Developing our style
The day I started at Clearleft was the first time I met Richard Rutter. I only recognised him because I studied the team photographs prior to joining the company.
I like to see the personalities of a company in advance, because a company, at the end of the day, is only built upon the people who work for it. I find it difficult to work for a company that doesn’t show its staff. I can’t trust them, and if you can’t trust a company then why work with them?
These are the current (or past depending when you are reading this) ‘Who we are” images.
The first thing I noticed when viewing the images was the lack of consistency. There was a notable difference in styles of photography. There were different backgrounds, different compositions. Some photos appeared to be professionally shot whilst other verged on the amateur side. Different styles can work if there are clear differences, but these shots were too similar. Photography can really affect the way that people are perceived. They were not showing us in the best light. They were not doing team members justice. They were not reflecting our personalities.
Visuals mean something to me. They speak to me, sometimes more than words.
The image of the company, and how it is communicated to and perceived by others is very important to me. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I decided that I wanted to help Clearleft find its voice.
First I had to discover why we had such inconsistency. I needed to figure out the process of shooting and how photography is regarded within the Clearleft team.
My earliest memory of photography and art directing was when I was 5 years old sitting in my lounge. The room was hectic, mood boards propped against walls, clothing draped over chairs, make-up on the table, photography equipment jotted around. Models, photographers, assistants and make up artists filled the room. I was fortunate enough to be brought up in creative surroundings. My uncle was at the peak of his career, shooting everything from top fashion brands to sports campaigns to capturing Kate Moss back in the day. At the same time my sister was also modelling and I was that younger sister dragged along to castings, shoots, clothes fittings…
That’s where my photography and art-directing journey began. Skip forward a few years (or maybe more than a few), and I was art-directing fashion and lifestyle campaigns for brands like Carnaby Street, Grazia and Westfield. It brought me back to being 5 years old and I loved every minute.
Just like previous clients, I had to discover Clearleft’s approach to photography.
Only upon spending time with team members and experiencing day to day activities did I understand the reasons why the images were like they were.
With an influx of new team members, client work, and no access to the original photographer, we couldn’t replicate or execute the intended look. How could we as a company solve this problem?
I first started noting down challenges we faced:
- If we want to replicate photographs, can we? Do we have the equipment to shoot it ourselves?
- Who would photograph us?
- Would new images be needed for different formats? e.g. pitch documents, social platforms, conference websites and this very blog.
I needed to not only outline possible issues but create a style that would reflect individuals and align with the brand. This wasn’t a fashion shoot. These images needed to capture the essence and the character of the team. Clearleft has a personality, filled with other unique personalities inside of it. I tried to find a way to shine a light on Clearleft’s personality with new photography.
I produced a photography brief to illustrate a new style that can make an impact and align with our brand values. Having created many briefs, I know that some allow you to be creative, some force you to have no creative input, and some are just darn confusing. The brief I wrote not only aimed to be educational to team members but also clear on the art-direction.
If I asked a group of people to photograph a flower, there would be hundreds of variations. Some may be portrait, some landscape, black and white, grainy, sharp, some might even be held by a person - you get the picture. No pun intended. Briefs can be interpreted in multiple ways, and this is what I wanted to avoid.
Having sat with Ellen and discussed the brand values, she introduced me to what she calls “This not that”. I used this method throughout the document.
Within the document I discussed other concerns:
We needed a studio, a consistent environment to produce the quality we desired, a place where we could replicate the shot when or if we needed to.
What happens if we have a new member of staff?
How easy would it be to set up the studio?
How to help the camera-shy individuals, how to evoke the right emotion from them?
Fortunately we had the perfect location - only one floor down in 68 Middle Street.
All that was missing to deliver my vision was a great photographer with the technical knowledge that I didn’t have. Enter James G.
Read the next blog post about the new site and rebrand: Looking beyond launch by Jeremy Keith