Last week, I talked about some of the struggles and breakthroughs we’ve had as a team in defining a creative direction for Colette.
Today, I wanted to share more specifics of how our process has changed and evolved as we’ve grown, and the methods we’ve been using to bring more focus and clarity to the things we create.
I think you might even find it relevant to your own sewing practice. It definitely helped us in developing our upcoming pattern (coming September 6).
Today, I’m going to tell you about how we went about learning about our customers and turned that into an overall creative direction.
In part 2, I’ll talk about how we used this process to design, showing you the process for our upcoming pattern.
Where we started
Design was simple when Colette was a one woman operation. I found inspiration, thought about what I personally wanted to sew, did some sketching, and started drafting.
Not perfect or super strategic, but simple, quick, direct.
As the team grew, this process changed organically with time. Now, other people were reinterpreting the core ideas about what Colette was, adding their own perspectives and influences and desires.
This infusion of new ideas was great, but in the end things started to become fractured and a little muddy. Ideas would be interpreted and reinterpreted to create something that, in the end, didn’t quite meet anyone’s original plan.
We’re a collaborative bunch, and we genuinely love building ideas together. But we realized we needed stronger vision up front, something clear and meaningful that each person could understand and then contribute to, whether it’s Anna creating the technical designs or Taylor bringing the idea to life in a photo shoot.
Over the last six months, I think we’ve greatly improved our creative process and how we collaborate on it as a team. Here’s what we do now.
Who are the makers?
The first step was to take a step back from the nitty gritty of what we are creating, and to look at who we’re creating it for.
I started by creating an overarching vision for the next 12-18 months. The first thing I wanted to do was get a picture of you guys, our customers. You are the makers, the ones interpreting the patterns and fitting them to your own personal style. You have to come first.
The process for this was long and pretty involved. We did a lot of research, including a large-scale survey with over 6,000 participants. Among lots of other questions, we asked our customers to describe their own personal style with a few keywords.
Some words definitely came forward more than others. But one thing we’d noticed from seeing what you guys make, your blogs, and talking to you on social media is that there isn’t just one set style. There are different looks, different values, different priorities in what you make and wear.
So how do we account for this?
Let me get super nerdy for a second. My background is in research, and I’ve always thought that the best way to understand big groups of people is a combination of quantitative and qualitative research. That means looking at numbers to understand patterns, then looking at individuals to understand their stories.
From our 6,000+ responses, I did some complicated math called a cluster analysis. The short version is that this grouped similar people together to come up with a few clear types of styles that our customers gravitate towards. We ended up with three main style groups.
Now, the fun part. I selected a bunch of real people from each group and took a look at their Pinterest accounts (which they shared in the survey) to actually visualize what these styles meant to people. I used these to create moodboards for each style. Now we could all answer the question: what do people really have in mind when they use a vague word like “classic” to describe their style? Does that mean lots of neutral colors? Does it mean vintage-inspired shapes? Is it Eileen Fisher? Kate Spade?
Next, we decided which of these three groups made more sense to cover with Seamwork patterns, and which for Colette. We also took into account many conversations with indie shop owners about what they saw, which was very helpful.
Finally, we created a customer persona for each product line, who I thought epitomized the style, goals, and life of our customers.
For each one, I also created a moodboard for the next year. Here’s the moodboard for Colette in 2017, to give you an idea of the overall feeling (not necessarily the designs though).
And here’s one for Seamwork. I think you can clearly see the differences in style, but also how they can overlap and play together, depending on the context.
Next: Creating a pattern
So this is how we created a long term plan for what we wanted to go for.
The next step would be to use this information to design some patterns! In part 2, I’ll show you how we designed our new upcoming pattern. Stay tuned for that on September 9th after the pattern is released!