Have you ever noticed how most cartoon characters wear the same exact outfit every single episode, almost as if they have no other clothes in their wardrobe? The introduction of a costume change can confuse audiences when it’s unexpected, but when done right, refreshes a series and marks a new era for a show.
I always find it unsettling that for a period of time, Shaggy wore a red shirt.
As a designer, artist and creative, your personal branding is your iconic outfit. Your branding emphasizes who you are as a designer, your mission and outlook. Especially for those coming out of school (many graduating very soon!), your brand is the first impression you give to potential clients and employers. Developing this important identity collateral can be a strenuous process alone, but how about rebranding yourself for your new era?
On the eve of the worldwide quarantine, I began my own rebranding. Having just left my previous position at a design agency, my goal was to reidentify who I am as a graphic designer and how I want to present myself. To tackle this, I found it necessary to go back and examine who I felt I was as a designer when I was a college student.
What I found was that during my senior year of college, I was unsure of who I truly wanted to be as a designer. Outside of a few months at a design internship in the world of university-based information technology, my work was purely school projects. Ideally, I wanted to work for a cool creative studio with diverse clients. Because of my interest in this career path, I began homing in on my own personality traits and life experiences to create visuals and statements I felt were “me”. First this lead to me handwriting my name and modifying it into a chunky vectorized graphic that emphasized playfulness. I then developed a color palette based on my bedroom walls as a child, since it’s one of my first memories of being drawn to color design. Finally, I took this palette and built a pattern around it, putting it on my business cards and even a tie.
I wanted to shout from the mountain tops that I was a snazzy, fresh designer on the market who wanted to make awesome work.
To cap my initial brand off, I tacked on the title “Snazzy” to my name since “Alex Robinson” was far too boring and common of a name. At the time, I felt future employers would read this as a bit of extra confidence.
Hopping forward 5 years, I’ve moved from several homes across Ohio, worked two jobs both in the world of nonprofits and an agency where I tackled projects for clients in the B2B, B2C and nonprofit sectors. My portfolio has diversified, and I am active with AIGA’s Cleveland Chapter, starting as a designer and now holding the position of Web Chair on our Communications Board. I’ve traveled across the country and attended Adobe MAX where I met amazing design super stars including Aaron Draplin. Yet, I was holding on to this old identity. I was no longer a design student struck with imposter syndrome, I am experienced and ready to take on the world.
It became apparent that I needed to revise several areas of my brand. Below are a few elements I considered for change, some that surprisingly carried over.
- How to refer to yourself: Naming is incredibly important as a designer. Some designers take on pseudonyms or nicknames, mine originally being “Snazzy”. Others will use a variation of their real name. I’ve seen first names only, last names only and even sometimes first, middle and last together for an extra boost of uniqueness. As I’ve gained experience, I decided to no longer rely on “Snazzy” as my crutch, instead opting to focus on only my first and last name with an even more simplified web domain, AlexR.Design.
- Color Palette: Defining colors that speak to your mission is crucial in representing yourself as a designer. Originally, I was set on blasting out the gates with vibrant colors. My first job had a brand that used a variety of 11 colors. With a portfolio filling to the brim with a rainbow of hues, I assumed color would continue being a defining factor for my brand. It was until my second job that I was questioned on whether I could do anything but colorful pieces. I was struck with the realization that while I have always loved vibrant color, blacks and whites were equally important to me. To mark my new era of design, I switched my brand entirely to black and white, allowing the colors of my work to shine through without disruption of a heavily colorful container.
- Messaging: Brands are not only visual, but a complex narrative that is told through verbal and written communication. It’s important to let your audience know who you are and what you’re looking to do with your skills. For my brand, I came out of college expressing my drive to jump into the industry and begin creating fresh work. With my update, especially during such complex times. I now express my dedication to community, experience working with multiple industries and love of storytelling.
- Visuals: In addition to a logo, color palette and message, a strong brand comes with equally strong visuals. Whether it’s patterns, shapes, illustrations or animations, creating imagery that sticks with your audience is key. My brand started with a pattern, but since I’ve since swapped my color palette for flat black with white copy, I decided to turn toward illustration. During self-reflection, I realized that for me, this new brand is less about who I want to be in the design industry and instead who I now am and what experience I bring to the table. My new website now opens with a simple self-portrait to show the world that I am proud of my work and confident in path I’m headed.
Whether you’re just starting out or are an experienced designer, personal branding is important. Currently in difficult times while many of us are stuck at home, it’s perfect time to take a second and reflect on how you want to represent yourself. Especially when everything gets back up moving again, why not rock out with a bold new look.
For more of what I do, check out my website at www.AlexR.Design and follow me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/alexmakescoolstuff