Make Your Products Stand Out: The Do's and Don'ts of Product Styling | Marianne Krohn | Skillshare

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Make Your Products Stand Out: The Do's and Don'ts of Product Styling

teacher avatar Marianne Krohn, Product Styling Expert

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Introduction

      2:04
    • 2. Grouping

      6:03
    • 3. Layers

      3:30
    • 4. Odd Numbers

      4:11
    • 5. White Space

      5:54
    • 6. The Pyramid

      3:22
    • 7. Class Project & Goodbyes

      1:16
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About This Class

Do you know that feeling? You've invested a lot of time and energy into your styling, but somehow you just can't get it quite right. Something is off. But what?!!!!

  

Even with my 10 years of experience as a product stylist, I still come to that point. But, over the years, I've developed my own strategy to pin-point where exactly my styling needs tweaking.

And, in this class, I'm sharing my professional checklist with you. You are going to learn how to improve your stylings in 5 easy steps. 

   

  1. Groupings
  2. Layers
  3. Odd Numbers
  4. White Space
  5. The Pyramid

  

I'm going to teach you how to employ these techniques to

  • create hierarchies and relationships,
  • guide your viewers eye and
  • make sure your stylings sit well in their environment.

   

   

This class is about styling your products and props after you've selected them according to the product and brand story you want to tell.

If you need help with that, head over to my class "Product Styling for a Higher Revenue" and learn how to set up your stylings in a way that they will convert for you and your business.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Marianne Krohn

Product Styling Expert

Teacher

I'm a photographer, passionate teacher and a product styling and visual story telling expert with 10 years of experience in retail.

I’m helping business owners and creative entrepreneurs to tell their story and sell their products through powerful images.

Have fun learning and if you share your progress and results on Instagram feel free to tag me @marianne_krohn so that I can find you and cheer you on! 

 

