An interview with Daniel Adoff (Video Podcast)

Arek Dvornechuck
12 min readApr 17, 2023


You can also watch this interview on my Youtube Channel

*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.


Arek Dvornechuck: Hey, what’s up branding experts? Arek here at Ebaqdesign, welcome to On Branding Podcast, and today my guest is Daniel Adoff, and Daniel is a creative problem solver focused on building and evolving brands. From defining brands to designing logos to art direction and illustration and more some of Daniel’s clients include Netflix, Discovery Plus , Sambazon, Taco Bell, Hyperice, and more brands. So today we are gonna talk about using “The Power of Illustration in Branding” Hello Daniel, thanks for joining us today

Daniel Adoff: Nice to be with you. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Arek Dvornechuck: First of all, I wanted to say great work. , I’m really amazed by, how you are using illustration in branding, in logo design and so on. And I see that you are working with many brands you do a lot of packaging, first of all, and, incorporate illustration in your work. So, First I just wanted to start with basics. Can you talk to us about the benefits of using illustration in branding? When is this appropriate, for what type of clients? What do you think?

Daniel Adoff: So one of the interesting things when you’re using illustration is it’s not the real thing, but that actually works out really to your advantage. Because imagine if you’re trying to sell an ice cream like Halo top ice cream that isn’t actually an ice cream that tastes exactly like chocolate or exactly like strawberries. If you want it to taste something like that, how do you reference that idea? But without setting in your client or your consumer’s mind. Hey, this is a strawberry. Using illustration in those ways helps bring that idea forward. One of the things that we did when we were doing Netflix with the Tracy Morgan piece was specifically bringing back the nostalgia of those seventies movie posters and that type of feel. So You can bring nostalgia, you can bring emotion tied in to that illustrative style. So that’s another way that you can really help people, guide them with illustration, And naturally as being a kid, people draw and people want to connect with that feeling of actually having something that’s physically tangible and drawings a great way to execute that.

Arek Dvornechuck:Awesome. And by the way, I recommend you guys go ahead and check out Daniel’s work, which is so you can do that while listening to this podcast if you want to. But you can find a lot of examples there. So it’s always better to look at, some of the works that we are discussing, right? So you can get an idea of what we are talking about. Some of the key takeaways from this part. So you were saying that it’s easy to bring the idea forward, right? As people say, you know, an image is worth a thousand words, right? So we can use illustration to convey like a big complex idea into something that It’s very digestible we can also bring this, as you mentioned, nostalgia, emotion and so on. So it helps to create certain look and feel, whether it is organic or, handcrafted and things like that.

Can we talk about some examples for example, I love the work that you done for Blackfield Bakery. Which is a vintage logo. And again, I recommend you guys to check it out. There is a mascot within that logo that illustrates the client’s dog. right?. Can you talk to us about the process how did you arrive on that final concept?

Some of your process, like how do you work with clients? Did client come to you with this specific idea already or I, is it something that you suggested?

Daniel Adoff: I can share this deck with you. Do you mind if I screen share with you and then we can Oh, yeah. Share it with the Sure. That’s perfect. The wonderful people out in the world.

Arek Dvornechuck:That’s awesome. Okay. Now you should be able to do that.

Daniel Adoff: This is just we go through the overall. Thought process of illustration. In different ways, illustration can be executed, but within our process we operate in a pretty simple four step process. Like any other thing of branding or packaging design or anything of that nature, we always start with that research. No matter what it is, you always start with research, understanding that background information, and then you design your initial concepts. Then you go into your, tighter illustration. Then you take that illustration, you build it into whatever collateral it needs to make sense for, and then you make sure that exists for actual production. so that normally exists within a kickoff meeting going into those mood boards. Developing those thumbnails, those concepts, just as you’re saying, we had, initially, when we were doing this stuff for Barkfield Road, we had a huge variable set of things that involved dogs, some things that. were bones or elements surrounding pet stores. And then we cut it down, especially when we’re developing those, branding suites, we wanna incorporate a number of different marks to be able to have them choose from. So the primary mark might be the final one, but the other ones that might become secondary or tertiary, mark. Then going in those sketches, Refining the illustration where it’s color blocking or understanding values. Defining the final illustration, putting it onto the thing, because a can isn’t gonna make sense, especially if it’s only gonna see one side or there’s another side that you’re gonna see more of, or this side or the other. That’s a good point. And then making sure that it’s print ready. That’s where you get to the end of that.

