How to launch a design brand from scratch
Brandon Wang serves as a genuine example of utilizing social media influence to kickstart a career as an independent designer.
In this article, I want to discuss a young individual who is leveraging social media to share his journey in the design world: Brandon Wang and his brand, BlankedStudios.
TikTok has drastically transformed the landscape in the music, fashion, and food industries. Influencers are shaping people’s opinions and ushering in a new era of marketing. But what about design? I’m not referring to elaborate interiors or trivial styling advice, but design in the context of products born from thoughtful ideas.
As a trained designer, I’ve studied and practiced the craft every day. However, sometimes we tend to take certain things for granted, potentially missing out on what’s new or emerging from underground circles. In the world of design, emerging talent typically follows a conventional path: earning a degree in Design (product, furniture, industrial) followed by independent exhibitions, leading to employment in a studio or launching one’s own.
If an alternative route is taken, such as working for a company, designers become part of a team, making it challenging to stand out as an emerging talent. This traditional approach has been prevalent since the ’80s. We might envision becoming the next Marc Newson, who started by designing and crafting his initial pieces, which were purchased by a Japanese gallerist, propelling his career after notable features in print publications focusing on design and architecture.
However, the landscape has changed significantly today.
Certainly, nothing can prevent one from attempting this traditional route and potentially succeeding. Yet, the reality is that most designers are following this well-trodden path. And what happens when everyone pursues the same trajectory? The field becomes overcrowded, and only a few manage to break through.
In this scenario, true game changers are those who diverge from the standard designer’s path, simply because they don’t conform to the established norms of the game.
Brandon Wang (here his TikTok account), a 24-year-old based in Canada, began his journey as a video and photo maker, studying UX/UI design at University. With a side business in mind, similar to starting a clothing fashion brand, he founded BlankedStudios to design and sell his apparel.
He approached the venture with a bold street style, marked by his distinctive branded blue. However, the response was tepid. Undeterred, he expanded his collection to include something he had contemplated for a while: creating home decor items.
Not much later (a year might seem brief for a millennial, but it’s significant for someone young), he introduced his first design piece, which proved to be a resounding success. While not a feat of design complexity, everything about it was meticulously executed—elegant shape, impeccable finish, compelling storytelling, and exceptional packaging. Brandon demonstrated the entire process, from ideation and adjustments to sourcing materials and delivery. His creation sold out quickly.
This unconventional approach represents a new way of doing things, unencumbered by preconceived notions ingrained in individuals who haven’t been part of the design world from the outset. This seemingly insignificant deviation is, in fact, tremendously significant. Outsiders bring a unique perspective and methodology, setting them apart from those deeply entrenched in the design industry.
Traditional paths in design tend to foster clichés about ‘how things should be made,’ which have contributed to a somewhat stagnant design world (with notable exceptions). Concepts like ‘form follows function’ and ‘user-centric design’ have become the norm, even for seemingly straightforward items like a clothes hanger.
When someone like Brandon enters the scene, bringing experiences from other realms, he carves out a distinct path and achieves results in ways that traditional designers often don’t. His background infuses his designs with visual appeal, instinctive creativity, and profound meaning, devoid of the convoluted design theories that end customers might not grasp.
This phenomenon mirrors the world of music, where established musicians create intricate compositions tailored for a niche audience, while emerging talents produce seemingly simple music (though deceptively complex) appreciated by professionals, fostering genuine engagement.
Thanks to the internet, various fields increasingly draw influence from diverse sources, resulting in a fusion of methods and cultures. What Brandon is doing serves as evidence of an emerging trend in independent design.