Background Summary: Branding may apply to individuals as well as organizations or companies. It’s important for individuals to effectively communicate who they are at a glance and to offer a consistent message.
Overview: To develop a visual identity as well as how to communicate to the larger world.
Drivers: It’s vital for me to set myself apart from the rest of the design community.
Audience: Higher education, non-profits, agencies, and the design community in general.
Tone: Artistic, knowledgeable, and competent.
Message: It’s important for designers to be aware of ethics, systems, and processes and how that integrates into new technologies.
Visuals: Visual identity system.
Details: Digital and physical collateral will need to be created such as a website redesign, social media presence, business cards, resume booklet, and the like.
Targeted Message: At the confluence of art and technology.
Designing one’s own personal branding is one of the most difficult projects a graphic designer can do. You might at first think that you know your client better than anyone else on the planet, but that creates a certain subjective precondition that may make the entire process even more difficult to complete with success. I wanted to examine myself and get to really know what I stand for and where I wanted to head as a graphic designer.
One of the most important aspects for me as a designer is to understand how art/design interacts with new and emerging technologies. I felt that it was important to place this at the forefront of my branding efforts. It’s also important for me to position myself as an advocate for ethics for designers, systems and how people interact with them, processes, and techniques. It isn’t enough today for a designer to be “good”. Good design is implied by anyone who is trying to make a profession out of design. Rather, it’s what the graphic designer stands for that helps stand him/her apart from a crowded job market. That was the aim for my personal branding project.
I looked at my technical abilities I posses. Over the years, I’ve picked up several that have allowed me to work on a variety of projects. The areas that I found myself to be comfortable in is graphic design, web design, photography, video production, and editing. As time moves on, I want to expand into 3D modeling/scanning, 3D printing, VR/AR technology, and coding to varying degrees. The process I went through for my personal branding has reinforced that idea for myself that as a designer, I must continually learn and grow. It’s too easy for me to become complacent and “fall behind”.
As I looked into what I call advocacy as a graphic designer, as mentioned above, they were ethics, systems, processes, and techniques. I lay them out below.
- Ethics (type of work and greater meaning one does or is involved in)
- Working for an ethical company
- Standard ethics to adhere to
- Systems (The greater world and how everything interacts with one and other)
- How different systems interact with one and other
- STEAM and how it applies to designers
- Processes – Strategy (How things work)
- Documenting the design method
- How multitasking has negative impact on productivity
- Design Manifesto
- Showing Design as an asset
- Decorative Design
- Techniques – Tactics (Means of creation)
- Digital tools
- Conventional tools
What does it mean to be me? Has anyone really sat down and contemplated their own existence? What meaning to they bring to the world? These are some of the questions I struggled with as I went through my personal branding process. OK, so I suppose a lot of people have asked the big questions. For my personal branding is was just part of the process.
So I began to look at what qualities of my personality make for a good graphic designer. Some areas I knew I was really good at, and other areas I knew I could move from good to great. I looked at organization and attention to detail. I certainly had those qualities, but at began to feel as I was a crossroads. I wanted to know if I was a designer at heart, or if I wanted to move towards art direction or even creative direction. Sure I knew what those roles were, but I wanted to look more into them and see what exactly was different between them. As I researched the roles in a typical agency or other creative setting, the general consensus was that there really wasn’t a solid, set in stone, sort of descriptions for each of these roles. However I came across a good explanation by an agency vet who outlined it as the following. A good designer is obsessed with details such as colors, paper choices, and so on. A good art director see the big picture. As someone who has had a unique opportunity of being a designer as well as an art director, I feel that I’m a graphic designer by heart. I also find myself a producer, to put it in movie terms. I think these two qualities would lead myself to excel at as a senior graphic designer.
Beyond the role, I’ve found that it’s important for me to be approachable and friendly where I can. It’s also important to be strong at follow through. In the Pittsburgh area, on many personal projects I’ve worked on over the years, I found that I could be apart of a niche… those who follow through and aren’t assholes. Strange I know, but there are many people out there that fit into either or at worse case scenario both roles.
Having worked for a company with a very toxic corporate culture, there were a few things I wanted to avoid. In contrast to the corporate culture, I wanted it to be OK to say “I don’t know”. I’ve worked with many people who didn’t know something, but pretended they did. I feel it’s important to have an open dialogue about one’s limitation or knowledge. Now to counter ignorance, I feel it’s vital for someone to finish that “I don’t know” statement with “but I’ll find out”. This leads itself back to follow through. When someone can find answers and get things done, they become more valuable to their team and place of employment.
