River Takada-Capel, the artist behind RIVTAK Handmade, is a friend of mine who reached out in the summer of 2019 about rebranding her business. She’s been selling her own clothing, accessories, art prints and other handmade wares for more than 10 years. In that time, her business had evolved in many ways.
Like many solopreneurs (and especially those in creative spheres), most of River’s brand identity was DIY’ed and put together piecemeal over the years. When we first met up for coffee to talk about her project, it was clear that she was ready to have a more consistent and cohesive brand identity. River wanted to really sit down and approach her branding with intention.
This can be a hard task when you are running a business all on your own! Finding the time to focus on business development out of your busy day-to-day is difficult enough. Especially for a creative business owner, figuring out your brand identity be a real inward journey.
A thoughtful rebrand provides an opportunity to slow down, assess your work, and think hard about the things you love about it and the clients or customers you want to invite into your life – as well as the things and people you’d like to spend less of your energy on.
River and I began collaborating on a shared Pinterest board pretty early on in the process. Pinterest is an awesome tool for bouncing around ideas, and in River’s case, we definitely had no shortage of ideas.
In fact, this was probably the most challenging (and most fun!) part of the project for me. Working with a fellow creative meant that every time we met, we shared tons of images, concepts, and art with each other. So, narrowing down the brand to a single, easy-to-digest concept was tough!
Consequently, we started by creating three fairly different moodboards. From there, River was able to decide which of the moodboards best aligned with her brand vision.
River’s work is maximalist, handcrafted, sometimes messy, always beautiful, and made with care. Therefore, we wanted her branding to encompass many disparate concepts: earthy but otherworldly, old but new, colorful but neutral. Ultimately, we decided on a brand identity that felt modern, but still connected to tradition.
With a solid set of logos, brand guidelines and assets in place, we moved on to re-designing the RIVTAK website. First, we started by identifying the most important things a visitor to her site should do:
With these goals in mind, I began by updating the site’s design to match her new brand identity. Then, I re-structured the site’s content and navigation to provide a more easily navigable user experience.
River’s site was built on Squarespace, which made the task of re-designing all of her pages at once a simple one. Tweaking the site’s design styles updated all her content to match, site-wide. (Yet another reason why I love and often recommend Squarespace for small businesses.)
However, figuring out the best way to re-organize the site was the more challenging part. River and I met several times to narrow down the purpose she needed the website to serve before I began to make any changes.
The result is a cleaner and more user-friendly website, putting River’s workshops and products front and center. The site also educates her visitors on what sets her brand apart (namely, her use of upcycled and salvage materials, and her dedication to community building and inclusivity).
River and I were able to create a wide assortment of new marketing materials using her new brand identity. We created everything from product tags to postcards to custom packing tape. Subsequently, we worked with Kristin Austin of Studio Aray on a gorgeous brand photoshoot to highlight RIVTAK’s fresh new look.
Now, RIVTAK Handmade has the beautiful and functional branding that River always imagined, and her business is set up to move forward with intention.
Certainly, branding a new business or re-branding an existing one is a big investment – of your time, money, and mental energy. Creating a brand identity that actually works for your unique business takes research, honesty and a collaborative relationship with your designer to really get it right.
But once you do get it right, there are few things more rewarding (financially and otherwise) for a small business trying to stand out.
The brand is a collaboration of things River loves & her fascination for crafting with her hands: sewing, dyeing, screen printing, vintage shopping and mending, creating mobiles and jewelry, etc. River carefully crafts each piece around a purpose… adornment and awareness.
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