See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hello and welcome. My name is Marianne and I'm a visual merchandiser by profession. I have ten years of experience as a product stylist and retail. This is the corner of the Internet where I share all the tips and tricks of my trade with you. Do you know that feeling when you've invested a lot of time and care and energy into your styling but it just doesn't turn out quite the way you want it? There's something off, but what? Even with my decade of experience as a product stylist, this still happens to me. But over the years, I've developed a strategy that helps me pinpoint exactly where my styling needs tweaking. In this class, I'm sharing this checklist with you. I'm going to show you how to create hierarchies and relationships through groupings and layers. How to guard your viewer's eye by employing that power of odd numbers. How to make sure your products and prompts sit well in their environment by creating white space and pyramids. Good product styling or styling in general needs a story. If you need help developing your product and brand story, head over to my sculpture class product styling for a higher revenue, which is linked in description below. This class, is about arranging the selected product and props in a way that truly support your story. Because in a story, not everything is equally important. There are the main characters, there are the side characters, and some characters and objects are basically just there to complete the scenery. There are relationships in the hierarchies and you need to introduce these into your stylings to make them truly powerful. Let's get started. 2. Grouping: Let's start with the starting principle that changed everything for me, literally. Once I was introduced to the concept of grouping, arranging objects in a space became so much easier for me. This is the first thing that I check for, if I'm not entirely happy with my styling. While creating lifestyle images with or without our products, we often spread the elements out to create the impression of a scene captured right from life, like the objects in this illustration. Now, look at this illustration for a moment. Can you tell me which object is the most important? Or can you tell me which ones belong together? Are you already feeling a bit annoyed and want to move on because you can't really answer my questions and make sense of this image? Well, this is what happens without groupings, the viewer has to work and believe me, potential customers are not willing to burn extra calories to figure out your stylings. They will simply move on to one of your competitors instead. Let's start grouping, same objects, and they form a group. Now is it any easier for you to figure out what is going on here? Which object is the focus in the illustration? Not really, right? Let's try something else. What about this one? That is much better, isn't it? These are still exactly the same objects as in the last two illustrations but through arranging them into free, smaller groups, it is now so much easier to read this arrangement. By grouping the items we create patterns that are easy to process for the human brain and this illustration, it is very easy to see what belongs together and which objects are supposed to be in a relationship with each other. Groupings guide the eye and keep it in the image and they help you viewers understand your story more easily through creating hierarchy and focus. Now let's look at some examples. In this photo, we have a tea arc, a cup of tea, and cookies, which were all spread equally across the tray. It's clear that the story told is one about drinking tea, but there is no way of telling what is actually most important. Is it a tea arc the tea or the cookies? It is most definitely the cookies for me. Believe me your potential clients don't want to spend any energy on figuring out what is most important, so let's help them. The second photo's very similar. The only thing different is that the cup and the cookies were moved closer together and suddenly the tea arc stands on its own and becomes the center of attention. The cup and the cookies become accessories, they become the props to the product. The first photo, there are no hierarchies. Everything is equally important and the second image, the tea arc is clearly the focus and we've achieved this by simply grouping the cup onto cookies. This photo is pretty, but the equal spread of the objects makes it hard to focus on anything. Your eyes probably drawn to the coffee because it has a different color. In the second image, the objects are arranged into groups, and suddenly the notebook becomes the center of attention. Even though it's the least noticeable of all the objects. There is no real story in the first image. It just looks like somebody left a mess on their desk and the only thing that if you might worry about is that the coffee is going cold. But the second one makes you feel like there's somebody just outside the frame of the image wanting to pick up the pen and to start writing into the notebook. Groupings are key in every type and scale of styling from the flat lay shown before, over front views like this one, into the styling of entire rooms. In this arrangement, the three vases in a back, form a group. Then there is one a little bit removed but still belonging to them and then on the right side, this vase stands on its own and all of this creates a lovely hierarchy and dynamic in the image. I use groupings every day my job as a visual merchandiser when creating product presentations like this one. Let's find some groups in this presentation. There are big ones. For example, the macro may hangings, the pillars in the background form a group than the entire arrangement on the right side is one and then there is another one on the left side. But within these large groups there are also smaller ones. Like the bench forms a group with this poof and the basket with the cushions and there's, for example, another one on the right side, formed by this lantern, this basket, and the candle holder. Now, let's repeat the do's and don'ts of groupings. Don't equally spread your objects but don't put them all together into one big lump either. But rather, create small groupings that support your story and that make the connections for your viewers. 