Getting Started

Getting Started with Model Photography

Beautiful, unique photography is one of the key elements in building a strong brand. While many brands start with stock photography of models, it's hard to create a consistent brand look and you always risk a competitor using the same image.

Frequently when brands are looking to upgrade their designs, they're also working on their first professional model shoots. While we aren’t photographers and will leave the aesthetics specifics to those who are experts, we work DO work with brand photography all the time. This is a brief overview of what types of model photography tends to works to work well from a design perspective and what will leave you frustrated or worse yet, reshooting in a few months. 


1. Shoot For Versatility

The most versatile model imagery for small brands is to have the models on a simple, solid color background like this example from Kevyn Aucoin. It looks elegant and modern and is also very easy to repurpose. 


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2. Think Results, Not Product

Avoid showing shots of the models using the products and focus on the results. It can be done well, like this example from Estee Lauder but often just looks a bit cheesy. Plus, if you ever want to change the products later, you’ll have to re-shoot or photoshop the model photography. 


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3. Consider the Cropping

Don’t crop the hair/head/body too closely. This allows for more versatility — for instance here, mobile vs desktop croppings from the BECCA site. Think about the wide variety of places your photography will appear (website, banner ads, magazine ads, in-store signage, billboards, etc). Larger brands often have unique images for portrait, landscape, widescreen and square applications but it's costly for smaller brands.

Often the photographer will give a recommended cropping but try to also get the model shot in full for times when you need more flexibility.


4. Keep Backgrounds Simple

If you do want to use backgrounds as part of your model shots, ensure they are not overly busy. Aesthetically, you don't want your background competing and distracting from your model. Practically, most likely you will have text overlays and you want them to be easy to read without a lot of photoshopping or work-arounds. Also, if the designer ever needs to extend the background this is much easier to achieve with a simple background.


5. But What About My Product?

You’ve spent all this time and effort developing the perfect product and packaging and want to show them off on your site. However, for smaller brands, tackle this a separate product photoshoot than creating the model photography around your products. These can always be collaged together later in Photoshop and allow you much more freedom.

Texture is also important for many beauty products and for this, you’ll need close-ups of the product. However this is also something best done separate from your model shoot. Simple swooshes of product are great to have on hand as you can repurpose them and collage together in visually interesting ways. Alternatively, give a hint of the texture of the product in the packaging itself.

How to Shoot Model Photography Your Designer Will Love Cheat-Sheet

Hope this helps get you started on product photography! If you some tips on product photography, please check out our guide to getting started with product photography.

Brain Picking: Veer Living Landing Page Strategy

We’re looking at a question from Arielle of Veer Living who is starting a coaching business to help women remove toxins from their daily lives.


I'm stuck on my website, what do I do next? 

Like most of us who decide to start a business, Arielle has high ambitions for her website, but with both content and technical questions, she soon realized she was getting stuck. What do you include on your website? How do I incorporate social media? How often should I blog? How do you actually build it?

It’s overwhelming. We came up with a strategy so she can get unstuck, get some momentum and easy wins, then gradually build the website of her dreams. 


Where are we and how did we get here?

In situations when someone is feeling a bit stuck, I like to retrace their steps and see how they got to this point. She started off this project with an Instagram feed. I took a look at it — gorgeous images, clearly on topic with a beauty and health theme, and a touch of herself in there too. She’s getting good engagement, people are liking and commenting, her followers seem to be growing — basically all the things you want to see on a successful Instagram page. 

She’s right, this would be a great time for her to build her own site and start driving her Instagram traffic there. She started to set up a landing page in Squarespace, which I think is a good start. I’m a big fan of MVPs (minimal viable products) — where you just put the absolute minimum in, get it live to see how customers react, then tweak it and build it from there. In my mind, this is a huge improvement on spending months or years working on the perfect website that stalls the rest of your business and may or may not not happen. I’d definitely encourage her to go live with just a simple landing page like this and then work to grow it. 