Researching solutions has also made me aware I’m really enjoy creative problem solving. Fitting that I’ve made the career change into a dedicated graphic designer. One of the best definitions for graphic design I’ve heard is “graphic design is simply solving problems”. This has lead me approach graphic design as a problem that needs solved, rather than simply making “pretty pictures”. Ideation, sketching, heck, even having a playful attitude has really advanced that depth and meaning behind the designs I’ve created in the past few years.
I wrote out several questions I’ve seen people ask themselves when it comes to personal branding.
Three Words associated with me and the work I produce
- Adaptable, making less than ideal situations productive
- Knowledgeable, without being pedantic
- Confident, in knowing my abilities, about expectations, and how to interact with others
Three words of what it’s like to work with me
- Organized and detail oriented
- Team focused
- Championing designs from concepts to final production
“What exactly do I want to be known for?”
- I want to be known for being competent, a go-to person for answers or getting something done, and for producing good design.
What value do you promise to deliver?
- I promise to deliver accurate, relevant, and appropriate content.
What is my style? “Self-plagiarism is style.” – Alfred Hitchcock
- As a designer, I shouldn’t have a distinct visual style. I should however have a style in which I do things.
I needed to define who my audience was for my personal branding. While I occasionally freelance, I wanted to target future employers. I knew I wanted to work for either a non-profit, a museum, a place of higher education, or an agency, I began to look to Pittsburgh based organizations. I developed a list of places I’d like to work for by researching what they did, the work they created, what they stood for, and what sort of culture they possessed.
Over the years, I’ve become a fan of several designers and artists out there. I felt it was important to look into who they were and how they have influenced me. Looking over this list, it’s not surprising to see they’ve been rebels or living in the darkest parts of the subconscious.
- Tibor Kalman
- “By definition, when you make something no one hates, no one loves it.”
- Andy Warhol
- “Voyeurism is a director’s job description. It’s an artist’s, too.”
- Paul Rand
- “Good design doesn’t date. Bad design does.”
- Edgar Allan Poe
- “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
- Clive Barker
- “You can plan to be brave – it’s even better if you just try to be brave.”
- H.P. Lovecraft
- “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
- H. R. Giger
- “I don’t know, if somebody doesn’t tell me how would I know?”
Personal Branding by Other Designers
- Brad Dawson
- Ahmer Farooqui
- Azmy Hannifa
- Sam Barnes
- Conor Smyth
- Nugraha Wira Menggala
- Rob Oldfield
- Jordan Herald
- Andres Valderrama
- Micael Marques
- Nicholas Rivas
- Allen Justin Quinto
- Chris O’Neil
Concepts & Sketches
About a year ago, I started sketching out ideas for logos as they came to me. Pictured below is a small sampling of these. I kept messing with the idea of using my initials, however after looking at several other designer personal branding projects, I knew I wanted to be a little different. So I began to play with the idea of using the first letter of my first name, letter M.
I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to start to find what I could do with my chosen letter. I started to just sketch. As I continued to sketch out the letter M, I started to become inspired by the idea of showing a progression of art to technology.
I ultimately decided on a nice, thick, bold sans serif M. I liked the idea of having the little M within the overall larger M. I tried to sketch out different ideas for the top “v” that forms the two bumps at the top of the letter, but nothing I did was worth exploring further. I decided to make it a bold, conventional M. Then I began to paint or use charcoal to create the artistic look I wanted for the beginning of the letter. I also created additional paint splotches to use as accents or cover ups as I digitized everything and began working in Illustrator.
Here is the composite version of my logo design. I feel that it accurately represents myself in interesting ways, as well as showing the blending of art and technology.
I wasn’t happy with how the triangles formed in my first run through of the design. I decided to go back and really explore how the triangles could take shape.
I decided to base the triangle design on a minimalist approach. I wanted to hint at their design, and not clutter the letterform. I also kept to a repeating color scheme based on the center of the letterform. Lastly, I squared the “peaks” in the center of the letterform to make the overall design a little more symmetrical. Overall the design looks more organized and less chaotic.
I began working on my business card by sketching out a few ideas.
As I sketched out my ideas I started to think about how the business cards will be printed. I decided on a reverse idea, using dark and light on opposite sides of the card. I also wanted to incorporate a spot UV on the dark side to make the logo really stand out.
I had these business cards printed by Overnight Prints. They are by far the cheapest online printer I’ve found. I’ve noticed some scratches and a few rough edges on some of the business cards. I only ordered 100 this time. I admit that my expectations were fairly low in print quality. I was delighted to find how well the majority turned out. I decided to go with Overnight Prints as I never specified a spot UV before. I felt I would experiment cheaply than to get stuck with a useless batch of expensive business cards. Next time I have these printed, I plan to use We the Printers. They’re a premium online printer and have been very happy with other print projects I ran through them before.