As I start to implement my ideas and execute my sketches through the comprehensive design process, I turned to further my research in a more broadened sense. Earlier in my personal branding process I exhaustively researched my initials, to see what was already out there. Since my initials are “CP” I saw many plays off the infinity symbol, which proved to be cliché but I did like the simplicity. After sketching many different logo ideas I went back to the drawing board in order to narrow down which logos I should continue exploring and which ones were less than desirable or not portraying my identity the way I had hoped.
“The cold, hard, definition of a brand is the perceptions, ideas, concepts, and visuals that distinguish one product from others in the same market. So, when you think about it, the way you speak, work, communicate and write, it all adds up to create a personality that distinguishes you from others, thus establishing your own personal brand.” –Mary Stribley
In Mary Stribley’s article, Personal Branding: How To Design Your Personal Brand Image In 10 Steps, she stresses the importance of expressing yourself in the truest form when creating your brand in order to accurately show your aesthetic as a designer. I understand the importance of this idea as I get critiqued throughout this personal branding process. Yes, I appreciate and take into consideration all the opinions of anyone willing to give me feedback but I am learning now to take every critique with a grain of salt. I think it is necessary to address the critiques I receive and exhaust any alterations possible. However, at the end of the day, if the original design is still more preferred, I’m going to stick with my gut but not until I have tried other ideas and proofed to myself the original idea is in fact the best. So after narrowing down my options for logos to a handful, I read Stribley’s article to help guide me through choosing one logo to run with and how to incorporate it into the rest of my brand materials.
10 Steps To Designing Your Personal Brand Image
1. Figure Out How You Want to Be Perceived
When I originally asked myself this I was daunted with the tasks of articulating holistically who I am through just a few design pieces. I’m versatile, all over the place, a creative and felt a logo was too small a platform to truly express all that. When reading this article I realized that who I am and how I want to be perceived are too separate ideas and it became a little more achievable for me. So I began to think of how I want to be perceived by future employers and clients since they are my main audience. I want to show my sophisticated clean aesthetic but I also want to show how hands-on of a designer I am because I think that’s something unique about myself that helps me stand out and be more memorable. So I started brainstorming for a way to get hands-on with my logo design. This is when I decided to physically create my logo out of wood. I choose wood because to me, it represents my love for the outdoors, which is crucial to my design process. Also, the organic shape of a swirl inspired my logo so it was only fitting to create it out of an organic material as well.
2. Know Your Audience and Competition
Knowing your audience is so crucial because if you aren’t designing for an audience, your only designing for yourself. Fortunately it is impossible not to know your competition while in school because I am going into critiques with my peers every week and seeing their processes unfold along side my own. Seeing my competition pushes me to be more unique and out of the box with my personal identity. During AIGA’s Emerging Professionals Workshop I was able to meet and hear from other designers and creative directors who are my target audience. I learned many tips for how to make a lasting impression which is invaluable to me as a nearing graduate in the design field. I learned the value in a “leave behind” which is something you actually leave behind with you after an interview. This got me exploring different fun/unique ideas to design as a leave-behind.
3. Establish A Unique Tone Of Voice
This is a notion I had never thought of before reading this article, but your tone of voice becomes very important when putting yourself out there on social media and your website. A design has a tone of voice so your written and photographic elements of your brand should also have that same tone of voice, because remember you want your brand to stand alone to portray your specific identity and it’d be confusing if one brand element was a sophisticated/professional design but your tweets are casual and laid back. Stribley asks,
Would it better suit your brand to say “We apologize for the inconvenience” or “Sorry about the mix-up, we’re on the case”?
This got me thinking more closely at the tone of voice I want to be putting out there. I want future employers to know I have a sense of humor and that I am a laid back person but I also want them to know that I have a professional side. Stribley suggests writing out a few sample emails or social media posts to really get an idea of what sounds the least forced. I definitely recommend this exercise to anyone else trying to find their personal tone of voice.
4. Create a Logo
I had already exhaustingly pursued this step but everything Stribley had to say about designing a logo reassured me that I was on the right track. She explains the difference of a logotypes, geometric logos, and illustrated logos. She didn’t mention any three dimensional logos so I am excited to pursue the idea of physically creating my logo hopefully to help me stand out even more as a hands-on designer.
5. Develop a Tailored Font and Color Pallette
Color can help make or break your entire identity, no matter how much thought and effort went into the rest of my personal identity. This article mentioned the rule of thumb to only use three colors or less to keep from overwhelming the design. Throughout all my color studies nothing quit worked with the light maple wood texture I used to create my logo. It was more over powering than supporting so I decided my identity should be black and white. I think my sense of design is clean and simple and my uniqueness is portrayed through my logo so I don’t need color to make my design work. Since I’m going with a black and white identity, I want to make up for that with more texture. I believe a matted black and black spot glass typography is a subtle way of adding dimension that I couldn’t achieve with just colors.
6. Keep It Consistent
This really goes hand and hand with step #3 but since it is the number one rule to branding, it deserved its own step. However Stribley stresses more in this step that just because it is consistent, doesn’t mean it needs to get boring. She shows examples of switching up the combination of your colors and textures while keeping your text treatments the same. I really kept this in mind when I started designing my stationary materials. I think with black and white you limit yourself of options to change up your design so I’m excited to pursue different variations with my textures.
7. Set Up Your Online Platform
This is 2016, social media isn’t just for recreational use anymore. If you are branding yourself, you need to be accessible online. This article runs through different social media platforms and suggests having a facebook, instagram, dribble/behance, and pinterest. This was an other topic for discussion at the AIGA’s Emerging Professionals Workshop because of how important it is. Creative directors stated most of their employees were found, they didn’t apply for their jobs. They stressed the need for social media just to get your work out there. Howcan you be discovered if all your design work is on your desktop computer sitting in a folder?
8. Create All Your Digital Deliverables
While on the topic of social media, it is important to think about your digital deliverables, this is anything from profile pictures to design content. Stribley suggests listing all graphical elements needed and doing it all in one go. This seems like the most practical approach to me as well because it’ll ensure consistency, which was already stressed in step #6, and you’ll be able to make sure every piece works well together as a whole package.
9. Create All Your Physical Deliverables
Along the same lines as digital deliverables, physical deliverables are just as important. I believe in this day and age we are so wrapped up in technology that we forget the importance and value in physical materials. Physical material allows for more personalization and shows more effort in my opinion. The key to physical deliverables is to be thoughtful in all aspects from the layout of your design to the application and materials used. The sky is the limit and adding the physical aspect to a design lets you be as unique as your creativity allows. Since I made a physical model of my logo I want to choose materials that adds to my logo, and doesn’t over power it. I’d like to explore using a light maple wood for business cards as well as a matted black. However exploring materials is much different research than the typical online research. It is absolutely necessary to get out there and visit local print shops to see how they feel in your hands.
10. Create Yourself a Style Guide
Finally, Stribley ends her article with the final step of putting together a solid style guide. This step is so important for you as a designer to make sure you are staying consistent with all your materials. Keeping a record of your typefaces, colors, textures and webmarks are anything else you choose to include. It is also beneficial for showing and explaining your brand to others. This helps show your thought process and why you are doing what you are doing with your designs.