Refining your brand style through outfit inspiration
Remember that post awhile back where I talked about the brand personality questions I ask my clients — the fun ones that help me build a brand profile and dive a little deeper into the style and story? I wanted to take that one step further today, because I’ve had some questions about what that actually looks like, and how you take an outfit photo, for example, and use that to learn something new about your brand.
It’s similar to the process I teach in The Visual Strategy Masterclass, using inspiration images to extrapolate tone words and details that you can then apply to the project at hand. And because I’m in the midst of taking my own brand through an audit and giving it a bit of a refresh, I thought I would take this opportunity to share a little bit behind the scenes of how I’m using these questions to work through this process.
In the spirit of full transparency, I’ve found this brand refresh particularly hard for a couple of reasons:
It’s extremely hard working on your own brand.
I don’t think I really realized how valuable the objectivity of hiring an outsider is until trying to do it myself. When you’re trying to create an experience for someone who is interacting with your brand but you are already so incredibly immersed in it, it’s hard to pull it apart and determine what it will feel like for them. Obviously one way around this is to bring in outside opinions and ask for feedback, but you also need to be careful about what stage you do this at. At the end of the day, you are the one who knows your business the best and holds the ultimate vision for it, so you need to value that. This is where hiring a professional often comes in — someone who is on your team, has a particular expertise in the area of focus and can guide you through the process. But in this case, I would be looking at hiring someone who essentially does what I do, so though I absolutely have flirted with that idea and come very close to pursuing that route, I also wanted to embrace the challenge and see if I could learn something from it.
The second challenge is of a slightly different vein, and I have to admit that it's a little hard for me to admit:
I’m not sure I’m in love with how my brand looks anymore.
This theme of brand evolution has come up a few times now, and I’ve started to explore this idea that my own brand might be undergoing a bit of a shift, style-wise. Not a total departure from what it currently is, but an iteration. I keep wanting to explain it as “growing up” or “maturing”, but that doesn’t quite feel right either and kind of makes me shudder, so I think I’m still searching for the right terminology here.
I can’t help but wonder if my constant moodboarding and inspiration sourcing is to blame here — I am perpetually pulling ideas and visuals for various projects or clients, and it often leads to me developing an appreciation for whatever visual direction we’ve chosen to pursue, which of course isn’t always directly aligned with that of Studio Bicyclette. So I develop this whole story and creative direction for a project and fall in love with a moody vibe filled with dark shadows and a vintage nod, and all of a sudden I want my brand to have elements of that. And then the next week is all about pops of primary colours and simple, graphic styling, and then that becomes what I’m currently crushing on. You can see how it can get a little overwhelming, right?
Which is exactly why I’m turning to my own process to try to navigate through this style transition and really make sure I’m designing a brand that I love, that feels right and represents this shift not just in style but also in our services and offerings. It’s an ongoing process, trust me.
So going back to those brand personality questions — and focusing today on just one: If your brand were an outfit, what would it be?
To answer this, I did a little bit of a Pinterest deep dive, as I do, and pulled outfit inspiration through the filter of the Studio Bicyclette, and what I want the brand to feel like. Here’s a look at what I came up with, along with some of the notes I started to make.
So here's where I'm at right now. There's a bit of a brand refinement happening — a nod to simplicity but also a love for the details, a softness and a layered, textural feel. It's intentional, still feminine but a little undone. The pastels have become a little more muted, contrasted with the crisp blacks and whites and an appreciation of negative space.
And all of that? Pulled from those style inspiration images. When you pay attention to what you're drawn to, asking yourself why and then how it applies to your brand style there's a lot you can learn.
Now the next step, of course (after maybe a little more inspiration gathering and questioning), is to start to apply this to the actual brand. But that's a post for another day...