Editor’s Note: As a designer your career depends on personal branding — how you brand yourself and the services you offer. This excerpt from Build Your Own Brand by Robin Landa will help you explore ideas for creating your personal branding strategy.
What if people could evaluate your talent and skill based only on shapes and colors? What if people could understand your essence through one visual symbol? Or a short social media profile?
That is the task — to build a personal brand and visual identity from symbolic graphic elements and parts. Define your brand essence through design and words. Define your brand essence in a few shapes. The resulting shapes may look deceptively simple because they are a result of a complex distillation process, a concentrated condensation of who you are into a design. To develop and produce a visual and verbal response to a personal identity communication problem, you must discern meaning from information, go through creative and conceptual processes drawing upon information, research and iterations of creations boiled down into a solution, which has been shaped by layers of meaning. Every word and every graphic element tells.
You may not feel like a brand. You’re an individual, not a cookie or a car. You may not even be a big fan of using branding terms for individuals — not even for famous individuals such as Jennifer Lopez or John Grisham.
To secure a creative career, however, you have to be a “recognizable type of something,” which is how one dictionary defines brand. To break through, you need to make an indelible impression on your audience.
Building a personal brand entails using your design expertise to create an original visual identity and verbal identity for yourself. You are not a corporation so your identity should not look like a corporate identity. Nor are you exactly like every other designer, so your bio shouldn’t read like anyone else’s. Your typography, composition and copy should reflect your design sense and sensibility. There are many admirable portfolios out there. Engaging personal branding can ensure notice of yours.
Using Transmedia Storytelling to Create Your Personal Brand
Creating a transmedia personal branding program entails weaving some common threads through all visual and verbal components across media, with the understanding that each medium can offer unique brand experiences for the audience. This means you have to formulate and create a strategic and unified program. Rather than approaching individual formats (such as your visual identity or website design) as isolated design solutions, it is a strategic imperative to see every expression and platform—from the visual identity to the self-promotions—as a contributor to the entire branding. This cohesive approach is critical to creating an experience based on your unique visual and verbal presence.
Why do you need to tell a story? Context. Human interest. A brand story tells the world precisely who you are and what you have to offer.
Whether in the form of song lyrics, fiction or films, documentaries or video games, people love stories and find meaning in stories.
To tell a story, you don’t have to be a writer. A single image can tell a story. Image plus words can tell a story, as they do in advertising or single-panel cartoons (just think of The New Yorker cartoons) or on book covers or posters. Certainly, we can also use motion graphics or an illustration to tell a story.
The cumulative effect of a visual and verbal identity tells a story about your personality, sense, sensibility, skills—it defines you and how you got that way. Can you literally tell a story? Sure. Can you tell a story cobbled together with words and images? Of course. Forming a story as the underpinning of what you do will help congeal your identity, help people seize on your identity. You are the lead character in this story.
Your Personal Branding Strategy
Strategy is the core tactical underpinning of personal branding, uniting all your planning for every visual and verbal expression. The brand strategy defines your personality and promise. Who are you? What value do you promise to deliver?
Strategy also differentiates you from the competition by defining your “position” against the competition. You can formulate a construct—a core strategic concept that positions you (in an employer’s or client’s mind) against the competition—based on any insight into your own qualities or expertise, or on a personal attribute, such as originality, heritage, wit, or wisdom.
Several factors must be considered when formulating your brand strategy:
Differentiation: You create a unique visual and verbal presence.
Authenticity/Ownership: You “own” an identifiable attribute, quality, personality, or posture.
Consistency: Your construct is used across media, creating a coherent personal brand voice and tone in all verbal and visual communication. (Don’t think of it as “matched luggage” but there should be coherence.)
Relevance: Personal branding is based on an insight into you and your target audience.
Codify who you are, your promise, and your position into a core concept that becomes your personal brand strategy.
Learn more about personal branding in Build Your Own Brand by Robin Landa, available now from HOW Books.