With the growing importance of digital in fashion commerce and customers spending so much more time online, a strategic digital identity isn't just a nice to have; it’s a necessity.
We spoke with Addam Rodriguez, Digital Art Director of New York based outerwear studio The Arrivals, about his process and system for developing consistent visual concepts and a strong artistic language for the brand.
Hey Addam, awesome to be connected! For those who might not be familiar, tell us a little about yourself.
Hey! I’m Addam and I am the Digital Art Director for the outerwear brand The Arrivals. Growing up in LA, I was always surrounded by photography. My uncle was a photographer and was always around taking pictures and had some super expensive cameras which I got really into. When I got a bit older I went to school for audio engineering but I always found myself out taking photos and realized I liked that way more.
Out of school, I got a graphic design job at a brand in the arts district in LA but started doing photography for them as well and also worked in the warehouse. It was great to be a part of all aspects of that business because it allowed me to understand the go-to-market and storytelling aspects of the brand which made for better photography and visuals.
My next job after that was for this ready to wear brand called Frankie. I worked with the lead designer and travelled with the brand between NY & LA, basically just taking photos of the whole process of the brand. After a few trips, I knew I wanted to come out and live in NY and get better at my photography out here. I met with The Arrivals and they offered me a graphic design role. I was nervous about taking another graphic designer position but I loved the brand and the overall culture. Once I got into the role though, I told them I could shoot too and over time it turned into more of a photography role and now the digital art direction role that I have today.
That’s a wild journey but seems like it all worked out. What is your process for coming up with your visual concepts for The Arrivals?
We’re a small team so everyone is involved in everything. Early on, I’m in conversations with the designers and production teams so I can get a really solid understanding of the product. Being in the warehouse at my first job definitely taught me to learn the product cycle well so that I could bring in all of those details into the final visual concepts. Internally we all talk about concepts and once we land on an idea, it’s up to me to figure out how we communicate that to our audience and I work alongside the creative director to bring it all to life.
I spend a lot of time looking at data from past campaigns to see what’s working, what kind of things have our audience been responsive to in the past, stuff like that. Once we have product samples I’m then able to start working out the visual flow and moodboarding and we’ll A-B test a ton. I have to create content for everything like email, ads, social and web so there’s a lot of planning since we don’t (and you never should) use the same content for everything.
To make things easier, I have built out a pretty robust system for how I shoot to develop consistency and a visual language that our customers will recognize and remember us for. Once I’m happy with the flow, I draft out the final shot list and then work out the planning for production. This whole process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months but it’s always super fun to put together.
That system you mentioned definitely shines through. The Arrivals content is some of the most coordinated in the game from campaign to campaign. Why is aligning product and content styling so important for you and the brand?
That’s great to hear [laughs]. I have a huge appreciation for what goes into making the garments so I want to ensure the work I do represents all that effort put in by the design teams. Our products are very elevated and with good styling it can become even more elevated. I’ve started experimenting with other mediums besides photo like 6k video which everybody said we didn’t need but it allows for the smoothest transitions and flows that I feel mimic actions in our daily life and make the content so approachable and appealing.
The pandemic has really expedited the growth of digital, especially consumer’s adoption/habits of shopping online. What should new brands keep in mind when developing a visual identity for their brand?
This is a great question. I’ve tried so many things throughout the years and I think most importantly, it’s important to figure out what you really love and to build on that. Don’t try to be like everything else you see just because it’s popular. Even if what you are working on doesn’t work out right away, don’t give up. Keep experimenting and refining and build a system over time that works for you.
A visual identity is like a house. You can design the interior as many times as you want as long as you hold on to the foundation of the building.
That’s great advice for brands! What are some tips you’d give to individuals looking to bring their skills to a brand as an art director?
Learn as many tools as possible. You don’t need to be the best at any of them but a knowledge of the different tools will allow you to put together initial ideas and then you can bring in the experts to help you bring it to life. Even if you can get the concept to 10% baked, that will help everyone understand the vision and then you bring in the pro editors, retouchers, colour specialists, etc.
Another thing I’d say is go big on networking. You also don’t always need to connect with the biggest names. There are so many people doing amazing work behind the scenes that can give you great advice or introductions. This was huge for me when coming to New York.
Lastly, it’s important to be patient. Things take time. I’ve been here for about 4 years and it’s all just starting to click for me which is exciting. Now I just need to keep pushing!
Totally agree! So now that things are clicking, what do you have your sights set on next?
I want to make the shopping experience for our customers even better using interactive video and stronger graphics. I’ve built the house and now it’s time to renovate the interior with new visuals to create a better moment for the customer. I’m all about that moment!
Who doesn’t love a good moment?! Lastly, we’re finally starting to see some normalcy again and it’s looking to be a wild summer! What are you most looking forward to doing again in NYC as things open back up?
Honestly, just meeting people. It’s hard to stay creative when everything is locked down. I knew so many people who moved out of the city at the start of the pandemic and they’re coming back now. I can’t wait to meet up with them and see what they’re working on. I think we’re seeing a new wave of creatives who are about to take this industry by storm and I’m excited to witness it in person!
Check out Addam and The Arrivals on Instagram and keep it locked to Pier Five for more interviews and stories with the coolest designers, artists, activists, entrepreneurs and more.