Case Study: Alexa Mazzarello Creative
Whilst based at L'Atelier (our first ever grown up office) we were lucky enough to meet talented photographer and artist, Alexa Mazzarello. Alexa asked us to help with her re-brand last summer when she was at the beginning of a huge development period in her business. Alexa put in so much work developing her business, her style and her offerings, and where that would lead her visuals.
Alexa creates natural portraiture. She's a story teller - and uses her photography, whether commercial or not, to tell bold stories. She works primarily with women, empowering them and opening conversations around race and the human body through projects like Body Thoughts.
From day one, we knew that her original brand needed to be softer, and yet, darker. It needed to represent the moody, natural vibes of her images and bring through more of her personality. She's a strong, powerful artist, and her brand had to represent that.
As always, step one for our projects is sending clients a comprehensive questionnaire that gets clients to really stop and think about their business. Essentially, we want your business plan from you! We want to know where your business came from and why. We want to know who you're targeting, who you're competing with and what you want to achieve in the future. Plus we get clients to dish on their purpose, their values and together we develop the brand personality that suits all this.
With the questionnaire we delve straight into research and style development. We gotta check that what we have in our mind matches a clients, and the best way to do that is with a mood board! Not gonna lie, this part is totally our fave ;). We get to come up with different style ideas that will work for a client and spend time being imaginative and creative.
With Alexa's brand, we knew straight up what direction we should be heading in. Her brand already existed, even if the visuals didn't match it - so her style was set and we just had to bring it to life. We find that the better we know a company, the person running it, and the vision for it in the long run, the easier our job is, and the more likely we are to hit the nail on the head with our style direction. This is why the research and brainstorm phase is so so crucial!
As you can see, Alexa's vibes were all earthy, natural and plant based. We added in a peachy colour, in order to have something lighter for contrast (and to bring in a feminine element as she works largely with females) as well as a maroon (inspired by her nail polish!) and a dark green that was so dark it's almost black. Why two dark greens? Whilst testing out the brand, and creating things for it (another super important part of the process) we found that we needed a darker colour to balance things out and be a neutral option. We didn't want to stick with pure black - although that is part of the brand palette too - so we added in this subtle tone!
We also like to include type inspo and logo structures that we like. These styles give us an idea of the typefaces we will begin playing with in the logo development portion of the project, but also ensure that the entire vibe of the brand matches. If it's unsuitable for a project to have sans serif fonts, for instance, then we don't add them into the mood board! No distractions here, but we can change our minds later and bring them back in if need be.
The focus with Alexa's brand was a classic, old fashioned even, serif font, and a brush lettered style for the main logo. We'd pair with a sans serif where needed for contrast and online legibility (sans serif fonts, like you're reading right now, don't have the top and bottom lines and are generally much easier to read on a screen, whereas serif fonts are best for large chunks of copy in books and print materials).
Logo development! We started playing with lots of layouts and funky styles, and alongside this, began illustrating various leaves, flowers and plants to see what would work best. Whilst testing these out, we used placeholder illustrations to see what style we liked, and from there began drawing. We combined a lot of illustrations and shapes together during this process, as you'll see below, but ultimately felt that the many elements made the logo too fussy and feminine. It felt like something we had seen a billion times on Pinterest, and we wanted to simplify things.
You can see this process happening as the logo towards the bottom right of the second mood board suddenly has no illustration, and feels so much cleaner! We continued cleaning up, and landed on our final logo, albeit after another week (!!) of typeface tests. In the vein of simplicity we also decided that keeping just the one the illustration in the brand package would be best. Sometimes having lots of options is fun, but without a real purpose for each one, it's pointless and can confuse things. Alexa chose her favourite illustration, and it's now a fun supplementary part of the brand that's used sparingly; as the favicon for her website, in her info documents and sometimes overlaid on photos. It's there to support, not make things fussy, and it serves that purpose well.
Developing the brand followed the logo, and this mainly involved playing with all the elements and determining their best use, ensuring they worked together, and what logo options to include in the package. We created a letter mark (a logo mark consisting of just letters, otherwise known as a monogram) of the 'a' on it's own (check it here out as the primary logo on Alexa's website) as well as a secondary logo of Alexa's name on it's own. The full logo is used for professional placement, such as on invoices, contracts and the like, while the other logos bring a more personal touch to the brand, and so are used more frequently.
Once we were sure of everything, and had reviewed the items with Alexa, we got to work on her brand guide; a comprehensive document that detailed her company, it's clients, how she should use the logos and illustration & a few tips and tricks for social. These documents are super crucial for any brand, as they set the tone, show it in use, and allow any other designers or even team members to know and understand the brand as a whole. Remember, a brand is more than just the logo, colours and fonts - it's the purpose, mission and values behind a business too!
Post brand creation, we spent some time with Alexa explaining her files, her brand and how to use it. These meetings are sooo important for you business owners, as you're ultimately the person who's going to be running the visuals from now on! We're here to help of course, and we offer social packages and collateral design to help with this, but on a day-to-day basis, chances are you're going to have to start learning what file is what.
Website and colaterall!! Yay! The last part of our project with Alexa was helping her to bring the brand to life. This is one of the most exciting parts of a project, and we spent a lot of time deciding on the best style for her website. This process actually came down to Alexa's choice, and what she, as a photographer, felt was the best way to showcase her work. We had originally decided upon a scrolling website that told the story of Alexa, as a storyteller. But, Alexa felt a simple portfolio based website was best for her, and as we learnt early on in this project - simple is best! So we spent an afternoon building out her site, and boom! Live!
Check out the grid style site we set Alexa up with - we even laid out all of her photos in a similar grid in person so Alexa could see in how they would look, and decide upon the order. She had worked hard to narrow down her portfolio, and wanted to continue doing so, to ensure that the images placed together, worked together! It was a fun afternoon well spent, and a rare chance for a web design to be tactile and creative.
For collateral, we created 2 types of business cards - one classic, and the other a postcard-style that left space for a little message and showcased Alexa's photography on the front. The pics below show these two, and the continue use of leaves in her branding. Bringing those brand elements to real life with actual leaves is a such a big part of the brand and natural, tactile style - so it was great to see how Alexa photographed them like that in the bottom right image!
And that was a project wrap! Whew! Here's what Alexa said about the project:
“Working with Salt to develop in my brand was a big leap for me. It was the first time I was truly ready to invest in myself as a brand and I am SO SO SO happy with how it turned out. The Salty ladies really listened and observed who I was and integrated this into the brand development process, while being open to feedback from me along the way. The best part of working with Lucy and Daphne is their professionalism, their commitment to servicing their clients, and making me feel truly valued/cherished...which makes for a lasting relationship.”