Branding a Madwoman: Breaking Down Our Rebranding

If you knew MadeFAIR during “the before,” when we were a retailer, then 1) thank you and 2) you would know our branding was. . . let’s call it “minimal."

MadeFAIR'S Original Branding.jpg

There are ethical brands like Kowtow who execute minimalism insanely well because Kowtow's garments are unmistakably theirs. I can look at an oversized dress with strategically placed pleating and make a solid guess it's Kowtow. MadeFAIR did it badly because, as a retailer, we didn't have a go-to product aesthetic. Our items ranged from vintage throwbacks from Mata Traders to Dorsu's sleek, modern lines. 

Unconventional Inspiration

There's no real "hack" for creating a memorable brand aesthetic. Use design to convey how you want your audience to feel -- excited, sophisticated, calm, angry, inspired, mature, unique, quirky -- then find inspiration from places that have nothing to do with your business. I love Nylon Magazine, 70s British punk rock posters (but not 70s British punk rock, weirdly), and surprising color combinations. If I were a real designer, this would be my mood board:

 "An assault on the eyes." 

"An assault on the eyes." 

As MadeFAIR slowly began realizing its downfall, I went through "a dark period" and found myself with loads of spare time, creating promotional posters for my husband's backpacker hostel, Monkey Republic. Over time, they became more elaborate as I Googled how to do X in Photoshop or Illustrator. It came to a head when I made this Star Wars poster via a tutorial from one of my favorite design blogs, Spoon Graphics

 Still kicks ass.

Still kicks ass.

In April 2017, we took a week's vacation in Kuala Lumpur. This dress had me do a double-take. 

Dress.jpg

Seconds after snapping this photo, a woman switched it out for a different dress. Now, I'm a woman of science and don't believe in fate, but my goodness this dress' color palette was BANGIN'. Had we walked by mere seconds later, I never would've seen it. 

This photo sat on my phone for a couple months, until I decided to drag myself out of bed-office and do something about my old business. Voila! Our new color palette: 

color palette.jpg

MadeFAIR didn't have a reliable brand look from the get-go to help our products look cohesive. The solution would've been to lean into eclecticism by creating a copy/pasted look that takes A LOT of time to achieve. Every single blog requires two images: the banner and the social share. We could write about something as dull as GDPR compliance, but pair it with this color palette and you'll still know MadeFAIR wrote it (hopefully). 

Patterns & Texture

My chosen colors are a bit hard on the eyes, so we break them up by using Photoshop brushes that came free -- FREE -- with a font I had licensed for a freelance project.

 Always use commercially licensed or public domain elements (or better, create them yourself!) Otherwise, your brand will fold the minute you get the inevitable "cease and desist" letter.

Always use commercially licensed or public domain elements (or better, create them yourself!) Otherwise, your brand will fold the minute you get the inevitable "cease and desist" letter.

I'm using elements normally associated with Etsy shops but I freelance as a wedding stationer (I know, weird, right?!) and would prefer to keep watercolors and calligraphy to that genre. Also, I want to avoid flat design for fear of looking like a tech start-up. Therefore, I'm incorporating letterpress paper textures for photo-realism; toeing the line between tacky and interesting. 

Neutrality as the enemy

Words my actual friends have used to describe this new look: garish, berserk, desperate for attention, flashy, outlandishly disgusting, an assault on the eyes.  

I mean, sure. Yeah. Fine. Thanks.

The thing is, friends, if we look at MadeFAIR's historical revenue, our most successful weekend (which happened during our last month (but we won't get into that (now))) had a flash sale that used these graphics for ads, social media, and email campaigns: 

Flash Sale.jpg

Sure, the whole store was 50% off, but there's a lesson to be learned outside the demand for cheap, ethical fashion: no one cares what your brand looks like as long as you're offering something valuable.

Why rebrand a closed business?

In truth, I don't know why I won't let MadeFAIR go. For some reason, madefair.co still receives 3,000 hits a month and our social media channels continue to grow little by little, despite being mostly dormant for the past year. This may be the result of strategic (read: lucky) backlinks and blog features, or maybe "evergreen content" that still ranks on Google. We'd rather find out with you, our reader, than by ourselves. Therefore, MadeFAIR is now a blog -- just a regular ol' blog that looks back at our methods and mistakes over the last three years, and (hopefully) offers valuable advice to people who want to start their own business or are just curious about how business works.*

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*I read food blogs despite my shocking inability to cook, so you never know.

businessTavie Meier