• 5 min

Profile photo illustration styles - which one is right for you?

  • Author
  • Ian Bower
  • Published
  • Jan 25, 2021
5 min

Profile photo illustration styles - which one is right for you?

In the first two blog posts in this series, we discussed why you should use illustrated employee portraits instead of simple photographs, as well as the various ways you can use illustrated images of your employees and how you can quickly and easily get a designer to whip them up for you. If you missed them, be sure to check them out below:

1. Use illustrated profile photos to kick up your branding HERE

2. Should you use photos or illustrations for your employee photos? HERE

If you’ve decided that illustrated employee profiles are right for your business, whether to showcase on your website, blog, social media, or marketing materials, then you’re not alone. More and more businesses are turning to this trend as a way of not just putting faces to names, but also giving their company a more personalized approach too.

But this is where the all-too-common dilemma kicks in: there are TONS of profile photo illustration styles to choose from, so how do you know which one is right for your brand? 

In this third and final installment in this blog series, we’ll be sharing a study of the different profile illustration styles available, as well as how you can figure out what works best for your business.

The Top Profile Illustration Styles to Consider

Figuring out which illustration style is best for your business begins with an understanding of the different illustration styles available. Let’s take a closer look at each one below.

Triangulation Portrait

Triangulation portraits consist of hundreds of tiny triangles of varying sizes to give the portrait a more abstract and geometric form. These triangles are then used to give the portrait volume, highlights, shadows, and tones.

An excellent example of a Meet the Team page utilizing triangulation portraits for their employee profiles is yourgenome.org. With a strong focus on genetics and genomics, it makes perfect sense for this organization and its branding to utilize this geometric inspired illustration style.


Realistic Outline

This illustration style focuses only on the outlines of a person’s face, leaving out elements such as highlights, shadows, texture, and tones. It keeps the portrait simple, yet realistic – as opposed to the cartoon line drawing style.

Take a look at these employee portraits designed by James Provost for the editors of Hodinkee, the leading online wristwatch magazine, for example. They allow us to gain a good sense of what each employee looks like, yet is a lot more creative than a simple photo portrait. Keeping the colors minimal, in a palette of just black, white, and grey, also ties in nicely with the brand’s color scheme.

Hodinkee Editor Page

Watercolor Inspired

If a more traditional, yet ethereal illustration style is up your alley, then you might consider watercolor inspired employee portraits. Using translucent layers of color which have been diluted down with water, this method of art can also be combined with other styles of illustrations to create something incredibly eye-catching and unique.

Take these watercolor style portraits created by Sam Kerr for Bloomberg, for example. They’re almost as realistic as a photograph, yet feature an artistic beauty that can’t help but invite the eye to linger and admire its creative skill.

Sam Kerr

Financial news and services website, The Street, also recreates this style on their Team page, which features staff members with beautiful black and white watercolor portraits.

The Street

Cartoon Line Drawing

Cartoon line drawings differ from realistic outlines in one major way: they’re not realistic, and embrace more of a cartoon style. They use lines of varying length, color, or style to create portraits, and are often fun, childlike, and simplistic in style.

A great example comes from the Poligonic team page, where artist Alberto Saenz has created colorful and eye-catching renditions of the employees in a simplistic, cartoon inspired style. Poligonic makes short, animated explainer videos that “help innovative brands convert customers and win hearts”, so it only makes sense that their branding is innovative and attention-grabbing too.


You can also see this style at work with these employee portraits created for Rock Kitchen Harris.  Each employee at the English creative agency had a custom caricature drawn up, with some opting for a plain and simple cartoon, and others letting their imaginations run wild by requesting to be represented at Ewoks. The style might remain the same, but these cartoon portraits are still bursting with personality.

Rock Kitchen Harris

3D Design

What if you want something that pops off the page? 3D design is another style you might consider for your employee portraits, as rather than a flat, 2D rendered image, it produces images with perceived depth and dimension.

The Supermetrics team page is a fantastic example of this style, and even incorporates a Claymation inspired appearance with its employee characters. The employees’ features are simple, yet personable, and we still gain a sense of their personalities through their clothing style or poses.  

Supermetrics Team Page


Caricatures might remind you of newspaper illustrations mocking parliament members, or a drawing you and your family might purchase on a holiday, but there’s no denying their fun factor – even when they’re used in a business setting.

You see, caricatures are visual descriptions of a person which use exaggeration or oversimplification of their features when representing them. This illustration style also often shows the subject surrounded by the things they love the best, whether it’s a specific background or items within the artwork.

If you’re wondering how a business might utilize caricatures in their employee portraits, take a look at the Meet the Team page of Bounce Logistics, which specializes in over-the-road logistics for freight forwarding supply chains. With their true-to-the-style larger heads, different settings, and eye-catching colors, we instantly gain a more ‘human’ sense of each employee. Tom Rattenbury loves to sing and play guitar, for example, while Jennifer Wiesjahn is a baseball fanatic.

Bounce Logistics

A similar approach has been embraced by The Maine Group, with their employee caricatures also showing another side to each team member, including what they enjoy doing in their spare time.

The Maine Group

Detailed Sketch

Detailed sketches aim to be as true-to-life as possible, yet still differ from photographs in the sense that they’re an artistic representation of the person. They’re unique, eye-catching, and add a creative flair to your branding, which (especially when designed in black and white or grayscale) won’t clash with your color palette or aesthetic.

These illustrated employee portraits for The Correspondent serve as the perfect example, as they’re expressive, clear, and captivating.

The Correspondent

Global fashion brand, NastyGal, took a similar approach to employee portraits on their blog. These detailed sketches are very fitting for their branding, considering how reminiscent they are of traditional fashion sketches often seen in fashion publications.

Nasty Gal


Which Illustration Style is Right for You?

Now that you’ve gained a clearer idea of the top employee portrait illustration styles to consider, it’s time to determine which style is right for you.

  • Was there a particular style that really stood out to you?
  • Which illustration style would complement your branding the most and why?
  • What does your business specialize in and can this be linked to a particular illustration style (i.e. fashion brand NastyGal utilizing a traditional fashion sketch style for their portraits)?
  • Would you prefer black and white or colorful employee portraits?
  • Do you seek a team/group illustration, individual employee portrait illustrations, or both?


The Final Steps

The Daily Design Business or Enterprise Plan will allow for you to create the illustrated employee photos of your dreams. Click HERE to get started!

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  • Ian Bower
  • Ian is the owner of Graphic Rhythm as well as other businesses that revolve around design, copywriting and Amazon marketplace selling. He's an expert in communicating persuasively and loves helping business owners and digital agencies breathe life into their projects and ideas.

    He values generosity and attention to detail and strives to make sure these values are apparent in the services he provides and the businesses he owns.

    When Ian isn't working, you can find him outside hiking, camping and spending time with his wife and children

  • Ian is the owner of Graphic Rhythm as well as other businesses that revolve around design, copywriting and Amazon marketplace selling. He's an expert in communicating persuasively and loves helping business owners and digital agencies breathe life into their projects and ideas.

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