Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Visually Branding Street Style Blogs

Since the PCA/ACA last week, I've been paying a lot of attention to how bloggers visually brand themselves, that is, create a stable visual identity across content and media. The most obvious way, of course, is through a logo. Whether consciously or not, most successful bloggers appear to follow the advice of blogger/writer/entrepreneur Yuli Ziv in her book Blogging Your Way to the Front Row, and use the same simple visual signifier, the logo, in all of their social media. Here are a few notable ones, from the simple and straightforward:

to the modestly stylized:

and the graphically elaborate:

I'm not sure whether these logos are self-designed, farmed out to a graphic design firm, or purchased cheaply from some logo design website. Bloggers, I'd be interested to hear where you got your logos from. As for my own logo:

I got it for free on Took me 10 minutes. It ain't fancy, but it's functional. Incidentally, I am providing links solely for the sake of giving credit where credit is due. If I am ever paid for a link I will let you know. And if dropping the names of businesses gets me sponsorship offers, I'll let you know that too. Frankly, I don't think I command enough attention for that at this point. 

Other forms of visual branding, however, are more subtle, and play out in the arrangement and style of images that appear on a blog itself. I find the visual brand of London based Shot by Shooter particularly striking. Photographer David McLean does close up portraits of his subjects only from roughly the shoulders up. All are shot in vertical alignment and cascade in a straight line down the white surface of the web page. In Shot by Shooter, we are left the impression of diversity and individualism. The point-to-point comparison drives home what is unique about each person represented. Clothing, notice, is downplayed. Here are a couple of examples: 

Images by David McLean.

Lisa Warninger of Portland's Urban Weeds, similarly, always does a single, black and white head shot (square) followed by a full color image of the full body in context (rectangle), again in vertical alignment and moving in a straight line down the page. The page itself, as is typical of street style blogs, is left white. Here, the effect is also quite dramatic. The first image creates a sense of intimacy and personal connection. It is about the person, their internal life, and their essential character. The second image creates a sense of dynamism. It is about the personality, the external expression of the subject and its mediation through style. Here is an example. Notice how radically our reading of this person shifts as we move our eyes to the second image. 

Images by Lisa Warninger.
Finally, let's look at perhaps the best known visual brand in street style blogging, that of Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist. His is a bit more subtle. At first glance, there is no obvious visual consistency. Most images are in vertical alignment, but others are horizontal. Some are in close range, others more distant. Diverse images of diverse (though almost exclusively beautiful) individuals are presented in relatively diverse ways. But there are certain signature strokes. For one, Schuman tends to present his subjects in sharp focus, with backgrounds blurred, even when the backgrounds make up a substantial portion of the image. This makes the subject pop out of the image. These pictures, the message reads, are about them. The streets, beaches, or buildings behind them are only a stage they stand on. For another, he more often than not employs the full body in the frame, shot, it appears, from some distance, while crouching, and using a telephoto lens to avoid a parallax effect (i.e., the lower part of the body appearing larger in relation to the upper part). It makes for beautiful images and lends them an interesting combination of naturalism and surrealism. These appear as scenes both happened upon and carefully staged.  Here are two examples. 

Images by Scott Schuman.


  1. This post was so fantastic! So many great observations. And thanks for the tip on creating a header. That is totally my project at some point this week while I'm laid up at home.

    Really good observations about the Sartorialist's photo taking. I don't know enough about photography to make any other observations than "those pictures are gorgeous".

    1. Thanks, Dana. Curious to see what you come up with for your logo. Not sure I know enough about photography to make many conclusions either, but some I figured out from watching that documentary.

  2. Thanks for pointing out different visual branding through logos! We've never really thought about that since we're rather design-challenged, might look into it.

    Urban Weeds consistent use of bw head shot followed by the full colour shot is very compelling indeed, for the reasons you listed. I usually prefer seeing an outfit being nailed in a single shot, but this works strongly. It's like street portraits combined with street style.

    We try to follow The Sart's photography closely to learn how he does what he does so beautifully. (read: entire folder full of his shots for photography inspiration. Aah! To own a 85mm lens). If I remember correctly, he said it is also about the city, so he tries to capture the setting and context (always so seamlessly). He has mastered the use of lighting, which as my friend said, is '50%' of a photograph. In recent years he has consistently taken on the considerable challenge of working with harsh light and shadows (like 2nd pic) and making it work, because he understands good lighting well. On the streets, that is no mean feat. If you look at his older work he works less with harsh light, so that is an interesting evolution, but also almost a natural progression.. as it is lighting that creates the mood and can make the dullest subject/location pop. But obviously we all try to pick interesting subject/location since we don't plan around the sun :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.