Before you start reading this, and if you haven't already, then make sure to check out our blog post on why your business needs a look book. We are going to get into the details of what you should focus on as you lay out a look book for your business, so having some insight on even why you need one may be helpful.
Your Story; Your Foundation
One of the single most important things any web development company or business guru will ask you is: "what's your story?". Basically, there is no way you can style or create a look book without knowing who you are a business and what your story is. Quite frankly if you are in it just for the big bucks, maybe it is time for a rethink. Is your brand all about sustainable design that stemmed from a recent documentary you watched? Is your art based on a major hurdle you had to overcome in your life? Is the service you provide based on your own inaccessibility to the same service while you were growing up? In summary, the first thing you should do is right down a one pager about you are doing what you are doing, and then summarize it down to a small blurb. Only after that can you really think about how to style a look book.
Trust us when we say that how you style your look book is reflective of your story and eventually representative of your brand. So if you are a business that provides life coaching services, but your look book is filled with morose and grim images and colours, the chances of you getting noticed are slim. Similarly, if you are a business based on high end luxury jewelry, and your look book is filled with pops and splashes of colour, you may just miss your target audience from even noticing you. So remember, story first; styling second.
Let's get some of the basics out of the way shall we?
What software should you use? Hands down on In Design. Don't attempt to make on on Word or Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. While doable on those other softwares, In Design was built to write and structure reports. So if you don't know In Design find someone who does.
What should the size be? No bigger than an 8.5"x 11"and no smaller than a 6"x 6". A square look book tends to look sleek, but they don't necessarily print well. So to save yourself printing woes, stick to the standard Letter (A4) size. If you are planning to be 100% digital with your look book, then don't be afraid to come up with custom sizes that work for your brand, since printing won't be a concern.
How do you start? What should be in the look book. Don't forget to read our blog on why your business needs a look book for some quick tips. The first thing you should do is chalk out the entire book. Do you need chapters, do you want sections? How many do you need? How do you decide how many sections you need?, are all pertinent questions. Always remember that a cover page, a short introduction, a table of contents, a contact page, and a back cover are all necessary. These are the givens of any look book and without them, the book is incomplete.
The next step is to think of how you would introduce your brand or talk about your brand if you were to meet someone in person. Let's say you and us were to sit down for coffee and we were to ask you to tell us about your business, what would you say? Structure your look book in the same way. Make it flow from one section to another. Don't overload the viewer with information. Remember that a look book is like a teaser to your business and to your catalogue. Once you figure out the flow, break it up into little sections, in the same way that you would take a break and catch your breath if you were speaking to someone in person. And voila! You have your look book organised.
Always remember one thing. Even though you are trying to pitch your business to a potential buyer, retailer or other business, you are not desperate. Never sound apologetic in your look book. Be bold (not arrogant). Be confident (not cocky). Be proud (not entitled). Firm, short sentences set the right tone for a look book and other businesses pick up on that. Avoid words like "we try to do abc...", "we hope that you can...", and other such phrases that sound timid. Be assertive and confident and know that what you offer is the best of the best. People on the other side will quickly sense your tone and will know that you are a no-nonsense sort of company; highly professional and here to get the job done.
Colours and Fonts
Before you can even get into prepping a look book, we can only hope that you have your branding strategies in order. Without having a logo, font type and style, and colour palette in mind, we wouldn't even attempt at a look book. If this homework has been done, then here is the time to use it. Stick with the same font types and styles and colour palettes that you have developed for your brand and use it effectively throughout your look book. If your branding involves the use of one stylised font and one colour, don't be afraid to use it across the entire book and pair it with a simpler font (like Century Gothic, Arial, Calibri, etc.) to help make your stylised font stand out. Consistent use of the same font type and size will help maintain a coherence in the look book, which is very crucial for the legibility of your brand. Plus it makes you look super professional and in sync with design standards 101. On the flip side, if your brand is all about pastel shades, then don't be afraid to let every page be it's own sort story. Don't be afraid to use a different pastel shade for each section, or even each page, at which point, for consistency, you should stick to one or two font types and sizes.
Think of a Theme
Are you going for bold? Demure? Luxe? Fun? A mix of themes? Pick a theme and think of images and colours and fonts that reflect that theme. If you like the bold look, then don't pick fonts that are thin. Don't pick muted colours. Don't use small font sizes. If you like the luxe theme, then pick a serif-based fonts, work with regal colours (like royal blues and deep purples), stick to muted tones for your photographs. Each theme comes with a certain set of styles. Don't shy away from looking at other websites and analyse what drew you to them. you will generally notice that a website you like has stuck to a certain theme and you can pick up on those cues for your own business in general, as well as your look book.
Photography and Lifestyle Images
Whether you are an interior designer or a textile designer or a graphic designer, lifestyle imagery is the best way to sell any product or service. Show your potential retailer what your product or service looks like when used. Using photographs that just show case the design gets you a look book that looks more like a catalogue. Remember that the look book is a teaser of things to come; just like a trailer for a movie. Showcase the best tit bits to get people wanting more. Do you design textiles? Then show those designs on men and women wearing apparel that use your designs. Photograph the textiles on any products you sell them on, but in a contextual setting. So for example if your textile designs sell as cushion covers, then take a lifestyle photo of a living room with a couch that has your pillows on it. The key is to make your retailer believe that they could sell the idea of your product to their customers. Our suggestion is that you make a list of the different ways your designs or your products can be used by everyday people in every day real life situations, and then plan out a photoshoot.
Another key element of using photography is the size of the photos in the book. Do not clutter any page or spread with a series of images. It confuses the human mind. The brain does not like clutter, so don't serve your work as a cluttered platter either. Simple, clean, full bleed images (one per page, half page, or spread) work best for look books. Let the viewer relate to the photo. Let them see themselves in that photo. Let them buy into the idea of the lifestyle that comes with your product.
These are some quick tips to guide you on styling your look book. Don't be afraid to experiment, but always try to work off of some tried and tested methods, like the ones mentioned above. There is a reason those methods work, so don't try to reinvent the wheels. But having said that, remember to have fun. The one thing you should always keep in mind for a look book is the fact that it is meant to tempt people into wanting to contact you. Always keep a certain level of secrecy and intrigue in your book, and you will notice a flood of emails as soon as you send them out.
Check out some quick samples of look books that capture all the points we mention above
The Studio prepares both a look book and a catalogue each year and have developed a series of templates. We offer design services, where can work with you to develop your look book based on one of the pre-designed services. For more info on how we can collaborate contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if you'd like to retain our services.