Remember coloring books? We all spent hours and hours completely absorbed in them, turning rabbits and cowboys and clowns into psychedelic patchworks of color – sometimes even inside the lines. Without really being aware of it, we were experiencing creativity in its purest form: curious, free, and fully present in a state of low-key bliss.
“Playful and and inherently positive, childlike expression offers moments of delight for both the creator and the viewer.”
Sadly, we can’t keep coloring in forever. But we can (and really should) tap into that feeling of unrestrained artistry as often as we can in our complicated adult lives. We do sometimes go there, on a phone call or in a boring meeting, doodling like nobody’s watching. It might be worth posting some of those Post-It notes, considering artists like Mr. Doodle have over 2.5 million followers on Instagram. Your mom ought to be kicking herself for wiping away those crayon masterpieces you created on the walls as a kid.
In the context of rebellion as a major social trend in 2020, it’s unsurprising that childlike expression has hit the mainstream. As far back as the 1950s, a collective of artists known as CoBrA (from Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam) were experimenting with a spontaneous, rebellious style of painting that was heavily inspired by the art of children. This was an equal and opposite reaction to what they saw as “a world of decors and hollow facades.”
History is repeating itself today, in an absurd, superficial world built on silicon and plastic. A growing number of artists and designers reject the pixel-perfect gloss and mechanical uniformity of digital design. Childlike art and design is real, raw, honest. It alludes to a time before rules, a time we’ve all experienced and have stored in our subconscious, where feeling trumps thinking.
Playful and and inherently positive, childlike expression offers moments of delight for both the creator and the viewer. Just looking at the scrawls, doodles, and splashes of an unrestrained hand makes us feel free, and at ease. Even subtle hints of this is an otherwise ordered design seems to loosen the collar, and dramatically lighten the mood.
Within this mode, illustration is riding an all-time high. Digital sketching has made the art form less intimidating, to the point that iPads have replaced pencil and paper to a large degree. The rise of vector graphics and digital textures has revolutionised illustration, but the side effect of its popularity is same-ness: there’s a dominant style that seems to be cropping up everywhere, eroding its unique effect. As a reaction, we’re seeing greater interest in ‘old school’ hand-drawn illustration, in a very simplified approach that blatantly denies any technological intervention. Back to basics.
It makes perfect sense for kiddies’ brands to opt for this style, but we’re seeing it infiltrate more grown-up industries like tech and finance. You would have noticed that cute, plump, simplified avatars are all the rage with tech startups and mobile apps. The primary reason seems to be an association of simplicity, and playfulness. In the context of ever-increasing technological complexity, cartoon characters put us at ease, and endear us. We’ll gladly engage with your brand’s story if we’re in love with its mascot.
Channeling your inner child requires letting go of expectations, pressure, and rules. Handing yourself over to the process. Zen masters call this “beginner’s mind”, and it’s a state of enlightenment we should all be striving for. Seven year-old you knew a thing or two about artistic expression, and the joy of making, and mindfulness. Ignore that creative genius at your own peril.
There are dozens of packs to choose from – not just cutesy characters, but hundreds of squiggles, splashes, and splotches too. Once you have your design all worked out, consider a micro-dose of unbridled expression to sprinkle in some playfulness and delight. We also have an impressive collection of fonts that pair perfectly with this style.
These are a few examples of templates we’ve created in Over, to give you a sense of where you might take it for your own brand: