So, every potential designer gets to that dreaded point where we have to take on that difficult client. You know the one I mean, bad tempered, foul mouthed, indecisive, the worlds biggest critic, never happy….. Yes, that shitty client called yourself!
You could have a client list of all the most indecisive people in the world, and yet still we are our own worst enemy when it comes to branding ourselves.
Most designers need an identity when dealing with freelance work, or even to utilise in your portfolio or website. It gives you a more professional look and a good brand can tell creative agencies or PR agency just how well they can sell your services to clients. I went for years without facing up to the fact that I needed a brand.
I eventually needed one quickly for some potential freelance work, and I just went bowling in and came out six hours later with about half a dozen A3 sheets of scribbles and ideas and going WHY DID I START THIS?!
Eventually at the end of it all, it was my playing around with type rather than fiddling about with some sort of icon or monogram which I was trying to do. I over thought the situation, and forgot what I hold dearest in design, typography and simplicity. (Although one can argue that i’m quite a simple person anyway so it represents me incredibly well!)
This is my identity btw, I use it on invoices I am looking to redevelop my website and make myself more ‘visible’ to potential clients…. So this all begs the question - what do I need to consider when i’m jumping on the ‘brand’ wagon?
Design for yourself.
You aren’t designing for another designer necessarily, but it is your brand, you want to show off every bell and whistle of design you know - but don’t! Instead approach the project as if it were for any other client, sit down list down what represents your design style and what you stand for as a designer. Clean simple branding rather than avant-garde design will not offend other designers, and won’t alienate other companies that may want to work with you!
Listen to other people.
Collaborate with other friends that are both designers and non-designers, talk them through your ideas and concepts - tell them to be honest. Friends love this because they never get the opportunity to say something you do is shit, and other designers will give you straight honest critique, but will probably help you with constructive criticism. You want people to understand your brand, and that it connects to you.
Listen to other people part 2: Listen Harder.
Being your own branding you tend to end up working too close to it and you clutch it to your bosom never wanting to hear it doesn’t look right. You basically lose all objectivity! Talk to your lecturers, other professionals you have encountered, or other designers on your course - they will bring you back to reality and talk to you objectively about the design and how it may be improved. Putting off designing your brand in the good times. You have left uni and you have freelance work coming out of your ears? (Hey look, it’s that pig flying past again..)
Even if everything is going amazingly well, maybe you work in a studio, it is still important for you to develop your own brand image. You never know when it is useful, even if it is just for your blog or your portfolio initially, there will be a need for it when you expect it least.
Not developing your brand when you’re twiddling your thumbs.
You aren’t getting any design work? Well perhaps this is the ideal time to show off your skills and design your brand! This can kick-start your creative process and sometimes it is the fact you don’t have that professional image is the reason why your calendar is so sparse of deadlines. Remember you most of the time have to spend money to make money. A new brand identity, some new business cards and a quick small website can do wonders for a designers self-esteem and gives you pride in your own work!
Just Do It.
A simple phrase we all know and associate with Nike, wherever we see or hear it. Now i’m not saying you need to have a catchy tagline (rather much the opposite!!) but you do need to have a consistency. Like any brand consistency is the key for it to work. Make sure you are using your brand in the same manner each time; size, colours, typefaces, layout, visual identity are all consistent! This gives you a much more professional look.
But it doesn’t stop there; - answer emails - make sure you start to put a consistent footer with your details under your name, not a kiss, (it never goes down well with people in the upper echelons of the BBC take it from me…)
Make phone calls, talk in a professional manner, leave your business cards with everyone - sometimes it is the person you least expect to get in touch about work imaginable!
It is the hardest project for any designer or illustrator to design their own brand identity, but it really is an essential element for any successful designer. It isn’t an ego trip, it isn’t something that makes you an instant celebrity, but rather a method that you can present your professional self to other professionals.
Don’t rush it, and garner as many opinions as your fragile designer ego can take, it is better to hear something is right or wrong before you go and have it splashed across business cards or the web, and hopefully your brand will give you pride and propulsion to expand your clientele.
As always, good luck!