Build Your Own Brand

Description: Building a personal brand is about determining the things that make you different from every other designer and shining a big bright spotlight on them. Build Your Own Brand will help you explore, develop, distill and determine a distinctive brand essence, differentiate yourself and create your visual identity and personal branding statement.

About the Author: Robin Landa is a Distinguished Professor in the Robert Busch School of Design at Kean University and the author of numerous design and creativity books including Graphic Design Solutions, Advertising by Design, Take a Line for a Walk, and many others.


Visualizing Your Brand Story

The form of your personal brand (logo, résumé design, website design, color palette, and any imagery) should communicate your story. We’re all familiar with the twentieth-century precept from American architect Louis Sullivan, “Form ever follows function.” When it comes to branding, Brian Collins advises, “Form follows fiction.”

In the case of personal branding, we could coin it as: Form follows creative nonfiction. Each of us has an evolving creative nonfiction story (the facts of our existence and our practical abilities) combined with a narrative fiction (how we cast ourselves as we evolve personally and professionally). When you tell your story through the design of your personal brand, you give it visual and verbal form. Can your story allow for change as your skills and thinking evolve?

Your brand story will be told across multiple media platforms—print, desktop web, social media, mobile web, and more. Establishing a coherent look and feel across media platforms keeps your solutions unified, so they belong together by resemblance and voice. When someone sees any piece of your visual story, he or she can identify you. Each visual solution is independent, yet should not need to reintroduce itself to viewers.

Each media platform should make a unique contribution to telling your brand story. If the story is told exactly the same way in each medium, then your story is singular rather than dimensional. Each media platform has unique capabilities, which allow you to expand your portrait, your image—exploit those capabilities. Henry Jenkins, who conceived the idea of transmedia storytelling, said:

“In transmedia, elements of a story are dispersed systematically across multiple media platforms, each making their own unique contribution to the whole. Each medium does what it does best—comics might provide backstory, games might allow you to explore the world, and the television series offers unfolding episodes.”

Paint the Broad Picture

Anyone’s experience with your personal brand is the product that you’re trying to create. Thinking through your goals and attributes, and planning your conception and design development will help you paint your broad picture.

You can establish a minor motif or a complex one. You can take a minor motif and turn it into a major one, too. If you break your story into small parts, you can look for patterns, parallels, and resonances to find thematic similarities. Your design concept does not have to be rigid. For example, a comedic concept can have nuance, with other kinds of emotions or moments, as long as it is unified.

Sean Adams of AdamsMorioka, advises:

“Being a responsible, skilled and talented designer is the same as a car having reliable wheels. This is the minimum requirement that is expected. What sets great designers apart is the ability to identify the qualities that are unique and personal to their identity, and promoting these relentlessly.”

View sample pages and learn more about Build Your Own Brand: Strategies, Prompts, and Exercises for Marketing Yourself at My Design Shop.

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