The method to the madness (Stylescapes)

By March 17, 2021No Comments

A common saying that has always stuck in my head from the first time I heard it is, “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” So to a certain extent, I’m the kind of person that stresses over details. I’m a bit competitive and I tend to always want to be the best at whatever I do (at least better than average). That mentality has found its way into my career as a designer. As a self-taught designer, I’m always trying to look for ways to get better, that is why throughout my career I’ve invested heavily in learning, taking courses from The Futur Academy, Domestika, Skillshare, NiiT, and of course YouTube.

One of the tools I happened to stumble on while randomly surfing through the endless sea of content YouTube provides is a Stylescape. What is a stylescape you ask? A stylescape is a tool used to visualize a clear direction for a project/brand using a collection of assets like colours, typography, photography, and other design elements. That sounds like a moodboard right? Nope, it’s not. A Stylescpae is a moodboard on steroids.

The difference

A Stylescape requires elevated execution, unlike a moodboard. It requires a higher level of detail, thought, and research. Its purpose is to provide a comprehensive vision of what the brand/project could look like and it’s most helpful when you create multiple drafts to help you explore different directions (we usually draft at least 2). Stylescapes have become essential to all my visual identity projects because it helps guide my creative direction before diving too deep into its execution. An important thing to note is that, unlike a moodboard, a stylescape is a byproduct of strategy.

The second stylescape was chosen by the client

Why use Stylescapes?

Stylescapes help me to properly gather all my research and ideas into a single form of execution. Since I have been implementing stylescapes in my projects, I’ve found that we have less back and forth between us and clients. Because asides from using it as a tool to put my ideas together, I also share my stylescapes with our clients along with a detailed presentation on the reasoning and direction behind each stylescape draft. I’m also able to properly test my ideas without going in-depth into the actual project.

Chosen stylescape on the left. Final deliverables on the right.

Drafting a Stylescape

Before drafting a stylescape, it is expected that you and your team would have had a few design sprint or strategy sessions with your client. From these sessions, you should be able to gather all the information required to start drafting the stylescapes. Most stylescapes will include a logo style, brand colors, typography, brand patterns/illustrations, posters/communications, photography, and some sample brand collateral.

It’s doesn’t necessarily have to follow this format but this is a good starting point.

It’s always a good idea to ensure that the elements you use in your stylescapes are relevant to the type of project you’re working on. Try not to use random mockups or designs, you should also note that the final output of your branding exercise may not look exactly like your stylescape, the idea is to be able to show your clients a rough but thorough execution of the creative direction.

The brand assets, dimensions, and layout can change depending on the nature of your project and the goal is to preview the result of what the branding exercise is supposed to accomplish. Remember, a stylescape is only a tool. One of its main purposes is to give you direction as a designer and ensure that both you and your client are aligned before you start fully executing your design.⠀

The use of stylescapes is a major part of our process and it plays a major role in why we execute as well as we do. Feel free to share or ask questions in the comments section. Cheers!

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Quadri Osho

Author Quadri Osho

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