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Building in Wellness, Creative Directing Running, & Marketing Personal Brand

This week, Clayton hit another round of Logo Slapping or Marketing Genius, and Oren covered what’s happening in branding - including conspiracy chic and checking out the data behind viral brands with Particl.

In this HYPER edition, Oren breaks down BTS of various building projects, and we interview our friend, Rafa Oliveira, Creative Director at Tracksmith.


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Building in Wellness

I’m very excited to announce Landforce and I have (re)released a wellness product. I’m going to pretty extensively document this on social in the next few videos, but playing into a few trends we care about, and excited to give a super-specific look into behind the scenes of how something like this comes to life.

Muscle Goo is a more natural alternative to Biofreeze, Icy Hot etc. I’m a huge believer that any category in wellness dominated by products with chemical ingredients has the opening for a natural alternative.

Colin worked with a master formulator over countless iterations to lock in something he loved in the muscle-relief category, and we’re super proud of the result.

Next, we got down to the branding and recruited Tiffanee Wilcox to help get us dialed in. She had made this viral bag I saw at Expo West (there was security just to facilitate people waiting to get this bag at the booth) a year prior, loved the style, so we did a project!

I’m going to share a lot about ingredients, formulation, branding, and more and dive deeper into wellness culture and branding in general in the coming weeks. Stoked to have everyone ride along, and we’re live at https://musclegoo.co/


Work in Progress

I’ve also been working on a new men’s bag design with the design team over at Shyft. Sharing some concepts below, and I go behind the scenes on the decision and process to this point during this YouTube video.

If you’ve ever been interested in how something like this comes to life, the thoughts behind the “why” in a category and the design process, worth checking out!

Concepts we’re deciding on below. Ignore the logo and branding that’s just for reference, but we’re really excited about the various form factors.

The most interesting part of modern development like this is how do you make something different, function, unique in it’s aesthetic while also being perfect for content.

Interview with Rafa Oliveira, Creative Director at Tracksmith

Excited to introduce you to our friend Rafa, based in Porto, Portugal, and current CD over at Tracksmith. He’s got a fascinating story, so we wanted to share it here as inspiration for you.

PS—huge thank you to our friend, Filipa Alves, who took these great photos of Rafa around Porto.

Give us the Rafa rundown. What’s your story?

My name is Rafa, short for Rafael, which flows more smoothly off the tongue. I am currently based in Porto, Portugal, my hometown. After years of moving around, I returned here just before the pandemic.

For over seven years, I've been the Creative Director for Tracksmith, a premium running brand headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.

I majored in film and photography, but very early on I started working in graphic design, and that’s how I shaped my career path in the creative field.

My professional trajectory led me through various agencies and studios in Porto and Barcelona before ultimately finding myself at Casa da MĂşsica (House of Music) in Porto. This iconic cultural hub, designed by Pritzker laureate Rem Koolhaas, houses the symphonic orchestra.

I arrived when Stefan Sagmeister had just completed designing its brand identity.

It was a great learning process, and I was able to marry a few of my passions—music, architecture, and graphic design. Some years later, after I got really into running, the same passion led me to reach out to Matt Taylor, the founder of Tracksmith.

I fell in love with how the brand presented running, a sport so dear to me, and how aligned our visions were. We hit it off, and, I’ve been at the helm of the brand’s creative since 2016.

You were born and raised in Portugal. As you’ve traveled the world, what’s drawn you back to living in Porto as a home base?

I was born in Rio, in Brazil, but just because my parents were there at the time. My ties to Rio are minimal; I left when I was two and have never returned, shaping my identity more as Portuguese, hailing from Porto.

It’s a small city, but because the Atlantic Ocean is right in front and the Douro River is to one side, it never feels claustrophobic. When my wife and I left in 2015, the city was already undergoing significant transformation due to burgeoning tourism. Upon our return in late 2019, the impact of this change was palpable.

Having lived in Spain, Germany, and the US, I've come to value Porto for its effortless livability, especially for those who, like myself, are frequently on the move for work.

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of issues because of the housing crisis precipitated by this newfound interest in Portugal, which is tearing the fabric of the city a bit, forcing people out into the suburbs. 

But there are other positive things as well like people moving in from different places and bringing in new perspectives, which helps move the city forward culturally and make it way more diverse. 

Yet amidst these challenges, there are silver linings. The influx of newcomers from diverse backgrounds injects those fresh perspectives into the city's cultural milieu, propelling it forward and fostering greater diversity. 

Porto's proximity to upscale clothing manufacturing hubs also makes it an attractive locale for smaller brands seeking closer ties to quality production facilities. Oh, and the food is excellent, of course.

You’ve collaborated with everyone from J.Crew to PUMA and District Vision. What, in your mind, makes a great partnership?

Determining whether collaborations have set rules isn't something I can definitively comment on. I find the most successful collaborations stem from the natural rapport between individuals representing each brand, ensuring that the result adds genuine value.

These collaborations evolve through organic conversations driven by a shared passion. From there, the focus shifts to finding innovative ways to highlight the strengths of each brand.