Arek Dvornechuck:Okay. Awesome. Yeah, that was great. you do not dismiss the process. Cuz I see, sometimes designers just to, just start doing things. But I work the same way. I would say as you, I have like an established process, a proven process that I follow. I do follow this, these steps. I do spend a lot of time on the research as well. I think it’s very important and especially if you are working on something as complex as illustrations can be, right? Because you have to spend a lot of time because there is a lot of detail to those illustrations sometimes. So it’s much, much more time consuming than I would say like a simple minimalist brand identity.

Daniel Adoff:Exactly. And just as you were mentioning, the Barkfield Road said, yeah, if you look on our website, you can see all these different iterative process, of these different illustrative. Dog icon illustrations that we came up with that eventually finally built to this final refined mark, and these are just the ones we’re showing you guys. The ones that get tossed in the trashcan as we’re working through it, there’s infinite more,

Arek Dvornechuck:right. Exactly. So these are the more polished one. The more refined version, but there is a lot of. Ton of sketches behind the scenes, right? I saw it on the website and I thought, this is great that you are showing the process. And I remember from my own experience, when I was looking for a job, I’ve worked at different agencies and They always say this, I love that you’re showing the process. I used to have a lot of sketches on my portfolio. now I don’t have, because I’m more into minimalist design, right? But I do also show some of the process before and after and so on. So I think that’s very important. I just wanted to give to our listeners a few more examples of famous brands that use illustration also so we can all understand, what it can be done in terms of visual identity.

For example, Malechi, they use illustration, Zoc doc Casper, Slack, Airtable, and so on. So you can check that out too. So next I wanted to talk to you I wanted you to talk to us actually about some of the tips. , Do you have any tips for, you know, beginners or, students who are just starting out or who are passionate about illustration but also passionate about branding and they’re trying to find their style and combine those two.

Daniel Adoff: Yeah. And I actually teach at Laguna College of Art and Design. In Laguna Beach, California. And so this is a question which circulates within the graphic design and the illustration department, because those two things, are you going to be going more into illustrative concept art or are you going to be using illustration as a supporting factor within design and when you’re thinking about exactly what you’re talking about of using illustration as a supporting element for design, that’s hugely important to just A, be able to draw and be able to see And that’s not just even necessarily with illustration itself, but that’s with design as a Because I think you can say for yourself that your ability to see has grown exponentially as time has moved forward.

I mean, one of the best feelings in the world is to try to center something on your art board and then press the align buttons and go, ah, it didn’t even move. I freaking nailed it. But the equation to generate style is find the artist that inspire you. Copy their work. Don’t say that you ever did it. I’m never encouraging people to pass off others’. Work as your own, but copy that work and then you can understand how the person did it. And you do that process over and over again with as many different people that inspire you, because naturally you’ll start to draw that information in how different people have executed their work. And then you’ll start to develop what we normally refer to as style. it’s all of those different pieces and going, okay, I like Milton Glaser I like Saul Bass. I like Brian Ewen. I like Frank Frazetta, I like Michelangelo, I like all of these different types of work. I’m gonna copy that. And then through doing that, you’ll eventually. Understand how that work is done, and you’ll be able to generate what your own style is. It will have influences from different places, but it will really be your style.

Arek Dvornechuck: No, that’s a great theme. Definitely. So, By the way, so some of the takeaway for you guys listening And basically it applies to everything, not only to illustration.

So I’ve done this myself, I remember so many times. you basically find someone who inspires you. Someone who you admire an artist, an illustrator, and then try to recreate their work. And while doing this you’re gonna reverse engineer the process, the day went through and you’re gonna be able to like, see more and figure out more things.

And that’s how you learn those skills also, right? The tools and, you know, illustrator and so on. So yeah this is an amazing tip and you can also while building your portfolio, I believe you can like show some of this work or some concept work or create something similar.

And you can just say, this is a concept work, right? But this is what I’m able to do. So for those who are just starting out, I think it’s a great tip. the last question I, have for you is, what’s important when it comes to combining or incorporating illustration into branding?

For example does it have to be super consistent does it have to compliment the identity or can it be something. More creative, more unique, more original. how do you find out how many illustrations or how big the scope of the project is going to be?

Daniel Adoff: If you want to incorporate illustration directly into the branding or the word mark or something along the visual identity of that way, I think that’s a great way to show some sort of unique element to the brand as a whole and have it be a quickly and recognizable mark.

