Behind the Scenes - Creating CEO YOURSELF
Creative Direction with Mary Lees, and the making of CEO YOURSELF with Hermione Olivia.
On how you met Hermione
I was first introduced to Hermione by the talented jewelry designer Lucy Delius, who is a friend and client of mine. We had just completed a successful launch campaign for her brand, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect.
As a designer, I've always found that client referrals are a great way to find like-minded individuals with similar design philosophies. And as I delved deeper into the world of Hermione Olivia, I quickly realized that we shared a similar aesthetic sensibility.
On how you envisaged her new brand
Hermione's brand already had a strong foundation, but my goal was to elevate it and reflect the quality of her work. I wanted to create a brand that encompassed all of her touchpoints: business, health, spirituality, travel, interiors, fashion, and female empowerment. The branding needed to evoke confidence, sophistication, but also simplicity and elegance. I initially presented a few options and Hermione immediately felt drawn to the chosen route, which we described together as ‘Hermione Olivia is growing up’. It is characterised by a minimalist yet expressive visual language that presents her as the established, progressive source of inspiration that she is! Central to the brand is the main typeface, a tight letter-spaced grotesque sans serif, well balanced at first glance but with some character and imperfection up-close.
On how you married your aesthetics
As a minimalist designer at heart, I was drawn to the "less is more" approach that Hermione and I both shared. The branding is functional yet simplistically elegant and evocative of Hermione’s values. I come from an editorial background, having spent over seven years at Conde Nast. This shaped my style as a designer and my approach to brand identity. I do not see a brand as something which is static, the design language should be defined so that it is always recognisable, but flexible enough to evolve and be applied in a range of contexts. Working with HERMIONE OLIVIA on the new brand has been the perfect platform to demonstrate this.
"The branding is functional yet simplistically elegant and evocative of Hermione’s values."
On working with Andrew
One of the most important aspects of any brand is its imagery, and I knew that I wanted to work with someone who could capture the natural energy and personality of Hermione, creating a set of photographs that could sit on her IG profile and feel like a natural progression in style . That's when I reached out to the talented photographer Andrew Woffinden. He has a fresh, flashed-up spontaneous style and he makes everyone feel at ease.
On visualising the brand as a whole
I’ve been really fortunate in having a shared creative vision with Hermione and I thank her for her trust and freedom in how the brand has developed - this is not a solo project, I was lucky to work with a team of incredibly talented individuals, including writers, photographers, stylists, and illustrators. Each brought their own unique perspective and skill set to the table, and together we were able to bring the brand to life as a whole.
Working with Thea
The main backbone of the brand identity was encapsulated by the second shoot with Thea, a photographer whose minimalist yet warm aesthetic was a natural fit for the new style Hermione Olivia. Thea's work dances between being perfectly composed yet beautifully imperfect, poetic in finish, raw yet romantic, this is assisted by it mostly being shot on analogue film. My favourite photographs are the ones she shot through objects to remove the subject from being so direct and obvious, I don’t look for technical perfection - I prefer the spontaneity of a mistake, or the product of a surprise process, so I loved it when Thea picked up a glass to distort Hermione.
Planning main shoot
As I embarked on the planning of the main shoot for Hermione Olivia, I knew that I was committing to the project fully. As a designer, it's important to me that I feel proud of every element of the final product, so I took on the role of managing the production of the shoot myself. I believe that preparation is key, so I made sure that every detail was accounted for before the shoot, ensuring that the team and I were as prepared as possible.
The shoot was demanding, with a list of 27 shots, a mixture of still life and portraiture, both stills and motion. But we had an amazing team who brought it all to life. I love how, as the day progresses, there are always spontaneous creative evolutions that can lead to some of my favorite shots of the day.
The shoot had to embody everything that the brand represents, and the tone had to be spot-on. The styling, led by Grace Wright, was chic, professional and reflected Hermione's own personal style. The glam team brought in the right level of understated elegance, and the prop designer, Chris Lane, found the perfect location: Spazio Leone, a furniture shop in a warehouse in Hackney, full of incredible pieces that we styled with a combination of Hermione's own pieces and additional pieces sourced from Dudley Waltzer. The dreamy slow-motion film was shot by Roz, heavily inspired by the work of Stephen Kidd.
On bringing it all together
Every element of the brand supports the other. The minimal design offers a hardness, while the imagery and color palette counteract with a much-needed softness. The website is functional, with clean lines, yet personal and detailed in content. Everything is then unified by the generous use of space in both graphics and imagery, allowing the audience to engage in a way that they decide without being bombarded, hopefully evoking a positive user experience.
Creating the branding for Hermione Olivia was an exercise in understanding and translating the namesake herself. I feel honored to have been a part of bringing her ideas to life, and I'm incredibly proud of the final product. I can't wait to see where it goes from here.
On what is next for you
Next month, I'll be focusing on two new projects: a complete rebrand for an architectural practice, AWA, and working on the next edition of SOHO HOUSE magazine with Andrew Diprose, a true mentor and dear friend.
"Creating the branding for Hermione Olivia was an exercise in understanding and translating the namesake herself."