Step 1: Get the Landing Page Launched

That said, there are a couple of things that I would suggest doing before launching. First, add a unique value proposition — something that explains what she’s offering along with her passion and drive so we understand why she's an expert and engaged in this particular topic. Especially with coaching or other high-touch service offerings, clients want to understand the coach's point of view and get a taste of their personality. I feel like that's a bit lacking right now. It doesn't need to be a long essay. Even a couple of sentences or a short paragraph would really help. 

Another thing I would suggest changing is the call to action in the button, "Download PDF." I'm not sure what the PDF is and without any further explanation, don't feel particularly motivated to download it. However, more importantly, the call to action should nudge the visitor towards the goal of the site, in this case hiring her. Therefore I'd recommend keeping it very simple and use this button as a Contact button to reach out to her. Alternatively, she could also link to a third-party site like to allow people to schedule an initial free consult. This would make the button something that brings visitors closer to hiring her. 

Since Im quite nosy, I also searched for Arielle and found a wonderful interview with her on One Love Organics. While reading through it, I found a paragraph in which she perfectly addresses her passion and why she wanted to start Veer Living. All of the things I thought were missing from the landing page seemed to be here. If she can incorporate some of this language and drive on her landing page, she’ll be all set!


Step 2: Organically Build a Complete Website

For next steps towards building out the website beyond the landing page, of course there are any number of ways to proceed. I list below what I'd recommend as the next milestones she can work toward:



I think the first small, bite-sized thing to do would be to start her blog. It sounded like she was eager to get that going and had a lot of great content ideas. The blog doesn't need to be something she has to set up on her own website. She could use, for example, which has become a very popular blogging platform and is easy to set up.


Mailing List / Opt-in

In tandem with the blog, I would suggest she start building a mailing list and develop an opt-in, perhaps even the PDF that she currently has, on her call-to-action button. (An opt-in is a small incentive, often a PDF or a discount, you give visitors to join your mailing list). Those three things would work together and she can work on it gradually. 



Since I'm a designer, branding is near and dear to my heart and also very important for creating a quickly recognizable brand which would differentiate her from competitors and build trust with potential clients. 


Service Packages

Other simple steps she could take would be to create some service packages that break down exactly what shes offering and show the price point. Those packages would help start dialogues with potential customers and give them a basic understand of what they would be getting and how much it would cost. 



She could start collecting testimonials as these are very important social proof and would improve her conversion rates. Even without any paying customers you can always offer your service to a friend or family member and have them give you feedback.



And photos. With coaching it's important for the client to feel connected to the coach. So giving visitors a visual clue of who you are and what a session with you would look like can help increase trust. 


Overall, Veer Living is off to a great start and I'm really happy that she reached out. We're following her on Instagram and excited to see where her business takes her!



Brain Picking: Handsocks Homepage Analysis

How can I can increase conversions on my website?

This week I got a question from Casey at She’s selling her adorable baby mittens from both Amazon and her own website, and while she’s seeing good sales numbers from Amazon, on her own website there’s . . . let’s say, some room for improvement.

So she wrote to me for suggestions on how she could improve her site and start converting her visitors into paying customers.

First of all, what she’s experiencing is not at unusual. If you think of the sheer volume of traffic coming through Amazon each day, it would be very difficult for a startup or business to compete with that. Also, Amazon has had years to build up their reputation and trust. It’s fairly common to see more sales coming through Amazon or other third party sites.

That being said — I do think there are things she could do to improve her website and start seeing more sales through it.

Before we get started, I want to first give a brief overview of the idea of a sales funnel and how it works on your website, then dive into her website specifically.

The Sales Funnel and How It Applies to Your Website

The sales funnel is your customer’s journey from first becoming aware of your brand — this can be social media, advertising, a blog post, Google search, word of mouth, etc. Then, landing on your website, becoming interested in your product, making a decision to buy, and finally, actually taking action.

With e-commerce like Handsocks, the goal is usually to have a user purchase a product — or at least sign up for the mailing list.

