Brand X

BY AUTUMN BOHNER: Throughout the course of the semester, my friends Casey Markiewicz, Carolyn Choates and I teamed up to compete in the Brand X challenge. What a wild ride that was! 

The general idea for this competition was to create and experiential design for a client. This year, the client was Sephora Beauty, including SEPHORiA. The goal was to use experiential design to create an entire campaign for SEPHORiA and “The Fearless Tour,” which was a 4-stop beauty tour across America that featured a pop-up event at each location. 

This was an entirely open-ended process. All the freedom made some awesome opportunities for creativity! But, it also created some struggles. With very few guidelines to go off of, we had to create everything! This also left a lot of room for error, and a lot of holes to be filled. 

To start our project, we actually did research with real people on what beauty meant to them. Based on what real consumers believed, we were able to discuss different ideas on how to include the most amount of people for our campaign and what would resonate with the most people. With the research, we were also able to create buyer personas for our specific target audience. This aided us in our general concept and with the campaign as well.

Our group went 30 different directions before we found the right direction. We bounced ideas off of each other for so long until we finally came up with an idea we thought was right. After a virtual meeting with a professional who worked for MAS Design, we took our idea in another new direction. Then finally, after weeks of discussion, we solidified our idea! Even after we had the “perfect” idea to roll with and began to create our space, the idea was still evolving as we continued working, even right up until the very end!

We had decided that our beauty tour would focus on breaking stereotypical beauty boundaries and empowering people to break beauty norms. We wanted people to feel like they could do whatever they wanted to beauty-wise and give them the tools to do so. We also wanted the audience to feel included regardless of identity, and we wanted them to feel bold and confident. The “Breakthrough Beauty Tour” was born.

Break Through Beauty

Using this information, we then had to design the physical space and choose four location where the tour would stop. The specs were a maximum of 40 feet by 40 feet pop up space. Not only did the space have to look pretty in order to attract guests, it also had to match Sephora’s brand and match the message of the campaign as well. 

To match the idea of beauty having no boundaries, we decided that the stops would be at various boardwalks throughout the country. Beaches often represent a place where people break personal boundaries, such as wearing a swimsuit you may be uncomfortable with or stepping in the ocean if you can’t swim. The openness of the ocean also signifies a lack of boundaries. We felt the beach represented the theme of our message and boardwalks have significant traffic to attract more people. 

We wanted the space itself to be open to represent “no boundaries”. (Walls = boundaries, so there were no walls.) Within the 40 foot space, we created 4 different concepts for activations for guests to interact with. Guests would enter the area through a tunnel of mirrors, and be led to an open area where guests could interact with a colorful changing wall to take photos with and a “Break Through Room” (play on a rage room”) where guests could break open containers to receive exclusive makeup products. They could then go to a beauty area to try their products on, where they would be encouraged to try bold new looks. There was also a VIP area where VIP members could create a custom fragrance (since Sephora is more than makeup!)

Finally, we had to create a social media campaign to promote the event. Because Sephora’s social media platforms have a huge reach, it was cost effective and highly efficient to reach our target audience through social media alone. We decided we wanted to reach out to social media influencers who break beauty norms (for example, Winnie Harlow or Ashley Graham) to help with the promotion for the event in exchange for free products and exclusive access to the event. It was super interesting to come up with a plan to promote on social media, but it was also super difficult to come up with a realistic timeline for the promotion of this event. Eventually, we came up with a good timeline:

Break Through Beauty Timeline

It’s crazy to think about everything that goes into planning and promoting a huge event like SEPHORiA and the Fearless Tour. We would have to start promotion three months before the actual event! I did have a fun time creating mock social media posts using both Sephora and Breakthrough Beauty elements!

sephoria giveaway

Overall, this experience was a little different than I expected. Although I did get the opportunity to create some graphics for the project, there was a much bigger focus on the creation of the campaign than just the design of the space. However, I had an amazing time working with some of my best friends coming up with a new and innovative campaign for Sephora! This unique experience offered a look into experimental design and allowed us to see what really goes into campaign creation. There’s so much more that goes into campaign and event planning than you can imagine, but seeing the final project come together was so rewarding.

Here’s the PDF of our final presentation. We’d love to know what you think about our project. Leave your feedback in the comments below!

The Brand X Challenge

The goal of the Brand X Challenge: Expose students to the growing world of “experience design,” a fun and expanding segment of the design industry and one of the fastest-growing job sectors for design, architecture and marketing professionals.

To learn more about the 2020 Brand X Challenge, visit

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