Creating a sense of belonging through product & image design

Danielle A. Vincent
3 min readNov 29, 2023

Familiar product shapes, attractive environments, and realistic models

At Outlaw, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I can help our customers feel a sense of belonging when they visit our site, read our descriptions, and receive our products for the first, second, and thirtieth time.

Here are my highest level observations about what makes for a friendly customer experience:

The product should feel like a natural part of your customers’ lives: What you show must match your ideal customer’s slightly idealized aesthetic

Everything that your company publishes or produces should feel native or natural to your customer.

When we started Outlaw, I wanted the soap bars to be the size and shape of an iphone (I know… we changed our brand quite a lot over the years). The most recent soap molds create bars of soap that are the size and shape of a pack of cigarettes. I designed the circular logo on the front to be reminiscent of a pack of classic Lucky Strikes.

The solid cologne boxes were designed to feel reminiscent of a box of matches, including a fake “strike zone” on one side.

The solid cologne itself is in a round, twist-top tin to evoke the feeling of a tin of chewing tobacco.

The body wash was in a flask-shaped bottle to evoke the feeling of a flask of alcohol (which turned out to be expensive, too small, and plastic — we ultimately ditched the flask bottle for recyclable aluminum bottles, which have their own challenges).

Pakaging & Package Feel:

  1. Embrace Real-Life Inspirations: Design your products to reflect the real, everyday experiences of your customers.
  2. Adapt and Evolve: Listen to your customers and be willing to change your approach based on their evolving preferences.
  3. Use Familiar Symbols: Incorporate familiar and relatable symbols into your product designs to create a sense of familiarity and trust.

Photos and the brand aesthetic need to look like your customer’s life

If they spend a lot of time outside, the photos should be outside.

If they love the luxury of a beautiful bathroom, the photos should be in a beautiful bathroom.

It doesn’t matter if the product belongs in that environment, it’s all about where your customer prefers to spend their time. For example, our customers enjoy being outside, but we sell (among other things) body wash and soap. Rather than photographing everything in a bathroom, we intentionally photograph our products outside.

Photography Context Tips:

  1. Authentic Imagery: Use images that reflect the real environments your customers cherish.
  2. Stay True to Your Brand Identity: Maintain a consistent visual style that aligns with your brand’s values and your customers’ preferences.
  3. Connect Through Visual Stories: Tell stories through your visuals that resonate with the everyday experiences and aspirations of your customers.

The models you choose must look like your customers at their most attractive, but not much more attractive

This has been a topic of some disagreement over the years, because some people have a visceral reaction of disgust to the appearance of chipping fingernail polish. Traditionally, personal care products are photographed in the hands of professional hand models whose perfectly manicured fingernails lovingly caress and fondle the beloved products.

For Outlaw, I give our photographers the direction that I prefer chipped fingernail polish and rougher hands in my product photos. Our customers work with their hands and are generally active people. The women who choose Outlaw products would subliminally regard soft, perfectly manicured hands as a marker of domestication.

We have tried to ensure diverse representation of models over the years (in all senses of the word “diverse”) because our customers do, in reality, span ages, genders, races, and sexual orientation. This has been an expensive and challenging ambition, so we do the best we can.

Friend-Like Representation Tips:

  1. Choose Relatable Models: Select models who genuinely resemble your customers, celebrating their natural, unpolished beauty.
  2. Diversity in Representation: Reflect the diverse range of your customer base in your choice of models.
  3. Celebrate Authentic Beauty: Opt for a realistic portrayal of beauty, one that resonates with the true nature of your customers.

In future posts, I’ll talk about the voice and tone of our brand (which gets quite a lot of attention from other brand owners).

Let me know if you’d like me to share any particular aspects of Outlaw’s branding strategy that would be helpful to you.



Danielle A. Vincent

CEO of Outlaw — — award-winning entrepreneur, published author, and incurable optimist (the doctor says it’s terminal)