Book of the Month: 6 Months
Deciding when to leave and where to go
In June of 2017, I was preparing to leave Dropbox. I made the decision to leave at an exciting time for the company. The rebrand was in full swing and the team was super strong. I was surrounded by some of the smartest people I have ever worked with and I often found myself wondering how I had managed to land a spot on such a talented team. However, I wasn’t fulfilled with my role. Dropbox needed me to do a specific type of digital design and that need wasn’t expected to change anytime in the near future.
I spent the previous two years of my career devoting my energy to learning more about digital design, a part of my design toolkit that I felt was lacking. I have always considered myself a generalist designer but like in most professions, as you become more specialized, you are no longer sought after for the skills outside of your specialty. And after slowly moving towards specializing in digital design, I found myself unfulfilled.
When I decided to leave, I was planning on going freelance. It was something I’d always wanted to do; I also felt it would give me the opportunity to utilize my full skill set in a way that never felt possible as an in-house designer. But then, another opportunity presented itself.
I had been talking to Book of the Month about a Creative Director position for a couple of weeks and I was really excited about the role and the company. It had been awhile since I worked at a place that offered physical goods, and being in the book industry was both completely foreign and exciting to me. Reading has always been a major part of my life and the company’s dedication to making its users happy aligned with my own values.
Unfortunately, I also had a major freelance opportunity on the horizon and I wrote the Book of the Month opportunity off as something that I could do when I was truly ready. Oddly enough, freelance felt less risky.
I struggled with the decision for a while. The more I thought about my situation, I realized that waiting to be “ready” was an easy way for me to prolong the hard work involved in taking on such an unknown and large responsibility. I realized too that Book of the Month was also taking a risk on me. I believed in the leadership of the company and the company believed in me as a future leader. Opportunities like that are rare and, upon further deliberation, I came to the conclusion that the biggest risk would be passing up the role at BOTM.
So, here we are. I have been at Book of the Month for six months and I would love to share some of the highlights from the second half of 2017.
Redesigning the homepage
Book of the Month is a company with a 90-year-old history. However, the BOTM that exists today is only about two years old. Those two years have been full of lessons about: books, the community of readers the company serves, and the values the club shares with its members.
Before I started, there had already been a lot of thinking around where the brand should go. The homepage felt like the perfect project to test some of our hypotheses and start to utilize the knowledge we had acquired. It also served as the perfect project to begin developing the new visual identity for the company.
The quick story is that we did a ton of work around typography, color, photography, and all of the good stuff in between that contributes to a company’s visual identity system. Without turning this into a whole case study, here is a brief visual representation of what this process looked like:
After rounds and rounds of revisions, we landed on a homepage we are extremely proud of. It set the foundation for our new design system, our new messaging, and outperformed the previous homepage 2x.
This project also had some pretty huge implications for what was going on in-product and informed a bunch of new projects: a redesigned enrollment flow, a new gifting experience, and a bunch of in-product optimizations to enhance the experience of being a Book of the Month member.
Our first TV spot
With the help of Partners & Spade we put out our first TV spot. The process was a huge learning opportunity for the entire team and put a lot of our aquired knowledge from past brand exercises to the test.
The extremely talented group at Partners & Spade were the perfect creative partners (no pun intended) and, after a month of hard work, they produced a spot that we couldn’t be more proud of.
Our first subway ad
In addition to the TV spot, we also worked with Partners & Spade on our first subway campaign, using a concept centered around gifting. The ads went up at the end of November, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to add some winter magic to the photography we had been working on for the past months.
I led the production of the visuals with some help from our friends at Mosspark. We put in a ton of rounds on the creative and learned a bunch about how hard it is to blend your brand’s identity with a brand that is iconic and overpowering: the holidays. This was a huge win for us and we are super proud of the end result.
Here’s a look at some of our process, me getting way too hype and taking 500 selfies the first time I saw the ad, and people blowing me up on Instagram:
A rebrand in progress
This might seem odd coming last on this list because it obviously has major implications for all of the projects that come before it, but this placement is intentional.
At the time I’m writing this, the Book of the Month creative team is fairly small. Ronin Wood and Amy Hunt have been putting in an amazing amount of work to push the brand forward and we are learning more each and every day. Each of these major projects has a several small projects in between. We send a bunch of e-mails, photograph a lot of books, and make some cool swag on occasion.
Book of the Month Club was founded in 1926. 90 years later, the company is much different, and with time the current iteration of Book of the Month will continue to evolve and grow in new directions. We have already made amazing progress, and as we enter 2018, I’m excited to make even more progress.
On top of the amazing collaborators I mentioned above, I have to give a huge shoutout to:
The entire BOTM staff: I know this post is focused mostly on the creative team’s work, but the creative team only handles a fraction of what’s needed to accomplish this much progress. We have amazing people working with us every day who support us and push us to do great work.
Our creative collaborators: Partners & Spade, Mosspark, Amary Wiggin, Jesse Morrow, Margeaux Walter, Bekka Palmer, Heather Newberger, Mikey Burton, Brandon Wall and Christine Sirois.