3. Layers: While checking my stylings for every single groupings, I also look at my use of different layers. So this is the second step of my checklist. Let's start with illustrations again. These three objects are three-dimensional, but there is no real depth in this illustration, because they're all just lined up.There's already more depth in here, but I would not call this arrangement exciting or capturing.They're all layers because the objects are lined up behind each other. But because of this line up, they are rather hiding behind each other than taking up the space beautifully.This is much better. isn't it? As you can see, groupings and layers go hand in hand, because in creating groups, you often automatically create layers.Through layers, you can't show that things belong together while still making sure each one is visible on its own. That is very important, after all, I hope that there are only relevant products and props in your styling. Layers create depth and an immersive feeling, and this is incredibly important as most of you will want to capture your audience through the two-dimensional medium of photography, and through down looking at your product on screens. Because even if you have a brick and mortar store, you will have a social media presence and probably an online shop. Layers allow you to create a captivating experience. Like groupings, they create hierarchy and a sense of belonging. Time for some examples. You already noticed photo and we've determined that it has good grouping, but if you're looking at it again, you will see that there are no layers. Now let's look at this. Layering the pan on top of the notebook and stacking up some more boxes on the right side makes this styling more immersive immediately. You can also see that the layers create a sense of belonging, because the pen on top of the notebook immediately increases the story of somebody just waiting outside the frame wanting to pick it up and write in this notebook. There might be times when you choose to arrange your products in a row.This is a very static style of presentation and sometimes it fits. But most of the time, especially if you're trying to create lifestyle scenes, scenes that look as though they've been captured right from life. You will want to work with layers, because they are very powerful and your best friends in that sense. Let's repeat the do's and dont's of layers. Arranging objects in different layers in front and behind each other immediately creates interest and a more immersive experience, because you're creating a three-dimensional room.This is why you don't want to just line up your objects, but you also want to make sure that all the objects are visible, and so not just stack them up one behind the other. Rather, show them in a way that makes sure that all of them are visible and that they formed the connections that they have to, because they are all relevant to your story. 4. Odd Numbers: If I like my groupings and the depth, my use of layers adds to my styling, and there's still something bugging me about it. It is time for the third point on my checklist, time to do a headcount and check for odd numbers. We humans always look for patterns because recognizing patterns makes it so much easier for us to process our environment. Now, if you'll look at this image, you will see that each of the tiles here has a pattern, and together they form a larger one. I guess that like me, you are more focused on the bigger pattern they form rather than on the pattern that is on the individual tiles. Now imagine one of these tiles was put in the wrong way, it drew it's entire big picture and it's probably bugging you. But think again, before when it was perfectly aligned, did you even notice this individual tile? Probably not, and this has in away what odd numbers do, they don't let the viewer find a conclusive pattern in your styling, and through that they create interest and dynamic. I'm giving you five seconds to figure out the pattern in this illustration. Well, that was an easy one, there's just two object in each little group, it's rather boring. Now let's look at this. There are two groups with two objects, but then the third one has three objects, it's different and somehow more interesting. We've established that the human eye looks for patterns. Remember that I told you that our viewers don't want to work in order to figure out our stylings, so why would we make life more difficult for them by consciously breaking a pattern for using odd numbers? It is a fine line, but while our viewers don't want to work, they also don't want to be bored to death. While the overall story has to be very easy to understand, there always has to be something more to discover in your styling and odd numbers at precisely this interest and dynamic. A word of caution though, don't obsess about the odd numbers, sometimes two things can be counted as one or if you have a textured and dynamic background, it itself might become a number. But if you have layers and groups checked and still something feels off, make a headcount and consider adding something or taking something away. Now let's look at some examples so that you can develop a feeling for what I'm talking about. Which image do you find more interesting, this one or this one? The only difference is the binder clip, but it adds to fifth element in a styling, it adds the odd number, and the image on the right is much more interesting, isn't it? What about here? Number one or number two? There is a fourth box in the second image, and adding this one more object and creating an odd number makes the second image look more balanced and interesting, doesn't it? Let's repeat the do's and don'ts of odd numbers. Don't work with even numbers, but rather break the pattern with odd ones, but again, don't drive yourself crazy with counting. This is often very intuitive, so if something annoys you, just play around and take something away or put something extra in your styling, sometimes it really does the trick. 5. White Space: If I'm happy with how I've arranged my objects, but I'm still not quite satisfied with the overall effect of my styling, it's time to take a step back and check how my styling sits within its environment. It's time for the fourth point on my checklist, time for White Space. You might argue that white space is a question of taste. You will very easily find a lot of white space in minimal Scandinavian style stylings. By now you can probably tell that I'm a huge fan of white space. But you might have a harder time finding white space in stylings for a colorful, opulent and bohemian style brand. But I bet if it's a good styling, there is white space. Because in good design and in good styling for that matter, there's always white space, because it creates the necessary breathing space for the story that we're telling. Now, white space doesn't always have to be white or empty. I've summed up four different types of white space. Now the easiest way to give your product breathing space is, of course, by leaving enough re-room around it. Like everything that's marked green here in this illustration. But let's see what happens if we add more objects here and therefore reduce the white space respectively the empty space here. Something here, back there and here in front. We still have groupings, layers, odd numbers and white space. But there's a lot going on here, right? This ties into, with what I'm teaching my