When a website works well it guides users through these steps, from answering quantitative questions during the interest phase (what, where, when, etc.) to the more qualitative (how, social proof, reviews, mission statements, etc.) during the decision phase. Increasing motivation in the early stages is important, and when visitors have made the decision to buy, so is reducing friction so they can quickly go from the decision to buy to a successful purchase without trouble. 

Video Walk through

I'm going to walk through the homepage and record my thoughts as though talking to the store owner, with the goal of providing some insight and actionable steps to improve it. Below in an abridged transcript of the video above.



Starting at the top of the page, the top row of navigation is taking up a lot of space and not doing much for you or the user.

With the search box, for instance, since you only have two products now, a better use of the space may be to either get rid of the search box or use that space for a sign-up to your mailing list.

Similarly with the social media icons, I think it's great that you’re on so much social media, but studies have shown that social media icons tend to cause higher bounce rates since users start thinking about Facebook or Twitter, click on the icon and bounce off your site. 

Keeping them in your footer, if you must have them at all, so the user has a chance to get through a whole page of your content — but I’d recommend against having them at the very top of your page.

Now we're to the logo — I like your cute little logo with the baby in handsocks. Personally, I’m a big fan of taglines for smaller brands. They help explain what you do and also provide a hint of personality as well for visitors arriving at your site for the first time or who aren’t familiar with you. 



Moving to the main navigation, there is a lot of information here, but the section you actually want visitors to click on is “Buy Handsocks” —  which is hidden in the middle of all these other navigational items. 

Obviously you’ve created a lot of great content for your product that you want to showcase and use to drive traffic to your site. But the way it is presented here, the message is getting diluted.

The current trend in e-Commerce is creating long-form landing pages for each product. Instead of having a buy page AND a gallery page AND a video page, you incorporate pictures or videos on the actual product page. This also helps with SEO because all the video search traffic will land on your product pages, where users can go directly from watching your video to purchasing your product. 

And this helps with high-information customers who want to do a little research about the product before purchasing. If all of the core product information is on one landing page, it definitely smooths the path from research to purchasing. 

In short, if you condense the navigation and put things like the gallery, videos, and press testimonials within a longer product landing page, I think your conversions will start to increase. 

Rotating Banner

Moving to the rotating banner. As a designer, I love these rotating banners because no one can ever decide what they want to have on their main banner and it’s really easy to say “okay, let’s just throw everything in there and make it rotate!” However, the problem is that studies show that rotating banners tend to lower conversion rates. Since you only have two products, I would suggest picking one great image and use the banner to fully explain your unique value proposition: what it is about your product that makes it so much better than all the other products out there. And have it be static. Obviously, you can change it periodically so your website looks refreshed — but just have one at at time. 

As a side-note, I really like the award seal, that’s great for building trust and authority, so definitely keep that on all the banners you use.


Buy Handsocks

Down below the banner in the sales area, I think we might rename the area something like "Buy Handsocks" to show the user that this is an area for making a purchase. 

One of the things I find a little confusing on the site is, I'm not exactly sure what separates No Scratch Mittens from Plushy Mittens. Here I can see that one is for a slightly different age group, but at first I thought, since once was pink and one was blue it was boys vs. girls, but reading a little bit closer I realized they're for both sexes. So now I’m not sure if it’s seasonal (winter vs. summer) or what the distinction is. If you could add a little text here that explains which one I should buy for which situations, that would be really helpful. 

Also, instead of having this one big "Shop Now" button, I would have two separate shop buttons that link directly to the product landing pages. Ideally a customer can say, "Oh yes, the no scratch mittens is exactly what I need!” and very easily purchase a pair. Right now the user flow goes to the multi-product page where the user has to again select which product they want, and then finally get to the page where they can make a purchase. It’s not the end of the world, but each step like that creates friction. Our goal is to take customers as quickly as possible from the idea that they want something to actually purchasing it. 



