by Alyson Fox,
Alyson Fox Designs
Designing Your Store
Alyson Fox makes things from paper, fabric, metal, ceramics, tape, plaster, office supplies, photographs, old tattered things, new polished things, furniture and packing materials. She has degrees in photography and sculpture. She enjoys designing things for commercial ends and designing things for no end at all. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Architectural Digest and Wallpaper, to name a few, and has been shown both nationally and internationally. She is currently collaborating with companies on textile work, exploring personal curiosities and just launched her own line of goods under the name FOX_A.
When it comes to design, I don’t want to just focus on one thing, and I try to have the best creative voice that I can. Sometimes that lends itself into a drawing and sometimes into a video and sometimes into a rug. All these things can make an impact on your brand, whether you’re displaying them on your site, social media or just in a workspace to keep you inspired.
I often like to get out of my comfort zone, because that’s where I feel real growth happens as a person. I try many things, fail at many things and sometimes find things that will stick. This way of thinking applies not only to design, but also to most risks in life. I’m constantly trying and experimenting with new ideas, which is critical for keeping a business fresh.
I had one series where I photographed women wearing the same shade of red lipstick, which was published by Chronicle Books. That was such a lovely collaboration and will stick with me for life. Conversely, I have landscape photos that are an ongoing series because they combine a lot of things I’m interested in – color, shape, imagination, layering…the list goes on. These are vastly different projects, but both were inspiring to me in different ways, which is such an important part of designing for any brand. I’m happiest working on a few things at once and when I step back, everything I do is one long continual dialogue.
Design + Selling
With the internet, so much is available at our fingertips, especially when it comes to selling goods. People near and far are able to see my work because of my online focus. If I didn’t have a well designed website, or wasn’t fortunate enough for people to share my work, I would not be where I am today. Whenever I get e-mails from recent grads asking for advice, the number one thing I tell them is to create a great online presence.
I have had so many different platforms for my products, and right now I’m in the thick of redesigning my site. Since I do a little bit of this and that, it has been hard for me to categorize my work, especially when it comes to selling online. I’ve often gotten stuck on that, but with lots of thought and experience I’m in a nicely edited phase.
For my new store, I’m going to go for a clean big image on the homepage with simple navigation headings. I also only give a glimpse of my work in each category. I’m personally more intrigued by websites that leave you wanting more, and that is something I am going to strive to do.
I like sites with clean and neutral colors, and of course pages that are very user friendly. I have designed sites in the past where people tell me they did not see this or that because the navigation was a bit too complicated. So I’m 100% in the “less is more” phase: white background, grey text, paired down images. I’m also separating my work a bit more by having three sites that I link to from my main page.
Overall, when it comes to choosing a design for your site, it’s good to choose the cleanest palate you can, especially for fashion. Incorporate some pops of video or something to keep it from being too flat, but really focus on simplicity. (Editor’s note: Material’s Portland, Tulum and Barcelona themes show great examples of compelling-yet-simple designs!)
Keeping it simple
It’s also important for sellers to take great product photos, or to at least spend money getting good images; they can make your site! From there out, only include things that you are proud of showing. You don’t need a lot of fluff on your store. Don’t fill your site just to fill it: organize your goods and then decide what words need to be written about them. Maybe that’s just picking the best headings for site navigation, or maybe it’s a nicely written “about us” page. See what works for other sites, and then figure out what works for you. When it comes down to building your brand, get advice from others, but in the end, you should almost always go with your gut.
To sum it up:
Draw inspiration from everywhere. With design you can get ideas from absolutely anywhere. Surround yourself with art, writing and people that get you thinking abstractly: don’t just stick to the retail space! Staying inspired will keep your brand fresh.
Try different things. Don’t be afraid to try new ways of approaching design, even if they sometimes fall flat. Some ideas will fly, and others will need to be improved upon, but you’ll never create a compelling store if you always play it safe.
Create a compelling online presence. Craft a beautiful digital space that people will want to enter, whether it be a well-designed storefront or an eye-catching Instagram feed.
Understated is underrated. Stick to a clean, minimal palate for your site design. This draws more attention to the goods you’re selling, and makes pages easier to navigate. Incorporate some video and color to keep things interesting, but the main focus of your site should be the products.
Feature what you’re proud of. Don’t fill your site with fluff. Have well-shot items, succinct descriptions, easy navigation and perhaps a nice “about us” page. Don’t overload your design with unnecessary baggage.