Posted 26 February 2019
Interview by Rebecca Irvin

Studio.Build and Reed Words on rebranding leisurewear brand, Public Rec

Zach Goldstein founded his leisurewear brand, Public Rec, as a team of one. By the time he met husband and wife design duo Studio.Build, Nicky and Michael Place, Zach had achieved Kickstarter success for the project, and was looking for a way to update his brand’s visual identity. What began as a visual reworking of Public Rec became a much wider project, reimagining the brand as a whole. This is where copywriting agency Reed Words came in, with the aim of developing a coherent manifesto and distinctive voice for the business. Through lengthy discussion and competitor research, and the securing of mutual trust, the three forces united their ideas to form a single, resolute vision for the business. Michael Place, creative director of Studio.Build, and Jade Barrett, writer at Reed Words, talk us through the processes of collaboration and development that led to the updated and revitalised identity of Public Rec.


Michael: We were initially introduced to Zach Goldstein of Public Rec by Diego Zambrano, a partner at the design firm Work&Co. It was great to be introduced by one of our contemporaries. There was no pitch or anything – we wish more projects started like this! Zach looked at our work and trusted the recommendation and our ability. We arranged a Skype meeting with him and the project started from there.

At first, Zach just wanted a visual reworking of Public Rec. But after discussion and research on his brand and the landscape of his world, it turned into a bigger project. We looked deeper into his business and brand, and, more importantly, Zach himself.

Nicky [Creative Director at Studio.Build] really dug into what makes Zach tick. Only then did we formulate a plan with Zach about how we might approach the project. In this instance, it was really important to understand Zach, who at the time was essentially a one-man-brand! He has incredible drive so its super rewarding to gain his trust and help him achieve his goals through strategy and design thinking.

Michael and Nicky

Research Phase

Michael: We approached the project initially by conducting a thorough brand-landscape and competitor-analysis research phase. Zach gave us a list of brands that he thought did things well, as well as ones that he thought didn’t. Because we hadn’t worked in this sector before, it really helped to get our collective minds into that world. Alongside Zach’s list, we compiled our own list of brands we thought were doing good things.

Most of the brands we identified as model competitors were online only – a few had expanded into retail but not many. We broke each brand into: brand statement, copywriting and tone of voice, social media, overview of website, report on user interface and experience, visual identity, personality and customer profile.

We did the same for Public Rec and discussed where we thought Zach’s brand sat in relation to its competitors, and where we thought it should sit in the future. We then talked about what could be improved and reworked in terms of purpose and mission, target audiences, tone, visual storytelling, photography and art direction, packaging, website and social media.

This was all presented to Zach over a very long Skype call. We discussed what was most important and agreed on where we should focus our efforts, which informed the framework for our strategy moving forwards.

“The brief evolved over time into a more in-depth look at how Public Rec talks about itself, its beliefs and its mission.”

The key insight we took away from this research phase was that Zach had an amazing vision and product, but wasn’t talking enough about what makes him get up every day and do what he does. It was about getting into his mind and expressing that through words and imagery.

We really enjoyed our often very frank conversations with Zach during this preliminary phase. If he didn’t agree with what we said, he would say so, and vice versa. This super-honest discussion brings about a much better understanding of where both camps sit and, more importantly, how we can bring those two viewpoints into a cohesive single vision.

So, initially, the brief was to conduct an audit of the industry landscape with a view to updating and refreshing the brand’s visual identity. Then through discussion and presentations, this brief evolved over time into a more in-depth look at how Public Rec talks about itself, its beliefs and its mission.

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Work in progress: Early brand development direction

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Development and Production

Michael: The whole process with Zach was very organic – from the initial introduction, to the first Skype meeting, to agreeing on a statement and direction. Because we had never worked with Zach before, there was a natural period of getting to know each other, and our relationship evolved as trust was built.

Presentation milestones were agreed in advance, although the project, like all projects, could potentially change course due to client feedback. The biggest change to the project was perhaps the level of involvement from our side as the partnership grew.

In terms of the tools that we have found to be most essential to the project, these turned out to be: brains, mouths, Skype, the Internet, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign.

