The first thing we need to talk about with personal branding is that it’s much more than a logo or a mark. You’re a real human person (hopefully!) with a multi-dimensional personality, and we need to get that personality across. The way you behave online, your visual style, the type of language you use and the way you approach life all will dictate your personal brand.
The first five things I would do is to try and sum up who you are as a designer in words. What makes you different? How would someone else describe you? As a photographer and art director, your 5 words might be; portrait, colour, fun, playful and graphic. My 5 words are; people, travel, design, colour, and books. If you look at my Instagram, each image contains one of those 5 things. Think about ways to sum up who you are as a designer visually, but also what you’re offering the industry.
When I was at uni and lecturers talked about brands, I didn’t understand the difference between a brand and a logo. For me, they were the same thing. You grew up with social media and have experienced this first hand – you follow all your favourite brands and you understand the type of posts, the type of imagery and language, and the way they interact with their followers. This is what we need to get to with yours. Instagram is a good place to play and try things you can delete later.
I’m a positive, inclusive person – I don’t slag off people online, I don’t write negative things, I don’t even take pictures in the dark! My online profile is considered, curated and crafted by me because it’s important to show off my work as a creative. Set rules around what you are and are not.
When you’re starting out, again, Instagram is great to try lots of different styles and different things to figure out what feels good and what people respond to best. If you’re an illustrator, getting inspired by other illustrators is not ideal, but it’s okay as long as you quickly push through and develop your own style past the copying. It takes time to figure out your voice, so don’t be precious.
Everyone has their boundaries online for how much they share their life. Algorithms on social media reward those who use it and share the most, so if they already have a lot of followers, that will get them more followers. I have a few professional friends that I find really cringy online – wayyyyy too sale-sy (is that a word?!) for me. I’m sure some of my friends that I grew up with that I don’t know as a professional see my work as too self-promotional and a bit cringy too! It’s up to you to decide what degree of self-promotion you are comfortable with. Personally, my boundaries are set to a professional voice that would look good in an interview. I’m lucky because my job involves Design, travel, and business. So talking about road-tripping and hitchhiking and interviewing creative studios is part of my job, and helps with my personal brand. If you look up Mr. Bingo he’s a big fan of the c-word and telling people to f*** off. This is his brand and he carries it perfectly, so there are different degrees of what you feel comfortable with. The old cliche; be you, everyone else is taken. The more you embrace all the things that make you great, the more you’re on to a winner.
This is kind of hard to do because you’re making all the decisions for both, and your personal design preferences will influence both, so it should align. Let’s say your work is really corporate, you’re really good at it and that’s your thing. You like the high amount of dollarydoos it pays and having a great time of the weekend. Your personal brand shouldn’t be some wacky illustration style just because that’s another side of you. Keep it consistent so you don’t scare off your corporate clients. Have a completely separate illustration personal brand if you need (IG, website, etc) but it’s super important to keep it separate.
Decisions you make now that you’re not sure about is fine – you have to start somewhere and trying to make everything perfect is really paralyzing. Try it on, see how you feel, and if you hate it you can always delete it later.
I got a headshot done by my friend Mark Lobo back in 2017 with me sitting cross-legged on the yellow background, then uploaded it to 400 places on the internet! Every time I give a talk I send that photo, every time I’m giving a workshop at a school or speaking at a conference there it is. It’s on my LinkedIn, Instagram, Whatsapp, Wix website, etc, etc. The amount of strangers that ask if my favourite colour is yellow is hilarious! I love that it comes across in everything I do. The other good thing about consistency is then people know it’s the same person following them on LinkedIn and commenting on Instagram – good for building those online relationships.
A great thing to do as an initial test when doing your personal branding is Google your name and screenshot everywhere it appears. Look at your online accounts and screenshot all them too (your Behance, website, Pinterest, IG, Myspace haha) and have a look at them all together. Look at overall trends and things you see in common. Note what makes it inconsistent, those are the things you need to change. Do it again at the end to make sure you’re doing a good job! Also, have fun, this is not a test!
IG’s to check out for inspo (look up their website too): @mr_bingstagram. @mrseaves101, @kitiyapalaskas, @the.binding and me! @frankieratford : )