Skillshare class product styling for a higher revenue, which is linked in a class description. Only objects that are relevant to your product and brand story get to have a part in your styling. If your styling is cluttered, there's a good chance that you have to re-evaluate your choice of props. We have determined that this image is a very solid styling. It takes the boxes of groupings, layers and odd numbers. Now let's do a quick test and see what would happen if we felt tempted to add more props. Maybe a spoon to go with the coffee and then another pen for the odd numbers and then there's still room there on the right side. Let's put in pretty black binder clip and to even it out again, my black masking tape. Now, while these objects are all somehow related to the story and could potentially have a place in it, because they could all be lying around on the desk. They are not essential to the story. You can drink your coffee without a spoon. One pen is enough to write and the binder clip and the masking tape, we don't need them. They are the most pretty, but they don't add anything to the story. As you can see, giving the selected few objects enough breathing space makes the styling a lot more powerful. The empty space here gives the [inaudible] time to relax and makes it easier to navigate and understand the styling. But sometimes you just want or need a lot of objects in a styling. This means that you don't have a lot of empty space, but you can still use white space as a powerful tool to give the story breathing space and to make it easier to read for the viewer. One way of doing this is by using structured space. There are a lot of objects in this flat line. Actually, there are even more than in this one that we've cluttered up before. Still it's quite easy to read, process and understand. This is because of the way the objects are arranged. The structured geometrical layout creates a pattern that helps you navigate the image without having to work too hard. Another way of having a lot of objects in your styling without making it overwhelming, is employing a technique that I call "The Chameleon." Choose props that blend into the background like a chameleon. They will be perceivable and add an additional layer to the story while not distracting from it. Imagine if I had used golden pencils instead of the white ones, pecked pink roses instead of the white Gibbs Ophelia. The white notebooks had a black, white and gold pattern. Do your eyes also start to hurt with just imagining that? You might have seen more drastic and dramatic examples of this technique on Pinterest or in magazines, where the background and all the props are spray painted in the same color and only the product has its natural color. This is very, very powerful. The fourth way of adding more white space to styling is by consciously playing with depth of field. This is of course only relevant if you plan on capturing your styling with a camera, which I guess most of you will want to do. By using a shallow depth of field, you can create a very clear focus in your styling while still telling a beautiful story. The golden spoon is the focus of this image. But doesn't the way it's styled with a delicious coffee on the Golden Cross song, make it so much more enticing than if it was just lying on the white marble background. 6. The Pyramid: Last but not least, the pyramid. The pyramid is relevant to any style that you plan to show or capture in front view. It's actually the first thing that I employ when styling things in the store I work at. But for the sake of this class, I put it last because the other styling principles will be much more relevant for most of you. The pyramid is very helpful if you have to set up something in a space. For example, if you're arranging products in your physical store or for an exhibition or fair. What you basically do with the pyramid is choose one highest point, it doesn't necessarily have to be right in the middle, and then you arrange all the other objects around it. You already know this styling from the lessons about grouping and layers, but in addition to those, the vases are also arranged in a pyramid. Even in styling shop at such a low angle, it is very important that you employ pyramids. Why? Because a pyramid guides the eye, and through that makes sure that your viewer stays focused on your styling. A pyramid is usually not two-dimensional, as the previous examples might have led you to believe, but it's three-dimensional and has four sides, just like an Egyptian pyramid. Through that, every object and product is both visible and accessible. Now, let's look at some real life examples. This styling is very clearly arranged into a pyramid. Let me show you. With a front side, two sides on the left and right, and one on the back with the highest point being the head of this mannequin. Now, let me show you what that does to your viewers eye. When you looked at this photo for the first time, you were probably drawn most to this little beach dress that the mannequin is wearing. From that, the viewers eye goes up to the head of the mannequin. But it has nowhere to go from there because this is where the styling ends. So the eyes go back down either to the right to this bikini, or maybe to the left to the [inaudible] on a mannequin and from there, the eye of the viewer keeps bouncing around the entire styling until they have seen what they wanted and are ready to move on. Another example. Here we also have a clear pyramid with the top in the lanterns. You probably already have noticed that there are also other smaller pyramids within the styling. For example, those wooden boxes and I bet that those in the middle are drawing your eye right in and then leading it on towards the lanterns hanging from the ceiling or to that little mannequin. So as you see, Pyramids are not something that are reserved for lessons in history, but they are incredibly powerful tools for arranging your product in a space. 7. Class Project & Goodbyes: This was already it from my side, and now it's time for you to dive into your own adventure and create your class project. I want you to revisit one of the stylings that left you a bit unsatisfied because you just couldn't quite get it right. Create your own project in the project section of this class, upload a photo of the styling, and then tell us what you would change knowing what you know now. Before I really sign off, there is one last and very, very important thing that I want to give you on your way. Styling is not an exact science. So instead of obsessing about all the rules that I've just taught you, take them as guidelines while you practice, experiment, and most importantly, have fun. I hope to see you all again very soon, and please leave me a review on this class in order to support me in growing my channel and in reaching even more a few lovely students. Goodbye and have a great time.