Moving down the page, I like that you have so many videos — that's great. YouTube is the world's second largest search engine and is quite underused by most brands, so it’s great that you’re utilizing it. From a design perspective, it would be nice to see the videos a bit larger, because when I hit play they start playing in that small box. You could either have a larger video to the left with a list of the videos and thumbnails to the right, or have the videos from the gallery automatically pop up and play larger when clicked — something to make them more prominent and the viewing experience more pleasant.  

Image Links

The section with the four pictures across is nice. Unfortunately,  the words are right across the cute little baby faces, but would be easy enough to fix either graphically or in the website settings. 

As you change the main navigation and create product landing pages, you might need to periodically go back and rethink where these link to, but that will happen organically over time.


News and Social

News is definitely a red flag area for me. A big reason users bounce off sites and don’t go through with a purchase is out of fear the site is abandoned. So, if they get to to the news section and it’s all 10 months old, their immediate thought is “Maybe no one is actually running this site anymore,” and are likely to head back to Amazon or another site they are sure will deliver the products. 

That said, I poked around a bit more and it looks like you are keeping up with social media and a blog, so maybe this area should be converted to a blog feed, Instagram feed, or something that is updated frequently — and preferably automatically. But right now, seeing posts dated November of last year and news about Christmas in August might make someone a little nervous about making a purchase from the site. 

It looks like your Instagram feed is not working, which is just a technical fix. 


Getting into the footer, I think it's good that you have your mailing list going. I'd definitely put it in a few more spots, maybe have it in a pop-up or put it at the top of the page where the search field currently is. Also, a lot of places offer 10% or 15% discounts to incentivize users to sign up for their mailing list — that might be something to consider. 

I think it’s great you have a secondary navigation down in the footer. Another way to simplify the navigation at the top of the page is to put some of the less commonly used items, like Contact Us, only at the bottom of the page so users can find them, but out of the way and not cluttering the top.


Additional Notes

With social media, I know it’s very time consuming to keep it up to date, so I might recommend focusing on one or two channels and not trying to maintain so many — for instance, it looks like you’ve developed a good following on Facebook and Instagram, so maybe just focus on those two. When you’re larger you can expand into the others.

Another thing to consider on the homepage would be incorporating some of your press great mentions or testimonials, which could really help build trust. 

I hope this video is helpful in improving the site — I'm excited to see how it evolves!

A friend recommended I speak with Float.Design about my website’s low conversion rate. They helped me by making a video of my homepage and identifying the things I could fix quickly to help customers better navigate my website and buy our mittens. We are working on the changes now and excited about seeing results and making a better experience for those visiting I absolutely agree with the things that were recommended, and I am so glad they were pointed out. Making more robust product pages by combining material from other site pages, and cleaning up the clutter/ways to exit off my homepage will be key.

I would recommend Float.Design to people who need an understanding of how to better capture their target demographic online, whether that be creating something from scratch or changing around what you've got. We are so pleased with our experience!


Would you like to pick our brain
for your website? 

Quick Guide to Product Photography

It’s amazing what a difference professional photography can make. Often when talking with start-up beauty and cosmetics brands, my first request is that they get proper photos taken. It might even be more critical (gasp!) than good design. With beautiful product photography, almost everything else looks better. With amateur product shots, it’s nearly impossible for good design to make up the difference. Here is a brief overview of product shots useful for most beauty brands:

1. Hero Shots

If you’re on a budget, the very first images I’d recommend getting are hero shots. These are straight on product shots on a white background with minimal background noise or shadows. These are perfect because your designer can manipulate them easily.


2. Detail Shots

If your product has small details that are a unique selling point, it will be very helpful to have additional shots that focus on these details.

3. Group Shots

In a pinch, a designer can comp together a group shot from your hero shots, however there’s always more naturalism when the products are actually photographed together. These are perfect for kits and giftsets. 

4. Lifestyle Shots

There’s been a trend towards atmospheric lifestyle images with products in more natural settings with artistic expression. On social media, studies show that these get a higher engagement rate than traditional model shots, so these are understandable very popular for brands looking to grow on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. 