And that also allows you the opportunity to build these icon or brand suites that have different elements to it. We very much did that with Coastal Craft Kombucha. We had a number of different marks that we executed in putting together their piece rather than just their primary mark.

That was the seagull that was standing on a pillar, which was an evolution of their current mark. Whenever we are putting together a brand or any sort of piece as a whole, that’s where that research comes in and you establish and say, This is our look and feel of our illustration. This is a sandbox we’re gonna play in. even for as widespread brands as, for example, vans or action sports brands like Van Zipper Hurley, or all these different, surf, skates, sports brands. You see their t-shirt illustrations, you see how they’re really stretching and pulling the brand, all these different looks and feel.

And even they’re stretching their brand mark itself. It’s still fitting within their brand guidelines. So they’re obviously sitting within the sandbox of their brand guide. So that’s really the place where you need to understand where to live within. So as long as you’re living within their brand guidelines, or if they don’t have that, to make sure that you’re setting up good solid discovery and mood boards to understand this is the style or look right, or this is the feel of what it’s going to exist as.

And then you can live in that playground. And if you have any challenges or confusions with your client or if the client has any confusions with you referring back to those brand book or mood boards or things like that to say, okay, we said that we were looking for exaggerated form and red, orange blue color palette.

I noticed that we’re going with Orange green, and very. Stiff figures. Why is that? And you see illustration a lot right now within the tech industry With these kind of noodle armed people

Arek Dvornechuck:things, right? Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s coming up and I like what you said here. So basically we need to like establish some kind of a guideline or some rules if they don’t have a style guide. And then it depends on the project, right? As you mentioned, you can create different logo variations as you did for one of your clients with this kombucha brand, right? Or it could be just one main illustration in logo one, main logo, right?

So it could be a symbol with the water, with the logo type. Could be separated or not. That could be like Like an emblem, so it’s inseparable, right? So there are different ways to go about that. and it can be original and can be creative, but we should define some elements that, make it still cohesive and so it still looks consistent and as the same brand, right?

Daniel Adoff: The sandcastle can look like anything, but that sandcastle needs to live within the sandbox, and it still needs to be made of sand. Yeah. You can’t go and be like, all right, I’m now gonna make a wedding cake in this sandbox that you’re not gonna be able to do that.

Arek Dvornechuck: So again, some of the key takeaways, make sure it’s consistent with your identity. Of course you can be creative, but setting some rules, whether it, as you mentioned, whether it’s color palette, maybe certain style maybe it’s a caricature or some kind of a comic style or whatever it is, some organic feel.

So figure this out. and create some some kind of a mood board at least, that will turn eventually into a style guide, hopefully. And that’s how you’re gonna, make sure that it looks good as a whole. When you look at all different, assets and marketing collaterals, it actually looks like a professional, consistent brand, right?

Daniel Adoff: the way that you’re gonna help create that consistency is color line. Shape and rendering. So is it gonna be painterly? Is it gonna be flat? is it gonna be skew morphism? How are you gonna render that form? And what type of line work is it gonna be mono lineweight? Is it gonna be variable lineweight is it gonna be sumi brush stroke.

Arek Dvornechuck: And that’s a good point as well. Right. So the different types of stroke, different types of style is it more of a smooth line, , one line one width stroke monotype or a variable. So yeah, there are different styles, different illustrations, but I love your work.

So I’m gonna link to your work so you guys can check it out like more than Daniel just showed you on the podcast. So the website again is I’m gonna link in a description box. so as we are approaching the end of our episode what’s the best way to connect with you? Are you active on social media?

Daniel Adoff: Yeah, we have a great Instagram. You can hit us up there. Okay. We’re getting back into being better with Dribbble. And we actually have a really active Pinterest so you can go and check out all of the things that inspire us cuz we’ve been talking about mood board inspirations. You can actually get a little view into some of our mood boards that we’ve done with past clients in our Pinterest.

Arek Dvornechuck: For research. You like to use Pinterest and create boards there, your mood boards.

Daniel Adoff: Yep. Cuz that’s a great way to share with clients and be collaborative in that experience right before you move it to the final presentation.


Arek Dvornechuck:Definitely. Yeah, that’s a good tool. Sometimes I use it too. Okay. Awesome. Thanks Daniel. Thanks for coming on the show. I appreciate that.

Daniel Adoff: Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.