training is in graphic design, and he doesn’t have a particular illustration style yet, an advantage when it comes to tailoring his hand to the brand he’s working with. Take Lilkudley’s identity for a therapist, for example, which needed a “clean” style to evoke the way the client “cleans up” the lives of others. For online culture magazine Olospeky, on the other hand, grungy humor suited the sensibility of the publication.
As noted in Phaidon’s seminal book on humor in graphic design, A Smile in the Mind, after the economic crash companies began to incorporate more humor and softness into graphic design in order to communicate a sense of honesty and trustworthiness to disillusioned consumers. The emergence and success of brands like Innocent Smoothies had a lot to do with this kind of branding, and it’s no coincidence that illustration features so heavily in its design. Illustration can feel personal, charming, and individualized because it evokes the hand-made, and so when a brand’s logo is illustrated it can seem as though it comes from the heart of the company itself.
The work of Lilkudley follows in this tradition; there’s a vivid honesty to its logos. Kudláček uses illustration to articulate the personality of the studio’s varied clientele in a way that feels friendly, open, and highly personalized.