5. Smooshes, swooshes, and smears

It seems like every cosmetics company we’ve worked with has a slightly different terminology for these but basically they’re artistic close-ups of the product itself. If one of your unique selling points is the texture or color of the product, these are crucial. It's also easy to build additional visuals from them and add a bit of drama to your product shots — they're just a great thing to have on-hand.

Hope this helps get you started on product photography! If you some tips on model photography, check out our guide to making designer-friendly model shots.

Spread the (Customer) Love: Gifts With Purchases

I love designing gifts with purchase (GWP) and they're one of the best ways to show customer appreciation. These increase brand loyalty and encourage sales. There's even quite a few fan sites that compare gwp deals. I'm embarrassed to admit how many Estee Lauder perfumes I've given as gifts for Christmas so I can get their amazing holiday special offers (sorry, Mom!). 

However they don't need to be a wild bonanza to get a great result. Here are three examples of commonly used GWP ideas to get you started.


This is probably the most common method and a great way to introduce new products with sample giveaways or deal with excess inventory. Whether it’s a small gift set or a BOGO deal, using your own products as gifts can be a simple way to build customer happiness. 


2. Designing a Digital Download

For brands that have great existing content, repurposing it to create digital downloads such as ebooks, guides, or cheat sheets is a popular and cost effective way to create a gift with purchase.

3. Designing a Physical GWP

Creating a physical product specifically for giveaway such as a bag, shirt or accessory can be great way to create value and keep your brand front and center in customers minds. 

Quick Guide to Email Marketing for Beauty and Lifestyle Brands

Email marketing is one of the best ways for beauty and lifestyle brands to speak directly to their fan base. It can build loyalty, create engagement, launch new products and promote specials. I've been involved with quite a bit of email marketing for beauty and lifestyle brands so I put together this quick guide of FAQs. If you have a question that's not answered here, please feel free to contact me!

What are examples of marketing emails?

  • Launch Emails: Introduce customer base to new offerings.

  • Sales & Promotions: This is one of the more popular things to do with email marketing but only doing sales and promotion emails tends to devalue your brand and misses a real opportunity to connect with customers.

  • Show novel ways to combine and use your products (ex: mixing serum with foundation)

  • Create seasonal content related to user needs (ex: combat winter dryness)

  • Peek behind the scenes is fun and creates loyalty. (ex: Staff Favorites)

  • Reward subscribers (ex. early access to launch of new products)

  • Create activities around products (ex. day spa at home)

  • Focus on one specific product and do a deep dive into its benefits 


What are transactional emails?

Transactional emails are triggered emails by a customer’s behavior. These offer a great ROI but typically do require some help from a developer to implement. Examples include:

  • Abandoned Cart (remind customer of items left in the cart without purchasing)

  • Reminders to review recently purchased products

  • We miss you emails targeting previously loyal customers who have slipped away

  • Sign-up confirmation email

  • Reward new subscribers with a discount code or special promotion

  • Targeting purchasers of specific products with follow-up offers

What’s A/B Testing?

A/B testing is basically sending two messages to your list and seeing what performs better. To get an accurate result, you need to target one specific variable, for instance your headline, text color or call to action on your button. Then you send out two versions of the email and analyze which performed better in terms of open rate, click-through rate, and conversion at the website.

Most email campaign programs such as Campaign Monitor, MailChimp and Active Campaign have built in testing which makes this quite easy to set-up so I encourage you to give it a try! 


How do I extend the campaign beyond email?

A popular tactic is to create campaigns that span the homepage of the website, email blasts and social media. The great part is once you have one set of graphics designed and approved, it’s easy and quick to roll that into alternative sizes. It creates consistency across the brand channels while also refreshing the old graphics.


Can you help me with the design?

We thought you’d never ask! We can work with you on email marketing in a few ways:

1. Brainstorming ideas and working with you to build a email marketing calendar
2. Designing templates for an in-house designer to follow
3. Designing individual email campaigns
4. Coding and testing