Insights from the FirstMark Design Driven Series, a monthly event that brings together design, UX and product leaders to share new ideas.

JackThreads started life as a flash sale site offering discounted apparel from third-party brands. On the back end, every decision was based on data. Website and email creative was swapped out based on performance, sometimes strategically to hit hourly revenue goals.

Today, JackThreads is transitioning from a flash sale model to full-priced merchandise from their own private label. And, while the company is still obsessed with data, they’re trying to find a healthy balance of data-driven and brand-driven design.

“We were practicing data-driven design. We did it and did it well, but we also took it to a major extreme,” JackThreads Creative Director Ben Gelinas said.

To illustrate that point, Gelinas asked which of the below images the audience believed would resonate most with customers.

While the audience overwhelmingly favored the full-body shot on the right, Gelinas said “We have tested tons and tons of images across multiple categories in email and acquisition ads and the data has told us time and time again that the image on the left” — and all images without heads — drive higher click-through rates.

So, letting the data lead the decisions, the rule for photos on became tighter crops on products and no heads. 

“We took this very literally and the takeaway was to remove everyone’s heads,” Gelinas said. “We literally chopped off every model’s head for months.”


Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

But, once Gelinas and the team took a step back to look at the bigger picture, they questioned whether data was truly informing the correct design decisions.

“We’re not saying that data-driven design is not important,” Gelinas said. “What we’re saying is there can be blind spots if you’re solely focusing on A/B tests.”

Still, heads are not entirely off the chopping block at JackThreads. Since data shows that headless images drive higher click-through rates, the JackThreads team uses that tactic sparingly and deliberately.

If you visit the site today, you’ll likely be greeted by a model wearing a smile along with his JackThreads gear. Head-to-toe, if you will. It’s the result of a deeper consideration for brand.

To hear more about how JackThreads has been thoughtful about balancing data- and brand-driven design, check out the full talk from Design Driven NYC above, and on our YouTube channel. To join Design Driven, click here.