Stylescapes: Complete guide + free template

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Marcelo Smith

Brand Designer

Marcelo Smith is a brand designer, content creator, and founder of Fun Studio, a brand design agency that helps businesses build powerful brands that stand out and connect with their audience.

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Table of Contents

Examples of stylescape designs
Examples of stylescape designs

Table of Contents

In this guide you’re going to learn what stylescapes are, how they play a pivotal role in the design strategy, and how to use them in your own design process.

Plus, to save you some time, I’ll share the template I use in my brand design process, so let’s get started!

First thing first...

What are Stylescapes?

Stylescapes are basically a visual direction to give an idea of what a final design project might look like. Think of it as a mood board on steroids. This tool helps you and your client get on the same page about the design direction. It’s like a trailer for a movie – it gives you a taste of the vibe, the color scheme, the typography, and so much more.

Here’s a video I made talking about stylescapes with more insight on the how and why I use them 

Should I use Stylescapes or Moodboards?

Moodboard for a sport brand in green and gray tones

Moodboards and stylescapes are similar in many ways, but they have some key differences. While moodboards are great for capturing the general feel of a project, stylescapes take it a notch further. They give a more detailed and precise visual direction.

Both tools can serve different purposes and you can use them together on the same project. You can start with a moodboard to give you a rough idea of what direction you want to go in, and then design stylescapes based on that moodboard to get a more refined direction of your design.

🎁 Free Stylescape Template

stylescape-free-template-promo

To help you get started I’ve created a free stylescape template. It’s designed to give you a structure to follow that includes all the important elements. You can download it here but before you do, make sure you check out the rest of this article to learn how to create and use your stylescapes to make the most out of them.

How to Create a Stylescape

Stylescape for a brand design in orange and green tones

Ready to get started creating a Stylescape? Fantastic! Creating a Stylescape is like cooking up a recipe; you gather your ingredients, prep them, mix them, and then refine to get the perfect dish.

Let’s break it down in four steps:

💡 Gathering Inspiration

This is your first step, akin to choosing a recipe. You’ll look for design elements that resonate with the vibe of your project. It could be a vintage advertisement that catches your eye, a website with a color scheme you love, or a font style from a movie poster. Get creative and start collecting!

✍️ Defining Visual Components

Now that you’ve gathered your ingredients, it’s time to identify the key flavors. Look at your inspiration and pull out the elements that stand out. This could be specific colors, textures, typography or images. 

🖊️ Sketching and Arranging Elements

It’s time to start cooking! Begin arranging your key elements into a rough Stylescape. It doesn’t have to be perfect at this stage, you’re just trying to get a feel for how things might look together.

✨ Refining the Stylescape

Now that you’ve got your basic Stylescape, it’s time to taste and adjust. Refine your Stylescape by adjusting elements, adding more detail, and making sure everything works together to create a cohesive design direction.

Examples:

In this example we used stylescapes to create four very different visual directions for the same brand:

Stylescape for a shaving company brand design
Stylescape for a shaving company brand design
Stylescape for a shaving company brand design
Stylescape for a shaving company brand design

What tools do I use?

When it comes to creating Stylescapes, there are several digital tools you can use:

💻 Software

The obvious tools for the job are Photoshop or Illustrator. Personally I prefer using Illustrator to generate the assets and Photoshop to bring together the full composition.

📸 Images

Early stylescapes are not part of the final design and will only be seen by you an your client, so you have more freedom when sourcing images. Pages like Behance or Pinterest are great for design inspiration. As for stock images Adobe Stock or Envato Elements are solid options. If you are looking for a free alternative try Pexels or Freepik.

Recently we’ve seen new tools like Adobe Firefly or Midjourney enter the scene and give us easy access to AI generated images. The images generated are sometimes rough but they are great for visualising ideas and iterating fast so they can be a great tool to create elements for your stylescapes.

🔤 Fonts

Make sure the fonts you use professional fonts in your stylescape to make sure you don’t run into problems when you move on to the final design. Most type foundries offer trials of their fonts, and if you are subscribed to Adobe Creative Suite then Adobe Fonts also has a ton of great options.

Stylescape for a brand design with vibrant colors and a dark background

Why I Use Stylescapes in Design Strategy

Stylescapes aren’t just about making pretty pictures, they can be a crucial part of your design strategy. Let’s dive into why.

🧭 Stylescapes can guide your design process

Picture this: you’re working on a project, and you’re constantly second-guessing your design choices. Is this the right font? Does this color match the vibe? It’s like trying to navigate without a map. But with a Stylescape, you have a clear direction right from the get-go. It’s your design roadmap, helping you make decisions faster and with more confidence, effectively speeding up the entire design process.

🤝 Stylescapes can help in communication between designers and clients

Ever had a “lost in translation” moment with a client? Trying to decipher a client’s vision into tangible design can feel like decoding a secret language. Here’s where Stylescapes step in. These visual guides act as a shared language between you and your client. Presenting a Stylescape early on gives your client a clear idea of the design direction, making feedback more accurate and productive.

🚀 Stylescapes can speed up the design process

It may feel like adding an extra step but by defining a clear visual direction from the start, stylescapes can actually make your process more efficient. One of the biggest pain points when working with clients is having to go through revisions. Stylescapes allow you to set the tone of the design early on and minimize revisions down the line.

🎯 Stylescapes can lead to more precise and cohesive designs:

Ever looked at a design and thought, “This just feels right”? That’s the power of precision and cohesiveness in design, and stylescapes can help you achieve it. By integrating all the visual elements together in one composition, stylescapes ensure that every piece of your design fits together seamlessly. The result? Your designs won’t just look good, they’ll feel right, resonating with your audience on a deeper level. Once you experience the power of stylescapes, there’s no going back!

Get your Free Stylescape Template!

Click the link below to download your free template and start your Stylescape adventure today. Trust me, your future design self will thank you!

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