As I've started the design process for the new Studio Bicyclette site, one of the most challenging aspects has been writing the content. Visually, I have a good sense of what I want, I've put together my brand inspiration board and because Bicyclette already has a strong brand identity, those pieces tend to come together quite easily. But the written content, that's a whole different battle. It's a question of what actually needs to be included, content-wise, and then the challenging act of the actual writing itself. Writing about yourself and what you do is not an easy task, or at least not in my experience anyways. I mentioned before that sometimes it's important to ask for help, and so a couple of months ago I asked Ana (who I collaborate on the Girl Crush features and various other styled projects with) if she would help me out with writing the content.
Of the pages on the new site that we've recently set out to write, one of them includes a section about my creative process, and what working together may look like for potential collaborators or clients. And so, in the spirit of giving you a peek behind the curtain and sharing my own journey with the Bicyclette brand, I wanted to share what I have so far. And to make it easier to follow along, I thought I'd relate it back to my most recent styled project, the New Year's Eve Disco Diamond shoot as an example.
For every project I take on, I tend to follow a specific creative process, and though the details and specifics may vary slightly, I've narrowed it down to a certain sequence of events. Though the creative process is often a little messy (and I mean that in the best possible way - think beautiful chaos), I do find that the best results come from having a little structure, and it especially helps when other people are involved in the case of collaborations and client projects.
I'm a dreamer, and though I may have an idea in my head and the ability to envision exactly how I want the finished product to take shape, it can sometimes be challenging to communicate that with others. So I've found that sharing my creative process right off the bat allows us to be on the same page, and gives others a sense of what they can expect, not only for the final outcome, but also throughout the project.
Follow curiosity // This is the part where I dig a little deeper and find out what the essence of a brand, client or project is, what makes them tick. I want to know what they stand for, what sets them apart, what values they hold, and ultimately, the story that is driving the campaign, style or concept. It's the essence of that that should be brought to life and shared. This is essentially the "research" phase. Listening to what they have to say, asking the right questions, and then determining how we can add a fresh perspective to it, with that coveted je ne sais quoi that makes someone look twice.
For the Disco Diamond shoot, this was all about emailing back and forth with Angela from Bash Party Goods and spending some time looking at her products and brand elements, like her social media accounts and website. We talked about the inspiration behind the holiday collection - namely, figure skaters - and what it was she wanted to capture with this shoot. She mentioned that she was going for an "icy, sparkly, chaotic kind of excess mixed with cool/tough girl accents", which perfectly set the tone and gave me a good understanding of the direction we were going in. I also knew that I wanted it to be more of a styled shoot, incorporating fashion with the party decor to tell a story beyond the tablescape and products themselves.
Chase the dream // Now it's time to get a little dreamy, while remaining true to you and your brand. This is all about inspiration gathering, brainstorming creative themes, and looking for how we'll capture that juxtaposition of style and function: the unexpected twist that catches your eye and causes you to look twice. This is the phase where we get a little messy, dream big and allow our imagination to run wild. No idea is too big or crazy, and it's all about getting those down on paper, and finding inspiration that ties into the overall theme. There are lots of post-it notes and digital lists made during this phase, because you never know when an idea may hit.
This phase started in a slightly different way than it normally would have, as Angela had already started an inspiration board. So once she gave me access to it, I took a look at what she had on there already and then started to add my own inspiration, playing off of the themes I started to notice.
Because I've already spent a considerable amount of timing building up my Pinterest boards, I usually turn to my own profile first to repin images from. In this instance, I looked primarily at my Photoshoot Inspiration, Party Time, Sparkle boards for relevant images, and then added them to the Disco Diamond board. Simultaneously, I'm also constantly jotting down ideas I have, either in a new project list in Asana (more on that tool later!), a post-it note on my desk, or the note app on my phone, depending on where I am when it hits me.
Once I feel like I've gathered a sufficient amount of inspiration, I go through the board and make notes about the common themes and details that continue to show up, and any other new ideas that have been sparked. This is also usually when I take my favourite images from the Pinterest board and create an edited down inspiration board with them.
During this phase, I've also started a pile of any styling props and details that I think may fit in with the shoot. I usually have a basket or milk crate in the studio that I just toss items into. I'm also putting together a list of wishlist items that, if there's a budget for it, I'd ideally purchase. In this case, it was anything iridescent - ribbon, a tinsel garland, jewellery, confetti, coloured paper - and also pieces of clothing I thought I may want to include.
Now that I've already organized all my ideas, it's time to bring the details to life. I reach out to anyone else I might want to collaborate with for the shoot, or places I want to pull from for the styling. For the Disco Diamond shoot, I borrowed clothing from Honey, had Breeyn McCarney design and produce a skirt out of fabric we had sourced, and picked out jewelry from Armed. This is also when I execute any DIY projects that I may need to do, such as the glittered figure skates for this shoot.
Find magic is in the details // This is about creating the entire experience and actually executing the vision, which takes an attention to detail and a love of layers. Whereas in the previous phase we went broad and started to come up with the big ideas, this is where we narrow back in and pinpoint those magical details that will really bring a project to life and set it apart.
I plan out my shot list so that during the shoot I'm extremely conscious of paying attention to capturing a variety of shots and details, keeping in mind the final result and the story I want to tell. That means there's a mix of wide shots, lots of close crops and different angles, and I always try to think about alternative styling ideas and shots that might be a little bit different and really catch your eye. White space plays such an important role here. I often have a couple of "I'm not sure if this will work, but can we just try this..." ideas that we play around with, and those often tend to be my favourites.
Tell your story // Whatever the final product, I want to make sure the end result is highly visual, inspirational and dynamic. It circles back to the first stage, because ultimately, now we're sharing that story we came up with, and I believe that should be done in an interesting way. There are so many different forms this final package may take - blog post, website content, social media posts - which obviously we keep in mind, but regardless, we want it to dazzle.
When I share a styled shoot on the blog, it's not just a matter of uploading the photos and leaving them in the order the files are numbered. Trust me, I spend a fair amount of time playing around with the placement and order of each and every photo so that they tell the exact story I want. I'm usually editing down the photos a lot (which is never easy to do), and making sure there's a certain flow to them all, with a mixture of vertical and horizontal, wide shots with close crops and details.
I'm also planning the social media strategy (which I won't go into too much detail about now), which varies based on what the project is. Am I sharing sneak peeks prior to releasing the shoot? Do we have a hashtag?
This part of the process looks very different for every project, and for the Disco Diamond shoot, it was relatively laidback, since it was a creative collaboration for both Bash Party Goods and Bicyclette, as opposed to a specific campaign for a brand or part of an overall content strategy.