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Work in progress: Early brand development direction

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Michael: Reed Words came onboard in July 2018, by which point we had already worked with Zach to get a good understanding of him, the business and the brand. Reed Words helped us develop this into the brand values and voice. Our own work on the execution of Public Rec’s visual identity was conducted in tandem with with Reed Words’ work on copy, tone of voice and brand ethos. The two approaches were combined to create a Public Rec Brand Book encompassing “Brand Values, Visual Identity & Brand Voice”.

Jade: We were involved with this project for two months. Studio.Build had done a lot of exploratory work already, so they were a rich source of information and had a clear understanding of the brand’s mission. They gave us Q&A responses from Zach that gave us insight into why he started Public Rec, his hopes, aspirations and motivations.

Studio.Build and Public Rec had already developed a tight working relationship when Nicky brought us on board. We started off working closely with Nicky, who’d check our ideas and add her feedback before presenting them to Public Rec. When she was confident our work was hitting the mark, and our client was happy, our feedback calls naturally evolved into a comfortable conversation between Studio.Build, Public Rec and ourselves. Zach emailed us directly, Nicky was always in the loop – it worked well for all of us and it saved on passing feedback back and forth.

“We’re all open to listening to different opinions and taking feedback on board. That’s why this project worked so well.”

Inside the Reed Words office

Studio.Build’s preliminary research meant we could fly through the immersion phase and dive straight into developing a manifesto – an inspirational rallying cry that spoke to why Public Rec exists, and what makes it different to other brands. This was a vital part of the process and it took a few rounds of finessing to get right. It began as a traditional piece of long-form copy. Then it evolved into three key values, then a series of ten belief statements that could work together, or stand alone. Eventually, all three approaches found their way into the final guidelines.

From the beginning, we approached this job as a collaborative partner with Studio.Build. Luckily, we’re all open to listening to different opinions and taking feedback on board. That’s why this project worked so well.

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Work in progress

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Final branding direction

Project Fulfilment

Michael: The project was delivered as a set of guidelines and asset creation, and continues in ongoing consultation. We also worked on packaging and visuals for the updated Public Rec website. Zach is working with a specialist e-commerce developer to build the website based on our discussions and the visuals we presented. The project is ongoing. We are the Public Rec brand guardians.

We found that the biggest challenge in the beginning was gaining the trust of Zach. It’s a big responsibility – something that needs to be earned. This especially from a client who is sole owner and who therefore has everything invested in the business. In terms of how it played out, though, there is not much that we would have done differently.

Final branding in situ

Jade: In all honesty, this was a brilliant project to work on from start to finish. Of course, it had the potential to be tricky because Public Rec and its founder are so intrinsically linked. Nobody knows Public Rec like Zach, so how would he react to seeing Public Rec’s personality and values distilled onto a page? Could we be totally forthright?

We soon realised we had little to worry about. He might have lived and breathed Public Rec for years, but Zach was receptive to ideas and respected our input. Having Nicky as a sounding board for our ideas helped too. Being so close to the project, she had an innate sense for what worked. Our collaborative work on Public Rec’s manifesto helped hone the brand’s purpose, vision and mission. It also formed the foundation of their elevator pitch and tagline. We developed Public Rec’s distinctive brand personality and voice, and brought together all our work into some practical guidelines.

Final branding in situ

Final Thoughts

Michael: For us, what really sums it up is what Zach wrote when we asked him for a testimonial:

“It's been a pleasure working with the Studio.Build team. I got referred to them by another prestigious designer who told me he thinks Michael [Creative Director at Studio.Build] is the best designer in the world when it comes to graphic design and branding. I've been working with Studio.Build for about ten months now, and they've taken the Public Rec brand to another level. They are fun, thoughtful and incredibly talented. We've updated our logo, typography, packaging, and brand ethos more generally. We've refined how we talk about the brand and how the brand will be communicated to our customer base. They've been a true partner to me, and I now feel like we are at a point at which I trust their eye and voice over mine, which, as the founder of the company, was hard for me to imagine. I feel very fortunate to be working with them.”

I always say it makes for stronger project when you work with people with passion and vision. At times it was tough, but thats what comes from working with people at such a high level. Zach is that person – he’s incredibly passionate and genuinely cares about his brand, product, company and legacy.

Final artwork
Final artwork on mobile
Branding inside Public Rec clothing
Final artwork in situ
Final artwork

Interview by Rebecca Irvin
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