It might mean that one brand will focus on the product aspect and the other on the story, for example. As in everything, it’s important to have a point of view and try to get that across through collaboration. 

Ultimately, the goal is to create something impactful that presents your brand in a fresh light, attracting new audiences. Achieving this outcome signifies an important accomplishment in collaborative endeavors.

Running has become cool in a way it wasn’t just 10-15 years ago. There’s now this Now; brands carry this element of streetwear and fashion. Why is that?

Yeah, it used to be cool, and then something weird happened with the introduction of the concept of jogging, and it all went sideways for a bit until we were able to pull it back in line.

But to be fair, recently we’re starting to see some of the running looks out there feel very much the same and unnecessarily overbuilt. It’s a bit like current fashion.

Numerous new running brands have emerged, each striving to stand out as much as possible, neglecting the appeal of simplicity and straightforwardness. Instead of consistency, they opt for over-commodification, attempting to cater to every possible preference.

Running, and physical activity in general, have become embedded in people’s lives in a way that wasn’t there before. And those lines get blurred as the two wardrobes start to converge, so you’re seeing this natural conversation between active, casual, and formal wear also happen simultaneously. 

I want to stay on the right side of that conversation as much as possible, as it’s easy to get carried away by trends. 

You built a beautiful home in Porto and documented the process. What inspired you to do that?

It was a very challenging but rewarding experience. We were lucky to be able to buy this old warehouse that used to serve as a junkyard for car parts. We came in at the beginning of the renovation, so we could impact every part of the transformation and tailor the house to our needs and specifications. 

We took on every aspect of the process and made a detailed plan for everything from room layouts, materials, furniture, flooring, bathrooms, and the kitchen—everything.

We learned a lot, and applied our working philosophy, relying on keeping things as simple and uncluttered as possible. 

Throughout this process, we embraced a guiding principle of simplicity, striving to maintain an uncluttered aesthetic that resonated with our sensibilities.

The house reflects our tastes and personalities, and we wanted that to come through. We wanted it to be a clear representation of our intentions, a celebration of simple materials and textures combined in interesting and beautiful ways to create something greater than the sum of its parts. 

As we both work from home, we also wanted it to serve as our studio, so that was an important factor in marrying those two aspects. How can you make your home feel like a workspace and vice-versa?

This duality of function not only improved our living experience but also profoundly influenced my strategic decisions in shaping the retail landscape of Tracksmith’s newest ventures in Marylebone, London, and Brooklyn, New York.

What’s your philosophy around creating a brand identity for a brand selling physical products?

I love creating a consistent universe around a brand and its story, how it speaks, and how it presents itself. But at the end of the day, the product will always be the ultimate cornerstone.  

In industries as competitive as running, where excellence is the norm, a subpar product simply won't suffice. No matter how compelling the storytelling, consumers will inevitably seek something better. Thus, our foremost priority is to ensure that our product stands unrivaled in quality.

The most informed product that will have the exact functionality you need when on a two-hour long run or chasing your mile PR on the track. My contribution comes from being able to provide that informed perspective.

As a devoted runner who started when I was thirty and became super committed to the sport, I did the leg work; excuse the pun. And from that informed position, I added my sensibilities and shaped the brand's identity. 

Our commitment extends beyond merely offering products; we aspire to honor the essence of running—the runner, their environment—and ensure our products improve rather than impede performance. And—naturally, aesthetics play a pivotal role in this pursuit.

Editorially, few brands do it better than Tracksmith. What’s your involvement with the stories Tracksmith tells and what’s your philosophy around storytelling through products?

My philosophy has been shaped by cinema, to be honest. 

The idea of capturing reality, to a certain extent, but adding a thin layer of fantasy, makes it intrinsically unique. By intertwining various elements such as products, the runners, the locations, and the choices we make—we have created compelling narratives where these work alongside each other in a subtle balance. It’s the mise-en-scène that interests me the most. 

I’m a big fan of the Dogma 95 movement, where simplicity in front of the camera reigns supreme, and you add little things here and there to introduce those unique aspects that will set it apart and make it irrevocably intriguing. 

Subsequently, it's about repeating this process and striving for unwavering excellence every time. This same philosophy extends to our products. You need to understand the subject matter from the inside out. What the exact needs are. 

And then, you run an exercise of refining all of those aspects. You search high and low for the best materials, details, and construction to bring it all together in a presentation that will not only aim to add a lot of value to the runner's lifestyle but also be beautiful and meaningful. 

Where do you draw creative inspiration from?

This might sound cliché, but it's a sentiment drawn straight from my everyday experiences. I have a profound appreciation for the art of observation—the act of truly noticing things, no matter how mundane they may be.

People watching, for example. When you witness someone in their element, and there’s just this easy flow to their nature, and what they’re wearing and how they wear it, it’s a special thing to see and try and take something away from it. 

Similarly, immersing oneself in a captivating film, a soul-stirring melody, or an awe-inspiring exhibition, there’s a lot to be said about just witnessing the world around us. 

Whether on the beautiful, busy streets of Paris or deep in the woods of New England, I find endless fascination in how different things can combine to create an idea in your head.

New on Youtube - Creative Personal Brand

Hyper Reports

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